Discipleship and the Gospel of Mark
1. What does the Markan Jesus believe his mission is? Why does Jesus need followers? The gospel of Mark, the first and shortest gospel, written for Mark’s gentile community around 70 CE, was such an important piece of writing in presenting the life Jesus led. Mark’s gospel was the most vivid in the portrayal and characterization of the reign of God. It was written in Rome at a time when Mark’s people were under the threat of persecution. Through his writing, Mark’s aim was to inspire his community, to show them how being a disciple was at times a difficult struggle, to persevere through challenges and to face them head on just like his Jesus. Mark wrote about how Jesus challenged mainline Judaism, the temple ideal and the high priests.
Mark believed that Jesus’ mission was to teach and attract followers and for them to develop the courage and vision to take risks for others. Mark presents Jesus and the disciples as a peasant movement bringing the rule of God into this realm of time and space where death and evil reign. Mark’s Jesus put the call out to people to begin something new, to find a new life in the family of God through obeying his leadership and the will of the Father. Jesus needed followers to support him and to be together with him, not necessarily as learners to eventually become teachers, but purely as committed servers to him along his journey. Mark makes the point that the “Human One must suffer” (Mk 8:31) as inevitably Jesus does, for to take on the temple and take on a barrier you are open to the consequences of its collapse. Mark believed Jesus’ major mission was to tackle the injustices of the Temple by helping all people believe they are worthy and that they all belong in God’s kingdom. Jesus’ followers were integral as loyal servants heeding his messages and teachings and acting forthwith.
2. How does Jesus find disciples? When in the gospel does he call them? Who are they? Why are they attracted to him? The main purpose of the disciples was to help Jesus with his intended mission. Jesus puts the call out for disciples after John the Baptist is arrested. He appears in Galilee and announces that the reign of God has arrived, “a call for a radical conversion from all that is evil and a total commitment to God (1:15)”. His first disciples originally followed John the Baptist and were believed to naturally make the transition. John paved the way for Jesus and he proclaimed his coming stating he will baptize you not with water, but with the Holy Spirit (1:7-8). In Mark 1:16 Jesus calls fishermen Simon (Peter), Andrew, John and James and they follow him as his first disciples. The news of Jesus spread throughout the Galilee region (his focus area) with early disciples being drawn from an existing network of relatives from this area. People flocked to Jesus due to his growing reputation, in awe of his teachings and curious toward his healing power. Some were genuine and amazed and some were negatively skeptical. According to Mark twelve men in particular were called to be co-workers with Jesus, the apostles – they were required to leave all behind in sacrifice for the proclamation of the kingdom; Simon (Peter), James (son of Zebedee), John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon and Judas (3:13-19).
3. What was Jesus’ message? What does he say and what does he do? How does Mark present Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God? Mark portrays Jesus as the authoritative Son of God who commands respect from the forces of evil. Jesus is a do-gooder as he heals the sick, casts out demons and raises the dead (5:1-43). He attracts crowds with his growing reputation and in turn his inspirational and challenging teaching. Through parables and stories the Markan Jesus is able to combine everyday life with deep spiritual significance. Nevertheless, Mark portrays Jesus as the misunderstood and opposed Son of...
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