Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mark on Radical Discipleship

This past November I began reading through the Gospel of Mark in preparation for preaching through this book.  I had recently been asked to serve as pulpit supply in a small rural church in southeast Alabama.  As I've been studying this Gospel I've become convinced that Mark's aim in writing and organizing his materialS centers around the theme of discipleship.

Mark begins his gospel account by introducing the reader to John the Baptist (the baptizer) who is not only the prophesied forerunner of Jesus, but also a proto-disciple, if you will.  John prepares the way for the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, who paves the way for all who will follow him.

Here are a few quotes that have helped guide my thinking as I've been studying Mark's Gospel.

First, in his book, Christ’s Call to Discipleship, James Montgomery Boice identifies five characteristics of a disciple: Obedience (“follow me”), Repentance (confess & forsake sin), Submission (under authority of another), Commitment (Christ is Savior & Lord), and Perseverance (salvation is past, present, and future). He concludes by writing, “All this is to say that discipleship is not simply a door to be entered but a path to be followed and that the disciple proves the validity of his discipleship by following that path to the very end” (p. 22).

Also, in his massive (and extremely useful) An Introduction to the New Testament, David deSilva develops the theme of Jesus' messiahship and the call to discipleship in Mark's Gospel.  He writes,
He [Mark] preached the gospel of the suffering, self-giving Messiah, and demanded that all the traditions about Jesus as a wonder-worker be read in that light. He also called the church to the radical, self-sacrificing discipleship that matched the pattern of the Messiah the church claimed. (p. 194)

Finally, deSilva comments that, "One major emphasis in Mark is indeed that the shape of discipleship must necessarily follow the pattern of the rejected and executed Messiah" (p. 196).

This concept of radical discipleship has been a challenging, and much needed, theme for me. I'm still trying to take it in and process it.  Suffering and self-sacrificing, the adjectives used to describe radical discipleship, have been difficult to process.  They cut to the quick, they pierce the heart.

Psalm 25:4-5
Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.