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Study of Mark: Mark 3:13-19 March 24, 2010

Posted by Warren in The Gospel of Mark.
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And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
(Mark 3:13-19 ESV)

The Calling of the Twelve. That’s how it’s listed in just about every Bible I own. It’s one of the major moments in the history of Christianity — the men who were to be the closest followers of Christ are chosen and listed for us. It’s interesting that they are almost always listed in this exact order — almost a pecking order, showing how important or famous each disciple was.

Peter, James, and John: The Big Three — those who were closest to Christ.The travel farther with Christ into Gethsemane than the rest. They are often shown to be fairly influential. Peter, who first confessed AND first denied Christ. James, one of the first called to follow Christ, the leader of the church at Jerusalem. Along with his brother John, the disciple who would have attacked the Samaritans who did not honor Christ. John, who would be called the beloved disciple — the only one to die of natural causes. Both called Sons of Thunder for their zeal in turning to violence.

Andrew, the first evangelist, who brought (literally) his brother Simon Peter to Christ. He stays in the background through most of the New Testament — but without him things would have been vastly different. I can picture him listening to Peter preach, nudging a neighbor and whispering “That’s my brother — he knows what he’s talking about. I was there, too, when Jesus taught”. Philip, also responsible for bringing a friend (Bartholomew) to Christ, the thinker. He was more studied in Scripture than other disciples (see John 1:45). Bartholomew, also called Nathanael, who spent time with God under a fig tree, and encountered Christ. Matthew, a tax collector who nobody would ever expect to be following the Messiah, but who was worthy to write a Gospel. Thomas, the doubter, who went on to greater things for Christ. James the Lesser, possibly Matthew’s brother, who was martyred for his faith. Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot — two disciples of whom little is known outside of legend.

And Judas, the betrayer. Always last, always least in the lists.

Looking at the character of these men, we can see Christ picked men not for their ability, but their attitude. They were willing to be used. They were also very fallible. Only one was present at the crucifixion. One refused to believe the testimony that Christ had risen. All were terrified men, hiding in a borrowed room from the soldiers who were surely looking for them, on the first Ressurection Day. And all who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, were to turn the entire world upside down. We wonder sometimes why these men Christ picked were so petty at times — as when James and John request to have the seat at Christ’s right hand when He established His kingdom. Why use someone such as Peter, who swore to defend Christ to his last breath, but who denied he knew Christ before his master was even dead? Why use Thomas, who refused to believe anything but the testimony of his own eyes? And why pick Judas, when surely Christ in His omniscience knew that he would be the one to betray Him?

Christ uses imperfect vessels, so that the glory does not go to the vessel, but to Him. We are incapable, but He makes us powerful — powerful in ways that are clearly His ways, not ours. If we learn nothing else from this passage, we can learn that Christ uses us, cracks and flaws intact, so that we can give the honor and glory to Him, and Him alone.

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