Scripture: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. (Mark 3:13-19)
Reflection: In Mark’s gospel, twelve men are named apostles by Jesus. The passage above is not focused on their names, but on the number of them. There are twelve apostles to represent messengers, and they are sent on a twofold mission. The message they are to deliver is that the kingdom of God is near; God is breaking into human history in the works and words of Jesus of Nazareth. They are also given the authority to cast out demons. Because the author of this gospel loves exorcisms, he assigns the apostles the same role that Jesus has, namely, to set people free from whatever oppresses them.
Mark’s gospel, the oldest of the canonical narratives named gospels, preserves some very interesting facts about the group Jesus chose. In derivative gospels (Matthew and Luke), these interesting notes will disappear. First, James and John are called Sons of Thunder, illustrating what must have been their turbulent personalities. Cananaean, a descriptive of Simon (not Peter), refers to an anti-Roman revolutionary group who would be known as a terrorist organization today; the Cananaeans were agitators, who disturbed what the Romans called the Pax Romana (the peace of Rome). Finally, Simon is given the name Peter, which means rock; of course, in Mark’s gospel he is anything other than a rock. Once he denies knowing Jesus three times he disappears from the narrative, never to be seen or heard from again. We know little to nothing about the rest of the apostles.
If Jesus were walking the Earth today, he would name apostles those men most people would never choose. He would name the person who always has an opinion that is exactly the opposite of the group. He would name those who spend their lives attempting to change things, those who never put their stamp of approval on things the way they are. He might even name the weak in faith as apostles in the hope that they might repent and grow strong. The group Jesus chose in Mark’s gospel is the most unlikely gang anyone would ever choose to be apostles.
Journal/Meditation: Why would Jesus choose you to be an apostle?
Prayer: God of Judaism and Christianity, once you chose twelve tribes to be your people, and through your Son, Jesus Christ, you chose twelve men to proclaim to the whole world the nearness of your kingdom. Count me among those who have been sent. I ask this in the name of your Son, who is Lord forever and ever. Amen.