The Motley Crew (Mark 3:13-19)

Mark now summarises the gathering together of Jesus’ twelve disciples.  He’s already begun to tell us about some of them. Back in 1:16-20, we have seen him call and commission the fishermen, Sim and Andrew, James and John.  They are told:

“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

Mark 1:17

Jesus’ call is missional, right from the start, he calls people to himself so that they can receive good news, in order that they might go out to tell others the good news. Disciples are people who want to get to know Jesus and who want to help others to get to know him.

In Chapter 3:13-14, he calls Levi, or Matthew.  Jesus calls fishermen and tax collectors, not the intellectual or religious elite. He is here seen to go for outsiders.  This sense that a motley crew, a ragtag band are being brought together is amplified further here in Mark 3.

We see this in the naming of Simon as Peter -or rock. It sounds ironic to us. How could the Messiah build his church, assemble a people on a foundation that so changeable, so quick to go from the bold statement to hiding in fear or getting things completely wrong (more on that to come later in Mark)?   Then the other fishermen brothers are described as “sons of thunder”, men of questionable temperament.  We’ve got a tax collector who collaborated with the Romans and a zealot, someone attempting to overthrow the regime with violence – I wonder how they got on. Finally, there’s this man called Judas and Mark points out that later, Judas will betray Jesus.

We see here that even in terms of the foundation of the church, Jesus will choose what Paul in 1 Corinthians 1 describes as the weak and foolish things of this world.  If Jesus can do that with the foundation, the starting point then it emphasises his ability to redeem, renew and restore. And Jesus chooses you and me, he brings messed up failures, sinful traitors, hot tempered fighters and cowardly compromisers together. He forgives us, knits us together as a family bringing about seemingly impossible unity and he makes us precious and useful in his kingdom.

Here, Jesus is setting out a statement of intent.  The imagery of going up a mountain echoes Moses.  Jesus is a nation builder. However, by calling twelve apostles or ambassadors, Jesus is taking us further back for a type.[1] He now echoes Jacob, the founder of Israel whose twelve sons became the tribal heads. So this is a hugely significant event indicating the founding of a new Israel, Christ’s kingdom.

Notice the call of the twelve is first to proclamation, to preach the good news and secondly to cast out demons. There’s the work here of heralding good news, feeding God’s people, engaging in spiritual warfare and so protecting the flock from danger.  Now, there’s something specifically unique about the twelve as the founding stones in the church, they are the ones who will bring about revelation of Scripture as eye witnesses, however, there is also a reminder to us that we are called to proclaim the good news and to be on the watch for the enemy too.

This means a few things for us today. First of all, we can be grateful to God that he has chosen to love, save and forgive us despite our sin and shame.  Secondly, we can have confidence in Christ and his gospel even when the church seems weak and messy. Thirdly, we too have a call to obey a calling, to follow Christ means to speak for him too.

[1] We sometimes talk about “types” and “anti-types” to show how events, objects and people in th Old Testament foreshadow the coming of Jesus and the Gospel.  People like David, Melchizedek, Elisha etc offer us glimpses of what the Messiah will be like.

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