Musing on Mark 6,30 to 34 and 53 to the end.4
The costs of following Jesus
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
You may find this weeks Gospel reading somewhat curious as it seems to miss out the best bits – no feeding of 5000, no walking on water. Instead we get what at first sight might seem to be uninteresting passages about journeying between the venues. But there are no unimportant bits in the Gospels, so what does Mark want to tell us in these passages?
The first passage shows us Jesus care for his disciples. They’ve been out on their ministry adventure without him for the first time and he knows they need time to recover. Mark tells us they hadn’t had time to eat so they were hungry. So they set off to cross lake Galilee to find a quiet place to rest. It seems that they always have a boat at their disposal, which is no real surprise with so many fishermen in their company. Their plans go awry, though, because the people spot what they’re up to and run ahead along the shore line, probably telling people as they go that it’s Jesus in the boat, so the crowd grows the further round they go – it’s probably only 3 or 4 miles from where the boat is launched to where it lands.
When the boat arrives at the shore there is already a large crowd waiting. Mark tells us they were like ‘a sheep without a shepherd’ – sheep are pretty dependent animals with a tendency to get lost and be preyed upon when without a guide and to go hungry if there’s no one to lead it to good grazing. In other words they weren’t getting the help and guidance from the religious leaders that they needed. So they sought it from Jesus. And he delivered – every time.
Jump cut to the next bit…
53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
The boat lands, the people recognise Jesus, word gets around, and it all repeats, except this time they bring many who need healing.
It seems the only place Jesus and the disciples can find a bit of peace in Galilee is on the lake.
Perhaps Mark wants us to know that, just as he experienced, it can be tough being a follower of Jesus! He doesn’t mollycoddle the disciples. They were tired, hungry, yearning for a bit of peace, but Jesus taught them that whatever their personal needs, the needs of the people came first.
But when the people’s needs are met he then provides rest. He was toughening them up for their future ministry without his physical presence.
Are you being called into some form of ministry? Are you wanting to be simply a bit better at following in Jesus footsteps?
Jesus wants us to go into following him with our eyes open, fully aware of the hard times ahead – the time pressures, the times of spiritual hunger and exhaustion, the yearning for a time out, the struggles when he seems to be absent and the joys when he ‘returns’. Following Jesus will inevitably entail tough times as well as ‘mountaintop’ highs. Mark is telling us that this is normal and to be expected. It’s part of the privilege of being adopted into Jesus family, as is the ‘banquet’ to come.
It’s all there is Psalm 23.
Perhaps this week you’ll be able to find time to ‘rest in green meadows’ (Ps. 23,2 NLT).
A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord