Following Jesus based on Mark 8:22–10:52

There are two main categories of Jesus’ disciples:

  1. those from the 1st century who physically followed Jesus during his earthly ministry; and
  2. all other Christians.

Within the first category, we might distinguish between the 12 disciples specifically called by Jesus to be leaders of other disciples (Mark 3:13). However there is very little in Mark’s gospel to suggest any further distinctions.

All would-be disciples, whether physical followers or not, must meet 2 requirements, according to Mark’s gospel: give up their old lives; and follow Jesus (8:34). (1)

Jesus’ teaching on discipleship used broad inclusive language (See uses of ‘whoever’ e.g. 8:34f.; 9:35, 37, 41, 42). (2) The early church in Acts considered all those who confessed Jesus as the Messiah to be a disciple (Acts 11:26), so we can consider the words disciple and Christian (‘follower of Jesus’) as synonymous.

Some further observations on discipleship from Mark’s gospel:

Discipleship is cross-based. The best explanation for the apparent ‘messianic secret’ in Mark’s gospel is that Jesus wants his followers to know him for who he really is, not just a miracle worker, healer or teacher. DeSilva links Jesus’ 3 messianic predictions of his death in Mark’s gospel with Jesus teaching on discipleship (8:31-38, 9:31-50, 10:32-45). That is, Jesus’ death and what it means to be a disciple are intrinsically linked. (3) It’s only when we know Jesus as the suffering Saviour Messiah, who died and rose again, that we can be a true disciple.

Discipleship requires self renunciation. (4) This is the heart of the message of 8:34-36. This is not necessarily about giving up material possessions or suffering physically for Christ, but its giving up the right to direct our own lives now, so that we might share in the glory of the Father when Jesus returns. As the example of the rich young man in Mark 10 further illustrates, wealth in this life (whether material or not) can not credit you anything towards entering the kingdom of God. Discipleship is nothing about your own achievements now, but all about the master whom you are following. Mark 8:35 cannot make the argument any stronger – your achievements are worth so little that we are to lose our life entirely to Jesus and the gospel now, in order to gain life in Christ.

Discipleship is modeling Jesus. As Jesus modeled ultimate servanthood (9:35, 10:42-45), disciples of Jesus are to strive to show the same attitude of servanthood, humility, and love for others.

The gospel of Jesus is the best investment you can make. Although Jesus was speaking directly to his disciples in Mark 10:29-31, it appears as though Jesus was teaching a general principle that you can never fail to reap an abundant return, even in this life now, for investing with your life now in the gospel of Jesus. I am reminded of Jesus’ words in John 10:10 here – Jesus comes that we may have life to the full; and consider also Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he says we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. This is the abundant return from the gospel now, and in the life to come.

Discipleship is a process. Disciples receive the kingdom of God with faith like a child (10:15,52), even if sometimes mixed with doubts (9:24). Sometimes disciples can believe the truth (Peter in Mark 8:29-20) but fail to live it out (8:33). Mark 9:42-50 suggests that disciples are involved in an ongoing process of putting sin to death in their life. The consequences of sin is hell, and there is therefore no cost too great to avoid sin now, which is all part of the discipling process.
Wilkins summary is excellent:

“The disciple who is privileged to be a member of Jesus’ kingdom is a servant, which means thinking God’s thoughts (Mk 8:31–33), pursuing the life of the cross (Mk 8:34–38) through the message (Mk 9:1–8) and example of Jesus (Mk 9:9–32), and thus rejecting status (Mk 9:33–37), exclusivism (Mk 9:38–10:16) and the treasures of this world (Mk 10:17–31).” (1)


(1) M. J. Wilkins, “Disciples and Discipleship,” ed. Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; IVP, 2013), 204-209.
(2) David Wenham and Steve Walton, Exploring the New Testament: The Gospels and Acts (vol. 1, Second Edition.; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2011), 215.
(3) David Arthur deSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 202-204.
(4) Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (2nd Edition.; Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2009), 323–324.

Judges 3

Main point:

God is following through with his promised consequences for disobedience from Deuteronomy (e.g. Ch 28-33). However he is also following through with his covenant promises originally made to Abraham, and so God continues to graciously raise up deliverers to save his people when they cry out for help. The main character and hero of the story is God.

Main purpose:

Warning against disobedience and unfaithfulness. And an encouragement to trust in the loving, faithful, promise-keeping God who wins each victory.

Supporting argument:

The book of Judges is a theological text. Despite it’s concern with Israel’s history in the promised land, it is God’s imperatives that direct the action as God orders the activities of the nations, and initiates the testing of the Israelites faithfulness (2:21-23). Judges clearly connects to the biblical narrative of what has gone before, with Judges 1:1 looking back to Joshua’s faithful conquest of the land and the period of obedience (Judges 2:7), and the final verse of Judges (21:25) looking forward to the impending period of the Israelite kings. In this way, Judges is an important connecting book showing the development of God’s salvation history, continuing the tensions from the patriarchal period of seeing the promises of God under threat in the promised land, and showing the link between God’s Abrahamic promises of people, place and blessing finding their fulfillment in the establishment of the physical kingdom of Israel in the promised land (1 Kgs. 4:20-25). (2)

Judges is to be read in the context of knowing that Israel has already failed to live up to it’s covenant promises. Ch 2 outlines the failure of the Israelites and how God is going to respond in judgment and testing. It is God who chooses to not drive out the people, and to use the nations that remain as a test (2:22-23). But the test is not for God’s sake, but for the people, to reveal to them the extent of their fidelity to God (1). There are real consequences for the Israelites failures. Their evil actions really result in divine curses. However Judges is not the story of Israel’s failure (their failure is already made clear to the reader in Ch 2), but the story of God’s continued faithfulness, grace and deliverance.

Ch 3 contains 3 of the Judge stories that continue through most of the rest of the book. Each story generally follows a pattern of “apostasy, subjugation, appeal, the raising up of a deliverer, peace”. (2) From Othniel, a well credentialed, proven military leader from the tribe of Judah; to Ehud the left-hand deceitful assassin from the tribe of Benjamin; to Shamgar, an ox driver (?), possibly not even an Israelite. God’s means of deliverance varies as he works through unexpected people, making the point that it is God’s work of deliverance. Even Othniel, the judge with the strongest pedigree, gets no credit himself but his credentials are that God raised him up and gave him his spirit (3:9-10).

A few of the judges are mentioned in Hebrews 11 as part of the summary of faithful biblical characters who have played a part in God’s salvation history. Again though, the point of these characters is not that they are exemplary examples to follow, but that the one in whom they put their faith is faithful. God works through flawed individual characters and an entire nation of disobedient unworthy recipients of grace to bring about the ultimate expression of salvation and blessing to all people through Christ (Heb 11:39-40, 12:2).

(1) Daniel Isaac Block, Judges, Ruth (vol. 6; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 139-147.

(2) Barry G. Webb, The Book of Judges, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 156–178.
(3) Andrew E. Hill,  A Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.

The title ‘Son of God’ in Mark’s gospel

The title and concept of ‘Son of God’ can have different meanings depending on the context – it can refer to exalted men (Gen. 6:2), angels (Job 1:6), all of Israel (Ex 4:22-23), or a unique descendant of David who would reign forever as God’s king (2 Sam. 7:12-14). In intertestamental times, the title came to anticipate a messianic eschatological redeemer of God (1).

Jesus’ original hearers would not have understand the title as declaring Jesus as God’s ontological equal, one part of the triune godhead (this understanding only developed after the resurrection (2)), however it would have been understood as a way of suggesting Jesus’ significant role and relationship to God. Bateman links ‘Christ’, ‘Son of David’, ‘Son of God’ and other similar phrases as parallel and complementary titles used in this Jewish context to point to Jesus’ messianic function, his pine authentication, commissioning and empowering by God (without arguing that the titles constitute claims of deity). (3)

Mark does not record many uses of the title ‘Son of God’ but it is a significant concept arising at key points in the gospel; from the introduction (which according to Wasserman most likely includes title ‘Son of God’ (4)), to Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration (1:11, 9:7), used by evil spirits to challenge Jesus (3:11, 5:7), through parabolic usage (12:6) and eschatological discourse (13:32), to the accusation by the high priest (14:61) and the declaration by the centurion (15:39). The use of the title ‘Son of God’ by the centurion at the cross is significant. Although the centurion’s statement could grammatically be taken as ‘a son of God’, it makes more sense to me that Mark intended this declaration at the cross as the highpoint of the revelation of Jesus as God’s son who takes away the sin of the world, being therefore a statement of pine identity, beyond what the gentile centurion himself could comprehend. (5)

Leim argues that for Mark, Jesus embodies multiple OT figures and hopes such that it is the combined picture that is summed up in the title ‘Son of God’ that does bind Jesus pine identity with God (4). It is possible then given the way Mark uses the title to complement the rich picture of Jesus he is presenting, that Mark’s original audience understood the title as supporting the claim of the gospel authors of Jesus’ deity.


(1) James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark (The Pillar New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002), 482-483.

(2) Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (2nd Edition.; Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2009), 473-474.

(3) Herbert W. Bateman IV, ‘Defining the Titles “Christ” and “Son of God” in Mark’s Narrative Presentation of Jesus’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50.3 (2007): 537–559.

(4) Tommy Wasserman, “The ‘Son of God’ Was in the Beginning (Mark 1:1),” Journal of Theological Studies 62 (2011): 20–50.

(5) Peter K. Stevenson, “The Crucified God: Mark 15:25-39,” Direction 41, no. 1 (2012): 148–64.

(6) Joshua E. Leim, “In the Glory of His Father: Intertextuality and the Apocalyptic Son of Man in the Gospel of Mark,” Journal of Theological Interpretation 7, no. 2 (2013): 213–32.

Dan McClellan, “Son of God,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2013, 2014).

Joshua 2

Main point:

God has promised the land, God has prepared the land (e.g. people melting in fear), God will give the land as a possession, all as part of his purposeful work to fulfill his promises of land and people (e.g. Rahab as the first Canannite convert).

Main purpose:

We are to respond in faithful obedience; like the spies confidently working in cooperation with God’s purposes, and like Rahab recognizing the supreme sovereignty of God and submitting to His authority.

Supporting argument:

Joshua starts very positively, opening in chapter 1 with great promises by God to his people of land and success based on obedience (1:7). Joshua responds obediently (1:10-11), and the people respond obediently as well (1:16-18). The spies were confident in God’s promises (2:14, 24) unlike the spies of 40 years earlier (Num 13). What could improve on this? The answer – the faith of Rahab. The story of the faith of Rahab in Ch2 serves to both illustrate the validity of the promises of God (e.g. confirms that a great fear has fallen on the people of Jericho), and look forwards towards an expansion of the people of God to include both Jews and gentiles. “(Rahab’s) presence in the book of Joshua is a positive feature, displaying the outworkings of the Abrahamic covenant, God’s inclusive interest in all who would confess him as sovereign Lord, and his providential care for his own people.”(6) Rahab was a woman of a vibrant faith in action (Heb 11:31 and Jam 2:25), putting native-born Israelites to shame (1, 2), implying the justification of the condemnation of the Canaanite people for not sharing her faith (3), and ‘earning’ a place in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:5). Rahab’s declaration of faith was personal and confident (‘I know’), specific (‘the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below’) and unconditional. It does not appear that the spies had sexual relations with Rahab as there is no hint of condemnation for their actions. Staying with a prostitute may have been a good way of gathering information about Jericho and function as a suitable place to stay without raising suspicion (4). Interestingly, although the Israelites were expressly forbidden from making covenants with the Canaanites (Deut 7:1-6), it appears as though Rahab’s expression of faith in God justified a covenant with her to save her family’s life. The declaration of the spies in 2:24 shows their confidence in a promise-keeping God and looks back to the song of Moses in Ex 15:13-15 as it looks as though God is causing those prophetic words to come true.


(1) Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (Third.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 61.
(2) R. J. D. Knauth, “Alien, Foreign Resident,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 31.
(3) Philip Satterthwaite and Gordon McConville, Exploring the Old Testament: The Histories (vol. 2; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2007), 42–43.
(4) John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012), Jos 2:1.
(5) Brenda Heyink, “Prostitution,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2013, 2014).
(6) David M. Howard Jr., Joshua (vol. 5; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 78-112