We are continuing our in-depth reading of the Gospel of Mark. It will also be the last week when we read only one chapter. Beginning next week we will have to read 1½ chapters if we which to conclude with the resurrection of Jesus, Chapter 16, on Easter Sunday.
This Sunday is also “Transfiguration Sunday” on the church calendar and the lectionary texts revolve around that theme.
Mark 6:1-56 – There are a number of stories in this chapter including a “flashback”. The two central stories are the report of John the Baptist’s death and the feeding of 5,000 men. I will comment on each story.
Verses 1-6a – Jesus finally get back to his hometown and goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath. I am fairly certain that Mary and Joseph were faithful members of the synagogue and Jesus was a familiar figure. Just like one of our youth returning to church after a 10 or 15 year absence. Was he a quiet kid because when he spoke the people were astounded by his power? Could this really be Mary’s eldest child? (Joseph may have died by this time as Mark doesn’t mention him.) Why would Mark report that the people of the synagogue (and town) took offence?
Verses 6b-13 – Jesus sends out the twelve disciples to preach, heal, and cast out demons. They go in pairs and they take nothing with them except a walking staff. They are to depend on the generosity of the people in the towns they visit.
Verses 14-29 – King Herod hears about Jesus and people around him thought John the Baptizer was raised from the dead. Mark then “flashes back” to tell the story of John’s death. Herod throwing a party. Herod’s wife, Herodias, holding a grudge against John who spoke against Herodias, who had divorced her first husband, Philip, who was Herod’s brother. (Cue the theme music from “Days of Our Lives”)
The seductive, erotic dance by Herodias’ daughter. Herod’s wild, perhaps drunken, promise. Herodias’ head-separating revenge on John.
Verses 30-44 – The twelve disciples return from their preaching and healing tour and report their success to Jesus. Jesus invites them to get away for some much needed R&R. They sail to the east side of the lake but still can’t get away from the crowd, but Jesus was compassionate. At the end of the day the disciples want to send the crowd away so they, the disciples and the crowd, could eat. After telling the disciples to feed them, Jesus shows them how to feed the crowd with five loaves of bread and two fish. Is this the miracle of multiplying bread and fish or the miracle of unbinding the hardened hearts of the crowd? Which would be the greater miracle?
Verses 45-52 – After dinner, Jesus sends the disciples back across the lake so that he could have some alone time to pray. A stiff wind comes up out of the west and the disciples are getting no where with their oars. Note, Mark does not describe this as a storm, only a stiff wind. Early in the morning, the disciples see Jesus walking on the water going past them. Thinking Jesus was a ghost, they cry out in terror. Jesus calms them down and get in the boat as the wind suddenly dies away. What do you make of Mark’s concluding statement of this story, “And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened”? While we often read the Gospels in small, discreet stories, no story stands alone. What is the link back to the preceding feeding story?
Verses 53-56 – One of Mark’s summary statement on Jesus’ mission and work. See also 1:38-39 and 4:33-34.
Lectionary Readings for Transfiguration Sunday
2 Kings 2:1-12 – Elijah is taken up to heave by a whirlwind and yes, there are chariots of fire in the scene. It is at this time that Elijah passes the mantel on to Elisha.
Psalm 50:1-6 – The Lord God calls upon the heavens and the earth to witness the judgment of faithful. The heavens declare God’s righteousness to judge.
2 Corinthians 4:3-6 – We don’t see the light of God’s love in the glory of Jesus Christ because the world’s social, political, religious, and military powers, the powers and principalities, the gods of this world, has blinded us. Only the love of Christ that shines in love from each of us can change the hearts of others.
Mark 9:2-9 – Jesus, Peter, James, and John go up to a mountain where Jesus is changed and his clothes glow white. The three disciples see Jesus with Moses and Elijah and Peter wants to put up three tents for them. A voice from heaven speaks to them with what I might call the Eleventh Commandment: “Listen to him!” Do we do what God commands? Do we listen to Jesus?
Thank you for bearing with me to this end. I hope and pray that you will be moved to actually read all of the scriptures I have talked about. What are your questions about them? How is God leading you and our churches into new life? Where can life blossom in the midst of a world of death? Blessing this week as you serve God by serving others.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor