14 January 2016

Mark 3:13-19

“He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him.” (v. 13)

Psalm: Psalm 10:1-12


The account of Jesus now moves from the lakeside, with him teaching the crowds from the safety of a boat, to a mountain. Mountains are often used as the setting for significant moments in the biblical narrative. It was where Moses encountered God in the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-2) and later received the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19-20), where Elijah heard the voice of God in the silence that followed a storm (1 Kings 19) and was the setting for the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2-8).

Peter, James and John (who would be later described as having witnessed Jesus talking with both Moses and Elijah on the mountain top (Mark 9:2-8)) were among the 12 men whom Jesus appointed apostles at this significant point in his ministry. From the previous description of the multitude of people following him and listening to him (Mark 3:7-8), there were clearly plenty of people from whom to choose, but we are given very little information to explain why Jesus chose these 12 people. There were no job application forms to complete and no CVs to be submitted. The only hint of an interview process takes place in the briefest of ways on the side of Lake Galilee when Jesus passed by and called the fishermen Simon and his brother Andrew, and then a little later James and his brother John (Mark 1:16-20). This wasn't an appointment process that followed modern HR procedures which many of us would now expect and be familiar with.

Jesus appoints these 12 men firstly to be with him (verse 14). Being a leader can be a lonely activity, particularly if you come under attack because of what you are doing or saying. So, to have people close by who can offer help and support, act as a sounding board and offer close friendship, can make a big difference. However Jesus is also looking for people who are able to carry his message far and wide, particularly when he would no longer be able to do so himself. The emphasis on 12, the same as the number of tribes of Israel, underlines the intent that Jesus' message was for the whole nation. In an age when knowledge and ideas are spread primarily by word of mouth, having 12 additional people who are prepared to go out in to the known world to proclaim the message is going to be very important.

To Ponder

  • Think about any places you have been where you felt God's presence. What was it that made these places special?
  • Try to put yourself in the place of one of twelve who were called by Jesus. What would your reaction have been? And what might you expect to happen next? 

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.