Jesus Selects the Twelve

Written by Pastor James Dorman

Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16

  1. Thoughts from Mark and Luke:

Mark 3:13-19 (NIV84):“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

Luke 6:12–16 (NIV84): “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”

  1. Passage Outline

Jesus Selects the Twelve

Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16

I. Following a Night of Prayer, Jesus Appoints 12 Apostles (Mark 3:13-16; Luke 12-13)

II. The Apostles’ Names (Mark 3:17-19; Luke 6:14-16)

  1. Information to Consider

“In this section, we see Jesus calling a community together. This came at a pivotal point in Jesus’ ministry. He had confronted the religious powers several times. After the confrontation in Mark 3:1–6, a plot was being hatched against his life. Crowds were following him, and yet, these were not close friends. It was a lonely time, a dangerous time. Jesus called twelve men to be his special companions. To them he granted power to perform miracles in his name. He gave them the message of the kingdom of God. If something happened to him—and he knew it would—there would be a band to take his message to the world. Luke 6:12 informs us that before Jesus appointed the Twelve, he spent the night in prayer.

Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter). In all four listings of apostles, Peter is named first. Peter was anything but “rock-like” in the Gospels. But Peter became the rock of the church in Acts as his preaching won a multitude of converts to the new faith.

James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder). John was a follower of John the Baptist, the author of the Gospel that bears his name, three letters, and Revelation. Tradition also states that it was John who leaned on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper. He was called the “beloved disciple” in the Gospel of John. He is generally considered to have been a teenager when following Jesus. He was the only apostle who did not die a martyr’s death. John, James, and Peter formed the inner circle of apostles among the Twelve.

Sons of Thunder may have been a description of the fiery temperaments of these men. They were the ones who wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans (Luke 9:54), perhaps in imitation of the Old Testament prophets.

Andrew was first a follower of John the Baptist, and he was Simon Peter’s brother (John 1:41). He evangelized Peter, introducing him to Jesus. Andrew also had contact with the boy who had the five loaves of bread and two fish (John 6:8–9). Later in John’s Gospel, some Greeks came to Andrew, asking to see Jesus (John 12:21–22). Philip was also an early evangelist. He immediately told his friend Nathaniel about Jesus.

Bartholomew is not listed anywhere outside the Gospels. Because of his association with Philip, most scholars believe that Nathaniel and Bartholomew were the same person. Matthew is the Levi whose calling was recorded in Mark 2:14. Although he is called “Levi son of Alphaeus” in 2:14, most likely he was not related to James son of Alphaeus.

Thomas is called “the twin” or is known as “doubting Thomas” because of his questioning of the other apostles about the resurrection of Jesus. Thomas, though, is also the apostle who was willing to die with Jesus (John 11:16). He may have contained a mixture of courage and cowardice, of unquestioning faith and reluctant reason. In other words, he was like most of us.

James son of Alphaeus. It is probable that this James is identical to “James, the younger” in Mark 15:40. His mother, Mary, was present at the cross, and she was one of the women who cared for Jesus’ needs. While Thaddaeus is mentioned in Mark and Matthew, he is not mentioned in other lists. Instead, “Judas, son of James,” or “Judas not Iscariot” is mentioned. These are probably the same man.

Simon the Zealot. The Zealots were religious extremists who desired the overthrow of Rome. They would use any means to accomplish this purpose. As noted by Barbieri, it was amazing that Simon the Zealot and Levi the tax collector were part of the same family of followers of Jesus. They were miles apart in their political convictions (Barbieri, Mark, p. 85). As a tax collector, Levi was accustomed to Roman rule and in fact profited from it while the Zealots wanted nothing to do with the Romans. This is further evidence that when Jesus is the blood that flows through the family, every other barrier can be overcome.

Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Iscariot, literally translated, means “man from Kerioth,” a town in Judah, although Stock believes that it derived from ish sakariot, meaning the man in charge of payments. This would fit Judas’s occupation as treasurer among the apostles (Stock, Method and Message, p. 125). He was the only apostle who was not from Galilee. Judas represents the one barrier that could not be overcome by Jesus—the heart determined to be unregenerate. This foreshadows Jesus’ later discussion of the only sin that will not be forgiven.

The calling of the twelve apostles represents the great need people have for companionship. There were many people crowding around Jesus, begging him to touch them, to heal them. The twelve apostles were the companions whom Jesus could teach at a deeper level and, at times, even draw some measure of strength from them (Mark 14:32–42).

  1. Questions to Ponder

a. Why the name, “boanerges”? (Mk 3:17; Lk 9:51-56)

b. Why did Jesus spend all night in prayer? (Lk 6:12)

c.  Why the title, “apostle”? (Lk 6:13)

d. How do we explain Thaddeus’ omission from Luke’s list? (Mk 3:18; Lk 6:14-16)

e. How do we explain Nathaniel’s omission from both lists? (Jn 1:49; 21:2)

  1. Author’s Comments

In these two brief passages, we find three very distinct subjects worthy of our review. The first is the guidance Jesus sought from God. This confirms the essence of the relationship between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Jesus wanted all He did to reflect the unity of the Godhead. The choices of the ones who would be entrusted to the initial oversight and expansion of the Church were critical and Jesus wanted to affirm His choices to be in harmony with His Heavenly Father.

Secondly, would be the uniqueness of the Twelve. I wonder what the characteristics Jesus was looking for when as e presented His ministry to the multitudes. I wonder what He and His Father visited about during the night prior to His choices. I marvel at what were the unique differences setting the 12 apart from others who were being considered. And, I wonder if you and I were there, did we show the spiritual aptitude necessary to have become one of the Twelve, the Seventy, the 120 or the 500.

Finally, you and I are members of the Christian community because these 11 of the 12 would remain faithful to their call. Ten of whom would become martyrs as they sought to share the Christian Good News throughout the world in which they lived. Their faithfulness to the call, recorded in these two passages, is the reason this Christian community is so vital in our world today. May we be as faithful to our call today as they were in the early days of the Christian movement!

  1. Closing Prayer


We are so grateful for the opportunity to see how important prayer and unity was in the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. As He sought to be one with You, may that be our desire, as well!

As we review the lives of the 12 Apostles, way we reflect the characteristics which allowed them to be chosen by Jesus and to remain faithful to the call given them in the early days of Jesus’ ministry.

In Jesus’ Name, AMEN

  1. Answers to “Questions to Ponder”

a. Although it is not expressly stated, it was most likely because of their stormy and destructive temperaments (Luke 18:51-56; Mark 18:38)

b. These were to be very important and crucial decisions. The members of this group would be the team to whom Jesus would leave the work of God’s Kingdom. He fervently desired both special guidance and spiritual help with His selections.

c.The word “apostle” means “one who is sent”. Disciples were learners, but an apostle was an ambassador. These twelve men would become expanders of the Church, conduits of Jesus’ instruction and witnesses to His ministry events – especially His Resurrection.

d. He would be Judas, the brother of James, the Less.

e. He would be Bartholomew, most likely the brother of Philip.

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[1] Cooper, R. L. (2000). Mark (Vol. 2, pp. 51–52). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.