Twelve Apostles Appointed

SYNOPSIS - Jesus chooses his Twelve Apostles from among a larger group of followers, including two surprising candidates - Mark 3:13-21

Hillock - Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash
After preaching to the crowds near Capernaum, Jesus departed to a “mountain” and summoned his disciples. He chose twelve men from among a larger group to form a company that corresponded to the twelve tribes of Israel; effectively, he was reconstituting the covenant people of Yahweh, only now around himself, not the Torah or the Temple. - [Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash].

In the passage, the Greek verb rendered “appointed” more accurately means “make.” In other words, “Jesus made twelve disciples.”  There is more occurring in the text than simply the selection of twelve men. However, for the immediate period, he selected these twelve to be with him and to preach and exercise his authority over demons.
  • (Mark 3:13-19) - “And he goeth up into the mountain and calleth unto him whom he himself would; and they went unto him. And he appointed twelve that they might be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have authority to cast out demons: and Simon he surnamed Peter; and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and them he surnamed Boanerges, which is, Sons of thunder: and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him” – (The Emphasized Bible - Parallel passagesMatthew 10:1-4, Luke 6:12-16).
The account in the gospel of Luke adds that he chose these twelve men after spending a night in intense prayer. Matthew stresses how he gave the disciples “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of disease and all manner of sickness” - (Matthew 10:1-4, Luke 6:12-16).

Some English translations read that he “went up into the hills,” but the Greek noun means “mountain,” not “hill.” The distinction is important - It highlights the symbolism in the story. Like Moses proceeding up Mount Sinai, Jesus left the town of Capernaum to be in his Father’s presence on the “mountain.” In Mark, revelation and prayerful encounters occur on mountaintops - (Mark 6:46, 9:2, 11:1, 13:3, 14:26).

The twelve disciples included Jewish men from various walks of life, and two surprising choices:
  • A “Zealot” - Most likely, a man who was an active opponent of Roman rule..
  • A “tax-collector” or “publican” - A man who served Rome.
There is no indication that any of the twelve were from among the religious authorities or the aristocratic classes of Judean society - They were from the common stock - Jesus summoned the twelve “disciples” for three purposes:
  • To be with him.
  • To proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
  • To have authority to cast out demons.
True discipleship means to be with him, to proclaim his message, and to act in his name against the satanic forces that afflict his people. Jesus was followed by a growing number of followers. Here, he set apart a more select company of twelve from among them.

Disciple” means a “learner,” a “student” - (mathéstés - Strong’s - #3101) - Someone who is an apprentice. This “inner circle” was distinguished from other disciples by, first, the designation “apostles,” and second, by their close association with the Son of God.

Jesus called them “apostles.” The Greek verb translated as “send forth” is apostellō - (Strong’s - #649), a verb related to the noun apostolos or “apostle” - (Strong’s - #652), which means one sent or commissioned – An envoy. The term was used in Greek literature for messengers, delegates, representatives, and even ambassadors to other cities and nations. It referred to a representative sent for a specific purpose.

Jesus Instructs the Disciples
Whom also he called apostles.” Some English versions omit this clause due to a textual variant in several ancient manuscripts. There is strong evidence to support both this reading and the omission of the clause; however, it is found in the version of the story recorded in the gospel of Luke. “Apostle” occurs twice in Mark but the alternative term “disciple” over forty times - (Mark 6:30, Luke 6:13).

Up to this point in Mark, the authority to proclaim the gospel and to exorcise demons has been the sole possession of Jesus. Here, he grants the same authority to his chosen apostles. Apparently, at least at this time, he did not give this authority to the larger group of disciples that followed him.

In the several lists of the twelve apostles, Peter (or “Simon”) is always mentioned first.  “Simon” or “Simeon” was his Hebrew name. “Peter” translates the Greek word petros or “rock.” Elsewhere, he is called Cephas or Képhas, an Aramaic name that also means “rock” - (John 1:42, Galatians 1:18, 2:9-14).

Matthew” may be the same person as the “Levi” named in Mark 2:13 - (See also Matthew 9:9). Only here are the sons of Zebedee called Boanerges, the “sons of thunder.” There is a hint later as to why Jesus named them such:
  • (Mark 9:38) - “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to hinder him because he was not following us.”
The source of the label “Iscariot” assigned to Judas is uncertain. Possibly, it comes from the name of a village east of the Dead Sea called Kerioth of which he may have been a native. Less likely, but also possible, is that “Iscariot” is derived from the word sicarius or “dagger,” a term used for the “dagger men” – The Jewish revolutionaries of the period determined to liberate the nation from Roman rule. If so, this would suggest that Judas was a member of the “zealots.”

Some English translations refer to the second “Simon” in the list as “the Canaanite.” But this is a mistranslation. The Greek term is from an Aramaic word that has been transliterated into Greek letters, one that sounds like ‘Canaanite’ but means “zealot.”

Far more relevant, from his first mention in Mark, Judas has been identified as the one who “betrayed” Jesus. The same Greek verb was used when John the Baptist was “delivered up” to Herod. Thus, already the gospel of Mark anticipates the messianic purpose of Jesus to be “handed over” to his enemies - (Mark 1:14).
  • (Mark 3:20-21) – “And the multitude come together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And they who were near to him, hearing of it, went out to secure him — for they were saying — He is beside himself!” – (The Emphasized Bible).
When Jesus returned to Capernaum, the same crowd as before began to throng him so that there was insufficient room to organize a meal. Though not stated, implicit in the text is the idea of something bordering on a mob.

Communal meals were customarily eaten within homes. Most likely, this incident occurred indoors. The “friends” who were intent on removing Jesus were not his disciples but members of his family.  This is confirmed in verse 31 where his “mother and his brothers, standing without, summoned him.”

Finally, the narrative is “interrupted” by the arrival of scribes from Jerusalem. In the next section, they will accuse Jesus of using the power of Satan to perform his deeds - (Mark 3:22-30).


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