Mark tells us in chapter 6 that Jesus chose 12 disciples.
... But TWELVE.
The number 12 is important because if we’ve been paying close attention we might remember that ...
In chapter 5 Jairus’ daughter was 12 years old.
And the woman who had the issue of bleeding was sick for 12 years.
... And now (in chapter 6) Jesus chooses 12 disciples. I had a professor in seminary who once told me that whenever you see a pattern in a particular book or passage of the Bible or whenever you see something repeated over and over again, that means that the author is trying to tell you something or wants you to see something deeper going on beneath the surface of the story.
So, the question, then would be why did Mark …
Tell us the story of the 12 year old girl.
And the story of the woman who was bleeding for 12 years.
And the story of Jesus choosing His 12 disciples.
… Back to back to back? What’s the deal with the number TWELVE?
Interestingly, there have been countless books written about why Jesus chose 12 disciples and what that has to do with us today. Like I remember reading a leadership book in college that said Jesus’ choosing of 12 disciples speaks to the importance of delegating responsibility to people. Like, Jesus couldn’t do it on His own and so 12 was the perfect number to help Him get the job done.
Invest in people.
Build a team.
... That’s basic leadership, right? Leadership 101: Don’t Do It All On Your Own.
Then I read another book that was geared more towards small groups and the author said that Jesus chose 12 because any group larger than 12 people is unmanageable and so when we have a small group or Bible study we should keep it within the confines of 12 people.
I guess that stuff is true, and I guess it works.
As my professor taught me, I think Mark is after something different here and I think Jesus was too because 12, remember, is the number of the original tribes of Israel - there were 12 tribes in God’s chosen Nation and those 12 tribes of people were to be agents of change in a dark world. They were, in essence, to be a blessing to the other nations, to dedicate their lives and their entire being to the work of God and His plan to reconcile the world to Himself.
These are the words He spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12 …
“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you, I will curse. And all people on earth will be blessed through you.”
… And then from Abraham came the TWELVE tribes.
And so, yes, the original job of the 12 tribes that made up the great Nation of Israel was to be a blessing to the world - the WHOLE world.
And so with that background about the number 12 in mind, Mark tells us about ...
Jairus’ TWELVE year old daughter - who, remember, was from a RICH family.
The woman who was bleeding for TWELVE years - who, recall, was POOR.
The TWELVE disciples - who, mind you, were FISHERMEN, TAX COLLECTORS, TRAITORS, etc.
… And as we make our way through his Gospel, Mark wants us to be thinking about this. He wants us to have “God’s original chosen people” and the story of Abraham from Genesis 12 in mind; he wants us to be mulling over what God’s call was to those TWELVE tribes of people - who they were called to be, what they stood for, who they represented, what their job was.
A TWELVE year old (rich) girl.
A (poor) woman who was sick for TWELVE years.
And TWELVE disciples who were dirty and uneducated (amongst other things).
... Beneath the surface of these stories, Mark is telling us something very, very, very important.
As Jesus comes out of the raising of Jairus’ TWELVE year old daughter and the healing of the woman who was bleeding for TWELVE years, He begins to raise up His TWELVE disciples to do the things He has been doing, to do the things that the Nation of Israel and the TWELVE Tribes were called to do way back in Genesis 12 and to perform the healings, spread the love, and share the grace that the prophets had promised would come and fill the earth when the Kingdom of God came.
In essence, He was calling His 12 disciples to do what the 12 tribes had failed to do and thus begin to usher God’s Kingdom to earth.
To bless rich young girls.
To bless old poor women.
To bless everyone - rich, poor, male, female, Jew, Gentile - EVERYONE in between.
And notice for this task …
He doesn’t choose 12 temple leaders.
He doesn’t choose 12 doctoral students.
He doesn’t choose 12 rabbi’s.
He doesn’t choose 12 kings.
Instead, He chooses 12 people ranging all over the spectrum ...
A tax collector (Matthew).
A traitor (Judas).
Fishermen (Peter, John, etc.).
... Why? Because the point Mark made in the previous chapter about Jesus not only going to and inviting the rich and powerful to His table (as shown in the healing of the wealthy Jairus’ daughter), but also going to and inviting the poor and weak (as shown in the healing of the poor older woman) … Mark’s point was that EVERYONE is invited to follow Him - old, young, rich, poor, male, female, Jew, Gentile - and the WHOLE world - old, young, rich, poor, male, female, Jew, Gentile - would be blessed through Him.
Everyone is invited to follow!
And the whole world would be blessed!
And so Mark was telling his readers who found themselves, remember, left to pick up the pieces of their lives that were broken and shattered in the wake of Emperor Nero’s genocidal rampage … Mark was reminding them that THEY were invited to keep following Jesus ...
In all of their pain.
In all of their confusion.
In all of their loss.
In all of their brokenness.
In all of their imperfections.
... And as His followers they were called to bring healing to one another, to spread love among each other and their enemies, and to extend grace and mercy and kindness to all. That was the job of the 12 tribes, the 12 disciples and, now, theirs as well.
Yes - Mark wanted his readers to rise up and take their place within the number TWELVE.
And so I wonder, what would it look like for you to do the same today? What would it look like for you to identify yourself as one of Mark’s readers, as one of the 12 disciples, as one of the 12 tribes of Israel and pick up the torch that God has asked His people to carry?
To be a person who brings healing to the land?
To be a person who blesses others?
To be a person who brings kindness?
To be a person who brings mercy?
To be a person who forgives?
To be a person who brings life?
To be a person who ushers in joy?
To be a person who uses their words to uplift?
To be a person who defends the weak?
To be a person who releases grudges?
This is the kind of people that God called the TWELVE tribes of Israel to be, it’s the kind of person that Jesus was and the kind of life He modeled, it was the kind of people that Jesus called His TWELVE to be, the kind of people Mark was calling his readers to be, the kind of people that you and I are expected to be ... the kind of people this hurting and confused world NEEDS us to be.
So, let’s do it. Let’s rise up and take our place amongst the 12 this week.