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His Death & Our Discipleship



Thomas Barr takes us through the middle of Mark’s Gospel, where Jesus answers the question, “Why did he come?” On three separate occasions, Jesus answers clearly: He came to die. In each death prediction, Jesus explained to his followers what it would look like to be a disciple: self-denial, service, and suffering.

Key Takeaway

Every time we misunderstand what God seems to be plainly telling us, He gently comes alongside us and teaches us what we actually need to learn. In order to be a true disciple, certain things will be required of us, but He is quick to show us the way.

The second half of Mark answers the question of why Jesus came. He isn't trying to hide anything and tells them three times that He came to die, but the Disciples never get it, so Jesus gives them a lesson after each encounter where they misunderstand.

What is the nature of the death of Jesus?

Jesus predicts His death three times. See Mark 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33. He uses terms like "must," "is," and "will," implying that there is no uncertainty or hesitancy about it.

  1. It is inevitable. His death wasn't a tragic accident. It's exactly what He came to do. The disciples are confused because they are thinking of Daniel 7, the Messiah, the conquering King. Jesus is thinking Isaiah 52 and 53, the conquering King, but also the suffering servant.
  2. It is transactional. He told us exactly what He was doing. Jesus CAME, He stepped into humanity and left Heaven to be with us. He was a RANSOM, the payment for the release of someone, their redemption. There had to be a transaction in order to save you. If you violate an eternal God, you pay for eternity. Sin assumes a debt, and forgiveness assumes the debt. He did this FOR us, meaning "instead of" or "in place of." Jesus CAME to be the RANSOM FOR many. See Mark 10:45.

This dynamic changes our hearts. Self-sacrifice always moves us.

Every time Jesus talks about His death, the Disciples are talking about their status. His self-sacrifice stands in stark contrast to their self-centeredness.

What is the nature of our discipleship to Jesus?

  1. It requires self-denial. See Mark 8:34-35. Denial means to disown or dismiss. See, we are called to disown ourselves as the most important thing on the planet. It's the loss of your own life. Whatever it is that you think you have to have to make you happy, if you try to find the ultimate meaning in that thing, you are going to be miserable. That thing will eventually lead to death. In Christ, all life is found. In losing your life, you find it. It's not miserable; it's majestic.
  2. It requires service. See Mark 9:33-37. We always want to be greater than everyone around us, but by Jesus' definition, if you want to be great, then you have to serve others. This was very counter-cultural. Our priority is to meet the needs of others. In Mark 9:37, the child is an illustration saying to serve the helpless and vulnerable in your life. Later, the Romans would kick their kids out to die if there was a famine. It was the Christians that took them in at their own expense. This is what sets the Church apart.
  3. It requires suffering. See Mark 10:35-45. To sit at the right or left of a ruler gave you a position of power. That's what James and John were asking to be given to them. They were looking for status. Jesus was at His peak glory when He was on the Cross. Just like greatness comes through service, glory will come through suffering.
    • The cup refers to the cup of wrath, and the baptism Jesus is referencing means to be engulfed. He is saying He is going to drink our cup of wrath and be consumed by our storm of sin. Jesus implies that James and John cannot drink of the exact same contents that He did because He was the only one that could do it, but they will face suffering...they just won't be consumed. He did all the work for us.

The only genuine motivation for discipleship is gratitude: look at what this Hero has done to love and save me.


"For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for man."

John Stott

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Scripture References

  • Mark 8:31-25
  • Mark 9:30-37
  • Mark 10:32-45
Thomas Barr Thomas Barr works on staff at Passion City Church D.C., helping form the local church spiritually through teaching and written content. He also studies Historical Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. His favorite things are friends and books.