The Gospel text for this Sunday (John 6:22-35) starts a significant change, especially those who have been getting used to the Gospel according to Mark during this Pentecost season. For the next three Sundays, the text will be from the Gospel according to John.
Mark is a very short account. It has no resurrection appearances of Jesus, and Jesus does very little speaking throughout the work. During the church year, the Gospel according to Mark could use some ‘additional material’ along the way. And the Gospel according to John provides some wonderful insights.
As a reminder, I would encourage the reader NOT to think of the four accounts as a puzzle that you are trying to fit together, to make sure that all the perspectives come together into one story that you can understand. If you have lots of time (and do not have a problem with sin at all!), then that may be your perspective.
I have mentioned this before, but I believe the four accounts work together like the four sides of the throne where God is sitting and where, because of sin, we cannot approach. Only because of God the Father’s gracious action in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, may we approach that throne.
The four accounts work together wonderfully to show how Christ was made a king on the cross for us in four slightly different ways. At this point I would like to reference a book that supports this view. It is by the well-known theologian, N.T. Wright, and the title is How God Became King. The author particularly emphasizes that it is proper for the four gospel accounts to focus especially on that time BEFORE Jesus’ death and resurrection (and that this is something that is not emphasized in the Church’s Creeds).
Obviously, some Christians would like to emphasize the power that Jesus showed AFTER he rose from the dead. But that power is not shown in the Gospel according to Mark. That power has not always been obvious within the Christian Church. The PROMISE is there and is based on Jesus’ words, and that should be the proper focus.
When the word ‘Lord’ is used in the New Testament, it references a Jesus who already went through the suffering and death. As ‘Lord’ he is a king, the Lord over sin, death, and the devil.
The way the word ‘Lord’ is used in the gospel accounts BEFORE the resurrection is interesting. For example, its use in the Gospel according to Luke is helpful, especially when the early Christians are trying to decide what to do in Acts.
The use of the word ‘Lord’ in the Gospel according to John is comforting, especially within the context of the Christian Church.
Here are the uses (when it is used by the writer and not by someone who is being quoted; and I have given a significantly different translation than the ESV):
John 4:1 “Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees heard Jesus was making more disciples and baptizing more than John….”
John 6:23 “Other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where the crowd ate the bread, when the Lord had ‘the Eucharist’.” [The word ‘Eucharist’ is an ancient word meaning to ‘give thanks’, and it often referred to the Lord’s Supper.]
John 11:2 “And it was Mary, the one anointing the Lord with ointment and wiping it off his feet with her hair….”
[John 21:7 & 12 These occurrences of ‘Lord’ are within a resurrection appearance.]
In John 6:23, note that it does not say that Jesus multiplied the loaves of bread. It says, literally, that he gave thanks. That was certainly a powerful prayer! But the text focuses on the hiddenness of it all. After the miracle, the crowds want to make him king, so he goes away. That was not the kind of king he wanted to be.
All these passages deal with responses in some way. Jesus is baptizing, and the Pharisees heard about it and respond, and so Jesus responds in turn. Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves, and there certainly was a response to that! And Mary anoints Jesus, and she comes onto the scene again after Lazarus dies.
It is interesting that these three topics—baptism, the Eucharist, and anointing—also have to do with the actions within the Christian Church. Sometimes people can look at those actions which happen inside a church building and get turned off by them. But it is the Lord who is in charge; he is called the Lord for a reason! This is a good reminder to look to him; it is all about HIS gifts—his words AND his actions.