The first part of the Gospel text for this Sunday (Mark 6:45-56) could be called ‘Jesus Calms a Storm—Take 2’. A comparison to the previous calming of the storm [at the end of chapter 4] is important.
During the first storm, Jesus was asleep in the boat. That was not as bad as being separated from Jesus. Jesus seems to set up this situation this second time in a very ‘commanding’ way. Jesus MADE his disciples get into the boat. And then, as the text describes it, Jesus TOOK LEAVE of them.
As I have made connections to the end of this gospel account, I will do so again here. Jesus gave some commands before he left. Then he took leave of his disciples, his church. And the church is in, admittedly, a difficult situation. One might compare it to being in the middle of a battle.
The disciples think that, when they see Jesus, he is just a ghost. And that same word could be used in a resurrection account. Today’s church is accused of the same thing by others, that Jesus really did not rise from the dead; something like that would be impossible!
It is nice to hear that, when the disciples—not many, but ALL—when they ALL saw him, they were terrified, and NOW there is another ‘immediately’ here. (That word does not always come at the right time!) Jesus IMMEDIATELY speaks to them. He does not wait. He certainly does care.
And, then, there is the response. After the first calming, the text says that, literally, the disciples ‘feared a great fear (Mark 4:41)’. And what is the response this time? The ESV translates it as ‘utterly astounded (v. 51)’, but it is basically the same word as in Mark 3:21, when Jesus is described as ‘out of his mind’.
At the end of the first calming, the disciples are asking, ‘Who is this?’ At the second calming, they should have been able to answer that question.
Perhaps the reason that this gospel account was not too popular in the early church is because of its negative view toward the followers of Jesus. (I believe I read recently that more papyri have been found about the Gospel according to Thomas than the Gospel according to Mark!) All the gospel accounts focus on something much more important, but people can get easily distracted.
That the disciples do not answer the ‘who’ question this second time makes the following editorial comment completely appropriate. After the disciples were basically described as ‘crazy’, the text says it was because their hearts were hardened, and it was also because they did not understand about the multiplication of the loaves (v. 52).
Jesus is on an important journey. The disciples do not get it, and that is okay. He even meant to pass by them on the water (v. 48). That, also, would have been okay—only they see him, and he does not want to leave them in doubt (or, especially, fear). Jesus is on a critical journey, and he sees THAT journey all the way through.
Is this a good time for you to read this blog? What is your idea of a ‘good’ time?
For two successive Sundays, the word that could be translated as ‘good time’ has been used in the Gospel text. The Greek word means, literally, ‘good time’, but it is never translated that way.
Last Sunday, the text said that Herod’s wife wanted John the Baptist dead, but she was not able to do that. And then, the text says, ‘an opportunity’ came (Mark 6:19-21). This Sunday, Jesus’ disciples had been so busy that, the text says, ‘they had no LEISURE(!) even to eat (ESV; Mark 6:31).’
There is obviously a wide range of things that could make for something that people would consider to be a ‘good time’. On the one hand, there was a good time for someone to be dead. On the other hand, there was NOT a good time for some people to eat.
It seems that, in both circumstances, time is working against the Christians. And the only other use of ‘good time’ in this account is when Judas was looking for a good time (an ‘opportunity’) to betray Jesus (Mark 14:11).
That gets to the heart of a ‘good’ time. A good time is not when things go well for an individual, whether Christian or not. A good time is when things go well for God. And God’s calendar is significantly different from ours.
John the Baptist dies. That is okay with God. The disciples do not have enough time to eat. That is also okay. Judas betrays Jesus. That is more than okay; that is exactly what he wanted.
The cry may go up, ‘Don’t you care that your disciples are hungry?’ The type and amount of God’s care is significantly better.
The critical point in this Gospel account is when Jesus is called the Son of God. He is given that title at the very beginning of the account. But it takes fifteen chapters for the Roman centurion to call Jesus that. And it is at the point where he is hanging dead on the cross.
We have more details about Jesus’ time on the cross in the Gospel according to Mark than all the other accounts (cf. Mark 15:25). I do not think that to be a coincidence.
Is that your idea of a ‘good time’? Yes, it is. At least, it should be. At least, it should be given a chance.
It seems like the Gospel text for this Sunday (Mark 6:14-29) is a parenthesis. At the very end of the text on the previous Sunday, the disciples had been sent out, and it was reported that they healed many. This next week, at the very beginning of the text which follows immediately after this one, the disciples are going to come back to Jesus and report what they had done. (And, after that, Jesus is going to take them away to a desolate place—and it will be a proper setting for the feeding of the 5,000.) And, in between those two Sundays, there is the record of John the Baptist’s beheading.
There are a lot of places where it might be appropriate to talk about how John the Baptist was beheaded. I actually like the literary choice to have it here.
Having the disciples being sent out here, instead of at the end of this gospel account, makes it possible for the amazing ending that occurs at Mark 16:8. The women will leave the empty tomb afraid, telling no one.
At the end of this account, the focus does not have to be on the disciples and them telling others. They were not the important ones throughout the account anyway. And John the Baptist certainly was not the important one as well.
In this account, the fear is real, the death is certainly real, and, of course, the fear of death is also a real thing. And this account has an answer to all those issues—Jesus.
Literarily, when the disciples are going out and telling others about Jesus, John the Baptist is getting his head chopped off because of a silly oath Herod made to a young girl. And I hesitate calling him a ‘king’ even though this title is given to him several times and he himself even says that he has a ‘kingdom’, of which he is willing to give half of it away.
There is also the interesting use of the term ‘immediately’ or ‘straightway’; it occurs twice within this account, and both times something happens immediately that is very bad.
The literary style of this text seems to say that not everything in this gospel account is good news. It is also a good reminder that the beginning of this account is described as just the beginning of the gospel. And, also, there are things we trust in that cannot help us too much—earthly ‘kings’ and our own sense of the ‘right’ timing. We need help from a source that is OUTSIDE OURSELVES.
As always, Jesus makes the right decisions at the right time. The world seems to be more out of control each day, but Jesus knows what is going on. His gospel certainly continues. And he makes the right promises, and he makes sure that they are kept.
The Gospel text for this Sunday, Mark 6:1-13, contains a good reminder of how the differences between the gospel accounts can come together for a fascinating, even better account of our amazing Savior.
A most interesting verse to support this is the second half of Mark 6:6. Literally, it says, “And he went around the villages in a circuit/circle, teaching.” The closest verse within the other accounts is the first part of Matthew 9:35; there it says, “And Jesus went around all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues….”
The most obvious difference is that Mark has Jesus going around in a circle or a circuit. The first thing to note is that Jesus is not going around in circles, as if he is not accomplishing anything. The second thing to note is that this is characteristic of a lion, that of the symbol most frequently connected to this gospel account.
A lion is a territorial animal. A lion has a certain amount of territory marked out, over which he ‘rules’.
You might see a lion going around in circles in a cage in a zoo. He is not looking for a way out (although he certainly would appreciate one). He is not confused. He is not getting his exercise (although that is certainly helpful within such a confined space). A lion is a territorial animal, and he is showing his authority over that area.
Jesus is going around the villages in a circuit, acting like a lion, the ‘king of the beasts’. But he could have acted like a much more powerful lion.
First of all, he could have been going around in a circuit to the capitals of all the main empires at that time. He could have regularly visited Beijing, Rome, and all other capitals. But why stop there?
In the creation account, it says that the ‘lesser light and the stars rule at night (Genesis 1:16)’, and at certain places on the globe, certain constellations are directly overhead. Interestingly enough, these constellations often match the things which have been inscribed on the thrones of many kings. For example, as there is a lion on some thrones, there is Leo; and as there is an ox on some thrones, there is Taurus, the bull. Jesus’ throne could be in the stars!
Jesus also could have made a huge circuit to the ‘four corners of the world’ to show his authority as king. But he does not go to the corners. He does not go to the capitals. He does not even go to the cities. He goes to the villages. He comes to people on the lowest level, and therefore he comes to people on all levels, and therefore he comes to our level.
He comes like a lion, but he comes showing compassion to his own. He comes ready to be king over sin, death, and the devil, to overcome that all for us.
The Gospel text for this Sunday (Mark 5:21-43) is a wonderful text, especially since the Gospel according to Mark does not have much when it comes to Jesus’ resurrection account. Especially significant is the reaction of the people in the text. On this Sunday, Jesus resurrects the young girl, Jairus' daughter.
There is a great hymn in The Lutheran Hymnal associated with this hymn. It has a great tune connected with it (Den signede Dag)—which naturally helps. The last stanza of the hymn is amazingly appropriate to this text—although the bible verse connected to this hymn (there can be only one in TLH) is Revelation 14:13 (ESV: ‘And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who died in the Lord from now on.”’).
O Jesus, draw near my dying bed / And take me into Thy keeping / And say when my spirit hence is fled, / “This child is not dead, but sleeping.” / And leave me not, Savior, till I rise / To praise Thee in life eternal.
I recently found out there was another stanza after the one above. It is given in The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal.
Now opens the Father’s house above, / The names of the blest are given. / Lord, gather us there; let none we love / Be missed in the joys of heaven. / Oh, grant to us all a place with Thee; / We ask through our dear Redeemer.
It is nice that The Handbook goes into the following details as to why this stanza was left out: ‘It was dropped because of an unscriptural thought in Lines 3 and 4. Such a prayer presupposes the possibility of suffering in heaven. This is inconsistent with Rev. 21:4.’ (ESV: ‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’)
This fits with what a hear people asking. ‘I was very much attached to my pet dog. Will that dog be in heaven with me?’ I usually reply by noting that there is very little in scripture which talks about what this new heaven and new earth will be like; but, on the other hand, there is a LOT in scripture which tells us how to get there! Now that is not answering the question, but there are some questions which we cannot answer--because those answers are not in scripture.
And, as for the omitted stanza, how about the following for a resolution? Only two words need to be changed. (Admittedly this makes the translation from the Norwegian very much a paraphrase!)
Now opens the Father’s house above, / The names of the blest are given. / Lord, gather us there; let all we love / Be joined in the joys of heaven. / Oh, grant to us all a place with Thee; / We ask through our dear Redeemer.