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  • Behnaz Moludy

Discipleship in Relation to the Gospel of Mark 1:9-20

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

By: Behnaz Moludy


Discipleship in Relation to the Gospel of Mark 1:9-20: Its Relevance to the Cost of Discipleship in Today's World, Particularly in Financial Matters Mark, known for his bilingualism and his background in a Jewish and ascetic family that followed Christ, had a unique position to effectively witness to Christ and contribute to the development of the Church. As recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, around 43 or 44 AD, Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 12:25).

During their initial missionary journey, Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Cyprus and then to Asia Minor. However, he unexpectedly decided to turn back and return to Jerusalem through the mountainous region of Asia Minor (Acts 13:13). This raises the question of Mark's role during Paul's second missionary journey.

At that time, Mark was a disciple of Peter and resided with him. (Franklin Classics, 2018) As noted by second-century Christian writers, when Peter encountered situations where people spoke Aramaic and needed a translator for more complex matters, Mark fulfilled that role. (Jonathan, 2022) It was during this period that Mark likely began documenting and translating Peter's memoirs from Aramaic into Greek. In the Gospel of Mark, the Greek grammar demonstrates distinct features and deviations from classical norms, which some scholars consider to be less refined or unconventional in comparison to other texts.

In the Gospel of Mark, we encounter the baptism of Jesus Christ in verses 9 to 20, which signifies the beginning of His ministry. As the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove, it is revealed that He is truly the Son of God, and His mission is confirmed by the Lord. Jesus officially commences His public ministry (John 1:31-34), after which He withdraws from the crowd and ventures into the wilderness where He faces temptation and testing by Satan. He combats Satan's temptations with the Word of God. Thus, Jesus unites Himself with our human nature and our sinful condition, becoming an example for us. (Elmer M. Colyer , 2001)

Before commencing His teachings to the people, Jesus takes the initiative to choose His first disciples. As depicted in verses 16 to 20, Jesus encounters His initial disciples by the Sea of Galilee and calls them to follow Him. Fishing was a predominant profession in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee, with net fishing being the most common method. Capernaum, which became Jesus' new place of residence (Matthew 4:12-13), was larger than all the other thirty villages around the sea. While we often assume that Jesus' disciples were men of great faith from the moment they encountered Him, they, like any other believer, needed to grow in faith (Mark 14:48-50, 66-72; John 14:1-9). Apparently, it wasn't the first time Jesus called Peter, James, and John to follow Him (Luke 5:1-11; John 1:35-42). It took time for Jesus' call and message to make an impact, but the crucial point is that despite needing significant growth, the disciples still chose to follow Jesus.

James, John, and Peter willingly left everything behind and began to follow Jesus. The term "disciple" refers to one who voluntarily seeks out a teacher, embracing their teachings and beliefs. This term, which is relatively absent in the Old Testament, began to emerge during the later Jewish period, referred to by the Hebrew term "Talmid," and is frequently used in the New Covenant with the Greek term "Mathetes," though with a unique and special meaning attributed by Jesus.

Biblical writers often mention examples such as Elijah having a disciple named Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21) or wise men and scribes of the Scripture commonly having disciples whom they referred to as their children (Proverbs 1:8-10; 2:1; 3:1). However, neither the prophets nor the wise men and scribes dared to place their teachings above the Word of God. The Divine Covenant is solely based on the reality of God's Word, not on the tradition of teacher and discipleship. Therefore, since the divine Word is the source of all wisdom, the ultimate goal is not to follow human teachers and instructors but to be a disciple of God Himself.

Among the few scattered references to disciples of Moses (John 9:28), disciples of John the Baptist (John 1:35), or disciples of the Pharisees (Matthew 22:16) in the New Covenant, let's focus specifically on the title "disciple" used for those who accepted Jesus as their Master and Lord. In the four Gospels, the twelve disciples of Jesus are consistently referred to as disciples from the very beginning. Additionally, the title of disciple is also applied to those who follow Jesus (Matthew 8:21), especially the seventy-two who were sent on a mission by Him (Luke 10:1). Although there were many such disciples, many of them soon grew weary and withdrew from being disciples of Jesus (Luke 6:66). No one should desire to be a disciple of others unless they are disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:19). This is not because of the teacher themselves but solely because of Christ. Gradually, from the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles onwards, the title of disciple is applied to all believers, whether they knew Jesus closely or had not seen Him personally.

Although Jesus' work may have appeared similar to that of the Jewish scholars of His time, He had His unique characteristics when it comes to discipleship, and not everyone could be called a disciple of Jesus. To become a disciple of Jesus, it is not necessary to possess exceptional moral or intellectual qualities. In fact, the relationship between a master and disciple, in this context, initially has no connection with reason and logic. Jesus simply asks His disciples to follow Him. The word "follow" in the Gospels consistently denotes a heartfelt dependency and devotion to Jesus (Matthew 8:19-34).

Today, for those of us who have chosen to be disciples of Christ and walk in the path of serving Him, it is crucial to understand that the requirement of following Jesus is to completely leave our past behind, as German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer extensively wrote on the cost of discipleship and the importance of following Christ wholeheartedly. He stated, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 2001) This quote emphasizes the radical commitment required to be a disciple of Jesus, including a willingness to surrender our own desires and priorities. Only through this can we be counted as beloved and distinguished disciples. We should remember that being a disciple of Jesus means emulating Him in our behavior and actions, listening to His teachings daily, and shaping our lives to resemble our Savior. Let us be mindful that disciples of Jesus are called to share in the destiny of their Master, carrying His cross (Mark 8:34), drinking from His cup (Mark 10:38-39), and ultimately becoming heirs of His kingdom (Matthew 19:28-29). Therefore, whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these disciples of Jesus will receive a great reward (Matthew 10:42). And, above all, let us heed the promise of Jesus to His disciples who have forsaken everything for Him: He offers peace to their souls (Matthew 11:29).

In conclusion, as followers of Jesus, we are called to dedicate our lives, including our financial matters, to Him. Just as Jesus called His disciples to leave everything behind and follow Him, we are invited to prioritize our commitment to Christ above all else. However, it is important to approach financial matters with wisdom and discernment, recognizing the responsibilities we have towards our personal lives and families. “In conclusion, as followers of Jesus, we are called to dedicate our lives, including our financial matters, to Him. Just as Jesus called His disciples to leave everything behind and follow Him, we are invited to prioritize our commitment to Christ above all else. However, it is important to approach financial matters with wisdom and discernment, recognizing the responsibilities we have towards our personal lives and families. “8for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4: 8)

While discipleship requires a wholehearted devotion to Jesus, it does not mean we neglect our earthly obligations. We are called to be good stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us, including our finances. This entails making wise and responsible financial decisions that align with God's principles, such as avoiding greed, practicing generosity, and living within our means.

As we navigate the complexities of managing our finances, let us seek guidance from God's Word and the Holy Spirit. Let us be mindful of using our financial resources in ways that honor God, support our families, and contribute to the well-being of others. This means striking a balance between our dedication to discipleship and our responsibilities in the realm of finance.

By approaching our financial matters with wisdom, we can be effective witnesses of Christ's teachings in a world that often idolizes wealth and material possessions. Our faith should shine through our financial decisions, reflecting our trust in God's provision and our commitment to prioritizing His kingdom above earthly treasures.

In essence, as followers of Jesus, we are called to dedicate our lives, including our financial resources, to Him. Let us be wise stewards, managing our finances in a manner that honors God, supports our personal lives and families, and contributes to the advancement of His kingdom on earth.



Bibliography

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- Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. SCM Press, 2001. Page 44. (SCM Classics)

- Colyer, Elmer M. "The Nature of Doctrine in T.F. Torrance's Theology." Wipf and Stock, 2001. Page 138.

- Cuthbert Hamilton. The Gospel According to St. Mark: Introduction and Commentary. Franklin Classics, 2018. Page 4.

- Dean, Jonathan G. Salt & Light; The Complete Jesus. Jonathan Dean, 2022. Page 48.



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