The word “discipleship” invokes different understandings for different people. Many would perhaps think about a Bible study series or following the teachings of a popular or charismatic character. Others may rightly note that the word comes from the example of Jesus and his first disciples found in the New Testament. Some people like to follow their friends on Facebook and indicate that their religion is “follower of Jesus.” Can’t go wrong with that one, right?? But what exactly do we mean by this statement? He is no longer on earth, so how do we follow him? Is it about his teaching? Or following his moral lifestyle? I believe that our text this morning addresses many elements regarding discipleship and will hopefully clear some things up.
We are going to look at a snapshot of discipleship this morning. And we will call it “Discipleship 101.” You recall that we have seen just brief glimpses of the initiation of Jesus’ ministry as he was announced, acknowledged, anointed, and approved for ministry in the preceding verses. Mark does not go into any account of the birth of Jesus or John the Baptist. He also does not go into great detail regarding these events because he seems to be eager to dive into the rest of his ministry.
We left off last week with Jesus’ baptism and his temptation in the wilderness with Satan, wild animals and angels. This has served as the launching point to Jesus’ ministry. Today we will look at Mark 1.14-28. Let’s read the text as we begin. READ.
The first point of Discipleship 101 is Discipleship Requires Repentance and Belief. So, we could say that the first step in “discipleship” is to become a disciple. Mark begins rather curiously by merely saying, “now after John was arrested.” That’s it. He doesn’t fill in the details. It is Luke who fills in some of the details including his reproving Herod for some of the evil he had done. Perhaps Mark knew that his readers would have been familiar with this. And I think that this is an appropriate introduction for a call to discipleship. As John had prepared the way for Jesus, he is the forerunner of Jesus not only in his message but also his fate. We know also from other accounts that John suffered and died because of his beliefs. And we also know of what Jesus life consisted. He would suffer and die as well. If we are to be called disciples of Jesus, would we expect something different? So I understand this not just as a few words of introduction to the next section, but setting the trajectory for discipleship. Jesus said, “in this world you will have tribulation.”
There is something else that is significant in this little phrase. The verb is a passive verb and literally means, “handed over.” Commentators have correctly identified this as a divine passive. I’ll explain this. I believe the One that handed over was God. In other words, John was arrested because God ordained and allowed it so that his plan would be carried out. Consider some other places this verb is used: Romans 4.24-25, “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans 8.32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? And Galatians 2.20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” These passages, as well as our text in Mark, strongly suggest God’s sovereignty and his carrying out his plan. So, I think for Mark, he indicates this abruptly as to point out that things are moving along just as they were ordained. John was arrested and Jesus entered Galilee.
Jesus comes to Galilee and proclaims the Gospel of God, our text indicates. He then declares that he has introduced a new age. The things that were anticipated throughout history are now being realized in Jesus Christ. Galatians 4.4-5 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” And Ephesians 1.10 indicates that there was a plan in the fullness of time to unite all things in Christ.
At this point, it is the introduction of the kingdom of God. But the kingdom is not what most people expected at this point. Many had hoped that the Messiah would be a powerful and military figure. And, as we know, he did not come to judge and destroy, but to redeem. The sword comes later when he returns. Jesus will spend so much time telling people what the kingdom is like and suggests that most people had misconceptions about it. As one commentator indicates, “It is best to understand the expression ‘kingdom’ as referring to the reign of a king rather than statically as referring to the territory or realm over which a king rules.” In other words, Jesus did not come initially to establish this literal kingdom, but to call people to submit to his reign as king. And this serves as a precursor to the millennial kingdom which will be established upon his return.
You would almost expect a “therefore” here. There is an expectation and urgency for the listener and reader based upon this revelation. Because events are being fulfilled, you need to repent and believe the gospel. A response is required to the appearance of Jesus Christ. And in order for one to become his disciple, he must repent and believe in the gospel. In a nutshell, this is what it means to be a Christian. We talked a bit about repentance last week when we looked at the ministry of John the Baptist who preached a baptism of repentance. And we determined that people were being baptized on account of their repentance for the forgiveness of sins. We talked about how “repentance” refers to a change of mind and a turning away. This is understood as conversion. When a person understands the good news of Jesus and his work on the cross on our behalf, we are convinced of its truthfulness and our need to act on that truth. James Edwards adds, “
And it is important that these two imperatives are not separated. In fact, they cannot be separated. Wherever one of these terms is included in Scripture, the other is at least implied. When a person understands their condition before God and are convinced of the truth of the gospel, this must leads to a complete and dramatic shift in belief and behaviour. James Edwards adds, “Repentance and belief cannot be applied to certain areas of life but not to others; rather, they lay claim to the total allegiance of believers.” The good news of God is that Jesus has come to save, or redeem people from their sins. “To repent” is to turn from and “to believe” is to turn to the gospel.
The Christian life, the life of discipleship involves counting this cost. It is not a promise of comfort and ease as some might believe and declare. It is a dying to self and living for the King. It involves a turning away from your sinful life and living for righteousness. And it requires that you embrace the good news of Jesus Christ alone for salvation. This is the first step in Discipleship 101.
Next, Discipleship Requires Sacrifice. There’s no easy way of saying it. If you truly understand what is at stake, it will cost you everything. I think that this concept is largely lacking in much North American preaching. Many want to hear how Jesus will make your life, your earthly life more complete, more manageable, more healthy, more wealthy, how to have a happier family, success in business, and a host of other things. The reality is Jesus calls you to hand it all over. It is no longer about you at all. In fact, the next section tells us this.
While Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee (likely very intentionally), he “sees” Simon and Andrew casting a net into the sea. [Just as a side note, it is interesting to notice the life and ministry of Jesus and the fact that he “sees” people. He sees them and it affects him. Sometimes I fail to “see” people because my eyes are so inclined to see myself. So tuck that away and as we go through the Gospel of Mark, we’ll keep a lookout for Jesus seeing.] Jesus sees these two fishermen, walks up to them and says, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” What happens next? They drop everything and follow! In those days, it was popular for rabbis to have disciples. However, this is something quite different. In the case of rabbinical discipleship, it is the student that seeks out the rabbi. Here it is the Master who seeks out and calls disciples.
Jesus does not timidly approach them and strongly suggest that they might want to hear what he has to say. But he comes with authority and command. James Edwards writes, “When Jesus as God’s Son initiates human fellowship the encounter takes places not on his ground, or even on the holy ground of the synagogue or temple, but on their ground in the working world of boats and nets and labor from dawn to dusk. There is only one thing the fishermen can do, and that is to respond to the commanding word of Jesus, grounded solely in the authority of his person.” Jesus did not say that he can help them to make their business more successful, but they should leave it behind and follow. He was calling them to a radically new purpose in life.
Jesus does not come to slightly alter us or what we are doing. He comes to renovate and change everything. For Simon and Andrew, fishing was their livelihood. It was what they knew. And somehow they recognized the authority and power of the call of Jesus. And I think that this is consistent with the biblical pattern of God’s calling of people.
The Spirit of God allows us to understand the truth of his Word. 1 Corinthians 2.9-16 says, “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
And it is the Sprit of God who allows us to embrace the gospel. 2 Corinthians 4.4-6, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
I believe that this was a supernatural call of God on the lives of these two unassuming fishermen. They had no choice but to drop all and follow after the Lord Jesus. And they were changed forever! They left their profession to follow this Jesus.
It is interesting that he uses language they would understand. They know what it is like to daily throw their nets and catch fish. Jesus calls them to the higher purpose of “casting nets” for people. He is calling them to something most significant and eternal. Notice also that Jesus does not say, if you strive and apply yourselves to the best of your ability, you may become fishers of men. Jesus says that he will make them become fishers of men. So, it would seem reasonable to conclude that they played no part in their calling and they will not ultimately be responsible for the results of their ministry. Sounds quite biblical, doesn’t it??
Jesus goes on a little farther and what? “sees” James and John. They, too, were fishermen who were mending their nets in the boat. He called them, they responded in obedience, left their occupation and family. The authority of the call of Jesus is so overwhelming, the even leave their father to follow Jesus!
Some of you may already be familiar with these sacrifices. I know several people that have given up lucrative careers to follow Christ. I want to be clear. There is nothing inherently wrong with fishing nets. Understand? There is certainly nothing wrong with family. God instituted “family.” Now I anticipate that what I say next will cause some conflict in your mind, and hopefully your heart. Regarding occupation and family, one commentator correctly says, “even these must be abandoned if they become encumbrances that prevent one from heeding the call to the venture of discipleship with Jesus.” I agree completely.
Some of the obstacles we face today were not always an issue. I remember days long gone by when businesses were closed on Sundays. This enabled workers to worship with their church families in obedience to Scripture. I feel the tension. I remember when sports did not interfere with Sunday worship. Now, I am not promoting legalism. I don’t believe that our “attendance” (even perfect attendance) acquires greater favor from God. However, would we not agree that our participation here follows the expectation of Scripture to gather corporately to worship? Does it not encourage us in our walk of faith, challenge us in our faith, provide an opportunity to exercise our spiritual gifts, study, learn, grow, and fellowship?? Isn’t this what discipleship is? Isn’t this what we are called to do as Christians?
Again, I am not suggesting that we must have perfect attendance and never go on vacation. But do we find it a bit too easy to do other things?? We are called to something radical! Let me just put a couple of thoughts out there for us to chew on. These are just some things that I’ve been thinking about based on conversations with some of you. What would it communicate if you told your boss that you couldn’t work on Sunday mornings because this is the time that you set aside to worship God with other Christians? What would it communicate if your boss knew you were a Christian and worked instead of participating in Sunday worship service?
Some of you are part of families where there may be some conflict in following Christ. And I will say that I cannot understand completely that this tension must have for you. The call of Jesus is your highest priority. But this does not suggest that you leave unbelieving spouses because Scripture tells us to remain with them because of your influence of Jesus to them.
But others have been ostracized by brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers because of Jesus. This is extremely tough but you also know that there is no choice but to follow him. He has called you by name and is your Savior.
Now there are certainly other things that can hinder our call to discipleship. But these are the ones pointed out in our text. Can you see how we are swimming upstream against our culture? Disciples demonstrate repentance by dropping everything and following. Peter, Andrew, James and John serve as examples for prospective followers of Christ. Have you counted the cost?
What we know of Jesus’ ministry with the disciples indicates that he was not solely interested in teaching content. He was most concerned with the application of content. Jesus repeatedly rebuked the religious leaders who were educated, but failed in their application.
When Jesus was teaching his disciples, he would teach them truth and illustrate and live it out in front of them. Do you know what recently helped me understand Jesus role in training his disciples? Carney’s recycle pickup…
Alright. That needs some explanation. Our last pickup, I looked out the window to see two guys in the truck this week. As a former truck driver, I knew what this meant. They were training a new driver. The same is true in many different occupation and contexts. But let’s use the truck driving scenario for our purposes here.
When you are training somebody to drive a truck to make deliveries, there are several very important and sequential steps. Often times you need to begin by teaching content. This is our company, what we offer, how we know what our assignment is for a particular day. First, we get our invoice, load the truck, look at the map, etc. Next, we take the person in the truck with us and we say “watch.” Watch how I drive the truck, how I enter the job site, how I set up the truck and how I pack it back up to leave.
So you may do this for a couple of days so that your apprentice can see how to carry out the job in different situations. Next, you call on the apprentice to drive the truck, enter the site, set up the truck while you are right there with them. You offer suggestions and deal with mistakes while alongside. Eventually, the apprentice shows an ability and responsibility to take on the role by themselves. This is Jesus’ ministry to the disciples and the church’s ministry.
We’re striving to be a disciple-making church, so this concept is most appropriate. In the construction material industry, not everybody is cut out to be a driver. But the object is to develop as many as possible. In church ministry, not everybody is a leader. But we strive to develop as many as are gifted. So we encourage participation in children’s classes, Growth Groups, music ministry, and others so that teachers and leaders can invest in the lives of future potential teachers and leaders. We want to teach and show how, allow others the opportunity and guide along the way. This is the model that is consistent throughout Scripture including Paul and Timothy and Jesus and his disciples. We will make mistakes as they did (except Jesus). But this is how we learn and grow and make disciples. Discipleship Requires Sacrifice. This includes our livelihood and family.
Lastly, Discipleship Require Proclamation. Jesus next enters into Capernaum, which is at the north end of the Sea of Galilee. We notice that he does a couple of things while at this synagogue. He teaches and heals a man with a demon. And he shows himself to be different. For instance, he is distinguished from the scribes. The scribes were those who historically were the ones who kept written documents. They were the secretaries and recorders in the Old Testament. And because they copied the Torah (first 5 books of the OT), they became well acquainted with the Scriptures. We know that when the Israelite people returned to the land after their exile, they turned to Ezra to teach who was a scribe. In the New Testament, a scribe was a teacher in the Torah, a moralist and a civil lawyer. They became quite prestigious in their day. They were entitled to the first seats in the synagogues and people rose to their feet when they entered a room.
But when Jesus came and taught, he set himself apart from even them. In comparison, the scribes did not teach with the same authority that Jesus did. It is not indicated what determined this.
But he also encounters a man with a demon. There are several things of significance in this event. There was a man with a demon in a synagogue. That`s interesting. And then the demon correctly identifies Jesus as the Holy One of God. And then Jesus tells him to be silent! Maybe he did not want his identity revealed yet. Maybe he didn`t want the confession coming from the demons. Not sure. But it does demonstrate the authority of Jesus over demons.
The fact that the demon speaks in the plural likely suggests that he speaks of behalf of the demonic realm. He seems to know that with the coming of Jesus, their demise is certain. He knows the mission of Jesus.
The ministry of Jesus often included preaching, teaching, healing, and casting out of demons. All these things he did to validate who he was as the Son of God. In other words, we learn who he is by what he does. One commentator notes that “Jesus' healing miracles do not simply remedy human physical maladies; they represent a war against demonic forces. Jesus disarms Satan's power that has been pirating human souls and sets the victims free one by one.” Mark does not concern himself with where the demons went or what happened to the man because he was concerned primarily about who Jesus is.
It is summed up that they were all amazed because of this teaching with authority. The exorcism of the demon confirmed the authority of the teaching. And the text says his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
Now I`ll try not to draw application from demons. But I think that there is a point to their declaration here. The demons correctly identify who Jesus is. I think the church has had a more difficult time with this. We often end up making Jesus out to be who we want him to be rather than who Scripture declares him to be. Mark has been quite diligent to show Jesus as fulfillment of the Old Testament expectations. Jesus has come to call disciples and to teach and to heal.
As believers in this Jesus, don’t we have a tremendous responsibility and privilege to make him known? Our text indicates that his fame spread everywhere. The word “fame” here means “that which is heard.” Romans 10.16 “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Galatians 3.2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith.” 1 Thess. 2.13 “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”
Discipleship Requires Repentance and Faith. In order to be a Christian, a disciple, there must come a time where we turn from our sin and turn to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are present tense verbs suggesting that we don’t repent and believe once but continue to do so for life. Discipleship Requires Sacrifice. Because Jesus has called us to a radical discipleship, this often comes with great sacrifice. This often involves laying aside things that hinder our relationship to him. But when we’ve been called by him there is nothing more important for all eternity. Discipleship Requires Proclamation. As his disciples, we strive to follow his leading and example so that we can accurately declare the Holy One of God. And then we declare to unbelievers the good news of the King Jesus Christ and the need to repent and believe the gospel. This is why we are here. Let’s Pray.