COMMENTARY ON MARK
LESSON NUMBER 31
“ Mark 3:13 And He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto Him whom He would: and they came unto Him. 14 And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach, 15 and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: 16 And Simon He surnamed Peter; 17 and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and He surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: 18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, 19 and Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed Him: and they went into an house.” (Mark 3:13-19; Matt 10:1-4; Luke 6:12-16)
JESUS CHOOSES THE TWELVE
Jesus has sent the multitudes away, and now proceeds to do more of the works He sees His Father doing: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19). Among the works He saw the Father doing was the ordaining of twelve key men – men who would be associated with the very “foundation” upon which the church is built (Eph 2:20). The choosing of the men would even ensure the appointed betrayal and consequent crucifixion of the Savior – a determination that had been made before the world was founded – purposed and created (Eph 1:4; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8). This was one of Christ’s key works, the effects and ministry of which remain until this day. This was a work that could not be done in the synagogue, on the mountain as He taught the multitudes, or in the temple where He taught during the day time (Lk 21:37). This was a foundational work that, according to Divine appointment, would ensure the dispersement of the truth, as well as its exposition. Here is a part of Christ’s ministry that did not deal directly with the multitudes. Here, the purpose of God, the dissemination of the truth, and the decimation of Satan’s power were the dominating considerations.
MANY ARE CALLED, BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN
“ 3:13 And He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto Him whom He would: and they came unto Him.”
HE GOETH UP INTO A MOUNTAIN. Luke tells us that this event was preceded by Jesus praying all night on this very mountain. “And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). The Gospels record Jesus going up into a mountain twenty times. On a mountain He taught the people (Matt 5:1; 15:29), prayed (Matt 14:23; Mk 6:46; Lk 6:12; 9:28), chose the twelve apostles (Mk 3:13), taught His disciples (John 6:3; Matt 24:3; Mk 13:3), was transfigured (Matt 17:1-2), went to be alone (John 6:15), sent out His disciples from (Matt 21:1; Mk 11:1; Lk 19:29), stayed during the night (Lk 21:37; John 8:1), went with His disciples following the last supper (Matt 26:30; Mk 14:26; Lk 22:39), and ascended from into heaven (Matt 28:16).
The lofty climes of a mountain seemed befitting for holy contemplation, praying, choosing, sending, and teaching. There He was above the distracting sights and sounds of the world. Abraham was tested on a mountain (Gen 22:1-14). Moses was called to deliver Israel on a mountain (Ex 3-4). The Law was given on a mountain (Ex 19:23-20:17). The blessings and cursings of the Law were read from mountains (Deut 27:12,13). Jerusalem was built upon a mountain (Psa 48:2; Isa 10:32). The temple was built on a mountain (2 Chron 3:1).
All of these things confirm the lofty nature of spiritual life. It is lived above the din and commotion of the world. Spiritual life demands times of practical isolation from the world – whether achieved in the heart and mind, or by physical withdrawal. The world – even the religious world – can be a formidable distraction to the soul. If ever there was a religious environment, it was when the Son of God was ministering to the people. However, there came a time when what He had to do could not be accomplished in that kind of environment.
HE CALLETH UNTO HIM WHOM HE WOULD. Matthew says “He called unto Him His twelve disciples” (Matt 10:1). Mark says “He called unto Him whom He would” (Mk 3:13). Luke says, “He called unto Him His disciples and of them He chose twelve” (Lk 6:12). There are at least three distinctive things seen here.
First, Jesus called those He wanted – “whom He would.” Here is a level of Divine will that is more focused, and more precisely reflective of Divine purpose. In a general sense, the Lord “will have all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). In this text, however, we come more to the center of God’s will.
Second, at some point, He called His general disciples – those who were committed to following Him and learning from Him. These were not the curiosity-seekers, nor those who sought for healing and deliverance. These general disciples chose to follow the Lord for a variety of reasons. Some were more noble than others. Divine power was involved in their choice, but to a lesser degree than those “whom He would” have to follow Him.
Third, from the general disciples, He chose specific ones for specific exalted duties. This choice was closer to the heart of Divine will – God’s “eternal purpose” – and thus was not attended by sundry conditions. There are no volunteers on this level. Divine choices that confirm this is the case include Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the Prophets, John the Baptist, and the Apostles. Their participation in the purpose of God was wholly determined by Divine choice. It is essential for us to see this level of the Kingdom of God. Without it, the concept of “LORD” falls to the ground, being nothing more than something that ought to be. There are Divine choices that are not influenced by the chosen ones.
THEY CAME UNTO HIM. Here is an example of the drawing power of the Lord. Jesus said, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me” (John 6:37). Ponder what a marvelous thing this is! How many thousands have heard a call from God, yet did not come to Him. Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God being like a man who prepared a great wedding feast. Upon inviting “his servants” to this sumptuous feast, Jesus said, “they would not come” (Matt 22:3). Our text is an example of, what some have chosen to refer to as, as “effectual call.” The idea is that of a call that is accompanied with Divine power. It is the outworking of a truth Jesus proclaimed concerning His sheep – the real ones. “My sheep hear My voice . . . and they follow Me” (John 10:27). Their following of the Christ confirms they are His. That very thing is lived out in our text: Jesus called, the disciples heard, and they came to Him. The knowledge of these things is indispensable to proper self examination (2 Cor 13:5).
ORDAINED FOR A PURPOSE
“ 14-15 And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He mightsend them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils.”
AND HE ORDAINED TWELVE. Matthew says, “He called unto Him His twelve disciples” (Matt 10:1). Luke says, “He called unto Him His disciples: and of them He chose twelve, whom also He named apostles” (Luke 6:13). The word “ordained” means literally “to make, to produce, to cause, to make a thing out of something, and constitute or appoint one to anything.” THAYER This is a creative word – something declaring Divine activity. As one might suppose, it is found many times in the New Testament writings – no less than seventy-five. As used here, it is generally translated “appointed” in later versions. The point is that their choice was wholly owing to the Lord. The men themselves had no part in the choice. They had chosen to follow Jesus, and now He made them something special.
Luke tells, “whom He also named apostles.” Other versions read “designated,” NIV “called.” GENEVA From this point on, to this very day, these men were unique among all of Christ’s followers. They are referred to as “the twelve apostles” (Matt 10:2; Lk 22:14), “the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14), “the twelve disciples,” Matt 20:17), “the twelve” (Matt 26:14,20,47; Mk 4:10; 6:7; 9:35; 10:32; 11:11; Mk 14:10,17,20,43; Lk 8:1; 9:12; 18:31; Lk 22:3,47; John 6:67,71; 20:24; Acts 6:2; 1 Cor 15:5). One of them would fall by transgression, betraying the Son of Man, and would be replaced by Mathias, who is said to have been “numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26).
The word “apostle” means “one sent forth, a messenger.” STRONG’S These men would be given a message that had been concealed in previous ages. As it is written, “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ). Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph 3:4-5). They are also referred to as a foundation upon which the church is built (Eph 2:20). Jude reminds believers to remember “the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:17). It is also taught that they are “first” in rank in the church (1 Cor 12:28). They head up the teaching ministry of the church (Eph 4:11). The early church is said to have “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42).
THAT THEY SHOULD BE WITH HIM. Being “with” Jesus was not a privilege to be assumed. While there were times when the multitudes could follow Jesus, there were also times when He sent them away. These twelve men, however, were vouchsafed the privilege of remaining with Jesus. This confirms that those who are used by Jesus must spend time with Him. Jesus has no work to do that does not require the worker to be with Him.
This is the means God used to give these men to Jesus. Jesus would refer to them as men who were uniquely given to Him by the Father (John 17:9,11,24).
THAT HE MIGHT SEND THEM FORTH TO PREACH. Mark is the only Gospel writer that relates this point to the time when the twelve were “ordained.” Luke speaks of a later time when Jesus “sent them to preach the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:1). Following His resurrection, when Jesus appeared to His disciples, He told them to “preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Then, they would preach with greater insight and greater power – but only because He ordained them “that He might send them forth to preach.” Paul alludes to this principle when he writes, “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” (Rom 10:15). Their preaching approximately two years before Jesus died, was moved to a higher level following His resurrection, and continues through their “doctrine” to this very day. Christ’s choice was successful!
TO HAVE POWER TO HEAL SICKNESSES AND TO CAST OUT DEVILS. If Jesus does not give this power, it cannot be possessed. If He gives it, it cannot fail to be fulfilled. Matthew says, “He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (Matt 10:1). Luke omits this reference. The point is that these men would continue the assault on Satan’s kingdom that Jesus had started. “Power,” in this case, means “authority.” NASB That is, they were given jurisdiction in an area in which men were ordinarily impotent. He could do this because the kingdom and the power belonged to Him. But this was not a privilege given to all of His disciples. In this case, it was given only to the twelve. Later it would also be given to seventy especially chosen ones also (Lk 10:1,9,17). Following His resurrection, the Lord is said to have placed “gifts of healings” in the church (1 Cor 12:28). Just as in our text, such gifts are dispensed with Divine discretion. The infrequency of reference to this gift (four times – 1 Cor 12:9,28,30, James 5:16) confirms it can only be dispensed by the Lord Jesus.
FROM AMONG THE MULTITUDES, HE CHOSE TWELVE
“ 15-19 And Simon He surnamed Peter; and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and He surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.”
NAMES CHANGED OR ALTERED. Jesus “surnamed,” or gave another name, to Simon (meaning “to hear”), changing it to Peter (meaning a stone, John 1:42). He was also called “Cephas,” which was the Syriac form of the name (John 1:42; 1 Cor 1:12.; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal 2:9). This man was to be noted for stability, and Jesus would cause him to be more firm than he had ever been before. James (“supplanter”) and John (“Jehovah is a gracious Giver” ) to “Boanerges (“sons of thunder”). This was no doubt because of their volatile nature, which once erupted when they wanted to call down fire on certain Samaritans who did not want to receive Jesus (Lk 9:52-56). Jesus would tame their natures. James would be martyred early in the history of the church by Herod (Acts 12:1-2), and John would be known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20).
THE DIVERSITY OF THEIR NATURAL PERSONS. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen (Matt 4:18-20). Matthew as a tax collector (Mk 2:14). Simon was a Canaanite and also called a Zealot (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). The Zealots were a fanatical sect who thought any deed of violence justified the recovery of their national freedom. Philip, Peter, and Andrew were from the city of Bethsaida, noted for its unbelief (John 1:44). Bartholomew is generally understood to be Nathanael of the Gospel of John, who is never mentioned in the first three Gospels (John 1:45-49; 21:2). Thomas was a twin (the meaning of Didymus (John 11:16; 20:24; 21:2). Judas ultimately betrayed Jesus, and was noted as “the traitor” (Lk 6:16). He was deliberately chosen, though Jesus “knew from the beginning ... who should betray Him” (John 6:64). He was chosen that the Word of the Lord might be fulfilled, and was a “devil from the beginning” (John 6:70).
Simon, called Peter
Simon, surnamed Peter
Simon, whom He also named Peter
James, the son of Zebedee
James, the son of Zebedee
John his brother
John the brother of James
Andrew, his (Peter’s) brother
Andrew, his (Peter’s) brother
Matthew the publican
James the son of Alphaeus
James, the son of Alphaeus
James the son of Alphaeus
Lebbaeus, surname was Thaddaeus
Judas, the brother of James
Simon the Canaanite
Simon the Canaanite
Simon called Zelotes (Zealot)
Judas Iscariot, which betrayed
Judas Iscariot, which betrayed
Judas, the traitor
These men were chosen out of the multitudes of disciples that pursued Jesus during His ministry. Vast numbers of those disciples eventually forsook the Lord. It is said of them that they “went back and walked no more with Him” (John 6:66). However, with the exception of Judas, who fulfilled his appointed destiny (Acts 1:25), these disciples remained with Jesus, fulfilling the reason for which they were appointed. The effectuality of the Divine call is demonstrated in them. There is a level of Divine determination in which the full intentions of the will of God are carried out to completion. Thus it is written, “Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Rom 8:30). Ultimately, the stability of believers is owing to Divine choice. Even though this may be exceedingly difficult to perceive, it will be acknowledged in the end. Thus the voice of the saints will be heard saying, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Rev 7:10)