Mark XII: Responding to the Shepherd - Mark 6:1-44

This collection of episodes gives us a whole list of options to answer Mark’s big question: “Who is Jesus?”. As Mark retells the story of Jesus’ ministry, we’re given a front row seats to watch these various groups of people try puzzle it out through different answers. And in the way Mark reveals these events, these various answers are put to the test: which answer really captures who Jesus is? Which answer changes your life?

To the people of Nazareth, Jesus is a handyman who’s gotten all high and mighty. And what happens as the result of this belief? Because of their lack of faith, Jesus was unable to do a mighty work there. Nazareth tries to take Jesus down a peg or two, but all that happens is that they sabotage their own blessings. Because they don’t see a mighty Jesus, they don’t see any mighty works. And now it’s Jesus’ turn to be amazed: He marvels at their unbelief.

In the next section, v. 7-13, Mark serves up another sandwich: Jesus gives the twelve His authority and sends them out to extend His ministry. In v. 30-32, the apostles come back to report and rest, but in the middle of these sections, we have Mark’s account of the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod.

In v.7-13, Jesus sends the twelve out throughout this part of Galilee to preach the good news and call people to repentance, and to show signs of the coming kingdom. Up to this point, the disciples have been onlookers, at best helping with practical details, but now they are fully included in Jesus’ work. This passage is very important for showing us that discipleship means more than just listening to Jesus. Discipleship means sharing in Jesus’ mission.

For this mission in particular, Jesus has them all travel light: no bread, no bag, no money, no extra clothes. Either their message will win them a welcome, or they will need to keep moving. If they had food or money or an extra cloak, you could just walk right on past, but since they need support, you need to make a choice: are you going to welcome Jesus, or are you going to leave Him poor and hungry and cold?

The apostolic mission captures the attention of King Herod, because Jesus has become famous. Some people are saying that he’s John the Baptist come back from the dead, some are saying that Jesus is Elijah, the apocalyptic prophet come to bring the Day of the Lord, and some say that Jesus is simply another prophet from the long line of prophets. For his part, Herod was convinced that Jesus was John the Baptist come back to life to cause more problems, especially with all this “preaching repentance” business by his apostles.

Mark gives us the details of John’s death because Herod really has latched on to a similarity between John and Jesus that helps us understand who Jesus is. The people who are identifying Jesus as a prophet are right. They don’t see the whole truth yet, but what they do see really does help explain who Jesus is: a heaven-sent prophet working wonders and calling for repentance. So if Jesus is a prophet, another Elijah, another John the Baptist, then you need to act accordingly: either listen to the Prophet and repent, or attack the Prophet and face the consequences.

Then Mark picks the story of the disciples back up. When the apostles return from their mission, they are exhausted, and Jesus seeks to give them rest, only to find a crowd waiting for them when they cross the lake. But even though they are exhausted from ministry, when Jesus arrives at His vacation spot and sees a needy flock, His first instinct is not frustration or complaint or resentment, but compassion!

Jesus doesn’t see problems or distractions or irritations. He sees sheep without a shepherd, helpless, hungry, and vulnerable. And so he feeds them, first with his teaching until it grew late, and then by performing one of his most famous miracles, the feeding of the five thousand. Even though the disciples don’t think that they have enough money or enough bread, at the end there are twelve baskets full, more than enough for all the people of God who come in faith looking to Jesus to be their shepherd.

When you reject Jesus as the hometown handyman, He can do no mighty works for you. But when you come to Jesus looking for a shepherd, then He leads you into green pastures and prepares a table before you. Out of His compassion, His goodness and mercy, Jesus provides all that you need, restoring your body and your soul.

Yes, Jesus is a carpenter, the architect of a new heaven and a new earth. And more: Jesus is a prophet, working wonders and calling for repentance. And more: Jesus is a good Shepherd, full of compassion, who feeds the sheep who crowd around Him in expectant faith. And Jesus is more still.

Posted on Thursday, May 03, 2018 by CJ Bowen