Today’s Gospel passage is surprisingly short and could use some context. Just prior to these brief two verses, Mark relays how Jesus went up a mountain and called forth His twelve apostles. Then, they come back down as a group and pick up the verses highlighted in the Gospel today. 

Mountains are important places in Scripture. Whenever a biblical writer tells the audience a mountain is involved in the story, you know it’s going to involve a significant event or transformative experience. No one goes up a mountain of the Lord and returns the same. Isaac is spared and the sacrificial lamb offered in his place happens on a mountain. Moses received the 10 commandments on a mountain. Isaiah describes the heavenly paradise as a “holy mountain” (11:9). 

In the New Testament, Jesus makes good use of His local geography and further cements the understanding that upon mountain tops, God reaches out to man in a special way. The Transfiguration, the Sermon on the Mount, Mark’s account of the call of the Twelve (today’s context), and culminating on Golgotha. As insightful readers of Scripture, the passages where Jesus includes a mountain should cause us to pause and look more deeply at what is going on.

The Twelve go up the mountain in the crowd. Jesus then calls them forth and names them as apostles. Their identity has been changed by this experience. Jesus even grants them authority to preach and over demons. What an incredible experience! 

Yet Jesus knew that even though mountaintop experiences are powerful, you always have to come back down the mountain. The apostles were changed men and the world was waiting for them. The world was waiting so desperately that it was impossible to move about the house or pause to eat because of the crushing crowds. There was so much work to do.

Have you ever felt called to do something for the Lord and then were immediately surrounded by doubts? I have to imagine that’s how the apostles felt. One minute they were having an incredibly close encounter with the Messiah. The next they were being harried by His followers and even fending off relatives who did not believe what Jesus was teaching. Were they sure they picked the right side? Why had Jesus called them? 

Perhaps Jesus sensed their doubts. Further into the story, past our Gospel today, Jesus affirms His newly appointed apostles and followers by saying, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk 3:35). 

During our walk with the Lord, there are times we are climbing up a mountain to a place of calling, summoning or vocation. We can stay there for a time and rest, but the journey down is inevitable. When we arrive back on level ground, the world does not always welcome us with open arms. Our Gospel highlights this moment of tension. If you find yourself here, be assured that you are in good company and ask the apostles for the courage to step boldly into the calling Jesus has for you. 

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