Reading Scripture: Mark 3:13-19

Let us all head up a mountain to appoint some apostles in Mark 3: 13-19.

For the most part, this is entirely informative, seemingly bereft of deeper meaning other than to tell us who the twelve disciples of Jesus were. There has been much written about the nature of Jesus’ calling, how this is the way God does things, and I simply don’t buy it. I don’t think that this is anything other than an artistic description of Jesus picking from those that followed him those he felt were best suited to be his close disciples.

None of the commentaries I have found can seem to comment simply on Mark’s story here, but must always bring in the more elaborate versions of this same calling in Matthew and Luke. I think this is because it is our nature as Christians to want every word and tale in Scripture to have a deep and hidden meaning. We seek in a simple room the telltale signs of supernatural genius. Well, I argue that Mark was just a man, and this is his story, and it’s a lot more straightforward and simple than you might want.

Mark is unique in having Jesus go up a mountain, which goes hand in hand with the Jewish mythography of choosing twelve disciples. Also, mountains are not as big as you might imagine in Israel, probably a good hour hike or so to the peak. Check out this image of Mount Tabor:

12 is a pretty big deal as far as numbers go in the Hebrew world because there were originally 12 tribes of Israel, named and supposedly descended from the twelve sons of Jacob (renamed Israel). You can begin to see how it’s all wrapped up together, these words, numbers, and meanings. Going up on a mountain is a classic Hebrew action for when something big is happening. Famously Moses went up on a few mountains to speak with God.

I think Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He was using the culture to which he had been born to bring people together and to give symbolic meaning to his work as the redeemer of humanity.

There has been a lot of speculation on why Jesus would name the brothers the “sons of thunder,” but as far as I can tell, we have no idea.

This naming of the twelve, placed here after crowds and healings, after continuing to establish the authority of Jesus. I wonder if what follows will be different, and the naming is a transitional piece. Perhaps we shall find out as we continue.

Until then, grace and peace to you all.


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