23 October 2021

Mark 3:13-19a be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message... (v. 14)

Psalm 22:1-18


If the Church of Jesus Christ today is to reflect Jesus’ own choice of disciples it will always be a broad church or, to put it more starkly, a very mixed bunch. We know that there were many who followed Jesus, at least for a while, but he was very clear that he wanted a closer community around him who would both stick with him and be trusted to involve themselves in his ministry.

Mark names them for us, no doubt out of respect for them, but in so doing he helps us see the contrasts within the group. There were fishermen, some of whom had pretty sparky personalities, there was one who had worked for the occupying Roman authorities and one who would later stick a dagger in his back. Although we don’t know much about the personalities of the others we can guess that they differed from each other in their upbringing, personalities and understanding of what Jesus was all about. 

Jesus chose them both to be with him and to be sent out. There’s a rhythm here which offers us a pattern for our own discipleship. At times they were to be close to Jesus. They had a lot to learn about what his reign of love really entailed, and often they were very slow to learn it. Yet even though they didn’t fully understand the way of their Lord they were also entrusted to be his ambassadors. At times their mission attempts brought joy and fulfilment. At other times their efforts brought failure and frustration, but Jesus never dismissed them. He knew them well and yet he trusted himself and his mission to them.

 As we concentrate on Jesus' choice of disciples , we also must soberly recall that when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane all the disciples ran away. Our psalm today reminds of Jesus’ sense of desolation on the Cross, but that desolation started when he was abandoned in the Garden, even as he longed for the disciples' company and support.

 We know that the story ended very differently. With the exception of Judas Iscariot (whom we can never really understand) the disciples in all their fear and frailty responded to the risen Lord who came to them and headed out in mission to the world. As today’s hymn (StF 412: 'See how great a flame aspires') reminds us, small and feeble though they were, the disciples were instrumental in spreading the flame of God’s reign of love.


To Ponder:

  • Disciples are called both to be with Jesus and to be sent out. How does this rhythm of grace work out for you?


By your power and grace, Lord, strengthen us your servants that we may live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Increase in us your gifts of grace and fill us with your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bible notes author

The Revd Donald Ker

Donald Ker is a supernumerary minister originally from the Methodist Church in Ireland. He now lives in Solihull, near Birmingham. He has served as a circuit minister, as a university chaplain, as Senior Tutor in Edgehill Theological College and as Superintendent Minister at Belfast Central Mission. Donald was also General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland for some years and its President in 2009/2010.

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