Jesus went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Jesus … called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him.
From the multitude Jesus chose just twelve to be his first disciples and apostles. From the moment of his baptism and the beginning of his ministry, Mark presents Jesus as being surrounded by ever-increasing numbers of followers. The crowds had, by this stage in the gospel narrative, become overwhelming. And yet, Jesus appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles. This may sound strange to those who feel that everyone of us is being called by Jesus into a life of discipleship and apostleship every moment of every day. However, those named in today’s reading were the first to be appointed to a very specific mission. Jesus appointed them: to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. These were the ones Jesus identified as being ready to share in his ministry of teaching and healing.
When we consider what we know of the twelve disciples we do not see what Jesus saw! Fishermen, a tax collector, a ‘doubter’ and a traitor do not seem ideal candidates for such a task. But Jesus saw below the surface. Jesus saw into the hearts and minds of those men. Jesus recognized the skills and talents that lay beyond the obvious and called them into his service. Of course, being called was one thing. The other side of the coin was their willingness to leave their ordinary lives in order that they might follow.
The exclusive nature of the language which opens today’s reading should not deter us in our journey of faith. Jesus does call every single person into his service. It is our duty and our responsibility to listen out for that call and to respond as openly and freely as those first disciples. We may feel that we are being called into a life for which we are not suited, but it is for us to trust that God really does know best.
We have all been gifted with skills and talents with which we can serve God. Some of those skills and talents will be outgoing and extrovert in nature. Some will be quieter and more contemplative. No matter where our personalities may sit on that broad spectrum, we are all gifted in a way that will allow us to be effective disciples and apostles. The challenge lies in our readiness to accept and explore that with which God has endowed us.
Today we need to pray that God will help us to discover that which he would have us do in his name, using all that he has bestowed upon us in his gracious love. Today we need to pray that, like those first twelve disciples, we might find the courage to say, ‘Yes,’ and to follow. Today we need to pray that we might understand, even if we have felt more like Judas in the past, our straying from the path of true faith is forgiven and a new way lies open before us.
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