Saturday, June 13, 2015
Mitch Reads... Mark 6
After raising the girl from the dead and telling no one to say anything (um, people will probably notice that she's not dead anymore) Jesus and his crew head to his hometown, which I guess would be Nazareth. As is Jesus' wont, he teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath. But this unnerves several of the locals who knew him as a boy. They question who is this man to be teaching such things? He's the carpenter, the son of Mary. Also, I think this is the first time Mark name checks Jesus' mother. She now has a name, and it is Mary. And Jesus has a profession, and it is a carpenter.
Maybe he can fix the hole in The Rock's roof!
Anyway, because of his hometown's lack of faith, Jesus didn't perform many miracles, so he left to explore the surrounding villages. He sent out his twelve disciples, two by two, like animals towards an ark, to spread the good news and heal and cast out demons. They were ordered to depend on the kindness of strangers and, should they not be welcomed, perform some spiteful, passive aggressive footwork as they left. I guess it's like giving the finger, but by shaking the dust off your dirty feet? Classy.
With all his teachings and miracles, some began to speculate just who this Jesus fellow was. Some thought he was a prophet like the ones of old. Some thought he was actually Elijah returned. Still others thought he was John the Baptist raised from the dead.
What? Mark, hold on. You briefly mentioned that John was arrested in chapter one, but we haven't heard anything about him since. Now, all of a sudden, John is dead? Details, Mark, details!
So, Mark goes into full flashback mode, recounting how Herod Antipas had him arrested for speaking ill of Herod's marriage to his brother's wife, Herodias. It was probably all political, I mean, that's the real definition of traditional marriage: securing political power. Anyway, Herod actually kind of liked John, and enjoyed listening to the guy talk. Herod's wife, however, did not care for baptizer, so she schemed to have him killed. At a party, Herodias' daughter danced so wonderfully that Herod offered her whatever she may ask for. First, what exactly did that dance consist of to provoke Herod to make such an offer? Use your imagination, is all I will say. Second, Herod, buddy, you really should have put some qualifiers on that offer.
Herodias tells her daughter to request the head of John, and the daughter does just this. Herod has no choice and orders John's head be brought up to the party on a platter. A guard swiftly decapitates John and brings the head to the daughter, who then presents it to Herodias.
That must have been some dance. Wink.
Oh, Mark also makes sure to mention that John's disciples recover his headless body and place it in a tomb.
Next, Jesus and his entourage want try to escape to a deserted place to rest. But the crowd follows them, so Jesus ends up teaching anyway. It starts to get late, and seeing as how they all came to this deserted place, there's no source for food to feed so many people. Sounds like someone could have made a killing if they had the foresight to bring a taco stand. The disciples, in their practicality, point this problem out to Jesus. Jesus just tells the disciples to feed the crowd themselves. Thanks, Jesus. Lots of help.
But Jesus has a plan! He orders the disciples to find what food they can, and they turn up five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus blesses the food and begins breaking it up into bits to be passed around to the crowd. Somehow everyone eats until they are full and the disciples manage to fill twelve baskets of leftovers.
Why did they have twelve empty baskets with them? Did each disciple carry an empty basket with him for such supper scenarios?
Mark says that five thousand people ate that day. Now, I'm not doubting Mark's math skills (yes I am), but five thousand seems like a lot of people. Five thousand people is a lot for the population of a modern day small town. I'm looking at you, rural Minnesota. So, in the rural Ancient Near East, how many of those villages had to be completely emptied to number a total of five thousand people gathered in a deserted place? Now, five thousand could be completely accurate, but even if it was less than that, it doesn't discount the miracle, or how incredible it is. But what if Mark was estimating or using hyperbole? Like when I say that I've incurred the wrath of a million people with this paragraph. Come on, now, nowhere near a million people will read this, but the exaggeration carries the intensity of the statement.
What I am trying to get at is the literalism of the number is not something to live and die by. We use hyperbole all the time and it is entirely likely people in the first century did the same. Especially when telling stories.
After everyone (however many they totaled) were well fed, Jesus dismissed them and sent his disciples to take the escape boat over to Bethsaida. Jesus, however, went up the mountain to pray. There seems to be a mountain conveniently located every time Jesus stops to pray.
But the wind was strong and the disciples were struggling to row against it. Jesus saw their struggle and had a bright idea: he would walk right past them, on the water, and beat them to the other side. Seriously. In verse 48 Mark says, "He intended to pass them by." As they struggled to row their boat in the fierce wind, Jesus would just walk right on by, possibly turning to smile and wave as he continued on to the other side. That's kind of a jerk move, Jesus. And I kind of love you for it.
However, Jesus' plan didn't pan out. For, when the disciples saw him, they freaked the crap out. They thought it was a ghost on the water and they were terrified. So, Jesus gave up on his jerky plan and walked over, hopped in the boat, and calmed them down. At the same time the wind also died down. So that's the second time Jesus controlled the wind and the waves. Staffless Moses strikes again!
Oh, and that whole walking on water thing probably also counts as being able to manipulate the sea. Let's see regular Moses do that.
When they arrived to shore, people on that side of the sea immediately recognized him and a new group began to form. They followed him wherever he went, hoping to be healed. And people crowded around just to touch his cloak believing that it would heal them. And those who touched the cloak were healed, for it was also an incredible cape that lasted for six seasons and a movie.
Thus ends the Sixth Chapter of Mark.