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6:1 Now Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.
Jesus now leaves the area where he has done so many miracles and returns to the area in which he was brought up and to his home town of Nazareth. He was often referred to as “Jesus of Nazareth” although he was born in Bethlehem and his forefathers were originally from there. Nazareth was however the home town of Joseph and Mary. We are told in Matthew 2:23 that it was foreordained that Jesus should live in Nazareth and thus be called a Nazarene. When Paul was brought before Felix the Jews accused him of being a member of the sect called the “Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). This is what some called the followers of Jesus. Mark makes a point of the fact that the disciples followed him. This is significant in as much as they were all from the area that Jesus had up to this point worked in. Now they had to decide either to stay with their families and friends or go with him to an unfamiliar area. They chose to stay with him.
6:2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did he get these ideas? And what is this wisdom that has been given to him? What are these miracles that are done through his hands?
If anyone wanted to find Jesus on the Sabbath day they knew where to look during the service times, in the synagogue. He would have only read and taught from the scriptures at the invitation of the synagogue rulers; he would not have done so of his own accord. These people had regularly been taught by other rabbis from the scriptures but never before had they heard any speak like Jesus did “for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29). But it would seem as if they were not so amazed at what he had said as to how this man whom they had known from a child and whose only schooling would have been the little he had received at the synagogue had this wisdom, and where he had got the power from to do such mighty miracles that they had heard about!
6:3 Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren't his sisters here with us?’ And so they took offense at him.
Their lack of knowledge and understanding brought remarks of contempt from them as to his lowly station in life “only a carpenter's son”. His mother and his family still lived among them and were but common people. They were not prepared to accept him as the “Son of God” in spite of the proof that was presented before them, neither did they want to accept him as a man whom God had taken a hold of and empowered to be a prophet - just because they knew him and his lowly background so well. They were ignorant of the ways of God and of whom he chooses (1 Cor. 1:27-29). They were “offended” or correctly he became a stumbling block to them (1 Pet. 2:7-8).
6:4 Then Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, and among his relatives, and in his own house.’
So Jesus quotes an old saying “a prophet is honoured in all countries but in his own and among relatives and in his own house he is rejected”. If our Lord and Saviour was so treated can we expect any better treatment?
6:5 He was not able to do a miracle there, except to lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.
Because of their rejection and unbelief he could not do any miracles there except to heal a few who had faith enough to receive.
6:6 And he was amazed because of their unbelief. Then he went around among the villages and taught.
Now it was the Lord's turn to be amazed and this was at their unbelief, their lack of faith. He leaves Nazareth and we are not told that He ever visited it again and went to other towns and villages in the area. It is unbelief that stops the hand of God from moving.
6:7 Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two. He gave them authority over the unclean spirits.
In Mark 1:14 we saw that Jesus called the twelve disciples to be with at all times so that he might teach and prepare them to go forth to preach.
Now we see him sending them out for some practical experience of what he has been preparing them for. We could liken it in today's world of someone being on employment training and being sent out on placement to put into practice what they have learnt. He calls them to him and gives them precise instructions about how to do the job.
They must not go alone but in pairs so that they may be company for each other; that they may strengthen the hands, encourage the hearts and be a help to each other (M. Henry). This is a rule that we should apply to our evangelism; we should not go it alone when we are sent into the highways and byways. (Personal witness, one to one as opportunity is given is different). He “gave” them his power and authority over unclean spirits. It may be more correct to say that he loaned them this for the period that they were sent out for apart from when he sent out the seventy (Luke 10:1-20) we do not hear of the disciples doing any further miracles until after Pentecost.
6:8 He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff — no bread, no bag, no money in their belts
They were to travel light taking with them, a stick to help them walk (in Psalm 23 David refers to the Lord's staff being a comfort to him in his walk through the valley of the shadow of death), no food, no money, for they were to prove the Lord as the one who provides.
6:9 and to put on sandals but not to wear two tunics.
They were to wear sandals, in readiness to travel and preach (this reminds us of part of the armour of God in Eph. 6:5, a readiness to preach) and only one coat which suggests that it was summer time.
6:10 He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the area.
If they were offered hospitality in a home they were to remain in that place for as long as they were in the town and not go from house to house as this could cause offence to the first person who had freely taken them in.
6:11 If a place will not welcome you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’
If they were not received or welcomed in any community and if their message was not listened to, they were to leave it. As they left that place as a symbolic act they were to shake off the dust of that place from their feet as a witness against them of their rejection (see Acts 13:50-51). The closing words of Jesus to the disciples “it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgement” would suggest that there will be various degrees of punishment for unbeliever's (Matt. 11:22).
6:12 So they went out and preached that all should repent.
And so the disciples were sent forth and followed Jesus' instructions to the letter and preached the gospel to the people calling on them to repent.
6:13 They cast out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
And because they did as he instructed them their ministry prospered, many were delivered from demons. Although we are not told in the preceding verses that Jesus instructed them, nevertheless he must have done so, as they anointed the sick with oil they were healed (James 5:14).
In between the time of the disciples being sent out (verse 7) and their returning to Jesus (verse 30) Mark fills us in on what became of John the Baptist.
The Death of John the Baptist
6.14 - 15. Now King Herod heard this, for Jesus' name had become known. Some were saying, "John the baptizer has been raised from the dead, and because of this, miraculous powers are at work in him." Now King Herod heard this, for Jesus' name had become known. Some were saying, "John the baptizer has been raised from the dead, and because of this, miraculous powers are at work in him."
The miracles that Jesus was doing reached the ears of King Herod and it pricked his conscience for he immediately thought that it was John the Baptist raised from the dead that had come back. From his reaction we can assume that Herod had no difficulty in believing in resurrection and that if anyone could be raised from the dead then the matter of miracles would be a natural consequence of this. Others thought that it was Elijah come back and some that at least He must be one of the prophets.
6:16 - 18. But when Herod heard this, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised!" Herod himself had sent men, arrested John, and bound him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod had married her. For John had repeatedly told Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife."
Herod was convinced that it was none other than John. The reason why Herod had John imprisoned was because he had repeatedly and boldly declared the truth to him that he had and still was committing sin by marrying his brother Philip's wife Herodias that was against the law of God.
6:19 - 20. So Herodias nursed a grudge against him and wanted to kill him. But she could not because Herod stood in awe of John and protected him, since he knew that John was a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard him, he was thoroughly baffled, and yet he liked to listen to John.
Therefore, Herodias was enraged with John and held a grudge against him but she could not carry out her revenge against him because Herod had a fear of John. He knew that he was a just and holy man and this was why he had up to now protected John from the evil plans and purposes of his unlawful wife Herodias. Although what John said disturbed him Herod still liked to listen to him.
6:21 But a suitable day came, when Herod gave a banquet on his birthday for his court officials, military commanders, and leaders of Galilee.
However, when it was Herod’s birthday party and all the high dignitaries were there, an opportunity was given to Herodias to get her own back on John.
6:22. (NKJV) And when Herodias' daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, "Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you." He also swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom."
During the festivities Herodias’ daughter came and danced before all the guests and because this greatly pleased Herod he rashly promised her on oath to give her whatever she wanted even to half his kingdom.
6:24 So she went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptist!"
The daughter who was obviously ruled by her mother went straight to her and asked what she should ask for. This was Herodias’ chance and she did not hesitate to say the execution of John the Baptist.
6:25 - 26. Immediately she hurried back to the king and made her request: "I want the head of John the Baptist on a platter immediately." Although it grieved the king deeply, he did not want to reject her request because of his oath and his guests.
So she returned to the king and told him she wanted the head of John the Baptist presented to her on a plate. Although he deeply regretted what he had said he could not refuse her request because of the oath he had made before all his guests.
6:27 - 28. So the king sent an executioner at once to bring John's head, and he went and beheaded John in prison. He brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.
Just as Ahab listened to Jezebel (1 Kings 21:25) so Herod yielded to his wife and by making a rash oath to her daughter he put himself in the position of doing something that he knew was wrong and John the Baptist was executed.
We should be very careful concerning any oaths that we might make especial those to God. They should be considered very carefully and not made on the spur of the moment.
6:29 When John's disciples heard this, they came and took his body and placed it in a tomb.
Miracle of Provision
6:30 Then the apostles gathered around Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught.
On their return to Jesus the disciples were very eager to tell all that they had done and said during their evangelistic tour of the towns and villages. They were as excited about it as children would be in reporting the results of a project they had successfully completed for their teacher. However, keep in mind the exuberance of the disciples when they returned to Jesus from their successful evangelistic outreach and in contrast their utter helplessness and lack of faith in responding to His challenge to feed the people and their fear when He came to them walking on the water.
6:31 He said to them, "Come with me privately to an isolated place and rest a while" (for many were coming and going, and there was no time to eat).
However, the Lord saw that the work had taken its toll upon his disciples and that they were in need of a rest. There are times when the Lord calls us aside for a while that we might wait upon Him and be renewed in strength (Isaiah 40: 31).
6:32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to some remote place.
So He apparently planned a little quiet holiday for them away from the crowds but Jesus was never taken unawares and knew what was about to happen.
6:33 But many saw them leaving and recognized them, and they hurried on foot from all the towns and arrived there ahead of them.
Many of the people recognized who they were and when they saw them getting into a boat they rushed round to the other side of the lake and met them there.
6:34 As Jesus came ashore he saw the large crowd and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he taught them many things.
When Jesus looked upon the people He saw them as lost sheep having no shepherd to protect, provide or guide them (Isaiah 53:6; Jer. 50:6, Ezek. 34:6 ). As much as His disciples needed a rest the needs of the people were greater and so moved with compassion He could not turn them away and so He ministered to them. Who else did they have to turn to but Him? (Ps.23:1; Isaiah 40:11; John 10:11)
6:35-36 When it was already late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is an isolated place and it is already very late. Send them away so that they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something for themselves to eat."
Perhaps by now the disciples were feeling a bit put out of having been done out of their little holiday and wanted to get rid of the people as soon as they could. When they saw it was getting late they asked Jesus to send them away that they might find themselves some food to eat.
6:37 (NKJV) But He answered and said to them, "You give them something to eat." And they said to Him, "Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?"
Imagine their surprise when He turned round and told them to feed them! After all had not they been provided for on the evangelistic journey when He had told them not to take any provisions with them? Now it was their turn by faith to provide for others. However, their faith failed and they could only ask Him in amazement if they should go and buy 200 denarii of bread to feed the people. Did they miss an opportunity of seeing a miracle performed through their faith and by their hands?
6:38. He said to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see." When they found out, they said, "Five — and two fish."
Jesus then offered them a challenge, asking, “What have you already got?” They had nothing worth talking about; just five loaves and a couple of fish that someone had brought with them. Nothing to the disciples but in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ it was enough. When God spoke to Moses from out of the burning bush he asked "What is that in your hand?” It was only a piece of wood (a rod) - but it was enough for God to use. We may complain to the Lord about the little that we may have to work for Him but He does not ask us 'how much do we have' only 'what have we got.' Whatever it may be put into His hands He is able to do mighty things with it.
6:39 - 40. Then he directed them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they reclined in groups of hundreds and fifties.
Our God is always a God of order and never of confusion (1 Cor. 14: 33) for in the beginning when He created the heavens and the earth He made order out of chaos. Jesus made sure that the people were set in order and made comfortable.
6:41 - 44 He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. He gave them to his disciples to serve the people, and he divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces and fish that were left over, twelve baskets full. Now there were five thousand men who ate the bread.
Then He took the bread and fishes asked the blessing upon them and as they were distributed to the people so the miracle of provision took place and above 5000 were adequately fed and there was a basketful of fragments left over for each one of the disciples. In spite of their unbelief by the grace of the Lord the disciples did have a hand in the miracle.
Miracle of walking on water
6:45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dispersed the crowd.
As soon as the disciples had finished collecting the left overs Jesus packs them off in the ship to Bethsaida (which means house of fish) for their rest (Amp. N.T. has that He insisted that they go) while He sends the crowd away having been fully fed spiritually and physically.
6:46-47 After saying good-bye to them, he went to the mountain to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea and he was alone on the land.
Jesus however having done this goes apart up into the mountain to pray. When the evening had come the boat was in the middle of the lake and Jesus was on the land by Himself.
6:48 He saw them straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. As the night was ending, he came to them walking on the sea, for he wanted to pass by them.
The disciples were not conscious of Him but He was very mindful of them for He saw that they were in trouble having difficulty in rowing because the wind was against them. This was a different situation to the time when they were on the lake at the mercy of the storm. They were afraid then even though Jesus was with them but this time they were struggling in the hardness and difficulty of the way and Jesus was nowhere at hand to come to their aid. Little did they know that He was aware of the problems they were having and yet He delayed His coming. We who are this side of the cross know by faith that Jesus is ever present with us for He has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13: 5, Matt. 28: 20). In the fourth watch of the night when He knew that they could not endure any longer He comes (1 Cor. 10: 13). Certainly, not in a way they expected Him to come; walking on the water! Similarly today, Jesus often comes to our help in ways that we do not expect.
6:49. When they saw him walking on the water they thought he was a ghost. They cried out,
Fear took a hold of them as they saw this figure walking towards them over the water so much so that they cried out in terror! What else could they think but that it was a ghost no one had ever walked on water before it was an impossibility!
6:50. for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them: "Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid."
When He saw how terrified they were He called out to them "Take heart! I AM! Stop being alarmed and afraid” (Amp. N. T.). The Amplified New Testament here notes that Jesus used His Divine Name - “I AM“
6:51-52. Then he went up with them into the boat, and the wind ceased. They were completely astonished, because they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
They were calmed by recognising His voice and by the words that He spoke. When He entered the ship the wind dropped. This shows again that this was a time of testing for the disciples. They were completely amazed by all this because they had not understood the teaching and meaning of the miracle of feeding the 5000 that He was Lord of all! His own disciples had become hardened so no wonder He allowed them to go through this time of testing! The truth would only sink in through the hardness of the way He would take them. How much easier it would be for all of us if we learnt our lessons the first time!
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Copyright (2009-2014) Sharon Full Gospel Church, United Kingdom. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk
This study is taken from our Bible study guide Faithbuilders - The Gospel of Mark