Discipleship is important theme in Mark’s gospel. It is as important for Christians today as it was for the first twelve disciples of Jesus. Discipleship comes from a Latin word meaning ” learner “, not only of theoretical knowledge but also he is one who learns by putting into practice the principles of his teacher. Jesus was a teacher and his first followers learnt from him. Jesus chose his disciples to learn how to be his followers and how to give their lives to service for others, he warned them that like him they had to be willing to die and to find life they had to be willing to loose it.
He told them that to be a disciple required not only learning from him but from his example. Being a disciple meant new beliefs, new values and a completely different way of life in which apparent success meant failure and apparent failure meant success.
Jesus chose twelve disciples because there were to stand for the twelve tribes in Israel, he and they together were to inaugurate the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Jesus chose ordinary men to be his followers as supposed to those who might be expected to represent Israel such as religious leaders. They were now to be Jesus’ representatives in the new Israel.
The first four were just fishermen. In Mark’s Gospel 1: 16 – 20 we are told how Jesus chose them, the brothers Simon and Andrew and James and John. He called them away from the lakeside where they were mending their nets and said,
“I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1: 17).
At once they followed him. But why did Jesus choose fishermen? It was probably because they each shared qualities that Jesus liked.
They had patience, as they often fished at night, usually for long periods of time and sometimes they caught nothing. This would be a helpful quality in spreading the good news because it would mean they would be patient towards people, waiting for them to understand, rather than them getting angry with someone who needed a longer amount of time to accept the good news.
They had courage, well, they must have done because the Sea of Galilee was not a safe place, the sea could sometimes be very rough and it was
very dangerous. Having courage would help them to be brave, to go out and preach Jesus’ teaching and to help them to stand up for what they believed was right.
They also had common sense; they were hands on people with a no nonsense attitude. Jesus felt their sensible practical manner would assist him in organising his travels, preaching and contact with the masses. Jesus was on a mission and journey to spread the Good News and therefore needed skilful helpers.
Jesus saw these qualities and saw their potential. He did not choose them because they were particularly religious or good; he just saw them as who they were. From that point on, they would no longer work for themselves; they would work and serve Jesus, drawing others into the fellowship in which each could find his real self in helping others.
Not only did Jesus surprisingly choose fishermen to be his disciples he also chose Matthew the tax collector. It is often overlooked how amazing it was that Jesus persuaded for example Simon the Zealot who was a revolutionary fighting against Rome to work together with the tax collector. It was due to Jesus’ powerful personality and sense of purpose that brought them together. He had charisma, as he was the Son of God. It is lesson to us all in human relationships.
After choosing the twelve Jesus gave them authority to share in his work of teaching and healing. Now the twelve apostles were ready to join with his work. They were helping to bring the Kingdom of God to earth by sharing in what Jesus did. We know this is important for Mark because he thinks of the apostles as the beginning of the church, the new people of God.
In Mark 6: 7 Jesus gives the disciples instructions about their journey (Mk 6: 8-11) they are to travel in the simplest way they can: with sandals and a stick, but without money, a beggars bag, food or extra clothes. They must not stay anywhere for to long or waste time on people who will not listen to them. Jesus also tells the apostles that if they are not welcomed into a town they must shake its dust of their feet when they leave it (V 11). This is interesting because it is what the Jews did when they returned to Palestine after being in gentile country. They shook off the dust of a place that was unclean to make sure that they did not defile God’s people when they went back to them. But the people the apostles were going to visit were Jews. Mark wants his readers to understand that times have change with the journey of the apostles. What matters now is not whether or not you are a Jew; but whether you accept the teaching of
the apostles, who bring with them the news about Gods’ Kingdom. By shaking the dust of their feet the apostles are to warn people that they could be left outside it. Mark wants his readers to be glad that they have heard and received the apostles teaching passed on to them.
The tasks they were given to do was in three parts –
1) To preach repentance
2) To cast out devils
3) To anoint the sick
Mark believed that the Church is intended to carry on the work of Jesus in the world: to preach, to heal the sick, and to overcome the powers of evil.
About half way through his ministry Jesus began to warn his disciples that his work for God would result in his suffering and death. He knew that his enemies would see his teaching and popularity as a threat. He also realised that his life would be made difficult for those who believed he was the Messiah sent by God. They too had to be prepared to suffer for their beliefs and discipleship. In Mark 8: 34 – 38 Jesus gives a very clear indication of the cost of discipleship just after the first prediction of his suffering and death and the rebuke of Peter.
In Mark 8: 34 Jesus says, “If any one wants to come with me, they must forget self, carry their cross, and follow me.”
To forget self does not just mean denying one self, but what it does mean is going without certain pleasures in life like so many people do. For example, things; to have no care about ones life, position or esteem; and to have no desire for rights or privileges accept that of belonging to God. Christian’s disciples should put their own needs and wishes last.
To take up the cross is probably the most challenging command from Jesus. Mark was writing his Gospel at a time when many Christians were dying for their beliefs in Jesus. Crucifixion was a real possibility. There have been many times since then, even to the present day, when Christians have been persecuted for their beliefs. Every one tries to avoid suffering and persecution, but there may come a time in a Christians life when suffering and persecution are an inevitable result of faith in Jesus Christ. True Christian discipleship means being prepared to accept this suffering, even if it leads to death.
To follow him only makes sense when put into context of the teaching that immediately comes before it. Jesus has just stated that he has to go through suffering; to be rejected by the Jewish leaders; and to be put to death and to rise again. The invitation to go with Jesus is an invitation to travel along the same road accepting the Christian way of life and treading in the footsteps of Jesus and following his example as closely as possible. Discipleship can involve suffering, rejection and death.
Then Jesus says “Who ever wants to save his life will loose it, but who ever looses his life for me and the Gospel will save it.” (Mark 8: 35)
Jesus is speaking of those who do not follow him because they fear mockery of suffering. Others fear to declare their faith in public, rather than saving their life they actually risk loosing eternal life. Those who remain faithful will share in the resurrection of Christ.
Though there is a cost to discipleship there is a reward.
In this passage (Mark 10: 28 – 31) Mark puts the words “We have left every thing to become your followers”, into Peter’s mouth, and Jesus responds by promising a rich reward to those who give up their families for his sake. Mark gives further reassurance to those cut off from their families. Jesus knew that there are riches of greater value than material possessions and these he promised to Peter and those who left all to follow him in the Kingdom of God. This promise can be fulfilled in the fellowship the disciple finds in Church, the family of God. The main teaching of this story is that discipleship involves a commitment, which demands sacrifice.
Giving up material possessions to join Jesus in eternal life is one of the points made in Mark 10: 17 – 27, in the story of the rich young man.
He asks what he must do to receive eternal life (v17), Jesus answers with the commandments saying that he must follow them (v19). The man replies that he has obeyed them ever since he was young (v20).
It is here where the young man is tested.
Jesus looks at the man and says, ” You need only one thing. 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” (v21).
The rich man was not able to do this, as he was not prepared to give every thing away for God and for him to receive eternal life (v22).
Jesus told the disciples that it would be hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. He said, ” It is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle” (v25).
The eye of a needle was not actually the eye of a needle but a small gate in Jerusalem through which a camel could only pass with some difficulty. When a person was entering Jerusalem with a camel and goods they would first have to unload the goods from the camels back so it could pass through the gate. In the same way Jesus is stating that a person who wants to enter the Kingdom of God must first unload their preoccupation with worldly goods. It would be a lot harder for a richer person to do this because they have so much more things than a poorer person. Jesus is not saying that it is wrong to be rich but that it is wrong to ignore the plight of the poor and to be attached and obsessive towards material possessions.
In Mark 12: 41 – 44 Jesus demonstrates this principle to his disciples as they watched people put money into the temple treasury. Many rich men dropped in a lot of money but then a poor widow came along and dropped in two little copper coins worth about a penny (v 41 – 42). He brought his disciples together and said, “I tell you that this poor widow put more in the offering box than all the others” (v43).
“For the others put in what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, put in all she had – she gave all she had to live.” (V 44)
What Jesus meant that was that our generosity is measured not by the amount we give but by the spirit in which we give it.
Faith in Jesus is also essential to true discipleship.
In Mark 4: 35 – 40 Jesus’ disciples’ faith was tested, when the boat they were all in hit a storm and nearly began to fill with water. Jesus was at the back of the boat asleep. The disciples woke Jesus up and said ” Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?”
Jesus stood up and commanded the wind, “Be quiet!” and he said to the waves, “Be still!” The wind died down, and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said to his disciples “Why are you frightened? Have you still no faith?”
Jesus expected the disciples to have complete trust in him, he wanted them to have faith in him, to believe that he wouldn’t let their boat sink he was testing them and they failed. That time, they did not have faith.
Christians today should have faith in Jesus all the time we should have complete trust in him. Faith is very important as we are given a choice in what we believe. We are not forced to make a decision we can decide our selves whether we have faith or not.
Another important time in Mark’s Gospel about discipleship is Peter’s declaration about at Caesarea Philippi. In Mark 8:27-30.
Jesus himself asks his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” This was important to Mark because it was the first time the disciple recognized Jesus as the Messiah, so from then on in every Christian disciple should recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
In the Final Commission, Mark 16:14-18, when Jesus appears to the eleven. The disciples were given their last commission – “Go throughout the whole world and preach the Gospel to the whole human race.” (V 15)
The twelve disciples were to play a very important part in spreading the Good News after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Every thing we know about Jesus has come down to us because of discipleship. Without them, the message of Christianity would never of spread in the way it did. They were crucial to all Jesus had come to do.
For similar reasons, our discipleship today is crucial to God’s work in the world.
The Mission of Jesus Christ in the world depends on the willingness of ordinary Christians to devote their resources, time, energy and money to Christ.
If the Church is weak today, it is because Christians are not prepared to follow Jesus with the same commitment of the first Christians.
The first ever discipleship.
AO2 1a) Explain how this teaching about discipleship might affect the life of a Christian today. (14 marks)
Disciples of Jesus today try to continue to witness to the values of the Kingdom and practise their discipleship just like the first disciples.
In essence the mission of the Christian Church remains the same as the mission of the twelve.
Modern day disciples go out and preach repentance. The missionary scene may have changed in the twenty – first century but the principle remains the same.
All Christian Churches still work throughout the world: –
– To preach the Gospel e.g. through teaching
– To care for the sick
– To feed the hungry – supporting voluntary agencies such as Cafod
– To fight against evil and injustice.
Christians believe the Church is the body of Christ and as such, the members of that body are called to be the disciples of Jesus, to preach his message of repentance, faith and reconciliation and to continue to fight against evil.
Christian disciples are called to be witnesses to the love of God and to faith in Jesus. Some of the first Christians, were called to give their lives for the faith, few Christians are called upon to do this now but can witness to their faith through their work and relationships.
Being a Christian disciple doesn’t just mean going to Church for Mass and reading the Bible everyday, but what it also means, is putting the values of the Gospel into action. Changing our whole lives to serve God and others is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple.
Some feel they have a vocation to serve God in a particular way through: – preaching, as Jesus commanded that the good news should be spread throughout the world. Many Christians feel that their vocation is to fulfil this job. They believe that they have been called to spread the Christian faith as priests, ministers, nuns and monks. Others believe that they can serve Christ in their daily lives as laity, passing on the Good News to those they meet.
– Caring for the sick, Many Christians feel compelled to spread the message of God’s love through caring for those who are sick and in need of medical help in all areas of the world.
– Feeding the hungry, Christian organisations such as Christian Aid and Cafod, carry on in modern ways, using modern methods, the mission of the twelve. They travel around the world to teach about Jesus. They also give practical help to the communities in which they stay. This might
include building schools and medical centres, helping those suffering from the effects of natural disasters, with feeding the hungry and teaching new skills to developing communities.
– Fighting against and evil and injustice, Christians believe that it is their duty to put other people before themselves. They feel that it is right to help those who are suffering at the hands of others throughout the world.
All Christians have a vocation that can be expressed in different ways whether it is to become a priest, a nun or a monk preaching the Gospel, caring for the sick, missionary work and feeding the hungry or fighting against evil and injustice. Every Christian is called to serve God.
A Christian vocation could also be served at home, school, work or through marriage as long as we follow the commandments Jesus gave us.
Jesus’ commission to those who wish to follow him, to be his disciples, is based on two principles, Christians should: –
“Love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength.”
“Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” (Mark 12: 28 – 34)
There have been many individuals throughout the history of Christianity who have based their lives on these commandments. Some have done as much as they can in a quiet way, while the extraordinary actions of others have made them household names throughout the world.
An example of this is the work of Mother Teresa, who gave her life to God by serving others in need and rejected the secular life. She became a nun at the age of eighteen, and had to give up all her possessions, her family and friends, and dedicate her life to the service of God. One, of her many duties was to go to Calcutta in India and teach at a school for girls.
Although she was happy with her life duties, Teresa was shocked by poverty and disease that surrounded her school.
It was then that she felt she was been called by God to change the direction of her life: –
“I realised that I had the call to take care of the sick and the dying, the hungry, the naked, the homeless, to be God’s love in action, to the poorest of the poor.”
This was a milestone in Teresa’s life.
She asked permission from her order of nuns to establish a new order of nuns, the Missionaries of Charity. She received permission and at once went into the streets of Calcutta. Her only possession was a white sari with blue stripes, in which everyone knows so well today. This shows true discipleship, as she led a full Christian life she was not distracted by materialism such as clothes and processions.
From that time on Mother Teresa and her fellow Missionaries of Charity began the work for which they have been famous forever since.
Unfortunately, Mother Teresa died a few years ago but her, and her work are greatly remembered, as it is an amazing example of true love and dedication of her life to God in showing true discipleship.
You can also show true discipleship in family life just like my neighbour, Kim, who lives in my road, does with her own family.
Kim lives with her husband and their three children. One of which is disabled and needs practically 24 hour care. Paul is a five-year-old boy who has a disability called Cerebral – Palsy and severe learning difficulties. Kim’s husband works during the week and Kim stays at home to look after Paul. She has had to give up her whole career, her hobbies and her own needs for Paul, as she has to do everything for him. She didn’t have to do this as she was offered a full time carer for him by the hospital. Her answer was no because she wanted Paul to have the best chances in life and to grow up into a caring and loving family.
Sometimes, when I see Paul and Kim together, when I go round to look after their other children, I think it must be really hard for her because Paul doesn’t understand how much his mum has given up to care for him the way she does.
She shows true dedication and commitment. This is often difficult when in society there are those around us who have rejected all types of religion, do not believe in an afterlife and instead spend their time building up their wealth and material processions.
God wants us to know that we don’t have to be famous or great to be a good disciple but that we just need to be a good Christian in helping others and putting the values of the Gospel into action in our own, everyday lives.
AO3 1c) “Children cannot be disciples so they cannot be a Christian either” Would a Christian agree or disagree? Give reasons for your answer, showing you have thought of more than one point of view. (10 marks)
This statement, I believe is not true and I do not agree with at all.
Baptism is a true sacrament instituted by Christ. It is administrated by washing with natural water and (calling upon) the most Holy Trinity.
It confers grace by signs … so children should be baptized while still infants. It automatically initiates a person into the Christian faith.
Jesus was God’s son right from the Immaculate Conception. It wasn’t as if God waited until Jesus was much older before he became his Incarnate Son.
So when a baby is born and baptized, he or she is welcome into God’s Kingdom straight away. The hope then, is that the nature of discipleship is exercised on the child’s up – bringing and the way their faith is nurtured. This is dependent on the parents or guardians. If they have made the decision to have their baby baptised, I think they will usually teach he or she about discipleship and the qualities of it as they grow up.
On the other hand, many Christians will say that it is unfair to impose something so big on a child, as they may reject it later on in life. Baptists say that only adults should make the choice themselves to follow Jesus or not. They must learn about their commitment and their role in the life of the church. Once baptized, they should take a full part in the Christian way of life.
In Mark 10: 13 – 16, Jesus welcomes the children into his Kingdom. Children can give witness to discipleship at home, school and everywhere they go. Children’s prayers, there good works, and their kind actions are no less valuable than those of adults. Often they are acts of genuine sincerity and have value in and of themselves. Children can give a wonderful example of discipleship; Family Fast Day is a typical way of helping those less fortunate. Schools all over the country have fund raising events to support charities and I would say children are often the most enthusiastic.
Others would argue that children are too young to be responsible for their actions, but I believe they can be taught right from wrong and follow Christian moral reasoning. They can feely choose to do good for Christian reasons just like adults can make up their own minds freely.
Some Christians would hold that children are not capable of committing themselves to the fullness of discipleship.
It is perfectly true they cannot take on the role of discipleship in the sense of the first disciples but discipleship is about doing what one can, within the limits of our respective lives.
Faith and discipleship are developmental. I’m sure there are many adults who do not achieve the fullness of what it means to be a disciple either. In a way, we are all on a journey to fulfilment and the road must be travelled every day.
In conclusion to this, one can see that there are many different perspectives, each of which have value.
Overall I believe that children can be disciples and Christians because discipleship is a journey.
At the start, when the child is young and new to religion, they may make mistakes because they do not have a full understanding of what discipleship means.
But as time goes on and the person gets older they are sure to learn and get better at their role in the Church life.
Faith is a gift and a gift that must be looked after. Building a relationship with God and aiming to live life according to Gospel values, takes time and commitment.
Mark’s Gospel highlights some of the qualities we need to become a follower of Jesus. It is then down to us to build our lives on the advice, and as soon as the process can begin the better.
Discipleship is developmental, and I think, should start at an early age with baptism.