For an introduction to this series, click here.
Jan. 22, 2007
Jesus had already been rejected by the religious/political establishment, and here Jesus' popularity among the common people begins to wane. He is still popular - this chapter includes the feeding of the 5,000 - but things are beginning to change. The changes begin in his home town of Nazareth. The people there could not get beyond the fact that He was a hometown boy, the son of Joseph the carpenter. They said, "'Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?' And they took offense at him."(6:2-3)
These people were not pleased that Jesus had become a great rabbi. In some way it is a testament to His relatively normal childhood that the people were surprised when Jesus began His ministry. They were like the girl's family in "Million Dollar Baby." When she was only living up to her own potential, her family could not understand because they thought they knew her and did not like the fact that she was making herself better than them. I'm not making an equalization of the Bible and a movie, I'm just pointing out that the writers had an insight into human nature, something that has been exhibited in all times. I think most of you understand that.
Next we have the ministry of the disciples. I can't say that I really know all about why Jesus did this. Most likely it was to divert attention from Himself.
Meanwhile, Mark interjects the story of the murder of John the Baptist. Herod is a pathetic figure. He is obviously dominated by women, as his wife Herodias (who was also either his cousin or his sister) demanded that John be put in jail for preaching against their marriage, and then Herodias' daughter, presumably from Herodias' first husband Philip, danced and had Herod behead John. Herod saw something in John, because "when he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly." (6:20) If only Herod had valued righteousness more than women, John would have been free to preach. Such is the heart of anyone who rejects God. They will at times seem interested, but when the final decision is made, they reject Him.
We will have plenty of opportunities to discuss the feeding of the 5,000 in more detail, but I want to mention one thing here. When Jesus tells the disciples to feed the multitude, they indicate in their reply that they have 200 denarii with them. 200 denarii is a lot of money, about $10,000 in today's economy. Don't get the idea that Jesus and his disciples lived in abject poverty. The Bible mentions several names of people who supported Jesus' ministry. Most of the disciples had commercial trades, and Jesus himself would have obviously been good at anything He put his hand to. Just a thought, not sure what it's worth.
Next we have Jesus walking on the water. It is strange that Mark does not mention the fact that Peter walked on the water. In fact only Matthew mentions it out of the three records of this event. (John also records it.) There is a verse at the end of this section I had not noticed before: "And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened."(6:51-52) The disciples themselves did not really understand everything Jesus was teaching them. Jesus had told them to go across, and yet they were afraid in the storm and did not trust in the same Jesus who had just fed between 15,000 and 25,000 people with five loaves and two fish. How many times do we lack faith in a similar fashion?
I wanted to get to this last section, because a lot of people skip over it. Jesus came back to, or at least near to, the land of the Gadarenes. When Jesus first came there, they chased Him away because He had ruined their pig farm. But now they had time to take in what a wonderful thing Jesus had done for the demon-possessed man, and the former lunatic had time to tell them all about it. This time they came in droves. This man was Jesus' first missionary, and he did an outstanding job. What a wonderful testimony to the power of one man to change people's hearts: "And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well."(6:54-56, ESV)