Jesus the Son of God models the service He expects of His disciples
Mark writes his gospel for outsiders. He explains Jewish customs, he translates Aramaic expressions into Greek, he occasionally uses Latin terms instead of Greek ones, and he notes time according to the Roman method (see 13:35). In addition, the fast-paced nature of his book—with its streamlining of Jesus' discourses—is ideal for introducing an "outsider" to the claims of Jesus of Nazareth, the divine Son of God who had taken on humanity. If He is the Son of God (and He is), He deserves total commitment from His followers.
By busily serving others, Jesus modeled a life of total commitment to the task His Father had given Him, and He calls all of His disciples to the same lifestyle of fervent service.
Jesus as the powerful, majestic Son of God.
What is surprising is how many times Jesus is referred to as the Son of God in the Gospel of Mark (1:1, 11, 24; 3:11; 5:7; 9:7; 14:61; 15:39). Jesus' miracles also portray Him to be the powerful Son of God. He has power over the demonic world (1:23-27, 34, 39; 3:11; 5:7-13; 7:25-29; 9:17-26); over every kind of sickness or bodily ailment (1:32; 3:10; 6:56), whether fever (1:30), disease (1:34; cf. 3:10), leprosy (1:10-42), palsy (2:11-12), a withered hand (3:1-5), an issue of blood (5:25-29), deafness (7:32ff), or blindness (8:22-25; 10:46-52); and over death itself (5:35-43; and, possibly, 9:26-27). In addition, He had power over the wind and the sea (4:39-41; 6:51) and could even walk on water (6:48). He also on two occasions fed multitudes of people by multiplying small quantities of food (6:39-43; 8:4-9). His power to forgive sins, as evidenced in His healing of the palsied man, bore striking testimony to His deity (2:1-12).
Jesus as a genuine man busily serving others.
Mark also presents Jesus as a genuine man busily serving others. Mark is the only Gospel where Jesus sighs, is grieved, is moved with indignation, etc. (1:41; 3:5; 7:33-34; 8:12; 10:14); where Jesus takes children into His arms (9:36; 10:16); and where Jesus deals so individually and intimately with those in physical distress (7:33-34; 9:27). In addition, we see a Jesus who suffers: angels come to minister to Him (1:13). He grows tired (4:38) and is not above being helped by others (1:31).
Jesus, in Mark, is busy, rapidly transitioning from one ministry activity to another. The word "immediately" occurs more times in Mark (42 times), than it does in all the other gospels combined (33 times). Only Mark, of all the Gospels, records that Jesus has no time to eat (3:20; 6:31). In order to find time to pray, He must get up well before dawn (1:35). His life was one of constant ministry as Mark 10:45 summarizes so well: For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. His greatest service to humankind (giving His life) met their greatest need (ransom for sin).
Jesus' expectations of His disciples.
Mark records more directly than the other Gospels the failures of the disciples to understand and embrace Jesus' mission for them as His disciples. Only in Mark does Jesus question the disciples as to why they do not understand His parables (4:13). Twice Mark will allude to the hardheartedness of the disciples (6:52; 8:17). In Mark, the disciples do not understand Jesus’ death and resurrection and are afraid to ask Him about it (9:32). The healing of the blind man, which took a "second try” (8:22-25), seems to have been a way for Jesus to show how slow His disciples were to understand His words and actions (8:17-21). Perhaps Mark was able to write feelingly of disciples’ failures because he too knew what it meant to fail (Acts 13:13).
Mark uses the word gospel more than any other Gospel and emphasizes Jesus’ expectations that those who respond to the Gospel follow Him (1:17). Some of the most valuable lessons on discipleship in all of Mark are found in chapters 8-10. The positioning of these discipleship lessons is noteworthy. Having grasped who Jesus is (“the Christ,” 8:29), the disciples are now ready for lessons on the cross. Or are they? Three times in these three chapters, Jesus tries to prepare His disciples for His looming death and resurrection (8:31; cf. 9:31; 10:33). Peter, however, rebukes Jesus’ talk about the cross. Peter does not realize that not only is the cross the path that Jesus must take but that Peter himself, as a disciple of Jesus, must follow the same path (8:34-38).
Mark calls Jesus’ disciples to embrace the lifestyle of service that Jesus modeled. The Son of God spent His life for others; how can His followers do less?
Review & Application:
About the Author
Timothy W. Berrey is the author of Planning Your Life God's Way and From Eden to Patmos: An Overview of Biblical History. He is the director of Graduate Studies at Bob Jones Memorial Bible College in Metro Manila, where he has lived with his wife Laura and six children since 2005.