LENT 2011, Day 30

April 14, 2011  

Mark 6 is my sequential reading for today. What a chapter. There is so much to take note of.

This chapter begins with the story of Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth – where His parents returned after King Herod the Great died. Jesus lived in Nazareth from the age of 2 – until He began His ministry at age 30. In the timeline of our story, He has adopted Capernaum as his home base – but our story today has him back at his ‘home’ in Nazareth for a visit.

I’m reminded of the large signs that grace so many cities in our travels, proudly declaring “Home of ‘whomever their local hero or star is’.” In Payette, Idaho, the sign is for Harmon Killebrew. He was born there, and when he became famous, the town honored him. Jesus didn’t get a sign like that in his day.

I was just in Nazareth in February. Certainly the hills hold more homes now than then – but the general topography of the area is hill country. At the Church of the Annunciation, they have excavated and honor the home where they believe Mary was when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Don’t be afraid.” (I love how angels always say that….) I love being able to visualize the general locale where Jesus grew up – knowing that those hills knew His feet – and provided Him quiet places of reflection and prayer even as a child.

Many of the people of Nazareth would have been along on that trek to Bethlehem for the Feast of the Passover when Jesus, who was 12 years old at the time, stayed back at the temple to talk to the religious elite while the group from Nazareth traveled toward home. I’m pretty sure he got a bit of a reputation in his close-knit town for that escapade – but Mark likely doesn’t know about that incident…. Luke is the one who recorded it for posterity.

In Mark, however, we do learn the names of several of Jesus’ siblings. Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus – but after his birth, Joseph and Mary had James, Joses, Judas, Simon – and sisters (plural, but not named). Even His immediate family were not yet noted among the believers. Another ‘family thing’ I note here is that Joseph is no longer mentioned – so I must assume he had died by this time. Again, the reminder that the Bible is the Cliff Notes’ version of Jesus life!

Anyway, here they were in Nazareth – people questioning how this kid of suspicious beginnings could have the knowledge He had – and wondering how could He heal and perform miracles. He was just a local carpenter. Mark states that Jesus marveled because of their unbelief. I think Mark marveled at their unbelief – but Jesus knew their hearts and could read their minds. They didn’t just doubt like Thomas would later on – they completely disregarded Him and His authority. They had Truth right in front of them – and most of them rejected Him. Mark says they took offense at Him. He got that assessment right. There were a few Yeshua, the local lad, was able to heal, though very few.

What a contrast from other areas where people received Him with joy – even if they followed Him for the miracles, the miracles drew them to Him – and then they had an opportunity to hear His teaching. He wasn’t accepted in Nazareth – but as He went about to other villages, He was accepted.

In fact, there was so much to be done that Jesus sent out his 12 disciples, in pairs, giving them authority over demons. They preached repentance, cast out demons, healed the sick – and all of this activity even came to the attention of Herod Antipas ‘up’ in Jerusalem.

Just a little bunny trail on the Herods…. Various Caesars ruled Rome. Israel was under Roman rule – and the Herods were established as non-Jewish rulers of Israel under Roman authority. King Herod the Great was the one who was in power when Jesus was born. He was the one who ordered all of the baby boys under the age of 2 killed in his attempt to kill this ‘King’ the entourage of wise men told him about.

After he died his kingdom was divided into several parts – each ruled by a different heir. The one who ruled in the area of Jerusalem was Herod Antipas. He is the one who had John the Baptist beheaded – just to keep a promise to a sensual teenage dancer who pleased him. Mark tells us the story in retrospect…as a postscript to letting us know that Herod had heard about Jesus because of the miracles of Jesus and His disciples.

After the disciples returned to Jesus following their simultaneous ministry tours, they told Him all they had done and taught – and His response was to invite them away to a desolate place for some rest and recuperation. Great modeling for effective ministry. However, it appears what they actually learned is that in ministry there is no rest! They were recognized – and just like the paparazzi and mob mania of today, the crowds recognized and ran ahead of them – so that when they landed on the other shore in the ‘desolate’ area, the crowds were already there waiting for them. And the One who was the Lamb (and also the Shepherd) had compassion on the sheep of His pasture. This story is familiar – Jesus’ feeding of 5000 men plus the women and kids who were along…. No small feat.

What I love – in addition to Jesus’ amazing miracle – is the picture of obedience of the disciples. They had come to Him and told Him it was getting late and therefore time to send the people away – because they were in a desolate place and there was no food. Jesus response was “You give them something to eat.” He instructed them to find out how many loaves were available. In other words, he knew one kid had packed a lunch! The disciples came back and reported what they had found. In asking about through the crowd of 10,000 or so…they had found 5 loaves and 2 fish. The fish were a bonus. I know they just came back from casting out demons and healing people in Jesus’ Name – but this was new territory. In their other ministry roles, they were modeling what they had seen Jesus do. He gave them authority, and they accepted the yoke placed on their shoulders, but this was monumental. It had to seem impossible – but they obeyed.

For 3 years they experienced Jesus’ miracles and teaching firsthand – and were even vessels through whom His miraculous powers were made known to others – but when they got to the end – and things got tough – and the script didn’t follow the one in their heads – they ran. I need to keep all of the story in mind leading to Calvary.

Mark 6:45ff records the story of Jesus’ walking on the water. After they fed the crowd, He made His disciples get into a boat for the trip back to the other side. Mark notes that their destination was Bethsaida. Jesus stayed behind to dismiss the crowd and to pray. From where He was praying he could see they were having a hard time making progress against the headwind. Mark says He went to them walking on the water – but that He meant to pass them by. He also tells us that the disciples didn’t ‘get it’ when Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the people. This should have been proof positive of His divinity. Their understanding was clouded by their preconceived ideas of the type of government the promised Messiah was going to bring.

The crowd was blind to the reality of who He was, something that would be poignantly clear later in Jerusalem at His final Passover celebration as a crowd-turned-sour would shout for his death…. But the disciples didn’t really get it either, and they were privy to so much more than the crowds.

What we learn in the remainder of the chapter – beyond Jesus so clearly displaying His deity by walking on the water – is that they missed their intended destination because of the winds, and landed instead at Gennesaret. It had taken them all night to cross the Sea of Galilee – and now they were faced with more crowds.  So much for R&R.

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