Jesus Calls Twelve Ordinary Men – Mark 3:7-19
Good morning! If you can grab a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark. We are continuing in our sermon series on Mark, looking at Mark 3:7-19, this morning.
I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve been up here. Three Sunday ago, we had our Roar VBS Sunday, and right after that, we left for two weeks of holidays in Ontario. We drove there and eventually made it to this family farm outside of Orangeville, where Helena grew up visiting. No plumbing or heating, but the scenery was absolutely beautiful. And after a week there, we made the trip back.
And I would say the time away was just what we needed, not simply because we were able to get away and relax, but because Helena and I found out last month that we had another miscarriage. It was actually almost a year to the day from when we lost our baby, last year. So, this vacation was actually very timely. We were able to spend some together as a family and just enjoy one another.
But it is good to come home. We got to the point, as we were nearing Boyle, when we just wanted to be home and with our church family. We feel so close to you guys, and we would certainly appreciate your prayers for us as we move forward from this loss in the grace and mercy of our great God.
I’m just going to read our text for this morning, and then we will dive in. Mark 3, beginning in verse 7: “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’ 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. 13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
Just to give us some context, because it’s been a few weeks since we’ve been in the Gospel according to Mark: In Mark’s Gospel, we are presented with this rich picture of Jesus as the authoritative yet suffering Son of God. What Mark wants us to see, throughout His account of the life of Jesus, is this twofold picture of Jesus as the suffering Saviour and conquering King.
And Mark begins to flesh this out in the beginning pages of His Gospel. Mark records the baptism and temptation and ministry of Jesus. He records Jesus calling particular individuals to Himself. And he records Jesus healing many people of their ailments, from the demon oppressed to the leprous to the paralyzed to those with a fever.
And all throughout these first two chapters, Jesus has been preaching about the kingdom of God and calling people to repent and believe in the good news that salvation has come to mankind. But throughout all of this, you also have the religious leaders challenging the authority of Jesus, which has been infringing on their traditions.
So, after all of this, which some scholars suggest was just over a year, you get to verse 7, and it says that “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea.” Jesus has been ministering to these people for a good long period of time, but there comes a point when He simply needs to withdraw for a time.
But as Jesus withdraws, it says that “a great crowd followed.” Now, we’ve seen this great crowd following Jesus, throughout His early ministry. But what is significant about this crowd is that Mark mentions that people are coming from places that are miles away. People are coming from all over place, from every social class and ethnicity, to see Jesus. The fame of Jesus has extended far beyond any social barrier of that day.
But as we have noted, throughout each one of these instances that great crowds have followed Jesus, they’re not following Jesus for Jesus, they’re following Jesus for what He can do for them. We’ve seen this over and over, and we see it again here. Look at verse 8, “When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him.”
On our way back from Ontario, I was listening to a podcast by The Gospel Coalition. And this particular podcast was an interview with Costi Hinn, who is the nephew of Benny Hinn, the televangelist best known for his healing crusades.
It turns out that Costi, who was firmly entrenched in the Hinn family business of swindling people to believe in the health, wealth and prosperity gospel, has since abandoned a false gospel for the gospel of Jesus Christ and has written a book, where he exposes the prosperity gospel for the fraud that it is.
And in this interview, Costi recounts a particular event in India, where it took him and his uncle Benny forty-five minutes in a golf cart to cross a massive stadium filled with people. And he said that they passed by numerous hurting people who were desperate for some good fortune. And when it was all said and done, they went back to their hotel suite. And in the morning, they left India on their private jet, and went on to somewhere else.
But how Costi describes these people pressing in on him and his uncle is how I picture what happens to Jesus, in verse 9. It says, “And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.”
You can imagine the desperation, right? Jesus has all but eradicated sickness and disease in Capernaum, so that people from miles away are hearing this and they’re coming to Jesus for healing for themselves or for their loved ones. You can understand their desperation, but it reveals something about their heart.
You see, until now, the crowd has been unresponsive to their need for repentance and belief in the gospel, but at least they would sit and listen to Jesus teach. Here, there seems to be no regard for anyone else. It’s like it’s every man for himself, and everyone is pressing in to get their piece of Jesus.
We’re going to see when we get to Mark 5, an instance of a woman touching the garment of Jesus and being healed, but how the crowds were so thick that the disciples couldn’t tell who had touched Jesus.
The crowds had become so bad at wanting Jesus for what He could do for them that they don’t even want to interact with Jesus. All they want to do is touch Jesus, so that they can be healed and go on their way. That’s not the gospel.
The good news of Jesus Christ is not that, in believing in Jesus, everything goes well for us, but that we have everything we need in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ when it doesn’t go well for us.
Jesus is not this genie in a bottle that we can rub the right way, and ask for things when life gets hard, and go on our merry way when we’ve been given what we wanted.
The picture of the gospel is that, when we have a miscarriage or when we watch our loved ones pass away or when we encounter some kind of tragedy in our lives, we can say, with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
That’s the gospel. And when we miss that, then we make Jesus a means to an end and not the end itself. We come to Jesus, not for a handout, but for grace. And if that presents itself in getting what we ask for, we praise Him. And if it presents itself in not getting what we ask for, we praise Him.
The crowds had elevated the gift above the Giver of the gift. What they missed, as they were coming from miles away to see Jesus because of what He could do for them, is that Jesus could do what He did because of who He was.
This is what Mark has been showing us from the beginning of His Gospel. Mark 1:1: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This is not just some miracle worker; this is God incarnate. This Jesus is fully God and fully man. This is the Creator of the universe in human flesh, showing everyone that He has authority over everything.
And it seems like the only ones who recognize that Jesus is the Son of God are the demons—the ones who oppose Him. Look at verse 11. “And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’ 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.”
They’re shrieking with terror at Jesus’ feet. Jesus is not their Lord, but at least they recognize His sovereignty. And Jesus tells them to be quiet, because He doesn’t want them exposing His true identity and causing all kinds of misunderstandings about who He is and what He came to do.
And it’s at this point that Jesus does a very deliberate and necessary thing: He calls together twelve men. Now, we have already seen Jesus call specific individuals to Himself, in the first two chapters of Mark. Back in Mark 1, Jesus is passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, sees Simon and his brother Andrew fishing, and says to them, “Follow me,” and they immediately follow Jesus.
Jesus goes on a bit further, sees James and his brother John mending their fishing nets, and says to them, “Follow me,” and they immediately follow Jesus, leaving behind their father and the family fishing business.
And in Mark 2:14, Jesus calls a man by the name of Levi the tax collector, who was called Matthew, to follow Him, and it says that Levi rose and followed Jesus.
But then, you come to verse 13 in our text and it says that Jesus “went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.” Jesus calls these men and several others for a total of 12 disciples.
Now, notice that it’s Jesus who chooses His disciples. What's interesting about this is that Rabbis, like Jesus, did not choose their disciples; disciples chose their Rabbis. Disciples would attach themselves to someone. It was a voluntary act on their part. And they would follow them around and learn from them and do what they did and say what they said.
But here, we see that Jesus intentionally chooses those whom He desired. It’s Jesus who does the calling, not the other way around. He says to these twelve men, “You come and be my disciples.”
Later on, Jesus would say to them, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.”
There isn’t much there that says that the disciples chose Jesus, is there? It’s because they didn’t. Jesus does the choosing and the disciples respond to the call of Jesus.
But then, notice why Jesus chooses twelve disciples. Look at verse 14. “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.”
What we need to see here is that Jesus is appointing 12 men, in accordance with the 12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament. And what Jesus is doing is He is establishing a new people of God, who would provide the foundation for the Church. And Jesus appoints the Twelve so that they might be with Him, walking with Him, learning from Him, listening to Him teach and preach, watching whatever He did, paying close attention to every word and every action.
These men were with Jesus every day and every night. Jesus chose these men on whom to build His Church.
Jesus would later go on to ask His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That sounds like the beginning of Mark 1. And Jesus says to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Verse 14 says that Jesus appointed the Twelve, whom He also named apostles, that “he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.”
These Twelve were “the sent ones,” it’s what the word, apostle, means. They were sent out by Jesus with His authority to be His ambassadors, His representatives, His messengers in the world, to go and preach the gospel and have dominion over the demonic forces.
And why all of this matters is because the men that Jesus appointed were just ordinary men. They were insignificant men in the eyes of the world. There was fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot. They weren’t scholars or theologians or pastors or evangelists. They were nobodies. They were ordinary.
And the point that Jesus is making is that He is the One who calls and He is the One who equips whom He calls.
It’s not like the disciples are called by Jesus because they are professionals at preaching or because they have a knack for casting out demons. No, they are completely unable to do what Jesus has called them to do, but that’s alright, because Jesus is going to equip them with everything they need to do what He has called them to do.
When I was a kid, I apparently wanted to be a pastor when I grew up. I don’t remember ever saying that, but it’s what my Principal told me. When I was in my late teens, though, that was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, I was quite comfortable working at Walmart and rising the corporate ladder.
But something changed when God called me to go to Bible College. While I was there, all of a sudden, and Helena will attest to how quickly this change happened, I found myself called to go into pastoral ministry. I had no teaching or preaching experience, but this was what I felt God was calling me to.
And it was really revealing when I was in my second year of Bible College and we were in Vancouver for a missions trip. One of the things we had the privilege of doing was putting on a service at the Union Gospel Mission on East Hastings Street. But when we got there, the preacher who was supposed to be there couldn’t make it, so it was up to us to take care of the preaching.
And so, we gathered together in our group to decide on which one of us would preach, and everyone looked at me. And I had no idea what I was doing. I had never done it before. But I said I would do it. And when God equips you to do what He’s called you to do, you find yourself completely at the mercy of God.
And that’s what we’re seeing with these twelve ordinary men. They didn’t have the natural ability to do what God called them to do, and it’s because God was going to give them the ability. If they had tried to do it in their own ability, they would not have been able to endure what they endured for the sake of Jesus.
Apart from Judas, who would eventually betray Jesus and hang himself, and John, who would eventually die of old age, each one of these twelve men died badly for the sake of Christ. They are beheaded, they are crucified, they are stabbed, they are beaten, they are stoned, they are burned at the stake.
None of Jesus’ twelve disciples die well. And maybe that’s because they truly followed Jesus to where Jesus would eventually go. You see, Jesus would eventually give a general call out to those who were following Him, saying, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
“There comes a point,” Jesus is saying, “when we need decide if we want Jesus for Jesus or if we want Jesus for what He can do for us.”
If we simply want Jesus for what He can do for us, if we simply want some kind of good fortune that we think comes from having Jesus in our back pocket, then following Jesus to the cross is going to be out of the question for us. It’s not going to have any kind of appeal, because Jesus is simply a means to an end and not the end itself.
But if Jesus is all-satisfying to us, and that my flesh and my heart and all of these earthly things that I hold dear, may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever, then we’re talking about what it looks like to follow Jesus and to want Jesus for Jesus.
But here’s the thing: We’re going to fail at this, often. We are going to have earthly things come up in our lives that will become more satisfying to us than Jesus. You know why? Because we are, by nature, sinners, whose hearts are an idol factory that take a good thing and make it an ultimate thing. That’s why.
All you have to do is look at the list of apostles, in Mark 3. Down there, in verse 19, who is the last person named among the 12 disciples of Jesus? It says, “And Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
You talk about a dark spot in history. How would you like to be the apostle who betrayed Jesus? You walked with Jesus, learned from Jesus, listened to Jesus preach and teach, watched whatever Jesus did, paid close attention to every word and every action, and then betrayed Him for some coins.
In fact, each one of the disciples of Jesus abandon Jesus as He’s going to the cross. Talk about ordinary and pathetic, right? And yet, we’re a whole lot more like them than we care to admit. But thankfully, we have a Saviour who would eventually take up His cross, and would be nailed to it, and He would suffer and die for our sins—the godly for the ungodly. And we can’t fathom that.
We can’t fathom how God Himself would walk this earth and would teach of the good news of salvation that is found in Him and how He would give us what we truly need at His own expense.
We can’t fathom how God could be so gracious and so good, as to take our sins and our struggles and our pain and our hardship and our miscarriages, and nail them to the cross of Jesus Christ.
We can’t fathom how God can call the ordinary and equip them to do what He has called them to do—how God takes us, who are completely unable to do the good we ought to do, and conforms us into the image of the Son.
And we can’t fathom how the same extraordinary God, who built His Church on twelve ordinary men, continues to use ordinary men and women, like you and me, today, to further the advance of His Kingdom in the world.
Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations, not because of who we are, but because of who He is. We are weak and ordinary and frail people, but He is extraordinary and His strength is made perfect in our weakness—in our inability to do what He has called us to do.
And so, are we calling people to be with us, walking with us, learning from us, listening to us, watching what we do and how we parent and how we interact with unbelievers in the workplace? Are we training up the next generation to know and love Jesus for Jesus? Are we inviting people to follow us as we follow Christ, not because we are good examples, but because of the grace of Christ in us?
We have been given these opportunities to make the glory of God known among the nations. And if we are keenly aware of how often we fail in this area, it will serve to remind us that we are ordinary people who worship and serve an extraordinary God. And it’s when we humble ourselves and come to Jesus with our inability, that we will see God do the extraordinary. Let’s pray…