In Mark 3:13-15, we see Jesus appointing the twelve. As the text states, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 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.” (NIV 2011) As we observe the reasons for this calling out, our attention is often drawn to the two-fold ministry of preaching and casting out demons. These, of course, are two activities in which Jesus himself engages. The apostles are appointed to participate in and further the ministry of Jesus! As we apply this story to our own experience, we find that we are given the same opportunity. Though in different ways than the apostles, we also share in and further the ministry of Jesus as we carry the word and minister to the oppressed. In this light, the calling of Jesus on our lives centers around what we do on behalf of Jesus and the kingdom.
To stop here, though, is to miss another extremely important part of the story. The apostles are indeed appointed to further Jesus’ ministry, but they are called for another purpose as well: “to be with him.” Note that this reason for their calling comes before the others and is certainly of equal importance. In fact, Jesus will not send his disciples out in ministry for another three chapters. They must first be with him before they go for him. And after they go for him, they will return to be with him yet again.
Ultimately, this call to be with makes a lot of sense. The apostles must be with the one to whom they will testify after the resurrection. They must learn the content of their preaching from him. They must observe his ministry before taking part. All of these are very practical necessities that demand being with the one who calls.
But the fulfillment of these practical necessities is not the only thing we see happening to the apostles as they are with Jesus, as if they must simply observe Jesus’ preaching and teaching and go do the same. No, we see much more transpiring in this with relationship. The apostles are pulled and stretched, they are challenged and rebuked. The apostles are formed by their relationship with Jesus. This forming will enable them to embody the kingdom that they will proclaim. And we can also posit that the disciples are simply with Jesus. They fellowship and break bread with him. The disciples are not called to be mere workhorses for the kingdom. They are called to fellowship with the king himself!
Just as it is important for us to hear the call to kingdom activity as we listen to this story, so it is also important for us to hear the call to simply be with the king. In this, we hear the call to simple fellowship, and we learn that we are worth more to Jesus than only what we can do for him. And we also hear the call to formation, for it is often in being with Jesus that we are challenged and formed and thereby come to embody the kingdom that we proclaim.
In the end, I’m not sure that there is any one prescription for being with our Lord, though I would suggest prayer and spiritual reading as foundational disciplines for relationship (even these will be pursued in various ways). More than the how, which can differ from person to person, I want to stress the call. We are called to be with Jesus. And as we are with Jesus, we find that our activity for Jesus flows from this relationship with the king. Let us, then, rest in the presence of the king. Let us hear his words anew. And let us revel in the privilege of being with the one who calls and saves.