Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; 8 hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. 9 He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; 10 for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 11 Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” 12 But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
13 He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles,[a] to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, 15 and to have authority to cast out demons. 16 So he appointed the twelve:[b] Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
After the Pharisees and the Herodians and begin to plot a way to destroy Jesus, Jesus withdraws to the sea. His ministry has been challenged by the authorities. It’s going to be a tough road ahead. Jesus takes time to re-establish his community before continuing his rhythm of ministry that will lead him again and again into moments of conflict with the religious authorities.
We find ourselves in familiar locations. Mark takes us back to the sea, drawing to mind Jesus’ first appearance on the docks in Galilee and the call of the first disciples. The rhythms of healing, the mention of various diseases and unclean spirits, takes us back to his first healing in the synagogue and the house of Simon’s mother-in-law. Mark is confirming the already established patterns of Jesus’ life and ministry to get the readers ready for what’s to come next on the journey.
In verse 13 Jesus ascends a mountain where he names his disciples and his inner circle of leaders. This is an allusion back to Moses at Sinai and the receiving of the Law. Mark is connecting the ministry of Jesus to the ultimate story for the people of Israel - Moses, the Exodus and the formation of God’s people through the giving of the Law.
Jesus also patterns the leaders of his community after patterns established in the history of the people of Israel - 12 disciples and three key leaders. This could be a reminder of the 12 tribes/sons of Jacob and the three patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It could also be an allusion to the prophets - 12 minor prophets and Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.
Jesus is regrouping his community before setting out again. There is a religious overtone to this story, but the political implications should not be overlooked.
Ched Myers argues - “But the political character of this discourse would not have been lost upon Mark’s Palestinian audience: Jesus, having repudiated the authority of the priestly/scribal order, now forms a kind of vanguard ‘revolutionary committee,’ a ‘government in exile!’ The community of resistance has been founded (Myers, 164).”
Jesus is starting a revolution that has social, economic, and political implications. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is already present in these realms of our lives and should not be separated from them. How we follow Jesus, how we engage the world as modern day disciples, will shape our social relationships and encounters, how we use our resources, and how we engage the political realities of our time.