Mark’s gospel tells of the ‘in-breaking’ of God’s kingdom through our Lord Jesus Christ. Readers are meant to welcome the rule of God and encouraged to follow Jesus. This, in essence, is the meaning of true discipleship.
Disciples will experience the blessings of God’s divine rule as they enter the new life. Jesus says that whoever does the will of God is His disciple. (Mark 3:34, 35). This is an acknowledgment that being a disciple is not just an emotional and/or intellectual response. Discipleship requires our wholehearted commitment to the authority of Christ and His teachings.
Disciples will also learn as they journey with Christ what it means to embrace the expectations and the costs of the rule of God in their lives. In the process they also learn to overcome their own resistance to God’s will. Following Christ has a price. Jesus challenged us, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mk. 8:33). As we follow Christ, there will be many distractions that would thwart us from walking in the narrow way. Jesus mentioned a few: “the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things …” (Mk.4:19).
But, disciples are assured by Christ that they will be empowered to live for the good news in faithfulness and courage. As Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, He demonstrated by his own life what it means to face persecution and death in the service of God. Jesus not only was executed on the cross, but he was also raised from the dead. This is God’s vindication. It is His last word on Jesus’ conflicts with the authorities. Thus the resurrection of Jesus affirms for the disciples and for us that the way Jesus lived is the way for all humans to live. The ultimate consequence of living the standards of God’s rule is resurrection and eternal life in God’s kingdom in the coming age.
What is the message of Mark’s call to follow Jesus Christ as His disciples? I believe it is a radical call to a selfless lifestyle, a loving community and a new social order that enthrones service to others in need above the securing of our own wealth, status and power. We need to experience, in the words of the authors of Mark As Story, “the radical new order called for in God’s rule, the astounding person of Jesus, the possibilities of faith in God, the call to serve, the deep resistance to relinquishing security and privilege for one’s self and one’s group, the destructiveness of dominating others, the vision of communities of mutual service, the power and difficulty of steadfastness in the face of opposition and much more.”
Rev. Mark Tay