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Mark on Discipleship #3 - What Motivates You as a Disciple of Jesus Christ

Grace Baptist Church envisions becoming a disciple-making church that transforms lives with the gospel and love of Jesus Christ. In my previous blog post, “Mark on Discipleship #1: The Gospel of Mark”, we looked at some initial reflections on what disciple-making is. Following that, in “Mark on Discipleship #2: Following Christ the King”, I wrote that in essence, when we make disciples; we call people to respond to God’s grace by following King Jesus. Mark 1:1-15 tells us Jesus Christ’s disciples have a clear knowledge of who he is; they lead lives of repentance and belief.

What then motivates a disciple of Jesus Christ? We get an understanding of this in Mark 8:27-9:1. After Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ and Jesus’ prediction of his own crucifixion and death on the cross, Jesus gave a master class on what it meant to be his disciple. Discipleship is based on the cross and motivated by the cross. Jesus tells us that if anyone wants to be his disciples, we must deny ourselves. What does this mean? He does not mean for his disciples to deny something like food and drink or other material comforts but rather, more fundamentally, they are to deny all self-centredness and self-promoting ambition. We are then to take up our cross. The cross in Jesus’ time was an instrument of torture and death. It is equivalent to our modern-day Singapore hangman’s noose – something we use to carry out the death sentence. Taking up the cross is not merely about facing a difficult situation such as a stressful workplace, or a difficult person like a grumpy mother-in-law, or an annoying friend. It is a symbol of shame, rejection and death. It is rather denying yourself the comfort of an evening at home so that you can comfort and encourage a sister who is grieving. It is rather denying a career advancement so that you can serve and build up your church. It is rather the standing up as a Christian in your workplace where unethical business practices are the norm. Jesus’ disciples must be prepared to deny themselves to the point of giving up their lives, to the extent of even experiencing shame and rejection.

When we lose our comforts, ambitions and even lives for Jesus and the gospel’s sake, we will save our lives. Almost paradoxically, when we try to save our lives and cling tightly to it, we will lose it. Jesus explains, “so what if you actually gain the whole world? You get your first million by 30 years old? Or you get your first Ferrari Sports Car? You get everything you desire but you forfeit and lose your soul – your whole being is lost. This is not gain and it does not benefit you at all! Your soul cannot be bought – it is precious and valuable” (Mark 8:36-37, my paraphrase). When we deny ourselves, carry our cross and follow Jesus, we will be given the only life that counts; life from God that comes as a grace-gift. We will get the life purchased by Jesus through his work on the cross.

Jesus ends his call to discipleship with both a stern warning of coming judgement and a promise of future reward. The outcome is certain for those who reject Jesus. But so is the promise, for those who receive him. Jesus tells his disciples that there will be some who will see the kingdom of God in power and glory before they die. This was fulfilled six days later, when Jesus took Peter, James and John to a high mountain. There Jesus was transfigured; Peter, James and John saw Jesus appearing “radiant, intensely white” (Mk 9:3). This is a glimpse of the glory he will be crowned with after he dies on the cross and is resurrected by God; he will be exalted to his rightful place as King of the kingdom of God!

This glimpse of his glory that Jesus afforded his disciples showed them that losing is gain. I grew up watching Michael Jordan play basketball in the NBA. I thought he was the best basketball star ever, taking the Chicago Bulls to two sets of three consecutive championship victories for a total of six championship victories. To arrive at that level of skill, he spent long hours practising, often long before his teammates arrived at the court and long after they left. Jordan wrote a book titled “For the Love of the Game: My Story”. In it, he expressed that the sacrifices he made for the game of basketball were no sacrifices at all. Denying himself, losing other opportunities, was gain for him – he gained the opportunity to excel in the game he loved.

Likewise as Jesus Christ’s disciples, when we lose our self-centred worldly lives, we gain Jesus Christ. Denying yourself does not only mean avoiding judgement; it means that you get to follow Jesus; you get to follow the one who loves you dearly - Christ! Losing your life means you gain your soul and you gain the pearl of great price – the kingdom of God, where you will spend eternity in joy, in the presence of our glorious king – King Jesus. It is not loss – it is gain! This is the reward that motivates a disciple of Jesus Christ to follow him wholeheartedly.

- Pastor Ollie

 

References:

The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008.

The NLT Study Bible. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008.

Cole R. Alan. “Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2” in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989.

Edwards, James R. “The Gospel Accordingly to Mark” in The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2002.

Garland, David E. “Mark” in The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

Keller Timothy. Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God. New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2011.

Schreiner Thomas R.The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.

Stein Robert H. “Mark” in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.