by Abraham Cremeens
The call to follow Jesus is costly but worth it. For thousands of years, every generation of the church, all around the world, has had to choose to count and pay the cost in following Christ. For some, that has cost their lives. For all, there must be a willingness to give it all.
Mark knew that. And that is why he wrote his gospel for the encouragement of the church in every age.
Mark became a disciple of Jesus, and we read about him throughout the New Testament (both the good and the bad). He eventually connected with the Apostle Peter and used him as a resource in writing his gospel. But Mark didn’t seek to write an account of Jesus’ life and ministry in encyclopedic form. He had a clear purpose. And his purpose in writing should be our aim in understanding. So, what was on Mark’s mind as he sought to influence our minds?
Who is Jesus?
First and foremost, Mark set out to answer this key question. Everything else falls into its right place when one understands clearly who Jesus really is. History has offered all sorts of counterfeit versions of Jesus. I’m sure as Mark wrote he was aware of contemporary issues in misunderstanding Jesus. But Mark brings clarity. Every sentence is somehow connected to the desire and aim to give the church clarity as to who Jesus really is.
As we seek to answer this key question throughout Mark, we will note several things about Jesus from start to finish. Here are two worth highlighting:
- Jesus is the Christ. He was the anointed of God to do what only God could do. Before the fabric of time was even created, our amazing one God in Trinity determined together to set in motion a plan that would result in the glory of God through the work of the Son of God. All of Scripture prior to Jesus’ birth spoke of a coming Messiah, the anointed one who would come to do God’s work. Mark helps us see in no uncertain terms that Jesus is in fact this promised Messiah, the Christ.
Jesus has all authority. This attribute of Jesus comes out loud and clear on the front end. From the very beginning of Mark, we see that Jesus has authority as God. He has authority over the law, over nature, over sickness and disease, over demons, the authority to forgive sins (that one really got people riled up) and to even raise the dead. In short, Mark shows us that there is nothing Jesus can’t do because he has the authority to do anything and everything.
I won’t spoil all the fun. There is more to glean regarding the person and work of Jesus. But we will aim to know him more clearly through our study in Mark.
What is a disciple?
This second question comes out of the first but is no less important. Once a person understands who Jesus is, he or she must then decide how to respond. Jesus’ opening words at the start of his ministry were, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Everyone who is confronted by Jesus must determine what to do, whether to follow him or not.
Toward the middle of Mark’s gospel, you will see a key passage about being a disciple. It begins in 8:34-35, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me… whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” This is a hard calling. Jesus doesn’t call his followers to join him on cruise ships, high-class parties, and elite living. He calls us to die to self every day as we rid ourselves of ourselves and live for him. This will mean discomfort, but it will lead to unspeakable eternal joy.
There is more to dig into on this subject and, as we study Mark, we will seek to clarify what it means exactly to be Jesus’ disciple.
I’m excited about the road ahead in Mark. We will invest close to a year in studying this book together. I would encourage you to begin praying now and to read through the whole gospel as soon as possible. Be sure to join us on Sunday mornings, and study along independently as well. Let’s get to know Jesus together and grow as his disciples in the year ahead.