Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark

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In the gospel of Mark the author not only recounts the actions of Jesus, but also how he relates to two particular groups, his followers and his adversaries. In this paper we will look at how he chose his disciples, what qualities were required for discipleship, how he taught the disciples, and how they measured up to his expectations. Jesus literally calls his disciples to come and follow him. The summary statement is that Jesus "called to him those he wanted, and they came to him." (3:13) Simon, Andrew, James, John, were working as fishermen when Jesus called them. Simon and Andrew left "at once" (1:18) and James and John left "immediately" (1:20) But coming to Jesus also involved leaving other places and things. The four fisherman left their nets, their boats, their father (and for Simon we assume his wife) to follow Jesus. In the same way when Jesus called Levi, he got up and followed him (2:14) The disciples did not approach Jesus, but he approached them, and asked them to come, and they did. In contrast, a young man with great wealth approached Jesus, not asking to be a follower or a disciple, but asking how to inherit eternal life. When Jesus told the young man to sell his possessions and then come follow him, he did not because he would not leave his wealth (10:21-22) When the disciples were unable to drive out an evil spirit, Jesus said it requires prayer (and some translations fasting or self-denial) (9:29) Following Jesus necessitated leaving some things behind. And one of the things a disciple must leave behind was himself. He must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Jesus. (8:34) They had to leave behind their selfish ambitions, and desire to be servants. (10:43 – 45) They were indeed called out from what they were doing. Even at the end of his time on earth, Jesus called his disciples to him (12:43). And when they came he taught them and showed truths to them (12:43)

When Mark wrote his gospel he emphasized that Jesus looked for people to have faith and believe. This faith was critical for healing. When Jesus saw the faith of the friends of the paralytic, he forgave his sins and the man was able to walk. (2:5-12) The woman with the issue of blood believed that by just touching his clothes she would be healed. Jesus clearly stated that it was her faith that healed her. (5:25-34) Jesus also acknowledged that it was the faith of blind Bartimeus that healed him. (10:52) Although the words faith and belief are not used, it is evident that the faith (and persistence) of the Phoenician woman caused the demon that possessed her daughter to leave. (7:26-30) In contrast when he was in his own hometown, he could not do any miracles there except healing a few that were sick, and "he was amazed at their lack of faith." (6:5-6) The father whose son was possessed of an evil spirit had doubts, "If you can do anything. . ." After all, he had brought his son to the disciples and they were unable to drive out the spirit. Jesus replied that it was possible for those who believe, and the father, like many of us replied, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief." (9:17-24) Was the disciples' inability to drive out the spirit because of the father's lack of faith, or because of their own lack of faith? When the disciples asked Jesus privately he pointed out the need for the disciplines of prayer and fasting. Perhaps it was also possible that the blind man whom Jesus put his hands on twice harbored both belief and doubt. The counterexamples prove the rule. So if faith was critical for those Jesus ministered to, would it not be even more important for those who were ministering in his name? Unfortunately, the disciples were found lacking on more than the previously mentioned occasion. When Jesus was in the boat sleeping and a strong storm tossed the boat around, Jesus asked why they still had no faith. (4:40) He wants Peter to have faith, and not doubt – the rock solid faith that moves...
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