The Gospel of Mark reports that “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted…He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3:13-15). Why did Jesus do this? What were the implications?
In a practical sense, the appointing of the apostles must be looked at in the context of the massive crowds that were following Jesus, seeking healing and deliverance (Mark 1:45, 3:7-12). By giving the apostles authority to cast out demons and to preach, Jesus dispersed the crowds and increased the number of people who could be reached.
In a larger sense, Jesus teaching the twelve apostles from the mountain is reminiscent of Moses on Mount Sinai giving the Word of God to the twelve tribes of Israel. It signaled that the followers of Jesus would be the new chosen people of God. The appointing of the twelve apostles is also reminiscent of Moses appointing assistants to help him guide the Israelites (Exodus 18:13-26). This looked like the first step in Jesus establishing the new Kingdom of God. Perhaps the apostles expected to see the Romans expelled from the Holy Land and a new political Kingdom of Israel established. Perhaps they were looking forward to having positions of power and prestige in that new Kingdom.
We might envy what Jesus gave the apostles and even want the same things for ourselves. At the very least, Jesus giving the apostles authority and miraculous powers might shield them from some of the earlier criticism they had received (in Mark 2:23-24, for instance, when they had been accused of unlawfully harvesting grain on the Sabbath). How could people now criticize those who obviously had divine power? But this was not the case, for Jesus or the twelve. When the opponents of Jesus saw Jesus’ miracles and heard His teaching, it did not mute their criticism of Him but intensified it¾it made them want to kill Him (Mark 3:1-6). The same thing happened with the twelve. Appointing the apostles and giving them power did not provide the apostles with divine protection. It put them on the firing line. We must remember that, in the end, many of the apostles were martyred.