By now, our studies in the Gospel of Mark have revealed Jesus to be a powerful but controversial figure. As you’d expect with someone like that, his fame spread far and wide. So many people came to see him that at one point in our text, Jesus “told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him.” (Mark 3:9)
In our passage, 3:7-21, Mark presents us with two groups of people: the crowd and the chosen. The crowd consists of all those who were attracted to and curious about Jesus, desiring that he heal them, teach them, and cast out demons. The disciples were part of this crowd as we see in verses 7 and 9. When Mark says that “a great crowd followed”, he means it in a generic sense; that is, they went where Jesus went so they can witness the spectacle. Mark does not mean, however, that everyone in this crowd truly followed Christ from the heart. Except, that is, the smaller group – the disciples.
The disciples (which means learners), also called the Apostles (which means sent ones) had a different relationship with Jesus than the bigger crowds did. Theirs was more personal, more intimate. As we’ve already seen with Levi, Andrew, James, Peter, and John, these men left their familiar surroundings to follow Christ in costly obedience.
What caused the difference between the approach of the two groups? Why did the big crowd only follow Christ in a surface-level way while the disciples followed him from the heart? The answer has nothing to do with the individuals in either group, but everything to do with Christ and his will.
Verse 13 says Jesus “went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.” Much theology is packed into that one verse. Notice that Jesus is the one doing the action, Jesus is the one who calls, and the call came from Jesus’ desire, not anyone else’s. The one thing that the disciples did in verse 13 is “they came to him.” But even this is merely a response to the call of Jesus.
In our relationship with Christ, which is intimate and personal, Christ is the first actor. Had Christ not called you out of your sin and selfishness, you would not have chosen him. But indeed, by his sheer grace, Christ has come, and he has looked upon the massive crowds and called to himself those of us who believe. Do not underestimate the privilege you have as one chosen to have a relationship with Jesus Christ!