The true source of religious authority

Mark 7:1-13

BRIEF RECAP: Jesus, along with the twelve, had just left the region of Gennesaret, where they were met by a multitude of people that had heard about Him and the miraculous things He was doing (6:53). It appears some people may not have been healed that day because “as many as touched it (the fringe of His cloak) were being cured” (6:56). It wasn’t the “fringe” that had healing power; that’s what animism teaches. Animism is the belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence and have healing power. Jesus is not an animist!

Instead, their healings took place when faith was exercised in Jesus (5:34 as an example). I venture to guess that some did not have faith in Him to heal or anything else.

7 The Pharisees and some of the scribes *gathered to Him after they came from Jerusalem, 2 and saw that some of His disciples were eating their bread with [a]unholy hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the other Jews do not eat unless they [b]carefully wash their hands, thereby holding firmly to the tradition of the elders; 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they [a]completely cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received as traditions to firmly hold, such as the [b]washing of cups, pitchers, and copper pots.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes *asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk in accordance with the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with [c]unholy hands?

FOCUS ONE: Pharisees and their traditions

As this chapter opens, we immediately notice the initial audience that gathers around Jesus. It seems that this is taking place in Capernaum where His home base was (7:17; Matthew 4:13). The Pharisees and some scribes had made the trip from Jerusalem to watch and confront Him (v.1).

This section begins with them “seeing” some of Christ’s disciples eating bread with unclean hands (That is, ceremonially unwashed hands according to the “traditions of the elders). This upset them because they would not eat unless they observed the washing first (v.4)!

We have not heard from these people in a while. As I look back in the gospel, it appears the last time we heard anything from them was way back in chapter three (3:22), when they rejected Him and accused Him of doing works by the power of Satan!

Now, here they are again, unchanged in their thinking, and they are offended when they see some of the disciples eating with “impure hands” that are unwashed.

“1The scribes were learned men who’s business it was to study the Law, transcribe it, and write commentaries on it. Ezra from the Old Testament was a scribe (Ezra 7:6). The scribes took their job of preserving scripture very seriously. The Pharisees were an influential religious sect within Judaism in the time of Jesus and the early church. They were known for their emphasis on personal piety, their acceptance of oral tradition in addition to the Law, and their teaching that ALL Jews should observe all 600 plus laws in the Torah, including the rituals concerning ceremonial purification.”

“The traditions that they held in such esteem were written down centuries before and were still oral in Jesus’ day.” These traditions were “traditions of men,” NOT laws from God! This means that over the years, they had elevated them to the status of scripture, and so by not observing them, a person could be found guilty of violating them. So, in their view, a person was obliged to follow them. But, as we will see shortly, that was not the view that Jesus held!

  1. What is the washing of the hands?

The Law of Moses required external cleanliness as a part of their religion. Moses prescribed them in moderation as was suitable for various occasions (Leviticus 5:2-4; 11:29-45; 12). The Pharisees added many ordinances on top of what Moses gave, and ultimately they began to be viewed as Law.

“For the Pharisees, the ‘impure hands’ refers to a state of ritual impurity. So they are accusing His disciples and ultimately Him as well, of behaving in a way that makes them unclean in respect to their traditions. Mark, understanding that non-Jewish readers may not understand about these ceremonial washings explains briefly what ‘washings’ means” (7:3).

And there are other things mentioned that they do according to the tradition of the elders. Washing cups and pitchers and copper pots!

So, they approach Jesus and ask Him about the disciples not following the tradition of the elders.

6 But He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
7 And in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘The one who speaks evil of father or mother, is [a]certainly to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a person says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is, [b]given to God),’ 12 you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thereby invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that

FOCUS TWO: The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees

After reading those verses, some issues come to light:

  1. They neglect the commandment of God to observe the traditions of men (v.8)
  2. They “nicely set it aside” to keep their tradition (v.9)
  3. Example given in verses 10-12 (What Moses commanded vs. their rule)
  4. The results: Not allowing people to obey the commands; Invalidating the word of God, and that’s just for starters (v. 13)!

The whole context is about the “traditions of the elders” and the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees proclaiming to follow God while setting aside His word for their traditions (v. 9,13).

What was Jesus’ response?

  1. He uses OT scripture from Isaiah 29:13 to reveal their hypocrisy and call out their neglect of the commandments God has given them to observe.
  2. He exposes how “nicely” they set His word aside to do this (v. 9). “The tone of sarcasm in Jesus’ use of the word (kalos) emphasizes the charge of hypocrisy, because it commends them for the cleverness with which they disobey God and yet still portray themselves as righteous.”
  3. He Uses another OT scripture to prove the point (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16).

I can’t help but notice the arrogance in their thinking: Moses said, but you say. What better example than this to show how they invalidate the word of God by those traditions!

A good reminder for us in these passages is to learn that the religious things we do and the various holy days we observe can never make us clean before God. External things, even traditions, are all in vain when the heart is not right with God.

8 “See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, [a]rather than in accordance with Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

16 “Therefore, no one is to [a]act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath [b]day— 17 things which are only a shadow of what is to come; but the [c]substance [d]belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).

Later we will see that things that defile us are not from the outside but come from within our hearts.

1 got questions.org
2 Exegetical guide to the Greek NT

THE NAME OF JESUS

These are the lyrics to a new song I wrote for playing on my ukulele. I wanted to share them with you.

                                               The name of Jesus 
                                         Lyrics by:  Larry Stump Jr.

How can I explain the Un- explainable?

How can I define the un-definable?

How can I describe the un- describable?

In a name. The name of Jesus!

How can I express the in -expressible?

How can I resist the irresistible?

How can I present the most presentable?

In a name. The name of Jesus

CHORUS

The name above every name

That forgave my life of shame

The name that bore my sin and pain

The name. The name of Jesus

How can I forget the unforgettable ?

How can I surmise the unsurmisable?

How can I access the most accessible?

In a name. The name of Jesus

How can I afford the unaffordable?

Why should I deserve the undeservable?

How can I foresee the unforeseeable?

In a name. The name of Jesus

Repeat chorus

THE PEOPLE RECOGNIZED HIM

Mark 6:53-56

BRIEF INTRO: Last time we ended our study after Jesus got into the boat, the boat the disciples (the men who were the first generation of gospel preachers and were to be the rulers over the 12 tribes of Israel -Matthew 19:28) were in as they battled strong winds. These men couldn’t understand who Jesus truly was, “their heart was hardened” (v. 52). These men had no excuse considering all they saw, heard, and experienced. But neither do we!

The other gospels show us that the disciples understood only by degrees. Therefore their statements (throughout their days of walking with Jesus) shouldn’t be interpreted as if they had a “post resurrection” understanding of Him. They always seem to come to the same point over and over again, each time at a deeper level of understanding. But always with a mixture of apprehension! They haven’t arrived yet, AND neither have we!

Jesus, who previously instructed the twelve to go to Bethsaida (v.45), now instructs them to cross over the sea again, this time going into the region of Gennesaret on the western shore of the sea (see photo for a better understanding of their travels back and forth).

53 “When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored at the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him.”

FOCUS ONE: Jesus recognized

Immediately the people recognize Him. Why? Most likely, they had heard about the miracles He was performing from others. They listened to the news about the demons He cast out, the woman with the blood issue being healed by only touching Him, and I am sure they would have heard about thousands of people being fed till satisfied, even though there were only five loaves of bread and two fish! 

It seems probable, as well, that they would have been told that twelve scraggly looking men usually surrounded this outstanding preacher and miracle worker. So, upon seeing this group coming on shore, it was evident to them exactly who He was. This text has no hint of doubt or confusion about His identity. Instead, “the people immediately recognized Him” (v. 54).

55 “and ran about that entire country and began carrying here and there on their pallets those who were sick, [a]to wherever they heard He was. 56 And wherever He entered villages, or cities, or a countryside, they were laying the sick in the marketplaces and imploring (entreating) Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and all who touched it were being [b]healed.”

FOCUS TWO: Jesus pursued

These verses reveal that Jesus’ popularity was at an all-time high. People from that region began gathering their sick and lame and bringing them to wherever Jesus was. We can imagine that in many cases, that was no easy task. Getting their friends and loved ones to Him required some sacrifice and hardship along the way. But they did it. Why? They desired a miraculous intervention in the lives of their sick loved ones.

No matter where He went: villages, cities, or the countryside, there was a particular scene that would unfold. People from all over the place would bring their sick and lay them in the market places. These were the open spaces used for buying and selling and would afford much room for the sick people to be placed.

We are not told whether or not Jesus healed anybody in any other way than by them touching the fringe of His cloak. In our text, this was the main avenue of approach they used with Jesus (v. 56). They had heard about this man and were ready to take advantage of the situation. I wonder if the story of the woman with the blood issue influenced them (5:25)!

To “entreat” means that they kept begging again and again and again. We see this same Greek word (parakaloun) used in 5:10 regarding the demons asking not to be sent out of the country. In other words, they were persistent!

“As a good Jew, He wore the fringes and tassels commanded by God in Numbers 15:37-39 and Deuteronomy 22:12 (see picture). It was these that they sought to touch for healing.

I am taken back by how gracious Jesus was to these people. Rather than being angry for their constant neediness. Rather than being self-focused, He was others-focused. So unlike many of us. He saw them as sheep without a shepherd. Even though it seems that they were not interested in His teaching, we find that “as many as touched it were being cured” (v. 56). 

We know from other synoptic accounts that Jesus healed people in varied ways (speaking, touching, spitting on the ground, and then wiping it in the eyes of a man, etc.). But here, the scriptures say healing occurred only by touching the fringe of His cloak!

Now we know that it was not the “touching” that healed them. Nor was it the particular piece of clothing they touched. Christ healed no one except “by faith” (5:34; Luke 5:20; Luke 18:42). This context does not change that reality.

FOCUS THREE: Jesus’ compassion

Unlike Jesus, we often tend to do things expecting something in return. We do it when it works for us and if we feel someone is deserving of our help. NOT JESUS! From start to finish, he sought to do the Father’s will. Lack of sleep and food, no issue. No alone time, no matter. Constant cries for physical help but little if any desire for spiritual aid, not a deterrent to Him!

I know we are not Jesus, BUT we are to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1; 4:32; Luke 6:40). It is sad to think that many people are more concerned about their temporal significance, “more concerned about their bodies than their souls.”

Do you get upset when you feel people are taking advantage of you?

When you see a need, do you try to fill it?

Do you show proper appreciation and consideration for others when asking them favors?

These are a few things to consider as we seek to imitate Jesus in our walk of faith.

Near misses add up

In all of my years driving professionally the one safety training topic that still resonates in my mind is that of “near misses.’

OSHA defines near misses as episodes where no property was damaged and no personal injury occurred in spite of the fact that, given a slight shift of time or location, damage or injury would most likely have occurred. Near misses can also be referred to as close calls, near accidents, accident precursors, injury-free occurrences or potential collisions.

“Most people think of “near misses” as harrowing close calls that could have been a lot worse—when a firefighter escapes a burning building moments before it collapses, or when a tornado miraculously veers away from a town in its path. Events like these are rare narrow escapes that leave us shaken and looking for lessons.”

“But there’s another class of near misses, ones that are much more common and pernicious. These are the often unremarked small failures that permeate day-to-day business but cause no immediate harm. People are hardwired to misinterpret or ignore the warnings embedded in these failures, and so they often go unexamined or, perversely, are seen as signs that systems are resilient and things are going well.

Yet these seemingly innocuous events are often harbingers; if conditions shift slightly, or if luck does not intervene, a crisis erupts.”

Our lives are filled with “seemingly innocuous events” on another level as well. The radio program that comes on talking about a savior when we thought we set the channel for a comedy show. The new hire at work that enjoys talking about some guy named Jesus! The car accident that sends you to the hospital where the local chaplain visits and reads to you from the Bible.

I can go on but I think you get the point. These supposed innocuous events are harbingers on a spiritual level to those without Christ. They might possibly be the catalyst for bringing them, as they did us, to repentant faith in Jesus!

These things are near misses only in the sense of how close a person comes to the “light of the glorious gospel” and then moves on ignoring the truth it contains as if they have no significance. They go unexamined and are incorrectly seen as weird abnormalities.

Be careful, near misses add up and the inevitable consequences for ignoring them can prove fatal.

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 22:3)

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:5).

“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9).

Isn’t it time to pay attention to those near misses?

GHOST ON THE SEA

Mark 6: 45-52

BRIEF INTRO: As the crowds are disbursed and the disciples are sent off in the boat, the twelve still did not get the rest they needed (v.31)! Ironically, these men are tired and hungry from their mission, in much need of rest, but the multitudes kept encroaching; kept invading their space if you will, and so rather than rest and food for themselves, they are kept busy feeding well over 15-20 thousand people (when you add the women and children).

Verse 45 is the 16th “immediately” that I counted in Mark’s writing. This reminds us of how “fast paced” his account is.

Why does Jesus make the disciples get into a boat and leave (immediately)? Why does Jesus go into the mountain to pray rather than joining them? Why do these people keep following after Jesus? Do the disciples comprehend who Jesus truly is? Let’s jump into it and see if we can find the answers.

45 And immediately Jesus had His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He Himself *dismissed the crowd. 46 And after saying goodbye to them, He left for the mountain to pray.

FOCUS ONE: Crowds disbursed

In Mark’s fast paced accounting of events, he gives us little explanation, actually he gives none, as to why Jesus sends His disciples away so quickly. Some assume that it is because He is compassionate and understands that they still have not received ANY rest since He sent them out. Others, lookin over the other gospels think a bit differently: “But John says that after He had done the miracle, the people wanted to take Him and make Him a king, John 6 verses 14 and 15. They were ready to start a revolt, a revolution.You have to understand that the Kingdom at this point, as we look at it here, the Kingdom at this point is all in one little boat. This is not very impressive. This Kingdom is not at all impressive. It is a poor Kingdom by any human estimate. A wooden boat in the middle of a storm, and the vice regents and future rulers and proclaimers of this King and His Kingdom can’t control the boat.


This is a very dangerous moment for the Kingdom. Nazareth has rejected Him. Galilee has rejected Him. Herod wants to kill Him. The Pharisees and scribes want to kill Him. The leaders in Jerusalem want to kill Him.

And now, even those who are His apostles, first generation of gospel preachers, the ones who will rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, these men are in a dire situation. Their rescue is essential and so is their complete devotion to Him. Future hope for gospel preaching depends on their survival and it depends on their faith.” Sure, Jesus is compassionate, BUT there is more at stake here than these men eating and resting, as important as that is.

MacArthur writes: “They (the multitudes) were sure of His amazing, miraculous power. They knew now that He would not only heal their bodies, deliver them from disease, raise their dead, but He would be the source of permanent food supply. And so, they were ready to make Him a king. They were certainly ready to have Him overthrow Herod and all the other petty Herodians who had pieces of Israel over which they ruled under the allowances of Rome. They were ready to take on Rome itself with Jesus as their leader. This was the crowd’s response to the massive nature of this miracle and what it demonstrated about His power to provide for them.”

Jesus, knowing that these men could easily be influenced by the crowds and perhaps get swept away with the excitement that filled the air, quickly sends them away from the multitudes to the other side of the sea.

Jesus then goes to the mountain to pray (often goes here). Jesus is very busy and normally does not get alone time; but he makes time! Jesus knows the will of the people and He knows the susceptibility of the twelve men He chose to the electricity in the air of a long awaited “messiah,” king. He knows the future kingdom work rests organically in these men, so He prays!

47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. 48 Seeing them [a]straining at the oars—for the wind was against them—at about the [b]fourth watch of the night, He *came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.

FOCUS TWO: Disciples in fear
The twelve are in the boat for several hours, many of them spent straining at the oars in rough waters. Mark says that it was evening when they were in the boat and about “the fourth watch” Jesus came to them. How long is it between “evening” and the 4th watch? Approximately six hours!

Imagine that. Jesus sees them “straining at the oars” (v. 48) and yet does not go to them for several hours? And then we read that He walks on the water to them “intending to pass by.” Those two facts together tell me that these men, especially Peter, were about to have their faith in Christ tested!

Why pass by?

  1. 1. God does not always deliver from trials but uses them to produce (endurance, humility, dependence, how to ask for help).
  2. 2. Test of faith (how do we act when God does not answer immediately (bitterness, anger, impatient)?

These men were terrorized at what they saw. You would think that after all they had seen being accomplished by Jesus, and all they had done recently by His power, they would instantly recognize and appreciate Jesus walking on the water to get to them. Instead, they were in great fear thinking it was a ghost and they were astonished that He stopped the wind!

That statement makes sense only in light of what we read later in verse 52, which we’ll talk about in our next focus!

49 But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they thought that it was a ghost, and they cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were [a]terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and *said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” 51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, 52 for they [b]had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but [c]their hearts were hardened.

FOCUS THREE: Jesus is divine

Can I say it? These men are slow to gain wisdom or insight as to who Jesus is and what He can do! BUT, I am too and so are you. We most likely would have reacted the same way if we were in that boat.

Mark reveals that these men were:

  1. Afraid (terrorized in the greek)
  2. And ignorant
  3. And tired

“So when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost and screamed.” These are grown men who probably have been doing a lot of yelling up to now anyway. But this is the shrieking scream of someone who is just in panic. They thought He was a ghost. The Greek word is phantasma, phantom, fantasy. Popular belief at the time was that spirits of the night brought disaster. That was hanging around in the superstitions of that time and that place. Maybe all of a sudden it was true in their experience.”

“For they all saw Him and were terrified,” tarassō that word means to throw into panic. They were literally thrown into panic. There was no – there was no way to process what they saw, a person walking on water. Well, the Lord didn’t let their shaking terror last very long – I love this. ‘He spoke with them and said ‘Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.’” Easy for you to say, right” (Macarthur).

So we see Jesus as:

  1. Encouraging
  2. He did not rebuke them
  3. And He gave them hope

This was a miracle that again reveals His deity:

  1. Power
  2. Authority
  3. Sovereignty

And all that He did was get into the boat and it stopped!

“The OT provides an important background for understanding Jesus’ action of walking on the water. Jesus is acting with divine power (2:7), because it is God alone who walks on the waves of the sea (Job 9:8), who makes His way through the sea and His path through mighty waters (Isaiah 43:16). The OT also makes sense of the otherwise puzzling note that Jesus wanted to pass by His disciples. The language is similar to that used of God’s revelation of His glory to Moses (Exodus 33:17-34:8). . . For Jesus wanted to pass by His disciples, therefore, means that He desired to reveal His glory to them” (Exegetical guide to the Greek New Testament, pg. 116).

But they missed it. Their hearts were hardened (v. 52).

The Synoptics show us that the disciples understood only by degrees. Therefore their statements must not be interpreted as if they had a “post resurrection” understanding of Him. They always seem to come around to the same point over and over again, each time at a deeper level of understanding. But always with a mixture of apprehension! They haven’t arrived yet, AND neither have we!

That night they went from fear to faith. That night they went from confusion to confession. That night they went from wondering to worshiping!

FEEDING 5000

Mark 6:30-44

BRIEF INTRO: Imagine for a moment, if you can, being apart of the multitude the day that Jesus fed them with only five loafs of bread and two fish! See yourself sitting on the green grass with fifty or one hundred other people anticipating what was going to happen. Maybe you could see Jesus, maybe not, in either case you hear the murmuring of the crowds and it is getting increasingly louder.

It’s not a sound of fear, but one of joy! Soon, in the near surroundings, you can see the disciples going from group to group with something in their hands. You are not sure what it is but you sure are hoping it’s something to eat, after all, you’ve spent part of the day tracking down Jesus and His disciples after you saw them leave in a boat.

You have been with Jesus all day, listening to His teaching, it’s now late and too dangerous to try to go back home. Your belly rumbles with hunger. What could they be doing going from group to group?

That is where these people are at in Mark’s account. And we are about to jump into it and learn just how significant this story was for them and us today!

30 “The apostles *gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He *said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 And they went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.

33 The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus went [a]ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.

FOCUS ONE: The concern of Christ vs. the presumptions of the crowds

Here we find the disciples returning from a very successful mission (6:13; Luke 9:6). The backstory about Herod and John the Baptist was “sandwiched “ between their being sent out and their return. Now they are back and report all that had happened to Jesus. They had healed many, proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom repeatedly, and traveled many miles. They needed rest and Jesus recognized they that. So, he directs them to go away on a retreat, so to speak, to get some much needed rest. Jesus sends them to an unnamed place most likely near Bethsaida.

But, unlike Jesus and the concern that He showed for these faithful servants, the people chased after them, unconcerned, most likely not even entertaining the thought that they needed a rest, and caught up with, in fact, got to the other side ahead of them!

“While Jesus was showing concern for the disciples, the common people were not. They did not care how tired Jesus or the disciples were. Their minds were filled with what they wanted to get or see rather than what they could do for others. What should they have done at this point? Instead of just presuming that Jesus and the disciples were always ready for serving them, they could have asked. Even better, they could have used their eyes and seen the weary expressions and came up to Jesus and said, “I have noticed that you and your disciples are busy from before dawn until after dusk every day preaching to us, healing us, and serving us. You must all be very tired.” How can we serve you?

I am challenged with this aspect of the story. I shutter at the thought of how many times I have and most likely still do, presume upon the humble, obedient, and compassionate service of my church Elders and Deacons.

Another aspect of the story that needs to be highlighted is the evidence of how Christ discipled these men and why. Please take notice that when the apostles met with Jesus they were not talking about what Jesus had been doing or teaching, but what “they” had “done and taught.” “This is yet another passage that gives us a lot of insight into how Jesus trained the disciples. They were not just bystanders observing Jesus’ ministry. They were part of it. They participated in it.”

Participation comes in many forms: “Sometimes their participation was in deeper small group discussion after Jesus’ miracles/teachings. Sometimes their participation was in preparing something like the place for the Last Supper or later in this passage finding some food. Sometimes it was asking Jesus more questions. And here we see they were also going around teaching the Word. As effective as Jesus was, He was still just one person. He could teach big crowds, but He was still limited to one place at a time. To make a bigger impact that would stretch to the ends of the earth Jesus had to train others.”

12 “Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I am going to the Father”. (John 14:12).

Ironically they have no time to eat, but are used by Christ in feeding 5000 plus other people!

34 When Jesus went [a]ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. 35 And when it was already late, His disciples came up to Him and said, “[b]This place is secluded and it is already late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves [c]something to eat.” 37 But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” And they *said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred [d]denarii on bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 But He *said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they *said, “Five, and two fish.”

FOCUS TWO: The confusion of the disciples vs. the plan of Christ

Can you see the irony in this? After all they had just done and witnessed, they could not grasp the scope of Christ’s divine power to provide for these people!

“The disciples suggested that Jesus send the people away so that they could eat. Jesus told the disciples to give them something to eat. Why? It was certainly an interesting request and the disciples responded like you might expect them too, which was to ask if they should buy food for everyone.” Could it be that Jesus was giving them an opportunity to show their faith by making a suggestion such as, “Jesus, we can’t feed all of these people…but you can. In fact, we learn from John 6:5-7 that Jesus was doing it to test them. He often tried to get them to think beyond the physical realities of what they could see and touch. Most of the time, however, this was a struggle for them.

They scan the landscape at come up with only five loafs and two fish, which should be no surprise to us that in Christ’s hands it abundantly supplied the need! Where did they get the loafs and fish from? John 6:1-14 – A parallel account mentions the boy who gave the loaves and fish. I often wonder if he was the only one that brought a snack with him that day. Were others being selfish and deceptive by keeping what they had to themselves? These accounts do not speak to that question, but I wonder how I, how we, would have acted in that situation!

39 “And He ordered them all to recline by groups on the green grass. 40 They reclined in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He gave them to the disciples again and again to set before them; and He divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied; 43 and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces of bread, and of the fish. 44 There were five thousand [a]men who ate the loaves.”

FOCUS THREE: The compassion of Jesus satisfies a compelling need

Why separate into hundreds and fifties? “Jesus commanded them to sit down all in groups. As we see in 1 Corinthians 14:40, God is a God of order. Nothing generates chaos like free food. Jesus didn’t want a stampede or trampled people so He wisely made people sit down. If they wanted to receive the benefit from His miracle they had to do it on His terms. This is just like salvation. He offers it freely, but we have to accept it on His terms, not on our own.”

Jesus takes the food into His hands, looks up toward heaven, not towards the crowds, which expresses where are needs are met, and blesses the food. I am amazed at this next sentence: “He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples.”

I wonder how this actually transpired. Did the food keep on appearing in His hands? Did He keep producing it in His hands and incessantly pass it out or fill up the returning baskets? It is interesting and exciting o think about!

In this we should see an example of prayer for blessing the meals He so graciously supplies us. I believe 1 Timothy 4:5 helps us understand this better. By means of the word of God and prayer “nothing” that God created and has given to us for good should be rejected or taken for granted, but are supposed to be received with gratitude! Such gratitude is expressed in our following the example of Jesus and acknowledging God’s goodness in meeting our needs.


Many ponder why 12 baskets were left over? It is observed that those twelve baskets equal one for each disciple. It doesn’t appear rational to create or surmise some other reason for the left overs. Jesus did not forget about these men, these servants. He knows they were tired and hungry before this situation unfolded and He knows they are even more so now. He meets their needs!

Friends, we can always trust Jesus to meet our needs, temporal and eternal! GOSPEL

TRUTH FROM THE PAST

“ Prayer that affects one’s ministry must give tone to ones life. The praying which gives color and bent to character is no pleasant, hurried pastime. It must enter as strongly into the heart and life as Christ’s ’strong crying and tears’ did; must draw out of the soul into an agony of desire as Paul’s did; must be of an in-wrought fire and force like the ’effectual fervent prayer’ of James; must be of that quality which, when put into the golden censer and incensed before God, works mighty spiritual throes and revolutions.

Prayer is not a little habit pinned on to us while we were tied to our mother’s apron strings; neither is it a little decent quarter of a minute’s grace said over an hour’s dinner, But it is a most serious work of our most serious years.

E.M Bounds

A STRATEGIC DAY

Mark 6:14-30

BRIEF INTRO:

So far in our study of chapter six, we have witnessed Jesus being rejected in His hometown mainly because He was too familiar! He then “summoned” the twelve and sent them out in pairs, with authority over the unclean spirits (vv. 7-13). It appears from Luke and Mark’s accounts (Luke 9:6) that their ministry was very productive and successful. So much, so that news of it reached the highest levels of government (v.14).

In the following sixteen verses, we will learn how King Herod and the people reacted to what these men were doing and how all of it affected Herod as this news was brought to his attention.

14 And King Herod heard about it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.” 15 But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard about it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!”

FOCUS ONE: “And King Herod heard of it” (v. 14).

This is Herod Antipas, who was named to the throne of Herod the Great after his father died around 4 B.C. He ruled over Galilee and Perea. Two of his other brothers, Philip and Archelaus, ruled different areas as Herod the Great divided His dominion into three regions.

What did he hear? It seems clear that Herod “heard” about two things:

  1. The powerful ministry of the twelve
  2. Who the people thought Jesus was

With all that was accomplished through the twelve (casting out demons, healings, and their authoritative preaching and teaching), it is no wonder that word about them spread rapidly among the people. Keep in mind that they did all of this, all of it, in Jesus’ name!

There were various opinions as to who Jesus was:

1. John the Baptist risen from the dead

2. Elijah

3. A prophet like one of the prophets of old (v. 15)

Observe the sad fact that His countrymen could not OR would not believe anything significant concerning Him, BUT others were willing to accept anything rather than the truth (v.15).

But when Herod heard of it, his conscience kicked into gear, and fear began to arise because of what he had done to John the Baptist on account of his wife, Herodias.

Herod had divorced his first wife and then taken his brother’s wife, Herodias. Herodias was Antipas’ niece, making this union all the more incestuous and messy. This even caused a war with his first wife’s father.

17 For Herod himself had sent men and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias held a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death, and could not do so; 20 for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he had been protecting him. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; and yet he [a]used to enjoy listening to him.

FOCUS TWO: Herod’s backstory (vv. 17-20)

This back story is not only about Herod; Mark fills in on what happened to John the Baptist after his arrest (v.17). We begin to witness the pangs of a guilty conscience in verse sixteen. The fact that “He kept saying” heightens his guilty sense of beheading John the Baptist.

So, what led up to John’s death? John confronted the king regarding his incestuous and adulterous relationship with Herodias, Herod’s niece, the daughter of his half-brother Aristobulus, who was married to his half-brother Philip. Herod had divorced his wife to marry Herodias, who had divorced Philip. Such a thing was unlawful.

The mosaic law prohibited a man from marrying his brother’s wife (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21). Except when the brother died without leaving any children (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Mark 12:19).

Because John was brave enough and bold enough to call Herod out on this, Herodias wanted John put to death (v. 19) but could not do so. This longstanding grudge eventually leads to John’s demise.

She could not have John killed at that time because Herod was “afraid” of John (v. 20)! Herod was afraid of John because he knew that he was “a righteous and holy man,” so he kept him safe from Herodias! He would often listen to John gladly. Herod’s interactions with John often left him with great internal conflict, “a moral struggle between his lust for Herodias and the prodding of his guilty conscience.”

21 An opportune day came when Herod, on his birthday, held a banquet for his nobles and military commanders, and the leading people of Galilee; 22 and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and [a]his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 Immediately she came in a hurry to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And although the king was very sorry, because of his oaths and [b]his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about this, they came and carried away his body, and laid it in a tomb.

FOCUS THREE: Herod’s foolish oath (vv. 21-29)

“A strategic day,” these words lead off this next section of Mark’s account. Strategic for whom? Certainly not for John, who dies on this day. Not for Herod, struggling with such a great fear of this “holy and righteous man.” Only for one person is this a strategic day, Herodias (vv.19, 24).

This particular day is Herod’s birthday. A day in which there would be much celebration, feasting, and entertainment for the king. A banquet was held in honor of Herod with many Lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee present.

At some point in the celebration, the daughter of Herodias dances before them. Keep in mind that the attendees all appear to be male. “The Greek verb (ὀρχέομαι) {or-kheh’-om-ahee} to dance, has connotations of arousing, satisfying sexual interest.” The dance “pleased Herod and his dinner guests (v. 22).

I wonder if Herodias had something to do with her daughter dancing before these men rather than a simple coincidence! We are not told the specifics of how and what led to her entry, only that she “came in and danced.” I can see her entrance as a planned event that precipitates her mother’s murderous intentions (v.22).

Because Herod is “pleased” at the dancing, he makes a foolish oath to Herodias’s daughter playing right into her wicked, scheming hands. Sadly, we witness Herod act on impulse rather than logic.

The moment of great anticipation arrives for Herodias (v.24). Without any hesitation, she sends her daughter back out asking for the head of John the Baptist on a platter! Her daughter shares with her the oath Herod has made.

Herod had unwittingly placed himself in a precarious situation. Herod was sorry for his foolishness, but he could not get out of his oath or look foolish in front of his dinner guests who witnessed it, So he did not refuse her!

One has to wonder what Herodias did; how she reacted when John’s head was brought to her on a platter. She finally has her greatest desire! Herod sent the executioner to the cell, and John was beheaded in prison (v. 27).

John’s disciples heard about what transpired, so they claimed John’s body and buried him in a tomb (v. 29). They couldn’t fathom the body of their beloved teacher being neglected.

We learn a lot from this backstory. We see topics of adultery, conscience, guilt, murder, oath making and keeping, truth, boldness, and law. Themes of law and order. Righteousness and unrighteousness, the fear of man versus fear of God, etc. BUT we also learn some essential things about Herod and John!

What do we learn about Herod?

  1. Herod was a king who couldn’t control himself (vv.17,22)
  2. Herod was a protector that couldn’t watch over the righteous (v.26)
  3. Herod was a guilt-ridden man who couldn’t identify his savior (v. 16)

What do we learn about John the Baptist?

  1. John was a prophet that stood for righteousness (v. 17)
  2. John was a bold messenger (v. 18)
  3. John was beheaded at the command of Herod (v. 27)

In this historical account, we see the depth and horror of the total depravity of man vividly. The corruption that floods the hearts of sinners is on display, and we witness its utter corruption and ruin.

AND we also learn something more about Jesus:

Matthew 14:1-13

13 “Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself;.”

Jesus was a compassionate man! He felt the pain that we feel at injustice and wickedness. He loved others as we do. He cared for others as we do. He needed time alone as we do.

“Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).


Such amazing grace, such an amazing savior! GOSPEL

“THE OLD BOOK OF GOD”

“The things contained in the word of God may not, in the estimation of some people, be true, but believing as we do, that the bible is the word of God, our duty is to preach what it declares to be true. Time will tell whether what it declares is true or not. It won’t be long before the light of eternity will reveal on which side the truth is, whether with those who believe, or those who disbelieve.

Jesus said, ”Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of my word shall fail.” Those who build on His word are building on rock foundations. When the rains descend, and the floods come, and winds blow, whatever is built on His word will stand.

The old book of God has stood and will stand for ever and ever. The only thing that we need concern ourselves about is that what we preach is really in it and that we are faithful in setting it forth.”

Francis James Grimke

Jesus summons the twelve

Mark 6:7-13

BRIEF INTRO:

I can’t help but think how helpful the kingdom parables (4:1-34) will be to the apostles as they get sent out two by two to heal the sick, cast out demons and preach repentance to the lost.

After Jesus leaves His hometown which suffered a lack of belief in Him (see previous study), He went around the local villages and was teaching (v. 6). We should notice that Mark uses a “sandwich pattern” in his writing. He places the backstory of Herod (14-29) between (the twelve being sent out v. 7, and the twelve returning v. 30) The reason for that will become more obvious as our study unfolds!

There appears to be a methodology in Christ’s preparation of the twelve for ministry that has been unfolding up to this point in Marks writing:

  1. He called (1:16-20; 2:14)
  2. He appoints (3:14)
  3. He teaches (Mark 1-6)
  4. He summoned (6:7)
  5. He sends them out (6:12)

That is a model for effective ministry that wise mentors incorporate in their discipleship program of future gospel ministers (Calling, teaching, ordaining, and sending).

7 And He *summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits;

FOCUS ONE: Christ summoned the twelve

“And He summoned the twelve.” With those words Christ ushers in the beginning of a new setting in Marks account!

He sends them out by two’s for various reasons: comfort for one another in strange places, to strengthen and encourage one another in difficult circumstances, and most likely because it would meet the “legal” requirement for an authentic testimony (Deuteronomy 19:15).

He gives them authority over unclean spirits. What type authority? His divine authority OR “right” and “power” to exercise demons (1:26). This power would authenticate their preaching and mission (that it is of God) with those they come into contact with.

Christ actually commissions them to attack the devil in his own territory! To bind the strong man (3:27). Some people believe that this power and authority is given to Christians today, if they just exercise enough faith. I personally do not believe in that vain of thought. I think the words of Jude 9 are instructive here:

“Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, BUT said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’”

“Rather than personally cursing such a powerful angel as Satan, Michael deferred to the ultimate, sovereign power of God following the example of the Angel of the Lord in Zechariah 3:2. This is the supreme illustration of how Christians are to deal with Satan and demons. Believers are not to address them, but rather to seek the Lord’s intervening power against them” (John MacArthur).

8 and He instructed them that they were to take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no [a]bag, no money in their belt— 9 but [b]to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not wear two [c]tunics.” 10 And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you [d]leave town. 11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust [e]off the soles of your feet as a testimony against them.”

FOCUS TWO: Christ instructs the twelve

In Christ’s instructions to these men we observe several things:
A. They are to take nothing except a staff (walking stick), sandals, and one tunic (opposite in Luke 22:35-37), Why? Worse times, worse people?
B. Their provisions are so minimal that it highlights the urgency of the task.
C. And these instructions highlight their need for sole dependence upon God’s divine provision!

No bread, no bag, no money? That goes against all of our human instincts. We need these things to survive. The urgency of their mission dictated haste and their need to depend solely on God to provide food and shelter through the hospitality of Jewish households.

This is different in another account in Luke where Jesus prepares His disciples for the “opposition” that will follow His crucifixion and resurrection (Luke 22:35-38).

He told them to stay in one house until they would leave that town. He did not want them to be seeking “better” accommodations. “*They were not to impose on the hospitality of many stranger or to peruse more attractive offers, rather they were to stay in one place and make it there “base of operations.”

If in their search for a place to stay, in the territory of Herod Antipas, they are not received, they are told to shake the dust from the soils of their feet as a testimony against them (this symbolizes a decision to discontinue all association with those who have refused God’s message and are headed for His judgment).

They had received what they might give,
Had learned what they might teach,
And are now sent forth (Matthew Henry).

They had to deny themselves 7-9
And fulfill their responsibility. 10-11
Their success v.13

They went out! These three words may not appear on their face to be all that important but I assure you that they are for several reasons:

  1. They went out amid much fear and uncertainty.
  2. They went out with a message that they only previously heard the Lord teach. Now, it is their message to herald!
  3. They went out with previously unknown “authority” and “power.”
  4. They went out in obedience to their Lord!
  5. They went out and Christ showed Himself faithful!

Christ instructed, the disciples obeyed. It seems simple, but we fail at it miserably. We have the responsibility of being “witnesses” for Christ; we’ve been instructed as well (Matthew 28:18-20). How are we doing? How are you doing, dear Christian?

12 And they went out and [a]preached that people are to repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.

FOCUS THREE: Their message

“They preached that men should repent.” That is the same message that we are to be heralds’ of today!

20 “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was beneficial, and teaching you publicly and [a]from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:20-21).

Take notice that it is NOT one without the other, rather they are two sides of the same gospel coin, if you will. Some people argue that repentance is “only” a change of mind, a change in our thinking towards God and sin. Repentance surely does involve a change of mind, but it is just such a change that fosters a change of will and therefore a change of direction as well (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

They not only proclaimed the “good news” but by the power of God cast out demons and anointed the sick and many people were being healed!

In our next study we will observe how the successful ministry of the apostles stands in stark contrast to Herod’s guilty conscience and fearfulness.

• The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 260