Cost of Discipleship

To be his disciple means taking up the cross and following in his footsteps, even if it results in death - Mark 6:7-30. 

Jesus sent the twelve disciples to proclaim the kingdom throughout the region. And in Mark, his instructions to them are followed by the execution of John the Baptist. His death prepares the reader for the rejection that inevitably will result when any disciple follows Jesus of Nazareth.

To walk in his footsteps, one must first count the cost to have any hope of seeing the journey through to the end. Discipleship does not come without personal cost.

He sent the disciples to proclaim the arrival of the “kingdom,” cast out demons, and pray for the sick, and he gave them his authority to do so. Just as he was the representative of the Father, so the twelve disciples became his envoys to Israel - (Mark 6:7-13).


He summoned the twelve and began to send them out two by two.” This is in accord with the Mosaic Law that requires that a man’s testimony be corroborated by two or more witnesses. These twelve men will do more than simply teach religious principles. In effect, they are witnesses of how the Jewish people respond to their Messiah - (Deuteronomy 19:15).

Jesus “began to send them forth.” The Greek verb rendered “began” indicates that he sent them to preach on more than one occasion.  The term apostellō or “send forth” is related to the noun apostolos from which the noun “apostle” is derived.

Put on sandals…do not put on two tunics.” This description refers to the inner garment worn by the men of that day beneath their outer cloaks.

The items they are to carry - staff, belt, sandals, tunic - correspond to the instructions given to Israel on the night of Passover in Egypt - “In this manner, you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is Yahweh's Passover” - (Exodus 12:11).

They are to announce something of far more import than the original exodus from Egypt. Like the ancient Israelites, they must not be unencumbered with anything that might impede their journey. Just as there was urgency in Israel’s flight from Egypt, so there is urgency in their mission to proclaim the kingdom in the villages of Galilee.

And shake off the dust under your feet for a witness.” It was the common practice of devout and patriotic Jews when traveling through Gentile lands - to shake the dust off their feet when they arrived home so no “unclean” pagan soil would pollute the land of Israel.

When the disciples do this, it is tantamount to declaring the offending Jewish village is Gentile territory and ritually unclean. With the arrival of the Messiah, there can be no presumption of salvation based on geography, nationality, or ethnicity. From now on, how anyone responds to Jesus determines inclusion in or exclusion from the covenant people of God.


The gospel of Mark inserts the story of John’s execution between the sending of the twelve and their return. His unjust death provides an example of the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus - (Mark 6:14-29).

Herod Antipas was one of the sons of Herod the Great and the tetrarch of Galilee and Peræa. He ruled as the faithful vassal of Rome. “Tetrarch” means the “ruler of a fourth.” Following his death, the domain of Herod the Great was divided between four of his sons. And as the ruler appointed by Rome, Herod Antipas had the authority to execute a prisoner convicted of a capital crime in his realm.

Herodias divorced the half-brother of Herod Antipas so she could marry him, a violation of the Mosaic regulations regarding incest. And though a wife could divorce her husband under Roman law, the Mosaic Law did not allow a wife to initiate divorce proceedings - (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21).

In John’s eyes, Herodias was still married to the half-brother of Antipas, making her an adulteress. In his turn, Herod Antipas divorced his previous wife so he could marry Herodias.

In the passage, the daughter of Herodias is unnamed. But the Jewish historian Josephus identifies her as ‘Salome,’ the daughter of Herodias and her first husband.


In Mark, John’s execution foreshadows the death of Jesus. Like John, he will be executed by the representative of Rome. Like Herod, Pontius Pilate will hesitate to kill him since he knows him to be a righteous man, yet he will do so anyway. And like the Temple authorities that will demand Christ’s death and manipulate the crowds to demand it, Herodias gets her way through her manipulation of her husband.

The disciples of John came for his body and buried him, just as Joseph of Arimathea will request the body of Jesus from Pilate, prepare it carefully, and bury it.

  • (Mark 6:30) – “And the apostles gathered themselves together to Jesus. And they told him all things, whatsoever they had done, and whatsoever they had taught.”

By embedding the death of John in his narrative, Mark links the gospel mission of the disciples with the opposition from the religious and political authorities in Jerusalem, both Roman and Jewish.

The story highlights the hard truth that to become a disciple of the Nazarene one must be willing to follow in his footsteps even when doing so leads to the disciple’s inevitable and unjust death.


The Mission

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