In these verses, we have,
I. The choice Christ made of the twelve apostles to be his constant followers and attendants, and to be sent abroad as there was occasion, to preach the gospel. Observe,
1. The introduction to this call or promotion of disciples; He goes up into a mountain, and his errand thither was to pray. Ministers must be set apart with solemn prayer for the pouring out of the Spirit upon them; though Christ had authority to confer the gifts of the Holy Ghost, yet, to set us an example, he prayed for them.
2. The rule he went by in his choice, and that was his own good pleasure; He called unto him whom he would. Not such as we should have thought fittest to be called, looking upon the countenance, and the height of the stature; but such as he thought fit to call, and determined to make fit for the service to which he called them: even so, blessed Jesus, because it seemed good in thine eyes. Christ calls whom he will; for he is a free Agent, and his grace is his own.
3. The efficacy of the call; He called them to separate themselves from the crowd, and stand by him, and they came unto him. Christ calls those who were given him (John 17:6); and all that the Father gave him, shall come to him, John 6:37. Those whom it was his will to call, he made willing to come; his people shall be willing in the day of his power. Perhaps they came to him readily enough, because they were in expectation of reigning with him in temporal pomp and power; but when afterward they were undeceived in that matter, yet they had such a prospect given them of better things, that they would not say they were deceived in their Master, nor repented their leaving all to be with him.
4. The end and intention of this call; He ordained them (probably by the imposition of hands, which was a ceremony used among the Jews), that they should be with him constantly, to be witnesses of his doctrine, manner of life, and patience, that they might fully know it, and be able to give an account of it; and especially that they might attest the truth of his miracles; they must be with him to receive instructions from him, that they might be qualified to give instructions to others. It would require time to fit them for that which he designed them for; for they must be sent forth to preach; not to preach till they were sent, and not to be sent till by a long and intimate acquaintance with Christ they were fitted. Note, Christ’s ministers must be much with him.
5. The power he gave them to work miracles; and hereby he put a very great honour upon them, beyond that of the great men of the earth. He ordained them to heal sicknesses and to cast out devils. This showed that the power which Christ had to work these miracles was an original power; that he had it not as a Servant, but as a Son in his own house, in that he could confer it upon others, and invest them with it: they have a rule in the law, Deputatus non potest deputare—He that is only deputed himself, cannot depute another; but our Lord Jesus had life in himself, and the Spirit without measure; for he could give this power even to the weak and foolish things of the world.
6. Their number and names; He ordained twelve, according to the number of the twelve tribes of Israel. They are here named not just in the same order as they were in Matthew, nor by couples, as they were there; but as there, so here, Peter is put first and Judas last. Here Matthew is put before Thomas, probably being called in that order; but in that catalogue which Matthew himself drew up, he puts himself after Thomas; so far was he from insisting upon the precedency of his consecration. But that which Mark only takes notice of in this list of the apostles, is, that Christ called James and John Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder; perhaps they were remarkable for a loud commanding voice, they were thundering preachers; or, rather, it denotes the zeal and fervency of their spirits, which would make them active for God above their brethren. These two (saith Dr. Hammond) were to be special eminent ministers of the gospel, which is called a voice shaking the earth, Heb. 12:26. Yet John, one of those sons of thunder, was full of love and tenderness, as appears by his epistles, and was the beloved disciple.
7. Their retirement with their Master, and close adherence to him; They went into a house. Now that this jury was impanelled, they stood together, to hearken to their evidence. They went together into the house, to settle the orders of their infant college; and now, it is likely, the bag was given to Judas, which pleased him, and made him easy.
II. The continual crowds that attended Christ’s motions (Mark 3:20); The multitude cometh together again, unsent for, and unseasonably pressing upon him, some with one errand and some with another; so that he and his disciples could not get time so much as to eat bread, much less for a set and full meal. Yet he did not shut his doors against the petitioners, but bade them welcome, and gave to each of them an answer of peace. Note, They whose hearts are enlarged in the work of God, can easily bear with great inconveniences to themselves, in the prosecution of it, and will rather lose a meal’s meat at any time than slip an opportunity of doing good. It is happy when zealous hearers and zealous preachers thus meet, and encourage one another. Now the kingdom of God was preached, and men pressed into it, Luke 16:16. This was a gale of opportunity worth improving; and the disciples might well afford to adjourn their meals, to lay hold on it. It is good striking while the iron is hot.
III. The care of his relations concerning him (Mark 3:21); When his friends in Capernaum heard how he was followed, and what pains he took, they went out, to lay hold on him, and fetch him home, for they said, He is beside himself. 1. Some understand it of an absurd preposterous care, which had more in it of reproach to him than of respect; and so we must take it as we read it, He is beside himself; either they suspected it themselves, or it was suggested to them, and they gave credit to the suggestion, that he was gone distracted, and therefore his friends ought to bind him, and put him in a dark room, to bring him to his right mind again. His kindred, many of them, had mean thoughts of him (John 7:5), and were willing to hearken to this ill construction which some put upon his great zeal, and to conclude him crazed in his intellects, and under that pretence to take him off from his work. The prophets were called mad fellows, 2 Kgs. 9:11. 2. Others understand it of a well-meaning care; and then they read exeste—“He fainteth, he has no time to eat bread, and therefore his strength will fail him; he will be stifled with the crowd of people, and will have his spirits quite exhausted with constant speaking, and the virtue that goes out of him in his miracles; and therefore let us use a friendly violence with him, and get him a little breathing-time.” In his preaching-work, as well as his suffering-work, he was attacked with, Master, spare thyself. Note, They who go on with vigour and zeal in the work of God, must expect to meet with hindrances, both from the groundless disaffection of their enemies, and the mistaken affections of their friends, and they have need to stand upon their guard against both.