1531.) Mark 6

The city of Nazareth today is dominated by the distinctive roof of the beautiful Basilica of the Annunciation.

The city of Nazareth today is dominated by the distinctive roof of the beautiful Basilica of the Annunciation.

Mark 6 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. 2 The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” 3 Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

One can understand their incredulity.  Jesus left town only to come back as a rabbi with a group of students.  “Just a carpenter” is a jibe at his lack of scholarly training.  “Son of Mary” is derisive, also, perhaps referring to the illegitimacy of his birth.  They knew just enough about him to think they knew everything about him — a fault that I, too, have displayed at times.

4 Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” 5 And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Jewish unbelief and Gentile belief — both of them caused Christ to marvel:

Luke 7:9 (New Living Translation)

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!”

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Disciples

Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people. 7 And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. 8 He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick—no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. 9 He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.

10 “Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. 11 But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

ANCIENT HOSPITALITY

A visit to Israel will quickly convince you that hospitality in this ancient land must often have been a matter of life and death.  Imagine taking a short hike in the middle of the day in summer.  It’s ninety degrees in the shade—but there is no shade, only an endless rocky landscape dotted by a few scraggly shrubs.  Now imagine that you can’t climb into an air-conditioned car to get out of the searing heat.  Nor can you reach for an ice-cold bottle of water to slake your thirst because grocery stores from which to purchase bottled water haven’t yet been invented.  Not only that, but the road on which you are walking is frequented by robbers who make their living off vulnerable travelers.  But, thank God, there is something in this rugged country that works in your favor.  It is hospitality.  You can approach any of the residents of this ancient land for food, water, and shelter, and they will gladly provide it . . .

Understanding such a custom sheds light on a familiar scene from the Gospels.  When Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach in the surrounding villages, he gave them instructions that sound radical to us:  “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts . . . And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:8, 11).  Taking this passage literally, some Christians have gone with little or no money to places that don’t have the same high regard for hospitality that existed in Jesus’ day.  And even though God can provide for them, it seems clear that Jesus wasn’t asking his disciples to count on daily miracles to sustain them.  Instead, he knew that the disciples of an esteemed rabbi would normally be warmly welcomed.  Any community that failed to treat his disciples with honor deserved to be left behind.

In a land without police, social welfare, or insurance agencies to provide for people, mutual dependence was vital to survival.

(pp. 130-131)

12 So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. 13 And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.

The Death of John the Baptist

“Salome (with the head of John the Baptist)” by Jean Benner, 1899

“Salome (with the head of John the Baptist)” by Jean Benner, 1899

14 Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because everyone was talking about him. Some were saying, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. That is why he can do such miracles.” 15 Others said, “He’s the prophet Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet like the other great prophets of the past.”

16 When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.”

17 For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. 18 John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, 20 for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.

21 Herodias’s chance finally came on Herod’s birthday. He gave a party for his high government officials, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee. 22 Then his daughter, also named Herodias, came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod and his guests. “Ask me for anything you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you.” 23 He even vowed, “I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!”

24 She went out and asked her mother, “What should I ask for?”

Her mother told her, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist!”

25 So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!”

26 Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn’t refuse her.

I have read that the Greek word used here of Herod’s distress is the same word used for the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane.  But Herod’s sorrow wasn’t enough to make him stand up to his wicked wife.  As one Bible commentator has put it, “How many have we known, whose heads have been broken with their own rib?”

27 So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison, 28 brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother. 29 When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came to get his body and buried it in a tomb.

“The tyrant dies and his rule ends, the martyr dies and his rule begins.”

–Soren Kierkegaard

Jesus Feeds Five Thousand

A mosaic of fishes and loaves from a church in Tabgha, along the Sea of Galilee.

A mosaic of fishes and loaves from a church in Tabgha, along the Sea of Galilee.

30 The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. 31 Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.

32 So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. 33 But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. 34 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

“Sheep without a shepherd . . .”

  • are needy, because they have no Shepherd to fill their wants.
  • are hungry and thirsty, because they have no Shepherd to make them lie down in green pastures or to lead them beside still waters.
  • hurt, because they have no Shepherd to restore their soul.
  • wander, because they have no Shepherd to lead them in paths of righteousness.
  • are vulnerable, because they have no Shepherd to protect them with His rod.

–David Guzik

35 Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. 36 Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.”

37 But Jesus said, “You feed them.”

“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”

38 “How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.”

They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.”

39 Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass.

The “sheep without a shepherd” now have Jesus as their Good Shepherd, and he makes them “lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2).

40 So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.

41 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them.

Jesus may have said what Jewish fathers of the time generally said while breaking the bread at the beginning of the meal:
“Blessed is he who brings forth bread from the earth.”

The blessing we often use at our house goes like this:
“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest,
And may these gifts to us be blessed,
And may our souls by thee be fed,
Christ, our ever-living bread.”

Luke 24:30-31 (English Standard Version)

When Jesus was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.

Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. 42 They all ate as much as they wanted, 43 and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. 44 A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed from those loaves!

Jesus Walks on Water

45 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. 46 After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.

47 Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. 50 They were all terrified when they saw him.

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” 51 Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, 52 for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.

53 After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. They brought the boat to shore 54 and climbed out. The people recognized Jesus at once, 55 and they ran throughout the whole area, carrying sick people on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 Wherever he went—in villages, cities, or the countryside—they brought the sick out to the marketplaces. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is Brian Doerksen and his “Your Love Is Amazing.”  Hallelujah!

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Nazareth.     http://www.atlastours.net/holyland/nazareth.jpg
Benner.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/Salome_Jean_Benner_c1899.jpg
mosaic of fishes and loaves.     http://wiki.faithfutures.org/images/0/07/Tabgha_mosaic_of_fish_and_loaves_tb_n011500_wr.jpg
sheep.    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3285/2900894100_9a71bb9f1e.jpg
Frie.    http://fineartamerica.com/images-small/five-loaves-two-fish-original-suzanne-rittenhouse-frie.jpg
Jesus walks on water.    http://jfreakm71.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/jesus-walking-on-water.jpg
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