Reflection on Mark 3.13-19a

Mark 3.13-19a

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 appointed twelve, whom he also names apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim his message.

Today’s reading is well-known, but often glossed over. We know that Jesus gathered twelve disciples around him, and we know that, somewhere in the gospels, those disciples are named. We know that we are more familiar with the names of some of the disciples, and some of us may be able to name all twelve. However, the naming of the twelve disciples is not, I believe, the primary importance of today’s reading. I believe that we should really be focusing on the words to be with him and to be sent out to proclaim his message.

When we think of Jesus’ twelve closest companions we tend to use the words ‘disciple’ and ‘apostle’ as though they are interchangeable, but they are not. The two words, ‘disciple’ and ‘apostle’, have different meanings. It is good for us to pause at this point and reflect on those meanings as we consider how today’s reading might impact on our own journey of faith, our own relationship with Jesus.

A disciple is one who comes close to a teacher in order that he or she might receive instruction from that teacher. A disciple follows and comes to believe the teaching (the doctrine) of another. Essentially, a disciple is a follower. It was in this literal sense of discipleship that Jesus’ twelve companions were called to be with him. But … this did not make them apostles.

To be an apostle is to take on a far more active role. An apostle is a principal champion, one who is sent to preach the Gospel (the Good News). It is, if necessary, the role of the apostle to be the first one to introduce Christianity into a community, or even a country. Jesus’ naming of the twelve as apostles was a very different matter to his calling them into discipleship. They needed the call to become disciples in order that they might take on the essential role of apostleship.

In today’s reading there is a very direct challenge to each and every one of us. It is comparatively easy for us to take ourselves into the presence of our Lord and teacher, Jesus Christ. But … what about taking the next step? What about facing up to and responding to the challenge of becoming an apostle? Are we brave enough in our faith to introduce, proclaim, preach and champion the teachings of Jesus Christ in a sometimes hostile world? Are we ready to take our place in the long line of those who, down the centuries, have said, ‘Yes,’ to that call?