People have quirks. Maybe your parents or grandparents said particular phrases or words that stuck with you. Perhaps as a teenager, you swore you would never say that certain phrase you found so annoying. But then—decades later—you catch those very words tumbling out of your mouth, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. When you spend a lot of time with someone, you start to look and sound like them. As we’ll see, this was precisely part of Jesus’ plan for His disciples.
Twelve Disciples For Twelve Tribes
Mark includes the detail that Jesus “went up the mountain.” While it helps set the scene, Mark has a deeper purpose. In his gospel being on top of a mountain indicates nearness with God (see 6:46, 9:2–8, 13:3-5). By hiking up the mountain, Jesus also recreates a familiar scene. In Exodus 19:20, God descends to the top of Mount Sinai and calls Moses up where He gives Moses the Ten Commandments to pass on to the twelve tribes of Israel. By calling twelve men up to Him, Jesus creates a striking visual that His message is intended for the twelve tribes of Israel (who would reject Him). He had chosen men to represent the twelve sons of Jacob who fathered the twelve tribes (see Genesis 49).
Note that Jesus doesn’t ask for volunteers. He “called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him” (v. 13). Jesus commands and they obey.
Jesus had a threefold purpose for His disciples. The first purpose was the greatest—to be with Him. These men would travel with Him, eat with Him, walk and talk with Him. They would be as close to Him as possible. And He would train them as leaders so they would reflect Him.
He meant to “send them out to preach” (v. 14). If anyone would understand Jesus’ message, it would be those who spent day and night with Him. Jesus would prepare these men to take the good news to the world. They would become some of the founders of the church.
Last, His disciples would “have authority to cast out demons” (v. 15). Jesus’ battle against Satan extended to His followers as well. While Jesus would ultimately defeat Satan, the disciples would carry on this aspect of Jesus’ mission by casting out demons.
Every list in the New Testament of the twelve disciples begins with Simon, whom Jesus renames Peter (meaning the Rock). Throughout the Gospels, Peter is depicted as impulsive and somewhat thickheaded (including this one, which was based on Peter’s teaching). But Jesus saw something in him. He often acted as the spokesman for the disciples and later became one of the most prominent leaders in the early church.
If you were to choose a group of people to take the most important message to the world, you might think that this is an unlikely, ill-qualified bunch. We’ve already read about the four fishermen. Simon “the Zealot” was most likely from an extreme political party seeking to violently overthrow Rome. He and Matthew, the former tax collector and Roman colluder, must have had some interesting conversations.
Jesus selected the “non-professionals,” who often didn’t understand Him. But as we’ll see, Jesus patiently transformed them. By the end of the New Testament, many of these men will have planted churches, written books of the Bible, and faced martyrdom. They carried the gospel to the world.
What surprises you about Jesus’ selection of the twelve disciples?
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