Up to this point in his gospel narrative, Mark has shown his skills as a storyteller. He has already achieved a mounting tension in the narrative. Chapter 1 ends with Jesus’ fame and reputation as a healer spreading and the crowds seeking out Jesus (1:45). Then come five stories of controversy (2:1-3:6) that do not end on such a positive note: “The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.” (3:6) It does not appear they are on “Team Jesus.”
In yesterday’s gospel, large crowds of people have followed Jesus to the shore where he had withdrawn for solitude as was his habit. The disciples are required to put “crowd control” measures in place, having a boat at the ready. One can just imagine the scene; the frenzy of people trying to just touch Jesus for the chance at healing. Here and there in the crowd as people possessed by an evil spirit calling out to Jesus as the Son of God. Bit of bedlam I would say. Are the people on “Team Jesus?”
What is common is that everyone is “off message” to borrow a phrase from communications and messaging management. This is the result of the Galilean rumor mill: “have you heard?” What is needed is a team to take the message, the right message, to the ends of the earth – now and in generations to come. And so he calls the Twelve. St. Mark emphasizes two important elements of the selection: “being with Jesus” and “being named” by him.
The first ingredient of Christian discipleship is being a “companion” of the Lord (v. 14). To be Jesus’ “disciple” is to be a “learner,” and to learn from him it is necessary to be with him. From this point on in the Gospel narrative, Jesus will keep his Twelve close to him. They will learn from him the mysteries of the kingdom.. They will also discover the difficulties following him.
A second element of Christian discipleship is located in the meaning of “being named” by Jesus. To be “named” by Jesus means to be possessed by him. Or in the language of our Baptismal Rite, to be claimed by Christ. In this brief passage, we the baptized “in the name of Jesus,” hear the invitation to be companions with the risen Lord and to learn from him how to share in his mission and power.
A mission not of silence, but rather communications, messaging, and promotion. He wants the right team, rightly formed, carrying the right message to the world.
In a way the formation and preparation of the “team” is in the backdrop of almost every story in the gospel. At the end of the gospels the “team” will be sent with the Good News to the ends of the earth as his spokesperson. It is a role for which you were anointed in your baptism. And so the mission asked of us is – in our own place and time – to be the person rightly formed and willing to speak when called upon. To be “on message” and pass on the saving Word.
So… are you on the team? Starting lineup? Practice squad? Taxi squad? Getting ready? Or just a spectator in the stands? Maybe not even at the game? The nice thing about “Team Jesus” is that the starting lineup is not limited to the Twelve. It’s a big playing field and we can use the whole team in action. So… are you on the team?