The message was reinforced in ways from which Mark would never recover. It would begin in Mark’s family home. In that place the disciples gathered and Jesus got on his knees and washed their feet. The disciples had never seen such a thing before, and neither had Mark, watching from the shadows. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher,” Jesus offered, “have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).
Time moved forward. Long after Jesus ascended into Heaven and the Church sprung into existence, Mark joined apostles Paul and Barnabas on a journey into Asia Minor. He would not go far. Acts 13:13 shares that Mark bailed on them in the port city of Perga, overwhelmed by the journey to come, anxious to return to what was comfortable. One must imagine Paul glaring at Mark, exhorting him to embrace the life of a doulos, or bondslave of Jesus Christ. O what Mark thought when, back at home in Jerusalem, he learned that Paul was later nearly stoned to death because of his testimony for Jesus (see Acts 14:19-23).
More years passed. Mark’s mentor Peter was about to be executed. Everyone knew it was coming, including Peter. It was at this time Peter penned a final letter to the church—a letter that simply began: Simeon Peter, a bondslave and apostle of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:1). More than being an apostle, Peter was a slave.
To Christ Jesus.
And none other.
Service and Slavery
It is completely fitting Mark should include these in his response to a painful question asked by the Roman believers, the question of whether following Jesus was worthwhile in light of the persecution the believers faced.
Jesus’ own words offer insight into the power of servanthood as a statement about eternal allegiances: whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45).
The word “servant” referenced by the Lord suggests providing aid or help with a loving and tender spirit, a joyful willingness. The word “slave” reference by our Lord suggests complete and total bondage to a master, with no concern for personal interests. These two words put together, as by Jesus in Mark 10:43-44, offer a powerful definition of what it means to be a Christian: one willing to give what is best with a joyful spirit and out of complete abandon to the Lord and his agenda. By giving his own life as a ransom for many, Jesus fully embodied the spirit of this definition. As his followers, so must we.
Is it Worthwhile?
Thus, when the question came from the Christians persecuted by Rome as to whether dying for Jesus was worthwhile, Mark could offer, “Absolutely, for with allegiance to the Master, even to death, we declare his glory above all things, and show a desperate and lost world there is hope beyond the grave.”