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Mark 6 – A Disappointing Chapter

Jesus’ life was hard.  And I am not talking about how he didn’t have a wife, kids, a home, or a comfy job with a steady income.  And we all know that the Jewish leaders disliked him and were always picking fights with him and criticizing him.  This chapter shows that even the “good guys” were a drain on Jesus.

Chapter six starts with Jesus’ homecoming.  After travelling around and preaching in different places, he heads home for some time with friendly faces.  Sometimes you just want to go where people know, where people are all the same,  you wanna go where everybody knows your name.  And yet when Jesus goes home he finds one of the least receptive audiences of his entire ministry.  And its almost understandable.  Its one thing to be told that a stranger from way over yonder is the Messiah.  It’s another thing to be told that the guy who used to cause mischief with you as a kid and who learned Torah with you in Sabbath School is now telling everybody he is the Messiah.  It’s a tough pill to swallow.  But since there is no faith in Jesus, his ministry almost stalls out, so he sends out the 12 to go into the villages and see that the work of the Kingdom is still done.  But Jesus’ visit home wasn’t a great homecoming.  They weren’t putting up any signs that read, “Nazareth: Home of Jesus of Nazareth.”  Redundancy aside, they weren’t proud and they didn’t have any faith.  And it amazed Jesus (not in a good way).

Disappointing.

In the middle of this chapter John the Baptist is beheaded by Herod as a party-favor for a dirty dancer.  This passage is gut-wrenching.  John was in prison and was brought out to give speeches to entertain the court.  And his life is taken only to further amuse the court.  One of the greatest prophets in history is killed and not even for a good reason.  It certainly doesn’t reduce the great value of John’s life or his ministry, but it’s a painful story to read.

Disappointing.

Now the disciples come back from their mission trip and report of all the great things they have done.  They have had great success and can’t wait to tell Jesus.  And remember, that by success I mean that they preached a message of repentance while casting out demons and healing people.  Serious success.  Miraculous stuff.  But before they finish their mission report they are interrupted by great crowds and Jesus turns to the Apostles and says, “Feed them.”

Does Jesus think that Peter, James, and John secretly have a year’s supply of food hidden in their coats?  Or perhaps some outrageous amount of money.  But even with the money, there aren’t Walmarts or food trucks back then.  There’s a serious supply problem.  Clearly Jesus is instructing them to do something miraculous.  Keep in mind, they are in the middle of telling Jesus about the miracles they performed on their mission trip when Jesus interrupts them with these instructions.  Their response shows nothing but a lack of faith and an unwillingness to open their minds to what God is trying to do through them.

Disappointing.

After some time in prayer, Jesus is walking on the water and is about to pass by the Apostles (apparently he didn’t want to rejoin them just yet but planned to meet them on the other side…awesome).  He gets in the boat and calms them down because they are all riled up and scared.  The waves are stilled.  The winds are calmed.

Then Mark tells us “The didn’t understand about the loaves.”  Huh?  What does bread have to do with storms at sea?  The Apostles continue to see obstacles instead of opportunities.  They see fear where they should see power.

Disappointment.

And then come the crowds.  They were sick, broken, exhausted, hopeless.  Then Jesus comes and gives them healing, wholeness, life, and hope.  Jesus gives and gives and gives.  Can’t you just imagine him yelling “Take, take, take!  I can’t keep giving.  I am out.  I have nothing left.  Leave me alone for one day!”  But he doesn’t.

Mark shows us in this chapter that Jesus truly was a fount of living water and that all of those who came to him could drink forever.  He never stopped giving love, compassion, patience, life, health, wisdom…he gave, and gave, and gave.  Until people took it all.  And even then…he gave up his spirit.  Even in the face of a seemingly endless line of disappointments, even from the ones who should have been there for him the most.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Mark

 

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Matthew 14 – Beggars at a Funeral

Can you imagine if you had just learned that a friend of yours had been violently killed and all you wanted was some quiet time to process this and grieve?  And then as soon as your face was visible crowds of beggars swarmed you…how would you react?  What would you do if you were at a funeral and people kept coming up asking you to do them a favor and just help them out a little bit?  Can you imagine wanting just a few quiet minutes and when you give a task to your closest friends, or simply ask them to trust you, all they do is disappoint you?  This is Jesus’ story in Matthew 14.

Time is a tricky thing in the Gospels.  Sometimes we might spend three chapters in a single hour (see the Sermon on the Mount) and then later months might pass between two verses.  At times it’s difficult for us to keep it all straight in our minds, so we often just ignore how time moves in the Gospels.  But in Matthew 14, it’s important for us to realize the chronology.  Now, vs 12 probably constitutes several weeks as the disciples of John the Baptist retrieve his body, bury it, and then travel to find Jesus.  I do think that this shows a change from a few chapters ago when they traveled to ask if Jesus was the one they were waiting for.  Now, they seem to understand that Jesus is part of them and they are part of him and that he needs to be notified.

Anyhow, from vs 13 until the end of the chapter we are told of several events that appear to all take place within a twenty-four hour window.  This is one of the most intense days of Jesus’ entire ministry.  He finds out that John was beheaded and throughout the rest of the chapter he is trying to find a quiet moment every chance he gets.  He wants to pray, to grieve, to process the death of a family member, a colleague, and of the one who came to prepare a way for Jesus as Messiah.  This is a pain-filled moment.

And as soon as Jesus gets to shore a crowd of people wanting nothing but to be healed, impressed, and fed surrounds him.  And his response: he shows compassion to them.  This is one day that Jesus desires compassion and instead he gives it.  And when the Apostles insist it’s time to shoo away the crowds, Jesus simply instructs his followers to feed them.  Clearly Jesus knows the limitations of their food and funding, but he gives the command.  He expects them to be able to do what he is about to do, but they lack the faith, so Jesus feeds the thousands himself.

Then, off to a quiet place while the Apostles go ahead in a boat.  Later that night Jesus comes walking by on the water.  Most of us know the story of Peter getting out, walking to Jesus, losing faith and focus, and then bring taken back to the boat by Jesus.  “Oh you of little faith…” Jesus says to Peter.  For the second time in twenty four hours, the Apostles demonstrate a lack of faith.  

When Jesus arrives on shore, a crowd awaits him.  This is perhaps one of the best glimpses we have of what a day looks like when you are the Son of God.  What’s most remarkable is that he dealt with every struggle, every disappointment, every request, with nothing but patience and compassion in the midst of his own personal grief.

It’s no surprise that at the end of these twenty four hours “those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.‘”  When we read this chapter, can we possibly respond any other way?

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Matthew

 

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