First Act. Presentation of Jesus: Mark 1.14-8.30
Act 1: Scene 6. It’s Show and Tell Time: Mark 6.1-56
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➨ The clean text below (without chapter or verse markings) reflects the literary-structure of the original author. Sections that are flush-left indicate a section in itself. When the flush-left is followed by an indented pararagraph(s), the indented paragraphs are included in the specific section. It’s a different way for you to read but is much closer than the additives version of our modern Bibles.
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.
These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 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.”
They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
Others said, “He is Elijah.”
And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.
The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”
“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.
At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.
When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.
Learning is acquired from “show and tell” times. My wife is a well-qualified teacher with years of experience in the class room. In a previous employment assignment, she functioned as a facilitator to a small group of kindergarten kids who have learning disabilities. Her endurance amazed me. She worked a full day with differently-abeled children and then came home and functioned as a loving parent and care-taker of our adult differently-abeled child. One of her tasks was to teach these squirmy little kindergarteners social skills. The school district believed that they can best learn these skills in a class room situation using a set of pre-determined curriculum of the specific social skills that it is believed these little tots should learn, which was a kind of social engineering. She, on the other hand, believed and still believes that they can best learn these social skills in an ad hoc real life show and tell situation. The difference in education philosophy only bread tension. Jesus apparently sought to teach his disciples, really in the scope of things, kindergarteners, by showing them what to do and then allowing them to do it.
One of my mentors on the praxis side was John Wimber. When he trained someone he took them through the following pattern:
- model an activity while the one being trained was watching
- allow the one being trained to do the activity and interact with her or him
- leave the person being trained doing the activity and then check back with the person later
- encourage the one being trained to model the same activity and then follow the pattern with them.
Go ahead, give this pattern a try sometime in any are of life in which you are providing training.
Observing the Story
In this section, Mark continues his story of Jesus invading this present evil age with his words and works. He turns to the topic of discipleship. There are six segments in this section: opportunity lost (Mark 6.1-6a); opportunity found (Mark 6.6b-13); guilt of Herod and glory of John the Baptist (Mark 6.14-29); dining out (Mark 6.30-44); disciples terrified (Mark 6.45-52); and demanding crowds (Mark 6.53-56).
Interpreting the Story
Opportunities Lost (Mark 6.1-6a)
Jesus returned to Nazareth about twenty miles from Capernaum with his disciples and on the Sabbath taught in the synagogue. The home folks were amazed or overwhelmed by his teaching. The townspeople were acquainted with the family of Jesus and the family trade. They cannot believe that God would work through anyone so common and well-known. They believed that Jesus was an imposter, implying that his works were enabled by the power of Satan. In spite of his impressive works, he was seen as too ordinary for them. The phrase, “Mary’s son,” was derogatory since a man was not described as his mother’s son in Jewish usage even if she was a widow, except by insult. These calculated insults may also suggest that the townspeople knew there was something unusual about the birth of Jesus.
The townspeople were scandalized (took offence (NIV/ISV) by Jesus because they found no reason to believe that he could minister the way he did.. The action of the word implies continuous scandalization) Because of their persistent unbelief, he could only do a shade of what he had accomplished in other places. There was no limitation of his power by him but by their unbelief. Jesus was astonished at their unwillingness to believe and accept the power of God. So far as we know, he never returned to Nazareth again. Nazareth lost its opportunity to be blessed by God because of her unbelief.
The refusal to believe in Jesus would soon be experienced by the disciples of Jesus (Mark 6.6b-13) as well as Mark’s readers as they shared the gospel message with unbelievers. There is a lesson in this for Mark’s readers: while unbelief and rejection will be the response of many to the gospel, we are to commit ourselves to the Lord with decisive belief, faith, and action
Behind the Scenes
His brothers and sisters are mentioned in the story. His brother James became the leader in the early church at Jerusalem (Acts 15.13-21) and authored the book of James (James 1.1). His brother Judas was the author of the book of Jude (Jude 1.1). Nothing is known about his other brothers or sisters, except that the brothers may have been a part of the upper room group mentioned in Acts 1.14. In response to their disbelief, Jesus referred to himself as one who prophesies who had no honor in his own hometown.
Opportunity Found (Mark 6.6b-13)
Verse 6b introduces a new stage in the ministry of Jesus. He will now include his disciples in his invasion of the demonic realm. Following the rejection at Nazareth, Jesus sent out the disciples and gave them authority over evil spirits and the ravaging of Satan’s domain. The disciples were authorized representatives of Jesus, missionaries if you please, not to be confused with modern missionaries. This is in keeping with the Jewish concept that a man’s representative was considered the same as the sender.
The urgency of their mission required them to travel lightly. They could take a walking stick and wear ordinary footwear. However, they were not to take goods, traveling provisions, money, or an extra garment to keep them warm at night. They were being taught to depend on God to provide all of their needs on their mission.
That’s a difficult concept in the world in which we live. There are many ways for God to take care of his children, working for yourself, as Jesus did in his stone mason trade, or working for another. Most of my adult life has been spent “working for God,” sometimes in the church with a salary, but most of the time not in the church. He has been faithful for many years to me and my family.
The disciples were to stay in homes they were invited into and make that a base of their operation until they left town. They were told to expect rejection. They certainly had seen this in action in the acts of the home folks at Nazareth. If any place would not listen to their message, they were to disassociate themselves from that place. This idea is a part of love that we don’t often practice, since we have developed a rather modern way of thinking about love, which is usually more talk than action
The disciples preached the good news of the kingdom, drove out many demons, and healed many sick people. As with Jesus, the kingdom was displayed in their words and works, which carried the same message.
Guilt of Herod and Glory of John the Baptist (Mark 6.14-29)
Because of guilt, Herod arrested John the Baptist (Mark 1.14). The Herod mentioned here was the son of Herod the Great, and was appointed by Augustus to be one of four rulers in Palestine after Herod the Great died. He rebuilt the city of Caesarea Philippi, calling it by his own name to distinguish it from the Caesarea on the seacoast, which was the seat of the Roman government. While Herodias, and her daughter, were residing at Rome with her husband, Herod Philip I, Herod Antipas fell in love with her during one of his journeys to that city. She consented to leave her husband and become his wife. Sometime after, Herod met John the Baptist, who boldly declared their marriage to be contrary to Jewish Law (Lev. 18.16).
Of course, for this public ridicule, John was beheaded for fearlessly proclaiming the truth about Herod’s marriage. The scene where his head is placed on a platter illustrates that there is often a cost to discipleship. This story is placed here by Mark to demonstrate the consequences of rejecting those who carry God’s kingdom message in their words and works.
Dining Out! (Mark 6.30-44)
The disciples returned from their mission and reported their success. So many people had been helped that the disciples did not have any time to themselves. Jesus suggested that they take a short rest. But the crowds anticipated their destination and arrived ahead of Jesus and his disciples. When Jesus saw them, he had compassion on them seeing them as sheep without a shepherd, lost and helpless, without guidance, nourishment, or protection.
After teaching all day about the kingdom (it was after 3 p.m. Jewish time), the disciples asked Jesus to dismiss the large crowd so they could go to the surrounding villages before sunset and eat. In an unexpected turn, Jesus told his disciples to feed the crowd. This was not cool news. They quickly calculated that to feed this crowd it would take about eight months’ wages. It was beyond their natural means.
Jesus sent them out to find what was available. It was a mere five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus organized the large party by having the disciples seat them in groups of 100s and 50s. Jesus served as the host and spoke a blessing over the food. Looking up to heaven, which was regarded as to where God was, was an action to make plain his dependence on the Father for a miraculous provision of food, not necessarily to note that that is the living room of the creator of the universe. He broke the loaves and divided the fish and kept giving the broken pieces to the disciples to give to the people. The language implies that the bread multiplied in the hands of Jesus as he broke it. Everyone was fully satisfied and there were twelve basketfuls of leftovers. The count of 5,000 men did not include the women and children. There should never be a time that we as Jesus followers should fear that there will not be enough provided for a task that Jesus sends us to do. –>
Disciples Terrified (Mark 6.45-52)
After the feeding of the 5,000, the disciples returned to the boat to set sail to the other side. After dismissing the excited crowd, Jesus went to be by himself and pray. Between sunset and darkness, the disciples were well out into the lake having little success because of a strong wind that blew against them. Somewhere between 3 and 6 a.m., Jesus saw their difficulty. Like an Old Testament theophany, he meant to come along beside them and reassure them. But, in terror at the appearance of Jesus on the water, the disciples cried out. They thought Jesus was a water phantom. Jesus calmed their fears and spoke a word of reassurance: “Stop fearing!” When Jesus joined the disciples in the boat, the wind stopped demonstrating another work of the rule of God. The disciples were amazed (completely out of their minds, most likely) at this revelation of Jesus’ power.
Demanding Crowds (Mark 6.53-56)
There is no rest for those who follow Jesus and do his works. Once folks find out that healing is available, they will flock to have their ills taken care of.
Living Into The Story
- How many times has your community of faith or you personally lost what God intended for you because of your unbelief? How can that be altered in the future (Mark 6.1-6)?
- How does your community of faith and you personally trust God for everyday things in life (Mark 6.6b-13)?
- In what ways has Jesus taken your community of faith’s little and made it overflow to meet a need (Mark 6.30-44)?
- Is it your community of faith’s custom to pray after you have ministered to others (Mark 6.45-52)?
- In what ways has your community of faith participated in the rule of God in action and had the same reaction as the disciples of Jesus when he came to them on the water (Mark 5.25-34)?
- How is rest redefined by Jesus?
- Read Mark 7.1-8.30
Easy to Understand
Tom Wright. Mark for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone [Paperback]
Winn Griffin. Gracelets: Being Conduits of the Extravagant Acts of God’s Grace [Paperback]
Ben Witherington III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary.
William L. Lane. The Gospel according to Mark: The English Text With Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)