Cost of Discipleship

Jesus sent his Twelve Disciples to proclaim the kingdom throughout the region. In the Gospel of Mark, his instructions to them are followed by the execution of John the Baptist. His death prepares the reader for the rejection that inevitably results whenever any disciple follows Jesus of Nazareth no matter the cost.

To walk in his footsteps, the disciple must first count the cost to have any hope of seeing the journey through to the end. Discipleship comes with great personal cost.

Counting Costs - Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash
[Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash]

He sent the disciples to proclaim the arrival of the “
Kingdom of God,” 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. They would do more than simply teach religious principles. In effect, they were witnesses to how the Jewish people responded to their Messiah and his offer of the Kingdom - (Deuteronomy 19:15).

Jesus “began to send them forth.” The Greek verb translated as “began” indicated 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 term “apostle” is derived. They were to “put on sandals…do not put on two tunics.” The description refers to the inner garment worn beneath their outer cloaks.

The items they were to carry - staff, belt, sandals, tunic - corresponded 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).

The Twelve were to announce something of far more importance than the original exodus from Egypt. Like the ancient Israelites, they must not be encumbered with anything that might impede their journey. Just as there was urgency in Israel’s flight from Egypt, so there was 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 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 did this, it was tantamount to declaring that the offending Jewish village was Gentile territory and ritually unclean.

With the arrival of the Messiah, there could be no presumption of salvation based on geography or ethnicity. How one responded to Jesus and his message determined inclusion in or exclusion from the covenant people of God.


The Gospel of Mark inserts the story of the execution of John the Baptist between the sending of the Twelve and their return. His unjust death provides an example of the cost of becoming a disciple - (Mark 6:14-29).

Herod Antipas was one of the sons of Herod the Great, the ruler of Galilee and Peræa, and the vassal of Rome. As the local ruler appointed by Rome, he had the authority to execute prisoners convicted of capital crimes in his jurisdiction.

Herodias divorced the half-brother of Herod Antipas so she could marry him, a violation of the Mosaic regulations regarding incest. Though a wife could divorce her husband under Roman law, the Mosaic Law did not allow a wife to initiate divorce proceedings against her husband. In the eyes of the Baptist, Herodias was still married to the half-brother of Antipas, making her an adulteress - (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21).

The daughter of Herodias is unnamed in the passage in Mark. But the Jewish historian Josephus identified her as ‘Salome,’ the daughter of Herodias and her first husband.

The execution of John foreshadowed the death of Jesus. Like John, he was executed by the representative of Rome. Like Herod, Pontius Pilate would hesitate to kill him since he knew Jesus was a righteous man, yet he would do so anyway. Like the Temple authorities who demanded Christ’s death and manipulated the crowds to call for it, Herodias got her way through by manipulating her husband.

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

  • (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 mission of the Twelve Disciples with the opposition from the religious and political authorities in Jerusalem, both Roman and Jewish. The story highlights the hard truth that disciples of the Nazarene must be willing to follow in his footsteps even when doing so leads to suffering and even unjust death.

  • His Path - (Jesus proclaimed a new political reality, the Kingdom of God, and it bears little resemblance to the political regimes and ideologies of the world)
  • To Follow the Lamb - (The Messiah of Israel submitted to the way of the Cross and summoned his disciples to follow his example in their daily lives)
  • Embracing the Cross - (To be the Messiah entailed suffering and death for others, and Jesus summoned his disciples to follow his example – Mark 8:31)



Ekklésia - Assembly of God

Going on to Perfection