Posts Tagged ‘Mark 6’

MARK 6:30-34, 53-56

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Jesus knew that stress and exhaustion can wear down both our tolerance and our charity in the adventure of life. Getting away once in a while to just be by yourself and recuperate your energy and perspective may not sound very ‘religious’, but is in fact one of the most important disciplines of the spiritual life. When we are tired and distracted by daily concerns, we are less resourceful, less focused, and less able to bring to life the vision to see our way through.

After all, our bodies are not merely the containers we ride in; they are the outward manifestation and physical support of who and what we are. Neglect or abuse the body, and the soul-life suffers. Take it for granted or ignore the communication of its symptoms, and you soon lose touch with your deeper life as well.

On this occasion Jesus and his disciples were seen by the crowd in their attempted get-away, and found the throng waiting for them on the farther shore. There were men, women, and children who had been on the outside of the wall, not permitted to enter the sacred space of the temple because they weren’t  righteous enough, or healthy enough, of the right complexion. They saw in Jesus the hope of their salvation because he walked on their side of the wall, with a vision big enough to include even such as themselves, and with a love bold enough to reach through to the crying need in every human heart.

MARK 6:14-29

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

The degeneration of King Herod as a human being, descending the way of ‘harmless’ fantasies, swelling impulses, a growing disregard for conscience, the fateful decision, maneuvers in self-justification, an attempted cover-up, and finally adding murder to infidelity, presents us with a negative image of our unique capacity among God’s creatures. The tree and the bird each unfolds in its development according to the design and potential of their distinct natures. Their beauty is what we could call an ‘instinctive’ beauty, flowing out through natural tendencies and inherited patterns.

Human beings, in addition to having an instinctive nature, are conspicuous among the animal kingdom for being morally free, which means that our destiny as a species has been given to a great extent into our own hands. We can feel the drive of impulse in our organs and blood, but we can also discern the voice of conscience calling us to acts of fidelity, love, and self-sacrifice.

At some point in the progression of Herod’s guilt – a point that would preferably h come early rather than too late – there was a pause, a hesitation, a second thought. At that precise moment he was free to weigh the moral virtue and predictable consequences of his impending choice. Had he successfully uprooted the fantasy of his attraction to Herodias, or repented of his wrongful act when inwardly or outwardly convicted, he could have elected for a different path altogether. Instead of conspiring in the assassination of one of God’s prophets, Herod could have become an inspiring example of integrity and godly character.

MARK 6:14-29

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

King Herod suffered from the chronic pangs of a guilty conscience. He had played into an underhanded scheme to dispose of John the Baptist, consenting to the prophet’s unjust execution rather than humbly retracting a foolish promise made in the flush of excitement. John had been a tireless critic of Herod’s illicit relationship with his brother’s wife – reason enough to put John in chains, but not enough to take his head.

The progression of Herod’s guilt is instructive. His affair and unlawful marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias, was his second decision, following his willingness to entertain the fantasy of it in the first place. For a while after having committed the act, he could get away with it. But when John got wind of the deed and started confronting Herod on the legal and moral demerits of his behavior, the king shifted into a mode of self-justification. “Because I’m king, that’s how!” or “Philip doesn’t love her anyway” or “that law is so antiquated!” might have been declared in his own defense.

Finally, in putting John away Herod was attempting to remove the voice of moral judgment entirely. Locking the prophet away in prison is really a reflection in the outer world of what Herod had already achieved in his inner world, by throwing his own better judgment behind bars. His supposed ‘slip up’ in making such an outlandish promise to his daughter managed to further compound his existing guilt with yet another guilty act.

Behold, the tangled web.

MARK 6:1-13

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

In our day and age, evangelism has become a serious industry, with seminars on how to do it, techniques and methods on sale for doing it successfully, pamphlets and books on why we need it, and a thousand gimmicks for making it attractive and worth the money.

Contrast this with the evangelistic strategy that Jesus laid out for his disciples. He didn’t advise them to set up a booth with flashy giveaways to anyone who would stop and listen. It wasn’t about getting people to come to church. They were simply to go out into the world in pairs, without money, food, or supplies, and rely completely on the occasional hospitality of a host or hostess. Once invited in, they were to proclaim the good news and minister to the sick and possessed.

No large assemblies. No rallies or crusades. Just a quiet infiltration by the back streets of the world, moving steadily from one house to another, from one town to the next, until everyone had been touched or seized by the holy love of God.

Not everyone did respond with acceptance, however. But Jesus told his disciples not to dwell on the naysayers. It would serve no one in the end to browbeat resisters into emotional submission. “If they refuse to hear you, shake off the dust that is on your feet” and move on. It would be worse still to seduce acceptance through the offer of some gimmick or cheap promise.

Tragically, evangelism today is often more about the benefits and door prizes than it is an invitation to die and be reborn. Evangelism is bringing to the world a love, a message, and a hope, the response to which is nothing less than forsaking all and following in the way of the gospel.

MARK 6:1-13

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Why is it that “prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house”? Simply because the immediate family, extended relations, and neighborhood community have accumulated too many memories and together decided the reputation of the prophet on the basis of what they remember about him or her, before the voice of God called them into mission.

Remember when he smoked cigarettes behind the barn with his friends, and then lied about it to his folks? Remember when she flopped among the boys during high school, and then left town in rumors of pregnancy? And now they’re back in celebrity lights? I don’t think so!

This is not to suggest that Jesus necessarily had a checkered past, but the scrapbook memories that curl and yellow in the album of our family archives always make it difficult for those who knew us to praise our turn-around life without so much as a friendly wink of suspicion.

Interestingly the story tells us that Jesus was “unable” to do a deed of power there in Nazareth – unable, not unwilling. Which reminds us of other Gospel stories, of the hemorrhaging woman, for instance, or the paralyzed man, whose faith had been instrumental in their healing. All the power in the universe could have resided in Jesus, but it depended on the belief of these people to be activated and released for their health and benefit.

Grace and faith are thus the two complementary powers in the experience of salvation. Grace is the supply and the offer; faith is the trusting heart.

MARK 6:1-13

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

We might expect that a return to his hometown in Nazareth would excite the neighbors and townspeople to throw a party and organize a parade in honor of what God had been able to accomplish through one of their own. The reputation of Jesus had preceded him, and we can imagine the throng coming out to meet his arrival. No such luck.

When Jesus began to teach in their synagogue, these Nazarenes were immediately impressed by the power and clarity of his wisdom. But instead of attributing that wisdom to the providence of God, and then giving praise for its revelation in their midst, these friends and neighbors of the Carpenter family passed him off as the little scrap they remembered from years ago. “Where did he get this stuff,” they asked. “Isn’t that the kid who used to sand cabinets and sell chairs with his father?” Sadly, what they remembered of Jesus back then was preventing them from perceiving the truth in Jesus now.

Which brings up an important observation regarding the dangers of religion as well. Our religious instruction and churchly upbringing can establish such a strong set of familiar assumptions in our minds, that we become nearly impervious to the Truth.