In Mark 3 we learn a lot about what it means to follow and serve Jesus. This chapter encourages me, but it also makes me think seriously about my role as a disciple.
When the chapter opens, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, exposing the hard hearts of the Pharisees. They are already angry at Jesus, plotting to destroy Him (3:6). Jesus is causing a stir in the world of the religious Jews.
We also see a disturbance in another world – the spiritual kingdom of Satan and all the unclean spirits that have been summoned to battle. I imagine this has been percolating in the spirit world for about thirty years, beginning the moment the Holy Spirit implanted the Son of God in Mary’s womb. We should realize the anger and hatred of the Pharisees is fueled by unclean spirits, yet every time one of them meets Jesus he has no choice except to cry out in fear, “You are the Son of God!” (3:11).
At this point, Mark relates the calling of the twelve disciples.
Mark 3:13-15 – And [Jesus] went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out demons.
In the following four verses, Mark names those twelve: Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Thaddaeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot (who would betray Him).
Mark tells us why Jesus called the disciples, and what was expected of them.
He summoned those whom He Himself wanted.
Jesus was intentional. He chose these twelve men out of many others who were following as He went from village to village teaching about the kingdom of God. The only reason given is that He wanted them.
God chooses us, too. The twelve didn’t fill out an application or score the highest on an aptitude test. They offered no resume to impress Jesus. They were brought into His kingdom simply because he wanted them. Their part was simple. When Jesus summoned them, they came to Him (3:13). They responded “yes.”
John 6:44,63-65 – No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. … It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe. … For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.
What would be expected of the disciples? In this passage, Mark reveals three things they would be doing as they joined Jesus’ mission.
- They would be with Him.
- They would be sent out to preach.
- They would have the authority to cast out demons.
I realize the disciples were chosen for a specific time and purpose. We can’t randomly apply every situation and circumstance to our own lives today, but in the context of other New Testament teaching, as Christ-followers, we are given the same assignments when we become part of the kingdom of God. We are disciples, continuing the mission that Jesus began with His own life and the lives of the twelve.
We, too, walk with Jesus, as the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us as new believers. We spend time with Him in His Word, allowing Christ to live out His life in us.
Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Colossians 2:6 – Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.
We, too, are sent out to preach, as ambassadors and witnesses of the gospel. Just as the disciples were sent out into villages, we are sent into our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our sports fields, our gyms, our local coffee shops, etc. We have the same message they did: the kingdom of God has drawn near!
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
We, too, have the authority to engage in spiritual warfare. The accounts of unclean spirits inhabiting individuals seem far removed from our modern civilization, don’t they? I would suggest it’s not as far as we think. The difference is that we don’t recognize them because we are spiritually immature and unaware. Even as faithful believers, we can be so focused on worldly things, so poorly equipped in God’s Word, we can’t identify the enemy’s presence and influence.
Ephesians 6:11-13 – Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Ephesians 2:1-2 – And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
I imagine when the disciples answered Jesus’ summons, they really had no idea what was in store for them. But how grateful we are that the eleven faithful apostles said “yes” when the Master called. They brought the gospel to the known world, and because they did, you and I have had an opportunity to hear and respond to God’s invitation as well.
Have you felt God calling you? If you are hungry to know the truth about Jesus, if you are conflicted and convicted of your sin, if you are realizing how empty and purposeless your life is, it’s a good sign God is drawing you. The Holy Spirit is summoning you to respond to Jesus’ invitation to be His disciple, to repent of your sin, and surrender your life completely into His care and His mission.
If you already belong to Jesus, how are you doing on your assignments? What a privilege it is to work for, to walk with, and to be called by the name of Jesus.