18 July 2021Mark 6:30-56
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. (v.30)
In the first words of this passage Mark conjures up a visual image of physical closeness and intimacy as the disciples gather around Jesus and report on what they have been doing. In these days of social distancing we may feel somewhat envious of this, or it could feel a little alarming? If we look back to the previous verses (6:14-29) we see that Mark has just related the death of John the Baptist – perhaps there is something about shock and grief which makes us long to gather closely with those we love and those who might offer direction to our lives.
Furthermore, Jesus seems to sense the need among the disciples to rest following their time on mission (6:2-13); they are clearly being stretched physically and spiritually. However, their plans for retreat backfire as a large crowd anticipates their destination and arrives to greet them! Despite their exhaustion, Jesus finds resources of compassion to teach and to feed the crowd in an apparently miraculous way. The description of Jesus’ relationship to the crowd being as that of a shepherd to the sheep has roots in various parts of the Hebrew scriptures where shepherd imagery is used of God (cf Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34) and it also appears in other parts of the New Testament such as John 10.
After the meal, Jesus sends the disciples back across the lake while he goes into the mountain to pray, re-joining them whilst on the water in a manner which leaves them in turn terrified, astounded and mystified (6:45-52).
Again they make land, now at Gennesaret, where again people begin to gather. Mark constantly portrays Jesus and his mission as attractive and dynamic, gathering crowds wherever they go. These periods of action are, however, given still points of refreshment in the small references made throughout the gospel to Jesus withdrawing to pray (v. 46). It would appear that news of the healings that Jesus has performed, and the manner in which they have occurred, have travelled far and wide. Some are brought on mats (for example the paralysed man in 2:1-12) and others ask only to touch his clothing (as did the woman with the issue of blood in 5:25-34).
- Why does gathering together have such significance for us, especially in times of grief and shock?
- What does this passage offer to those feeling physically and spiritually stretched?
- Where have you seen the Christian gospel presented in a way that is attractive and dynamic?
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3a)