Jesus appoints the 12

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry & Bluemont Churches
March 17, 2024
Mark 3:7-19 

Sermon recorded at Mayberry Church on Friday, March 15, 2024

Thoughts at the beginning of worship:

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! May you enjoy some corn beef and cabbage today.

My first time in Ireland found me in Dublin on the Lord’s Day. I decided to worship at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which today is a Church of Ireland congregation. The ornate cathedral was built in the 13th Century, on a site where an older church had once stood. It’s also the site where St. Patrick supposedly baptized Irish converts. Of course, that’s questionable, as is much about Patrick’s life. 

Supposedly, at the age of 16, Irish pirates kidnapped Patrick from his home in England. They took him to their homeland, where as a slave he helped herd animals. In his early 20s, he escaped and made his way back home. There, he studied for the priesthood. He returned to Ireland as a missionary. While there is evidence of some Christian presence in Ireland before Patrick, in folklore he’s seen as the man who brought the gospel to the Irish island. 

What we can learn from Patrick

There are lots of folklore legends about Patrick, from using the shamrock clover to teach about the Trinity, to driving snakes out of the country. While we don’t know what’s true and what’s legend, I like the idea of the former slave helping to free his former owners from their own bondage through Jesus’ gospel. While it’s understandable for a slave to look at their master with contempt, Jesus gives different advice. We’re to love our enemies and work for the well-being of our persecutors, something the legendary Patrick fulfilled. 

Let me point out another thing. As we’ve been working through Mark’s gospel, we’ve seen that it’s all been about Jesus. And while there is truth to our faith being all about Jesus, it’s also true that Jesus depends on others, like the 12 disciples and Patrick and you and me to carry out his work. 

Before reading the scripture:

We’ve come to a transition point in Mark. As we saw last week, the Pharisees are willing to do whatever it takes, including conspiring with their enemies, to do away with Jesus. For the rest of Mark’s gospel, Jesus walks in the shadow of the cross. 

Next two weeks

On a side note, next week is Palm or Passion Sunday. I will jump ahead in Mark’s gospel to the crucifixion, followed with Mark’s treatment of the resurrection o Easter Sunday, before picking back up at the 3rd chapter the week after Easter. 

Perhaps because of the threat to his life, we’re told in today’s passage that Jesus and his disciples leave where they’d been (we assume it was Capernaum)., They head out to seashore. Of course, Capernaum is on the sea, so Mark must mean that Jesus went to a more deserted shoreline.[1] Crowds still follow him. Then he takes the disciples up to a mountain and names the Twelve. 

Read Mark 3:7-19

There are two things I hope you will take away from this passage. First, while the gospel is always about Jesus, it’s not just about Jesus. It’s also about us. And second, Jesus chooses us, not the other way around. 

Exploring our text

Now let’s look at our text. In a way, these verses serve as a transition between Mark’s opening, where he emphasizes the power of Jesus, to where the disciples receive power to do Jesus’ work. 

Jesus leads the disciples out by the sea. As I said, it must be away from the shoreline in Capernaum, probably to a more deserted shoreline. But perhaps not too far away as it appears his fisherman disciples has access to a boat. If Jesus took the disciples just to get away, he wasn’t successful. People now flock from all over to find him. 

Jesus draws the attention of people from all around

We’d seen earlier in Mark how John had folks following him from around Jerusalem and Judea. The territory from which Jesus draws followers is more extensive than Johns.[2]  In fact, there are so many people, Jesus has a boat waiting just in case he needs to back away. Furthermore, sound travels better over water (as long the wind and the waves are subdued), so addressing the crowd from just offshore allows his voice to be heard by more people. 

We are given no insight into what Jesus does with (or says to) the crowds. Instead, come because of his reputation as a healer, for he cured many. They weren’t coming because they thought he was the Messiah or the son of God.  

Jesus draws the attention of demons

However, we are reminded that the unclean spirits, the demons, are present. They know Jesus’ true identity and purpose. But Jesus doesn’t want the spirits to give him away. Mark creates tension as to Jesus’ identity, allowing his reader to decide for his or herself Jesus’ identity after he tells of the empty tomb.[3]

Calling disciples

In verse 23, we move to the second part of this passage. Jesus heads up on a mountain and calls those he wanted to come with him. This sentence is a little awkward and leaves us with questions. Did Jesus just call those who were to make up the twelve to head up the mountain? Or did Jesus take along all those following him and only appoint the twelve once they were on the mountain. Of course, it doesn’t really matter. 

Verses 12 and 13 shows that Jesus is in charge. Jesus calls and he appoints. The same is true in our lives. Jesus still calls people to serve in his ministry. 

The role of mountains

Furthermore, mountains are often seen as a place where God encounters people. Moses was in the mountains when he experienced the burning bush. Israel was by the mountain when Moses received the commandments. Elijah encountered God on the mountains, and later in Mark, Jesus and three of the disciples experience the transfiguration. As with those examples, something important is happening on the mountain during this time. 

Apprentices for Jesus

While our text reads Jesus’ “appointed” the twelve,[4] the word here in Greek means “made.” Made is probably a better translation as it implies that Jesus doesn’t just lay hands on their heads and then send them out. Jesus calls the 12 to be near him so they can learn by watching him before they are sent out into the world. 

We might say the 12 are apprentices to Jesus. Like a carpenter or an electrician works first as an apprentice to learn the trade, disciples are made by working alongside Jesus.[5]

Once the twelve are trained, Jesus grants them authority to go out into the world and continue his mission of not only calling the kingdom to be at hand, but to have point over the enemies of the kingdom. Jesus gives them the ability to cast out demons. 

The list of disciples

We’re then given a list of the 12. This is one of four places in which we’re provided a list. You can also find it in Matthew, Luke, and Acts.[6] The lists are similar, but not exact. Certainly, the key leadership remains the same.  The number here, 12, is more important than the names. It reminds Mark’s readers that Jesus is doing something new. There were 12 tribes of Israel and now there are 12 apostles.[7]

Verses 14 and 15 define their purpose. They are to be with Jesus. As I suggested earlier, they are apprentices. And they are to be sent out to further Jesus’ ministry, with the power over evil. 

Interestingly, this list includes Judas. You’d think Mark, writing three or so decades after the fact, would want to forget Judas. But he includes his name with a twist. Judas will betray Jesus. Mark again reminds us that Jesus walks in the shadow of the cross. There are forces out to get him. 

What does it mean for us?

What does this all mean for us, living two thousand years later? Jesus still calls those he can use to spread his message and do his work. Are we listening? Are we able to hear his call? If so, are we willing to spend time with him being prepared to do his work? 

Second, remember the call comes, not from ourselves or our own desires, but from our Savior himself. Of course, with Jesus at the right hand of God and no longer walking among us, how do we really know if we’ve been called? Such calls, we believe, are confirmed by the church which Jesus left behind to be his body in the world. 


As the church, as Christ’s body in the world, we should seek out those with necessary gifts and encourage them in their discernment as to whether they’re called to a church office or into the ministry. For the harvest is ripening and we need to be diligent in ensuring there are enough harvesters. So, if you feel a call, come talk to me or to an elder of the church. But don’t think it’ll be easy. For it requires spending time with Jesus and learning his ways. Amen. 

[1] James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 103.

[2] Mark 1:5. See Edwards, 103.

[3] Douglas R. A. Hare, Westminster Bible Companion: Mark (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1996), 46. 

[4] Most text translates this verb as appointed, ordained, or chose. Both the NRSV and NIV use appointed. See

[5] Edwards, 112. 

[6] Matthew 10:2-4, Luke 6:14-16, and Acts 1:13. 

[7] Morna D. Hooker, The Gospel According to St. Mark (1991, Henrickson Publishers, 1997), 111.

6 Replies to “Jesus appoints the 12”

    1. And a good one to you, too. In addition to your cornbeef and cabbage, did you begin your day with a breakfast of Lucky Charms 🙂

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