Several years ago William Nolan, an American surgeon, wrote a bestseller entitled: The Making of a Surgeon. I didn’t personally read the entire book, but the book reviews remarked, ‘”it describes the fundamental cost of a medical education; the sacrifice one makes to acquire surgical expertise; the disruptions to the family life as emergencies have to be dealt with; the low pay of an intern and the resident.” Part of the book’s purpose was to justify to the public the staggering incomes of American surgeons enjoy and to improve the public image of MDs.
Mark the apostle has written a bestseller too! “The Making of a Disciple”.
Mark addresses the matter of discipleship more thoroughly than any other gospel writer. Unlike Dr. Nolan, however, Mark doesn‘t write through the leading of the Spirit, to justify huge incomes of disciples (Disciples, he knows are promised anything but riches.) Neither does he write to improve the public image of disciples (It’s impossible to improve the public image of those who follow an unkempt Jew, soon to be executed between two terrorists at a city garbage dump.)
Then why has Mark written this book? I uncovered possibly two reasons:
FIRST–He wishes to encourage those who are disciples now and how they became Jesus’ disciples; to give them a fresh heart in the view of the savagery in front of them through the emperor Nero.
SECONDLY–Mark is confident in his writing that God will use this book, “The Making of a Disciple” to enlist even more disciples of Jesus Christ.
When John Mark wrote his gospel for Christians from Rome in the year of 65, there were five “house churches” and five small congregations within a city populated with approximately one million people. Think of that for a moment: 100 Christians approximately, in a city of one million. Obviously, church discipleship programs were not very popular in a time of persecution involving five house churches. Mark wrote his gospel to encourage these people and to enlist others who weren’t disciples yet.
. Then how does one become a disciple?
. What characteristics are attributed to those who have been enlisted?
. What distinguishes disciples from onlookers?
I won’t take the time of course to examine the entire Gospel of Mark, so I chose to examine one small section that encapsulates the process where disciples are made. The section I chose was exactly where I had been reading in my morning devotions this week.
THE FIRST MOMENT of DISCIPLESHIP–Bartimaeus was BLIND: Mark 10:46-52
When Jesus was coming up out of Jericho on His way to Jerusalem for the Passover Celebration, He stopped… after hearing the poor blind beggar sitting along the roadside, crying for mercy. At the sound of his cries, we are told that “Jesus stood still!”
“Then Joshua spoke to the Lord on the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, be silent and stand still…and you, moon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed… There was no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man” (Joshua 10:12-14).
Is there a thing more remarkable than “Jesus Stood Still”? In Joshua, there was one thing to cause the sun to stand still. But here in the gospel of Mark, we have before us a man who cause the God who made the sun to stand still.
 “Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, a son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.  And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, saying, Jesus, Son of David, have pity and mercy on me [now]!  And many severely censured and reproved him, telling him to keep still, but he kept on shouting out all the more, You Son of David, have pity and mercy on me [now]!  And Jesus stopped (stood still!) and said, Call him. And they called the blind man, telling him, Take courage! [Take heart!] Get up! He is calling you” (Mark 10:46-49 AMP).
What a wonderful, amazing picture we have before us. The Omnipotent God stopped in His tracks; held in place by the cry of a needy soul for His mercy. He was on His way to Jerusalem to accomplish the redemption of His people to fulfill the will of His Father. Nothing could stop Him; nothing could detour Him from His work:
. Not Herod!
. Not Satan!
. Not the Pharisees!
. Not His Disciples!
But one solitary, helpless soul…one beggar crying for mercy, looking for help and believing Him, crying to Him– stopped the Son of God in His tracks…And Jesus stood still.”
In the 1st Century, there was no N.F.B available (National Federation of the Blind); no social assistance programs. Blindness always entailed poverty. Bartimaeus was blind and poor symbolically; he lacked both enlightenment and resources. Yet he had heard the man from Nazareth, Jesus, was in the neighborhood.
“Called out in a shout”:
Sitting on the well-traveled road, he must have heard the people in the vicinity talking about the approaching Jesus and His disciples. He began shouting, hoping this man could relieve him of his darkness and his resourcelessness.
The first moment in the making of a disciple is a clear admission. That, however much we may know, or how much expertise we think we have in a matter; when it comes to a deep-seated issue of life, we haven’t a clue how blind and poor we really are.
Be sure to notice one thing in this story:
Bartimaeus doesn’t have any understanding of Jesus. He doesn’t call out “Son of God” or “Savior” or “Lord”. Any of these endearing terms would mean he had recognized the deity, the Incarnate One. He can only affirm Jesus is related to Israel’s great king David. Now “son of David” means “Messiah”. So was Bartimaeus possessed with unusual foresight? Absolutely not! More than likely, in his desperation he called out to the wonder-worker, hoping Jesus might be God’s agent in remedying the world’s wrongs; vindicating the victimized, even granting sight to the blind. He hasn’t yet apprehended this Messiah is also “Emanuel”; God-with-us, the Incarnate One. For this reason, he makes no confession of faith. He simply calls out with a shout, “Help me, help me!”
When does discipleship begin?
It doesn’t begin after theological know-how. Discipleship begins when we recognize the muddiness and impoverishment in our lives. We simply ask for help like Bartimaeus. We have to be persistent with our plea–“help me”, even in an unsympathetic crowd telling us to be quiet.
Discipleship is in truth–the Apprenticeship Begins!
Discipleship is much simpler than most of us can imagine. Our slightest admission of our own need and Christ’s availability renders us disciples-in-the-making (‘apprenticeship‘).
If someone tells me he’s certain about very little of what the church says, even of what the church says about Jesus, yet feels that Jesus has light to shed; truth to impart and strength to lend. If that person says, “All I can do for now is try to do the little that I do know,” that person is a disciple.
At the same time, discipleship is more challenging than people imagine because they have to keep-on-keeping on in the apprenticeship despite detractors.
Do you ever wonder about a large number of people joining the congregation, then slowly drift away, never to be seen again? About pastors who persuaded the church conference hierarchy they were called of God to the work of the ministry and are now selling life insurance?
As much as we need to perceive our spiritual blindness, our spiritual poverty, we have to persist. Bartimaeus persisted by calling out to Jesus. He persisted because he knew unless Jesus helped him, he would always be blind, resourceless. His persistence came from his unsatisfied craving. It was enough to stop Jesus in His tracks and have Jesus say, “Call that fellow”.
THE SECOND MOMENT of Disciples in APPRENTICESHIP:
The urging to “Take heart” or “Take courage”. Someone in the crowd that particular day who heard Bartimaeus’ plea and sympathizes with him says, “Take courage! Get up! Jesus is calling you.” This wasn’t a fluffy suggestion to cheer up. While there is only one reason to realistically take courage, the one reason happens to be the profound and sufficient reason. Jesus Christ is in the neighborhood!
Since Bartimaeus is blind, he can’t see how close Jesus is. The truth? Jesus is so close to him where he is right now as He could ever be. There are other situations in Scripture that these words were spoken and welcomed–“Take courage.”
“And behold, they brought to Him (Jesus), a man paralyzed and prostrated by illness, lying on a sleeping pad; and when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man, Take courage [take heart!], son; your sins are forgiven and the penalty remitted” (Matthew 9:2 AMP).
The Greek word used is “charseite,” “Be of good cheer”; “Courage!” in the imperative. The words are not a suggestion; not a recommendation of our Lord nor is it wishful thinking on the part of the hearers. We are commanded to take heart, take courage. We must be of good cheer; and this only is because Jesus has heard our plea; turned to us and isn’t going to overlook us, pretending He didn’t hear us. We may and must take courage because our Lord and Savior, at this very moment, is pouring out upon us what we need most. He meets us precisely at the point of our pain; our distress; our confusion and fright. And we do take heart, for as He speaks His Word to us, it becomes His deed within us. “Take heart” means, He our Lord, has lent us His heart.
Jesus doesn’t come waltzing onto the scene, with a camera-ready smile saying, “Cheer up folks, its happy hour!” Rather, just as we cry “Son of David, have mercy on me,” because He had come into our “space.” So now that He is here (for has He not turned to us and called out to us, albeit through those already disciples?). His even greater closeness has made effective and believable the Word which makes and sustains disciples–“Take heart”, “Take courage”.
In the upcoming Part Two post; Disciples in Apprenticeship, I will give you the third momentto consider in our apprenticeship: Bartimaeus followed Jesus.