“Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach, giving them authority to cast out demons. These are the twelve he chose: Simon (whom he named Peter), James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealotd), and Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him)” (Mark 3:13-19, NLT).
As I have already mentioned, Jesus never had a problem attracting crowds. In fact, the previous paragraph in Mark 3 reports that the crowd was so large it forced Jesus to get into a boat a push away from the shore just to provide a little cushion for him to speak. I find it fascinating, however, that Jesus didn’t try to organize the crowd to implement the Kingdom. He opted to select 12 who would accompany him to the top of the mountain. Jesus had three goals for the 12 who agreed to take on the mantle of discipleship.
First, Jesus wanted to help them to connect relationally with himself and with each other. Connecting relationally is an important part of our personal growth and spiritual development. Connecting with God would appear to be a bit obvious and probably doesn’t need a lot of explanation. Jesus values anytime we connect with him, and placed that as priority in his rationale for calling the group together. But the value of connecting with others is a critical dynamic that is often over looked. We have been designed by God to grow, and our best opportunity for growth occurs in the fertile soil of community. The meaningful relationships that are developed in a small group dynamic trump the shallow offerings of the big crowd and provide balance that we do not find when in isolation.
The problem with connecting relationally is that relationships can be messy. Think about the people Jesus selected. There was Peter who could be characterized as outspoken and brash. Then James and John, the “Sons of Thunder,” nicknamed as such because of their quick tempers. Simon was a zealot, meaning he was an activist who was willing to shed blood for his convictions. And there at the end of the list is Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus for the price of a common household slave. Jesus didn’t pick the easy, compliant people to join his group. Jesus picked messy people who He believed had the potential to change the world.
When my wife and I were getting ready to get married, my father gave us a bit of brilliant advice about marriage that I’ll never forget. He said, “If two people are near enough alike that they never disagree, then one of them is not necessary.” That’s the kind of value that relationships, difficult as they may be, add to our personal growth. If you are only willing to connect with those who you perceive to be exactly like you, then you’ll get along marvelously. But will you have balance? Will you be challenged? Will you learn to think critically and develop discernment? Will you learn to love unconditionally? Will you overcome your natural tendencies to judge? Relationships are messy because everyone is broken and fallen. And that includes you and me. Tomorrow I’ll post about the second purpose that Jesus had in creating this unique opportunity for the growth and development of his disciples.