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The Theme of Discipleship according to the Gospel of Mark

Updated on February 23, 2011

The Theme of Discipleship according to the Gospel of Mark

Looking through the Gospel according to Mark, we can see the dominant theme of the book throughout the passages that Jesus Christ is suffering Son of God or the suffering servant ever since the beginning of first chapter, “the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk. 1:1), in the confession of centurion in Jesus’ crucifixion “Surely this man was the son of God” (Mk. 15:39 ), and in the chiastic structure of the whole passages which focus on “ Jesus’ identity question, Peters confession and the prediction of the passion”[1] (Mk. 8:31-33). Basically, Mark’s Gospel can be divided into two parts. The first part was starting from Chapter 1:1-8:30 and these passages deals about the ministry of Jesus Christ which includes the calling of disciples, the miracles of Jesus Christ and the confession of Peter. The second part Chapter 8:31-16: 8) deals about the passion of Christ and the cost of discipleship.

However, in spite of the wonderful miracles that Jesus performed, nobody understood Him as the Messiah, son of God except centurion lately as mentioned above until the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Interesting thing is that Jesus forbids the people that he made clean are not to tell others about what he had done for them. He commanded them to be silent. Surely, this may have important lying reason. According to Gordon D. Fee, “the reason for this silence is that only Jesus understands the true nature of his messianic destiny- that of Isaiah’s “suffering Servant” who conquers through death.”[2] In fact, even if Peter confessed that you are the son of the living God, he understood Jesus only in part, not totally as Messiah. In the same manner, even though the disciples followed Him and stayed with Him seeing Jesus’ miracles often, they didn’t understand Him (Mk 8:27-33; 9: 30-32; 10:32-45). In that way, Mark represented Jesus as “the suffering Servant” who came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk.10:45).

Jesus taught his disciples through his life. He was misunderstood, rejected and unrecognized even by his disciples, in the same manner, Jesus taught the disciples that following him has cost and that cost is not easy. It includes bearing one’s own cross, encountering rejection, persecution and oppression. As Jesus represented himself as the Messiah who suffered, that is the cost of flowing Him. From his life, Jesus taught them about the “cross and servant hood” that should be seen in genuine discipleship. According to Mark’s Gospel, the cost of discipleship is following the food step of Jesus which is to be suffering servant to others. It is so challenging that being a disciple of Jesus Christ; does the suffering of Christ be seen in us?

Looking through the gospel according to mark, we can see that the miracles of Jesus occupied the previous parts of the book. Then, from the middle part of the bookmark presented emphatically about the suffering and death of Jesus as the dominant theme of the book. Then in the last part of the book, we see the cost of discipleship as Mark presents. The Gospel of Mark represents Jesus as the unrecognized son of God, suffering son of God who sacrificed his life for others.


[1] Audrey Elizabeth Newton. NT Exegesis 1: Class lecture note on Mark –Mk IA . ATS, 2010, p 3.

[2] Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All its worth (Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature Inc, 2003), 133.


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