The evangelist concludes his narrative of the initial phase of Jesus’ Galilean ministry (Mk 1: 14 – 3: 6) by mentioning the opponent’s murderous plot against Jesus (Mk 3: 6). With a summary statement in Mark 3: 7-12. The evangelist now introduces the second stage of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and its surroundings. This second stage of Jesus’ ministry terminates in Mark 6: 1-6a.
We can notice the structural and thematic similarities between these two sections of the gospel. As in Mark 1: 14 – 3: 6 Jesus’ ministry in Mark 3: 7 – 6: 6a is also a ministry of both Word and action (teaching, exorcism, healing, dispute, etc.). Like the first stage, the second stage of Jesus’ ministry also begins with a summary statement of his activity (Mk 1: 14-15 and 3: 7-12). After these initial summaries there follows in each section a statement about the disciples (Mk 1: 16-20 and 3: 13-19). Again, it can be seen that both these stages of Jesus’ ministry end with narratives that indicate the people’s blindness of heart and their imperceptions of the person of Jesus (Mk 3: 1-6 and 6: 1-6a).
In 3: 7 – 6: 6a Jesus begins to concentrate his attention on the formation of his disciples. At the beginning of the new section we are told that Jesus took his disciples with him and withdrew to the sea of Galilee (Mk 3: 7). He then institutes the group of twelve disciples to be with him and to be sent out to preach (Mk 3: 13-19). The disciples who are with Jesus and who do God’s will are also declared members of Jesus’ new family (MK 3: 31-35). It is not blood relationship but the performance of God’s will that is the decisive characteristic of Jesus’ new family. The disciples who responded to Jesus’ call and manifested their submission to God’s will are now spoken of as Jesus’ true family members.
Again, in this section we see that the disciples are the exclusive recipients of Jesus’ special instruction and his explanation of the parables (Mk 4: 10-25, 34). Moreover, Jesus performs certain stupendous miracles in the presence of his disciples (Mk 4: 36 – 5: 43). Finally, the disciples accompany Jesus of Nazareth and witness the scandal and incredulity of the people, and their misunderstanding of Jesus (Mk 6: 1-6a).
The words and actions of Jesus in Mark 3: 7 – 6: 6a seem to have a formative value for the disciple themselves. Their training which begins in this new section will continue in the next part too (Mk 6: 6b – 8: 26) and Jesus will reveal himself to them progressively until they are enabled to discover his identity as the Messiah (Mk 8: 27-30).