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What can a study of St Mark’s Gospel tell Christians about what it means to be a disciple Essay

A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ and his teachings. There are many passages throughout Mark’s Gospel that tell us how to be a god disciple, but they are not just listed, they are taught through accounts, stories and parables. When the disciples were called by Jesus they responded with immediate willingness, for example when Jesus calls the first two disciples who were fishermen, Simon and Andrew: “Jesus said to them come with me, and I will teach you to catch people. At once they left their nets and went with him”.

In Mark 2:14 Jesus tells Levi to “Follow me”; “Levi got up and followed him”. When Jesus chose the twelve disciples in ‘Jesus Chooses the Twelve Apostles’, all twelve were willing and went ahead to preach the word of Jesus Christ. All Jesus’ disciples had to make sacrifices to become disciples, for example they had to leave their family behind in order to follow Jesus. So this means that Christians must be willing to follow Jesus and make substantial sacrifices. Disciples should aim to do as Jesus did.

Jesus gave his disciples authority over evil spirits and ordered them to take as little as possible, to leave all behind and go ahead to preach and heal (Mark 6:7-11). The two quotes: “The apostles returned and met with Jesus, and told him all they had done and taught” (Mark 6:30) and “They went out and preached that people should turn away from their sins. They drove out many demons, and rubbed olive oil on many sick people and healed them” (Mark 6:12-13) Show Christians that the disciples did what Jesus requested and did a good job.

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However, the understanding of Jesus and his teachings amongst the disciples wasn’t always that good. They did not always understand either the amazing powers Jesus possessed or the wonders he could perform. Even though he “would explain everything to them”, in situations such as The Calming of the Storm and when Jesus walked on water, they did not have enough faith. When the boat was filling with water in the Calming of the Storm (Mark 4:35-41), the disciples awoke Jesus to say “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die? ” Jesus said back to his disciples “Why are you frightened?

Have you still no faith? ” The account in Mark 6:49-50 is similar. “It’s a ghost! ” the disciples screamed when they saw Jesus walking on water. “They were all terrified when they saw him”. This shows both a lack of trust, understanding and belief. At times Jesus becomes angry with them but he understands because he knew when choosing the disciples that they would not be perfect. Faith is the most important aspect of believing in Jesus and God but both Peter and Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, and the disciples didn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead (Mark 16:12-13).

Mark includes these accounts in his Gospel to give Christian the message that disciples will make mistakes but will be forgiven by God. When Mark wrote the gospel at about 65 AD he did so for the Christians who were suffering persecution at the time. The Rich Man (Mark 10:17-29) is a parable that explains that suffering must occur to enter the kingdom of God. The rich man wanted to know what he must do to receive eternal life, and he was told that the commandments must be upheld. The man said, “ever since I was young, I have obeyed all these commandments”.

Jesus then said to the man, “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor and you will have riches in heaven, then come and follow me”. This clearly didn’t please the very rich man, and “gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad”. This is the kind of suffering that Mark is talking about. As well as explaining that suffering must occur to enter the kingdom of God, the parable of the rich man also can tell Christians that we must make sacrifices and give up out luxuries to go to heaven.

Mark talks a lot about the “Troubles and Persecutions”(Mark 13:3-13) disciples must endure to follow Jesus. Jesus told his disciples to be “on guard”, as his disciples would “be arrested and taken to court, beaten in the synagogues, and have to stand before rulers and kings to tell them the Good News”. This is obviously not an easy life. Jesus Christ, son of man, says that “For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it”. This again makes the point that sacrifices must be made to be a disciple, in this case even death.

Discipleship can be challenging both mentally and physically. This is apparent in “Jesus speaks about his suffering and death” (Mark 8:31-38), where Jesus says “If anyone wants to come with me he must forget self, carry his cross and follow me. ” By “forget self” He means being selfless in all your actions, by “carry his cross” He means that you must shoulder your burden and by “follow me” He means that you must live as Jesus would have. It also means you must be willing to sacrifice your life if required.

There are also rewards of being a disciple. “Look, we have left everything and followed you”, Peter said to Jesus in ‘The Rich Man’, and Jesus replied; “Yes, and I tell you that anyone who leaves home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and for the gospel in this present age will receive a hundred times more houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and in the age to come he will receive eternal life”. Jesus says, “Many who now are first will be last, and many who now are last will be first”.

What Jesus is saying is that regardless of the suffering, the torture, the lack of wealth, to have eternal life and to truly believe in him is all that matters. Leave your family behind, follow me, and you will still get what you need out of life, as will your family. His final words quoted above are very important, he is saying that those rich successful non-believers will die and go from first to last. Those who dedicate their lives to God and preach may be last in life, but first in heaven The accounts in Mark’s Gospel can be used to present day realities.

For example, Bill Gates, the billionaire Microsoft founder, gives one million pounds every year to charity. And other wealthy people will give money to charity but if you think of a homeless person giving the tiny amount they possess to charity, it is just totally different. Who is giving more? Is a million pounds more than a small offering off a poor person? No it’s not. The poor person who has next to nothing and who is giving that small amount is giving the most. This modern day scenario can seen in Marks Gospel, it is like “The Widow’s Offering”, where men give much to the temple treasury, and a poor old widow gives two copper coins.

To be a modern day disciple, you need to, as the first disciples did, suffer. There are costs and rewards. The costs are that to be a disciple you must drop everything and give up all luxuries. But the rewards include satisfaction on earth and eternal life in the kingdom of God. In conclusion, we can learn a great deal about what it means to be a disciple in Mark’s Gospel. Discipleship can be summed up; to follow, to learn, to preach, to believe and to serve. All factors are crucial to be a true disciple and all of these can be learnt by studying Mark’s Gospel.

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