Twelve men who changed the world: Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up to the mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James, son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges which means ‘sons of thunder’), Andrew, Philip, Bartholemew, Thomas, Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.                           Mark 3:14-19 (NIV)

Horsham, 19th February 2024

Some years ago my wife and I applied for a job with a Christian charity in West Sussex. We knew that the job would be demanding and life changing for us both. Before applying for the role, we prayed together  over the application, and then, a few weeks later, we found ourselves travelling across the country for an interview with some of the trustees. It was a lengthy and challenging interview and we returned home exhausted. Other couples were interviewed. Weeks later we took a call from one of the Trustees with the invitation to take up the role. Without hesitation, we accepted the offer. It was only after the initial rush of excitement that reality began to sink in. Accepting the invitation would mean resigning our current well paid jobs, moving home, leaving our church and friends, relocating to an area where we knew nobody, taking up residence in a mobile home and taking a huge drop in salary. But in our hearts, we were taking the path that we believed Christ had offered us. Life changing.

In the Gospel story, we know that the drama of his healing work has led to loads of people following Jesus. Amongst this mass of people there are some who have been specifically invited to follow.

Simon (later called Peter), Andrew, James, and John, fishermen on the Capernaum shore and Levi (Matthew) have already been mentioned. Remember that the main source for Mark’s Gospel is this very same Simon, later called Peter, it is not surprising that he mentions at this early stage the specific calling of his closest friends. Some time later, as his popularity and profile increase, there comes a time when Jesus is ready to take a decisive step, choosing twelve from amongst the group to be his closest friends.

In the previous verses we saw Jesus trying unsuccessfully to move away from the crowds. Now, somehow, he manages to evade the masses and get to the mountainside. Twelve of his closest associates are invited to join him. I’m wondering how these guys felt when received the invitation to be his disciples. For each of them, this is a big deal. These twelve are to be his disciples (those who have been called to follow as students or apprentices) and also Apostles (those who would undertake his commission to build the Church).

A ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to follow this charismatic young rabbi. There must have been an incredible and overwhelming rush of excitement, but I wonder whether it might have been tinged with or followed by a moment of pause or reflection when they realised just how life changing it was going to be. Matthew had already walked away from a well paid job. Peter, Andrew, James and John had walked away from the family business. All twelve of them signed up to follow Jesus, leaving home and family members. Life changing.

Jo and I prayerfully went ahead and confronted the challenges of our new role. The blessings of that season of His grace were extraordinary and long lasting. Twelve ordinary young and largely unschooled men accepted their life changing challenge to follow Jesus. Together, they changed the world.

Richard Jackson, West Sussex, UK: LifePictureUK


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