Mark Part 4: Calling of the Disciples (Mark 1-3)

Mark Part 4: Calling of the Disciples (Mark 1-3)


This week at Crossover we continued talking about the book of Mark. We looked at the stories of Jesus calling the disciples and discussed some background information.
  • Some of the disciples seem to have multiple names. One explanation is that it was common for people to have a Jewish name and a Greek name.
  • Jesus was a Rabbi
    • It’s possible that Jesus specifically selected students other Rabbis rejected to be his disciples.
  • Most of the 12 disciples were likely teenagers.
  • The diversity within the disciples teaches us:
    • God loves everyone and wants to use all kinds of people.
    • God wants to use your personality.
    • God wants unity


Today we are going to continue to look at Mark 1-3 and focus specifically on the people Jesus chose to be His 12 apostles.
First, let’s explore scripture to get some background on these disciples. (Students broke into groups and looked at these passages).
  • Mark 1:16-20. What are we told about the first 4 disciples?
  • Mark 1:20. What do we learn about Peter?
  • Mark 2:13-17. What are we told about Levi?
  • Luke 9:51-56. What are we told about James and John?
  • Mark 3:16–19, Matthew 10:2–4, and Luke 6:13–16 record the names of the 12 disciples Jesus chose. Read the passages below and write down the names in the order they appear.
    • You will notice each list is a little different. Circle names that are not in all 3 lists.

Now that we have some background about the disciples, let’s see what we have discovered. You read through the lists of the 12 disciples Jesus called.

What differences between the lists did you see?
  • For one, the names are in different orders.
  • Matthew and Mark include a guy named Thaddeus, but Luke has a second guy named Judas.
  • Also, in Mark 2 we learned about the calling of Levi, but Levi is not listed on any of these lists. Instead, we find a guy named Matthew.
  • If we had read John’s gospel, we wouldn’t see Bartholomew. Instead, we’d find a character named Nathaniel.

And the reason I wanted to address this first and call attention to it is that it can be confusing or catch you off-guard. Some even use this to say the Bible has contradictions. But really it has a simple explanation.
Why are the names different?  Let me answer that question with a question: Do you know anyone who has a nickname?

So wait, you are telling me that there are 2 different names that could identify you in a crowd? Or 2 different people in this room could make a list of who is here tonight, and write different names, but they would both mean you were here?

Or better yet, is your name hard to say in a culture different than yours so you have adopted one that is more common in that culture? Or do you know anyone who has done this?

Like the character Katy from Shang Chi.

The point is, its not uncommon today for people to go by different names depending on the circumstances. And it wasn’t any different back then. One major reason was:

It was common for people to have a Jewish name and a Greek name.

  • Many Jews would have a Jewish name given them in keeping with their culture, but since most of the world at that time spoke Greek they would also adopt a Greek name to use in public.
  • This would have been especially true of Jews who worked closely with the Roman system or were Roman citizens.
    • For example: Saul/Paul or Levi/Matthew
  • As we saw, Levi is a tax collector for the Roman government, so it makes sense he would also have a Greek name. The gospel of Matthew makes the connection even more clear.

You can spend a long time learning all the reasons for different names, and unless you are a nerd it won’t be that fun. I am though, so if you want an in depth explanation talk to me after. For now though we will just go with that short explanation. Just know if you ever come across it and are confused or someone tries to use it to disprove the Bible, there is a simple explanation.

In Mark 1:16-20 and Mark 2:13-17, how did Jesus call the disciples?

  • Come, follow me

Isn’t that crazy? Like let’s act this out: I just walk up to you, and say hey, give up everything, abandon your life, drop it all right this second, and come follow me and be my student.
  • Would you do that?

 While these stories are great examples of faith and obedience to Jesus, there is also bit more going on behind the scenes.

  •  You see Jesus was a Rabbi.

 But Jesus wasn’t the only Rabbi. Maybe you have heard that word before or read how the disciples called Him that. It’s a word that basically just means teacher. But at that time in culture, Rabbi’s were a huge thing. Rabbi’s were the ones who primarily taught others about God, and only a select few got to become Rabbi. In fact the entire culture was molded around this goal.
You see between the ages 5-6 Jewish boys and girls would begin to learn the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible. By 12 or 13 they would be expected to have memorized it, or at least be incredible familiar with it. Then there was a second level of school, reserved for only those who did exceptionally well. They would learn the rest of the Hebrew Bible and Traditions. At 15, if a Rabbi thought that a student had what it took to become a Rabbi himself, he would say “Come follow me”.
That student would be invited to then study under that Rabbi, typically from 15-30. If a student was not invited to follow a Rabbi, they would have to go out and get a job, most likely take up their fathers’ business. So while still huge, those Jesus called knew exactly what He was doing. He was a Rabbi inviting them to learn from Him.
Alright, everyone put on their critical thinking hats. Based on the fact that Jewish boys who failed to become Rabbis would go out and work in their father’s trade, what could we infer about the people Jesus called.

  • It’s possible that Jesus specifically selected 12 Rabbi rejects.

Since they were already working, and not following another Rabbi, we could speculate that they had all already failed out of Rabbi school. Meaning Jesus specifically chose 12 people that others had already given up on, who were told they did not have what it takes.
Last week we saw how the “best of the best” all the religious elites and those most educated in the Torah rejected Jesus. So Jesus doesn’t call them. Instead, He does the opposite. Jesus chose 12 ordinary people, like you and me. Because what God is about to do will not be accomplished by human ability, but rather by God’s power in the 12 disciples.

And the same is true today. What God can do and wants to do in your life will not be accomplished by your willpower or by you being good enough, but by His Spirit in you.

What did we learn about Peter in Mark 1:30?

  • He was married.
Peter is the only disciple the Bible mentions as being married. It was a custom then that around 18 you would be married.
What could we guess about the ages of the other disciples?
  • Possibly younger then 18.
In Matthew 17 we also see that Peter is the only disciple mentioned as paying the temple tax, which you had to start paying at age 20. These two facts combined with the typical ages of a Rabbi’s students could lead us to the conclusion that most of the 12 disciples were likely teenagers.

 Do you know what this means? You guys got no excuses. The disciples are a bunch of teenage rabbi rejects, yet God used them to literally change the world.

What does God want to use you to do?

What did you learn about James and John in Luke 9?

  • They wanted to blow up an entire town. (Tell me they are not teenagers.)

Jesus nicknamed these two brothers “sons of thunder”. Probably cause they were bold and crazy.
Later on we will read stories where Peter is just going to say some really stupid stuff. Anyone have a friend that does that? Just always manages to say the worst things at the worst time?

In Mark 2:13-17 we learned that Matthew was a Tax collector. People hated tax collectors back then. I mean no one really likes paying taxes no either but back than they were bad news. First, Matthew is a Jew working for the Roman government, which has forcefully taken over. So Matthew is a trader, a sellout.

Second, tax collectors had to collect a certain amount to send to the Roman emperor, but then they could collect as much on top of that as they wanted for themselves. And you couldn’t do anything about it. Cause if you refuse to pay, a bunch of Roman guards will come breaking down your door.

So not many people liked Matthew. Yet Jesus looked past all that, loved Matthew, and saw what he could be if given a chance.

On the other end of the spectrum, you had Simon “the zealot”. He was either super zealous for God’s teachings, meaning he was super dedicated. Or he was a member of a group called “The Zealots” which were a Jewish military group that was dedicated to taking down the Roman government. So over here you got Matthew the trader, and over here you got Simon the terrorist.
I would love to hear what some of their conversations were like. These two are as different as can be. They are at opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Look at this crew. Besides the ones we already talked about you got:

  • Thomas the doubter,
  • Andrew who was a disciple of John the Baptist,
  • Bartholomew who was super serious about his Jewish faith,
  • And Judas who was apparently was so trust worthy he handled all the money for the group before he betrayed Jesus.
I think this diverse crew teaches us a few things:

  • God loves everyone, and wants to use all kinds of people.
  • God wants to use your personality.
    • God made you the way you are. (Not your sin habits or wrong motives) but he made you with the personality and skills you have, and he wants you to use them. He doesn’t want you to be someone else.
    • Jesus didn’t call 12 Peters, He called 12 very different people, because the body of Christ needs very different people to function.
    • You can reach people that would never listen to me, the person next to you God will use to do things you can’t do. We need each other.
  • God wants unity
    • Although Jesus called people with huge differences, He expected them to get along and work together.
    • Jesus will talk many times about the importance of unity and love.
    • Although it can be difficult and sometimes we may even fight, God’s Spirit makes it possible for everyone to be unified.
I hope today you learned something new about the disciples. Hopefully, understanding who they are a bit better will enhance the story as we continue to read through Mark, and as you read the Bible on your own. There are many details we didn’t cover about them, so as you see more make note of them.
  • It was common for people to have a Jewish name and a Greek name.
  • Jesus was a Rabbi
    • It’s possible that Jesus specifically selected Rabbi rejects.
  • Most of the 12 disciples were likely teenagers.
  • The diversity within the disciples teaches us:
    • God loves everyone, and wants to use all kinds of people.
    • God wants to use your personality.
    • God wants unity

Reflection Questions

  • If any, which one of the disciples do you feel like you relate to the most?
    • Or who is your favorite and why?
  • If Jesus selected “Rabbi rejects”, what does that tell us about:
    • Jesus?
    • The people He chooses?
    • Us?
  • What do you think about the idea that most of the disciples were teenagers?
  • Like the disciples, the church is made up of many very different people. How do you have unity when everyone is so different?
Read Luke 14:25-33 (NLT)

25 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.

28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? 29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30 They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

31 “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? 32 And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. 33 So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.
  • What is “the cost” of being a disciple?
    • Is it “expensive”?
  • Does this passage make it sound like being a disciple is hard or easy?
  • Do you think most people “count the cost” of becoming a disciple?
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