Significance Before Application (Mark 3:14–15): The Mark 3 Commission and Its Implications for Social Action, Part 4
Rereading the Mark 3 commission text
Three main verbs related to Jesus govern the establishment of the twelve whom he commissioned: he went up(avabainei, v. 13a), he summoned (proskaleitai, v. 13b), and he created (epoiesen, v 14a). The force and combination of all three verbal expressions stress Jesus’ authority, which aligns with Mark’s narrative plotline. Additionally, these actions focus on his unique authority for establishing God’s kingdom through a ministry outside of Jewish temple leadership (i.e., a new Moses and a new exodus) and for the creation of a people (a new twelve, 3:13–19; a new family, 3:33–35), who are to reflect the kingdom-outcomes associated with his appearance. These elements have been the emphasis of the plot (i.e., the “sequence of events emplotted in the text”) so far, indicating that Mark continues to follow his established programmatic content that defines the nature of the gospel. The Mark 3 commission (vv.14–15) for the created twelve not only forms (and informs) their fisher-ministry (i.e., the application that will reflect their faithful obedience to the gospel), it also provides a paradigm for all fisher-followers; namely, those who believe in the gospel (1:14–15) and follow after Jesus (1:17) are those who demonstrate (through actions and outcomes) the inauguration of God’s kingdom.
A typical reading of Mark 3:14–15 understands that the twelve are commissioned for two distinct tasks: “to preach” and “to cast out demons.” This heightens the tendency to view the “to preach” component as solely the verbal proclamation of the Good News that Jesus died for our sins. Although a very important component of the Good News, this aspect of the gospel is appropriated from other NT documents and texts and, then, “applied” here. As a result, for many “preaching” is “evangelism” that is applied as various verbal- and cognitive-based activities (e.g., preaching, teaching, witnessing, etc.) about the personal, redemptive implications of Jesus’ death on the cross with someone’s conversion as the hopeful outcome. When the text is viewed in this way, application is separated into two distinct components that disconnect the Mark 3 commission from the narrative plot. A reading that separates the two components without syntactical or narrative consideration can limit the inferred evangelistic significance for those standing on this side of Mark’s Gospel story, which, then, can result in narrow, misdirected, and, even, non-authoritative application. However, the Mark 3 commission suggests, not two distinct tasks, but interrelated aspects that are associated with the sequence of events emplotted in Mark’s narrative. A re-examination of the commission text (specifically vv. 14–15) will show another potential reading that better aligns with Mark’s narrative, the programmatic nature of the gospel, and Jesus’ kingdom-inaugurating ministry.
A syntactical analysis of Mark 3:14–15 can aid in reading the text more effectively:
he [Jesus] created twelve (epoiesen dodeka),
so that (hina)
they would be with him
and (kai, conjunction)
so that (hina)
he would send them forth
to preach (kepyssein)
namely (that is) (kai, epexegetical)
to have authority to cast out (echein exousian ekballein)
This display of syntactical relationships helps to visualize how Mark crafted the commission together, offering a potentially different, yet legitimate, reading of the commission. My translation below reflects the syntactical relationship between the two components to preach and to have authority to cast
And he [Jesus] created twelve, so that they would be with him and so that he would send them forth to preach, namely (that is) to have authority to cast out the demons [author’s translation].
In contrast to the typically understood cognitive-based definition for evangelism, this reading of the commission, which the text allows, suggests a different direction regarding its significance for fisher-followers on this side of the text. As a result, it opens a wider range for potentially relevant and appropriate evangelistic activities and outcomes that should be adopted by the church.
After “summoning” those whom He Himself wanted (v. 13b), Jesus created twelve (v. 14a) so that they (i.e., the created twelve) would be with Him (v. 14b) and so that he would send them forth with a commission (v. 14c–15). The two hina (so that) clauses indicate two resulting purposes that align with Mark’s narrative. The first hina clause (so that they would be with him, v. 14b) suggests an intentional relationship between Jesus and the created twelve. Certainly being “with Him” has many implications and means more than just “tagging along with Jesus.” While “being with Jesus” is set in motion at the initial calls in Mark’s first chapter (see vv. 16–20), the results are given content (definition) throughout the narrative before Jesus actually grants the twelve the authority to cast in 6:7. At the narrative level being “with Him” (3:14b) means that the created fisher-followers are insiders who do “the will of God” (3:35), who receive direct teaching and insight concerning the kingdom (4:10–11), and who witness his divine power (4:35–41) and the inaugural increase of God’s kingdom (5:1—6:6). Additionally, the twelve fisher-followers, who were created to be with Him (3:14b), experienced the spread of the seed/word/gospel, not solely through verbal- and cognitive-based activities (e.g., Jesus’ preaching, teaching, parables), but primarily through Jesus’ deeds (e.g., casting, healing, and other miracles).
The created twelve are also “sent forth” to preach (v. 14c) and to have authority to cast (v. 15). It should be noted there is no object (i.e., the content) for the “preaching” component (v. 14c). This provokes many to supply “the gospel” for what is preached. It is fair, perhaps, to suggest supplying the unwritten “Good News,” but it is unnecessary. An assumption is made of the text, namely that the “and” (kai) between the two infinitive clauses functions as a simple conjunction, inferring, then, two distinct tasks: preaching and casting. This, too, is not necessary. Also, note that the commission component after the “and” (kai) is actually, not “to cast out the demons,” but to have authority to cast out the demons (v. 15).
The syntactical analysis displayed above indicates that the conjunction “and” (kai) should be understood epexegetically, that is, offering a fuller explanation and the content of to preach. I have, therefore, rendered the “and” (kai) as “namely (that is)”: so that he would send them [the created twelve] forth to preach, namely (that is) to have authority to cast out the demons. In other words, the content of the “preaching” is the authority to cast out the demons.
 See chapter 4, “A Prelude to Judgment,” for a discussion regarding the centrality of Jesus’ authority in the Mark 1:21—3:6 conflict thread, which is an integral part of Mark’s plotline.
 A syntactical analysis helps to show how the parts of grammar relate to each other, indicating the relationships of subjects, main verbs, direct and indirect objects, and subordinate and explanatory clauses. The syntactical analysis here informs and reflects the author’s translation of the text. See Kaiser, Toward an Exegetical Theology (pp. 87–104) for an explanation of the syntactical analysis as a component of exegesis.
 The following references to Mark 3:14–15 reflect my translation.
 Hina (so that) may express purpose, result, or content depending on the context. In a few cases it may even express other (related) relationships such as an imperative or a generic-specific relationship. I have chosen “resulting purpose” intentionally to indicate a fine line between the two. Jesus creates twelve for a purpose that results in “being with him” and “being sent forth.” See Arndt and Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon, 376–78.
 See Mark 1:21—6:6.
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.