Thoughts and challenges from Mark 6 (Lent Devotional Wk.3)
In preparing for this I read from the beginning of Mark’s gospel and by the time I got to the end of chapter 6 I was mentally breathless - The pace is unrelenting from the start as was commented on in Day 1 “And there we are… Mark dives straight in and reveals who Jesus is. He is the Messiah, the Son of God”.
We’re asking ourselves the question: “Who is this Jesus?” The answer, of course is Son of God, Lord and Saviour and so we need to read these chapters with a view to letting God’s Word reveal more of His Son to us as we seek to “see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly and follow Him more nearly.”
One possible way to look at Jesus is that He is a paradox – 100% God and 100% Man – not 50/50 but 100% of each. What is crystal clear from all the Gospels is that the man Jesus was 100% committed to God – to be submitted to God’s will for his life regardless of the cost.
Looking at Jesus we see a number of His attributes as a man as we look at Mark 6:
Mark 6 v 6: “He was amazed at their lack of faith” Here’s Jesus who performs miracles, casts out demons, feeds loads of people etc, but He is amazed. In this instance it is by the lack of faith, hardness of heart etc of the people He grew up among but elsewhere in Scripture we read of Him being amazed at a person’s faith – and not even a Jew at that: see Luke 7 and the story of the Roman centurion who was a man who understood authority. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Jesus was amazed by our faith?
Shortly after Jesus was amazed at the lack of faith of the people in his home town, He sends out the disciples and “gave them authority over evil spirits” The instructions Mark records as the disciples are sent out are pretty sparse but off they went. Jesus had authority, He used it to give the disciples authority and sent them off. Later in the chapter we read of their return and their report to Jesus of all they had done and taught. Jesus knew how to use authority and delegate it as necessary; He was (and is) able to disciple and not over manage but leave people to get on with what He asks them to do. How do we receive and exercise authority from Jesus?
After sending out the disciples we then have a rather abrupt change of direction in Mark 6 and read of the fate of John the Baptist. The attitude of Herod is shared by many: “when Herod heard John he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him (v20)” John had told him truths he wasn’t keen to hear about his adulterous relationship with Herodias yet John’s message about the need for repentance called to something in Herod which, in the end, was overwhelmed by the fear of man and lead to John’s death at the behest of Herodias.
Meanwhile, after the disciples return to Jesus with their reports of what they did after being sent out we see further examples of how Jesus responded in various situations:
Firstly, He was obviously concerned for the disciples and the difficulties experienced with all the crowds surging around them all, so He tells them to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. (v30)” Despite all the pressure He was under He always found time to look out for others and be concerned for their welfare (even on the cross – see for example John 19 v 25-27). How well do we look out for others (even when we’re busy ourselves)?
Secondly, He had compassion on the crowd and whilst making provision for them also used the situation as an opportunity to continue the lessons of discipleship for the disciples by telling them to feed the 5,000. How can we show compassion in a world where it’s all too easy to have compassion fatigue with all the news coverage there is about disasters, floods, violence etc?
Shortly after the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus walks on the water and we read of the disciples being “terrified (v50)” and that “their hearts were hardened (v52)” Jesus rescues and comforts them, telling them to “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid. (v50)” What a Saviour we have, who encourages us, rescues us and stands alongside. We don’t read here of any recriminations or of the disciples being told off because of their response to the situation so shortly after seeing Jesus perform the miracle of feeding the 5,000. How can we stand alongside and support others?
Finally, we read of Jesus in the villages, towns and countryside and wherever He goes, people begging to touch the edge of his cloak and being healed when they did so. In Mark 5 we read about the woman with the issue of blood who touched his cloak and was healed, and that Jesus was aware that power had gone from Him (Mark 5 v30). So many people wanted to touch Jesus to get something from Him and He freely gave and gave and poured out his love, compassion and healing. He is generous. Thank god that Jesus is the same “yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8)” and that we can freely approach Him because He opened the way for us to do so. How can we be generous to others and use the same measure Jesus used?
When Pete asked me to write one of the pieces for the Lent study on Mark, I can’t say that my immediate response was one of unalloyed joy. However, I must say that it has been a privilege to be able to contribute by way of this piece and I have certainly been blessed in my reading and meditation on Mark 6 – that’s our generous Saviour for you!
Lord Jesus, Saviour, Redeemer, Healer and friend I thank you for your goodness, grace and generosity to me – all undeserved and yet freely given. I ask in turn that, through the enabling of your Holy Spirit, I might be a means of blessing and encouragement to others. Amen.