MEANING OF DISCIPLESHIP

SYNOPSIS – To be his disciple means self-sacrificial service to the weak and insignificant – Mark 9:30-37

As they were proceeding through Galilee on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus explained to the disciples (again) what it meant to be the Messiah. In the city of Jerusalem, he would face his final confrontation with the Temple authorities – Was not the city of David was the appointed place where the Messiah of Israel must suffer rejection and death?


Jesus was attempting to journey in secret so that he could prepare his disciples for his upcoming arrest, execution, and resurrection. The Greek verb rendered “teaching” is in the imperfect tense, signifying a continuing action in the past – This statement does not represent the full extent of what Jesus told his disciples about upcoming events.

This is the second of the three instances in the gospel of Mark when Jesus predicted his death and resurrection to his disciples. In each case, the prediction came after he commenced his final journey to Jerusalem – (Mark 8:30, 10:33-34).

The Son of Man “Delivered Up”

(Mark 9:30-32) – “And from thence going forth, they were journeying through Galilee— and he was not wishing that any should get to know it; for he was teaching his disciples and saying unto them, The Son of Man is to be delivered up into the hands of men, and they will slay him— and being slain, after three days will he arise. But they were not understanding the declaration and feared to question him.” – (Parallel passages – Matthew 17:22-23, Luke 9:43-45).

The disciples did not understand his words. In the gospel of Luke, this saying “had become veiled from them that they might not grasp it.” This is in accord with a key theme in the gospels – The mysteries and purposes of God are revealed in His crucified messiah and cannot be understood apart from that reality. For that matter, the very idea of a crucified messiah is contrary to human wisdom – (Luke 9:451 Corinthians 1:17–2:5).

The ultimate victory over Sin, Death, and Satan took place in the death of Jesus, a paradoxical truth that can only be understood as it is revealed by the Spirit of God:

(1 Corinthians 2:14) – “The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned.”

The Greek verb rendered “delivered up” in the passage is paradidōmi, “to give over.” Idiomatically, it can have the sense of “hand over, betray.” While some take this to refer to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, more likely, it points to him being “handed over” to his enemies by God and in accordance with His plan.

This verb is in the passive voice. This signifies that Jesus was acted upon; that is to say, God handed him over to those who wished him harm, then raised him from the dead. This is the same verb found in the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, in the “Suffering Servant” passages in the book of Isaiah:

  • (Isaiah 53:6) – “The Lord delivered him up for our sins.
  • (Isaiah 53:12) – “Because his soul was delivered up to death, and he was numbered among the transgressors.”

Chapter 53 of Isaiah is part of its prophetic section on the “Suffering Servant.” Similarly, in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter declared that Jesus was “delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” The sin of mankind was the cause of the death of the Messiah. In the end, he died on behalf of all men and women – (Acts 2:23).

Despite his dire prediction, the disciples began to debate which of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom. While Jesus described his mission as suffering for others, the disciples measured “greatness” by grandness and power – They continued to think as the world does.

Servant to All

(Mark 9:33-37) – “And they came into Capernaum. And happening to be in the house, he was questioning them— What in the way were ye discussing? And they were silent; for with one another they had discussed in the way who should be greatest. And taking a seat, he addressed the twelve and saith unto them— If anyone willeth to be first, he shall be least of all and minister of all. And taking a child, he set it in the midst of them— and folding it in his arms, said unto them— Whosoever unto one of these children shall give welcome upon my name, unto me giveth welcome; and whosoever unto me giveth welcome, not unto me giveth welcome, but unto him that sent me” – (Parallel passages: Matthew 18:1-5, Luke 9:46-48).

In the version of this account in Matthew, the fuller question was – “Who is greatest in the kingdom of the heavens?” One must “turn and become as the children” to enter the kingdom – (Matthew 18:1-3).

The Greek text reads, “in the house,” indicating the discussion took place in a specific or known house in Capernaum, possibly the house of Peter – (Compare – Mark 1:29). The Greek word rendered “servant” or “minister” is diakonos, from which the church derived the title ‘deacon.’ In secular Greek, it referred to persons that waited on tables – (Acts 6:1-5, Romans 16:1, 1 Timothy 3:8-12).

By embracing the child, Jesus demonstrated what it meant to become a “servant to all.” He did not use the child to symbolize child-like faith, innocence, or humility, but instead to show that the true “servant” is one who embraces fellow believers who are little and insignificant. The disciple is not to emulate childish behavior or attitudes. Rather, he ministers to the weak, the marginalized, and the insignificant, just as Jesus did.

The real point is how Jesus treated the child. His disciples are summoned to be like Jesus, the Messiah who embraced the child, not to be childish or immature. Self-giving service to one another is a common theme throughout the New Testament, one based on the teachings of Jesus. Note the following examples:

  • (Mark 10:42-45) – “You know that they who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you: but whosoever would become great among you, shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you, shall be the servant of all. For the Son of man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
  • (Romans 12:10) – “Love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”
  • (Philippians 2:3-4) – “Doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.”

Jesus concluded – “And whosoever shall receive me does not receive me, but him who sent me.” He was (and is) the agent, the Divine envoy, God’s designated ruler, and his ultimate representative. To reject him is to reject God.

Instead of fretting about their own positions in the kingdom, the disciples should have been concerned about meeting the needs of the weak, the insignificant, the sick, the persecuted, and the outcast.

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