A. Rejection in Jesus’ hometown.
1. (1-3) Jesus’ countrymen are offended at Him.
Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” And they were offended at Him.
a. Where did this Man get these things? In His hometown, Jesus faced a crowd that wondered how He became so powerful in both word and works. Jesus left Nazareth as a carpenter. He came back as a rabbi, complete with a group of disciples. It isn’t hard to see how the Nazareth locals would wonder, “What happened to Jesus?”
b. Is this not the carpenter: This was not a compliment. It was a way of pointing out that Jesus had no formal theological training. He was never a formal disciple of a rabbi, much less a prominent rabbi.
i. Throughout the centuries, some people have thought that Jesus’ employment as a carpenter somehow discredited His message. In ancient Rome, there was a terrible persecution under the Emperor Julian. At that time, a philosopher mocked a Christian, asking him “What do you think the carpenter’s son is doing now?” The Christian wisely answered, “He is building a coffin for Julian.”
c. The carpenter: The word carpenter was actually much broader than just one who works with wood. It had the idea of “a builder.” Jesus may have worked with stone as much as with wood, because stone was a much more common building material in that time and place.
i. It is wonderful to think that our Lord – of all the professions He could have been – chose to be a carpenter. God is a builder, and He knows how to build in our lives – and He knows how to finish the job.
ii. A few things Jesus learned as a carpenter:
· He learned that there is a lot of potential in a log.
· He learned it takes work and time to make something useable.
· He learned that the finest things are made from the hardest wood.
d. The Son of Mary: This also was not a compliment. “The additional phrase ‘the son of Mary’ is probably disparaging. It was contrary to Jewish usage to describe a man as the son of his mother, even when she was a widow, except in insulting terms. Rumors to the effect that Jesus was illegitimate appear to have circulated in his own lifetime and may lie behind this reference as well.” (Lane)
i. “How much of suspicion and contempt may have lurked behind that particular description of Him?” (Morgan)
ii. The lack of mention of Joseph perhaps implies that he died when Jesus was young; Jesus probably stayed at home to support His family until the youngest children were old enough to support the family.
e. His sisters: We know that Jesus had brothers (Mark 3:31), but now we also learn that He had sisters. Mary did not remain a virgin after she gave birth to Jesus.
f. And they were offended at Him: These neighbors of Jesus were “too familiar” with Jesus. They knew little enough about Him to think that they knew everything about Him.
2. (4-6) Jesus’ reaction to the rejection by His own countrymen.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.
a. A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country: Jesus accepted rejection as price a faithful prophet must pay, though it must have hurt Him badly to be rejected by friends and neighbors.
b. He could do no mighty work: His work was limited in this climate of unbelief. In this sense, Jesus’ power was limited by the unbelief of His countrymen.
i. This was in respect to God’s principle of partnership with man. God may work with no belief, but not with unbelief.
c. He marveled because of their unbelief: Jesus was amazed at their unbelief. Our inability to believe God and trust Him is indeed amazing.
i. Jesus only marveled at Jewish unbelief and Gentile faith (Luke 7:9). Would Jesus marvel at your faith or your unbelief? “Unbelief must needs be a monstrous sin, that puts Christ to the marvel.” (Trapp)
ii. We never read that Jesus marveled at art or architecture or even the wonders of creation. He never marveled at human ingenuity or invention. He didn’t marvel at the piety of the Jewish people or the military dominance of the Roman Empire. But Jesus did marvel at faith – when it was present in an unexpected place, and when it was absent where it should have been.
d. He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching: Jesus did not let this rejection by His countrymen debilitate Him. Jesus got on with the business of teaching and ministry.
3. (7-13) The twelve are sent out preaching.
And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff; no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts; but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics. Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.
a. And began to send them out two by two: In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, as the Father has sent Me, I also send you (John 20:21). Here, Jesus sent out His disciples to do the same things that He did: preach, heal the sick, and free people from demonic possession.
b. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey: The disciples didn’t need fancy equipment to preach a simple message. Too much stuff would get in the way of their urgent message.
i. There was a rule from the Jewish rabbis that you could not enter the temple area with a staff, shoes, or a moneybag, because you wanted to avoid even the appearance of being engaged in any other business than the service of the Lord. The disciples were engaged in such holy work (preaching the gospel and bringing God’s healing) that they could not give the impression that they have any other motive.
c. No bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts: Traveling light kept them dependent upon God. They had to trust the Lord for everything if they didn’t take much with them. If the preacher doesn’t trust God, how can he tell others to trust Him?
d. And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them: Their job as preachers wasn’t to change people’s minds. They were to persuasively present the message; but if their audience didn’t receive it, they didn’t receive it – and they could leave, and shake the very dust from your feet as they left.
i. In that day, if Jewish people had to go in or through a Gentile city, as they left they would shake the dust off their feet. It was a gesture that said, “We don’t want to take anything from this Gentile city with us.” Essentially, Jesus told them to regard a Jewish city that rejects their message as if it were a Gentile city.
e. It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gommorah in the day of judgment: The implication is that some will be judged more severely than others in the day of judgment. Of course, none will have it good in hell; but perhaps some will have it worse than others will.
f. They went out: They actually did it. We can hear Jesus’ word to us all day long, but something is missing until we do it.
g. They went out and preached: To preach simply means to proclaim, to tell others in the sense of announcing news to them. Some of the best and most effective preaching never happens inside a church. It happens when followers of Jesus are one-on-one with others, telling about what Jesus did for them.
i. Morgan on preached that people should repent: “First they preached that men should repent. That is a declaration that needs careful consideration. It does not mean that they told men to repent, but that they preached in such a way as to produce repentance.”
ii. “When the apostles went out to preach to men, they did not create a message; they brought a message.” (Barclay)
h. And anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them: The other reference to anointing with oil for healing is in James 5:14-15. We know that anointing with oil was a picture of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but it may also have had a medicinal purpose in that day.
i. “It is possible that the use of oil (olive oil) as a medicine is the basis of the practice… It was the best medicine of the ancients and was used internally and externally… The very word aleipho can be translated rub or anoint without any ceremony.” (Robertson)
B. The death of John the Baptist.
1. (14-16) Herod hears of Jesus’ ministry and is perplexed.
Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” Others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is the Prophet, or like one of the prophets.” But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!”
a. King Herod: Actually, Emperor Augustus denied the title “king” to Herod. Goaded by the ambitious Herodias, Herod pressed for the title again and again until he so offended the emperor’s court that he was dismissed as a traitor. Mark used the title King Herod because it was the local custom to call him king, or more likely he used it ironically. All his ancient readers would remember the character of this man.
b. It is Elijah: Some people thought Jesus was Elijah, because it was prophesied Elijah would come before the Messiah did (Malachi 4:5). Others thought He was the Prophet whom Moses said would come after him (Deuteronomy 18:15).
c. This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead: Herod feared Jesus was John the Baptist. Herod’s confusion came from his own guilty conscience. It is hard to see clearly who Jesus is when we are in sin and rebellion.
2. (17-29) The sordid death of John the Baptist.
For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. For John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!” Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.
a. Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison: Herod imprisoned John for his bold rebuke of his sin. At the same time, Herod did not want to kill John out of fear of the multitudes – and because he knew that John was a just and holy man.
i. “More weak than cruel, Herod listened to John with an undeniable fascination. John’s word left him perplexed, and in anguish. Yet he found a strange pleasure in the authoritative preaching of this holy man, whose stringent life gave added power to his probing word. Too weak to follow John’s counsel, he nevertheless had to listen.” (Lane)
b. For John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” When he preached repentance, John did not spare the rich and powerful. He called Herod and his wife Herodias to repent, because Herodias had been the wife of Herod’s brother Philip.
i. John Trapp tells of another bold confrontation of sin in a king: “So Latimer presented for a new-year’s gift to King Henry VIII a New Testament, with a napkin, having this posy about it, Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
c. And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him: Herodias’ daughter shamelessly danced before Herod and friends, winning favor and a special request.
i. “With immodest gesticulations and trippings on the toe, wherewith the old fornicator was so inflamed, that he swore she should have anything of him.” (Trapp)
ii. “Such dancing was an almost unprecedented thing for women of rank, or even respectability. It was mimetic and licentious, and performed by professionals.” (Robertson)
d. So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!” The immediate reply of Herodias showed that the mother had this planned out all along. She knew her husband and she knew the situation, and knew she could get what she wanted this way.
i. “The girl’s question implies by the middle voice that she is thinking of something for herself. She was no doubt unprepared for her mother’s ghastly reply.” (Robertson)
e. And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her: Because Herod was afraid to cross his wife or lose face before his friends, he did something he knew to be wrong.
i. “The depth of distress experienced by Herod at Salome’s request for the head of John the Baptist is expressed graphically by the Greek word perilypos, ‘greatly distressed’. This is the same word used to describe Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane (Mark 14:34).” (Wessell)
ii. “Neither was it long ere this tyrant Herod had his payment from heaven.” (Trapp) In order to take his brother’s wife Herodias, Herod put away his first wife, a princess from a neighboring kingdom to the east. Her father was offended, and came against Herod with an army, defeating him in battle. Then his brother Agrippa accused him of treason against Rome, and he was banished into the distant Roman province of Gaul, where Herod and Herodias committed suicide.
C. Jesus displays His power over the laws of nature.
1. (30-34) Jesus’ compassion on the multitude.
Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves. But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.
a. Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while: The disciples came back from a successful time of ministry, being sent by Jesus into the towns of Galilee (Mark 6:7-12). When they returned, Jesus knew they needed a time of rest. Jesus knew when it was time to work, and He knew when it was time to rest.
i. Jesus knew the importance of hard work better than anyone did. He said, I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. (John 9:4) At the same time, He knew that we can only be most effective at work when we also take time for rest. Jesus and the disciples were constantly busy (there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat), so Jesus took them away to a deserted place for some rest.
ii. “Rest is necessary for those who labour; and a zealous preacher of the Gospel will as often stand in need of it as a galley slave.” (Clarke)
b. The multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities: Perhaps the multitude was rude and demanding. The disciples wanted to send them away (Mark 6:36), but Jesus was moved with compassion for them.
i. The disciples often saw the crowds as work, and as constant demands, especially at a time like this when their well-deserved rest was interrupted by the multitude. But Jesus saw them and was moved with compassion. Each face reflected a need, a hunger, or a hurt. Being a thoroughly others-centered person, Jesus cared more about the needs of someone else than he cared about His own needs.
c. Because they were like sheep without a shepherd: Jesus knew that without a shepherd, sheep were in a lot of trouble. They can’t fend for themselves against predators and have a hard time finding the food and water they need. Jesus was moved with compassion for the people among the crowd because He knew their pressing demands were prompted by great needs.
d. So He began to teach them many things: As a faithful Shepherd, Jesus took care of their most pressing need. He fed them with the Word of God.
2. (35-44) Jesus feeds the multitude.
When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.” But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?” But He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties. And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish. Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men.
a. Send them away… for they have nothing to eat: Both Jesus and the disciples saw exactly the same need among the multitude. The disciple’s solution was to get rid of the need by getting rid of the needy. Jesus saw a different solution and wanted the disciples to see it also (You give them something to eat).
b. Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat? It’s hard to know if the disciples were angry or just couldn’t believe what Jesus said. Clearly, they thought spending about a year’s income to feed this multitude for one meal was not only impossible but also a waste.
i. Understandably, it never entered their minds that Jesus might provide for the multitude with a miracle. God has resources that we know nothing about, so we can trust Him and be at peace even when we can’t figure out how He will provide.
ii. Jesus’ suggestion must have seemed so extravagant to the disciples. “Jesus if we had that kind of money, we would never spend it on one meal for this crowd. They annoy us, and they would be hungry again in a few hours. Shouldn’t the money be spent on something else?” But Jesus will perform an extravagant miracle because He wanted to sit down to a dinner with the multitude – because He loved them.
c. How many loaves do you have? Go and see: God’s way of provision always begins with what we already have. He wants us to use what we already have wisely. Don’t foolishly pray for more from God if you don’t use what He already has given you in a godly way.
i. What they did have was almost laughable. Five loaves and two fish were about enough for one or two people, because they were small loaves and small fishes. Even though the amount was tiny, Jesus still started with what they had.
d. Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass: Jesus did this because these people were like sheep without a shepherd, and Jesus acted like their shepherd. The Good Shepherd makes me lie down in green pastures. (Psalm 23:2)
e. So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties: Jesus organized the multitude. He didn’t want a mob scene; He wanted to have a nice dinner with these people. God likes organization, especially when it comes to managing what He provides for us.
i. The ancient Greek word for groups “is a very pictorial word. It is the normal Greek word for the rows of vegetables in the vegetable garden. When you looked at the little groups, as they sat there in their orderly rows, they looked for all the world like the rows of vegetables in a series of garden plots.” (Barclay)
f. He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves: When Jesus blessed before the meal, He didn’t bless the food; He blessed God for supplying it. The idea of praying before a meal isn’t to bless the food; it is to bless God in the sense of thanking and honoring Him for blessing us with the food.
i. “Jesus faithfully followed the accepted form: he took the bread in his hands, pronounced the blessing, broke the bread into pieces and distributed it. The only deviation from normal practice was that while praying Jesus looked toward heaven rather than downward, as prescribed.” (Lane)
g. So they all ate and were filled: Jesus miraculously multiplied the loaves and fishes, until far more than 5,000 were fed. Seemingly, the miracle happened in the hands of Jesus.
i. It really seems too extravagant. Why feed the multitude until they were filled and can’t eat any more? Why not just give them a little meal? Wouldn’t that be enough? No. Jesus had people He loved over for dinner, and there will always be more than enough food. That’s how much Jesus loved them and loves us.
ii. Jesus provided extravagantly, yet simply. As long as He was making food miraculously, He could have provided steak and lobster and any number of other great things. But He simply gave people bread and fish. When Jesus provides, don’t be surprised if He provides simply.
iii. If someone left hungry, it was either because they refused the bread from Jesus or because the apostles didn’t distribute the bread to everyone. Jesus supplied plenty for everybody to eat a good meal. But everybody had to eat for himself. Sometimes when we attend a spiritual meal, we gather food for everyone else except ourselves.
iv. The assurance that Jesus can provide – even miraculously – for all of our needs should be precious to us; it was to the earliest Christians. On the walls of the catacombs, and other places of early Christian art, loaves and fishes are common pictures.
h. And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish: Jesus could have just left this behind, but He didn’t. Jesus generously provides, but He doesn’t want things wasted. It isn’t because Jesus is cheap or doesn’t trust for future provision; He simply knew that wastefulness didn’t glorify the God of all provision.
3. (45-46) Jesus departs for prayer.
Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.
a. He sent the multitude away: Jesus loved the multitude, but he was not obsessed with crowds. He knew when to kindly tell them to go home (He sent the multitude away).
b. He departed to the mountain to pray: A long, difficult day spent ministering to the spiritual and physical needs of the multitude left Jesus exhausted. But that hard day drove Jesus to prayer, not from prayer.
4. (47-52) Jesus walks on the water.
Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.
a. The boat was in the middle of the sea: Jesus sent the disciples across the Sea of Galilee (Mark 6:45). As Jesus prayed in the heights above the Sea of Galilee, He saw them straining at the rowing as they attempted to cross the lake in the face of the wind. Unknown to the disciples, Jesus saw their difficulty and cared for them.
i. It was difficult to get across because a great wind was blowing (John 6:18). They had rowed for much of the night and had only come about halfway across the lake (John 6:19).
ii. “The apostolic crew rowed, and rowed, and rowed, and it was no fault of theirs that they made no progress, ‘for the wind was contrary unto them.’ The Christian man may make little or no headway, and yet it may be no fault of his, for the wind is contrary. Our good Lord will take the will for the deed, and reckon our progress, not by our apparent advance, but by the hearty intent with which we tug at the oars.” (Spurgeon)
iii. About the fourth watch of the night is somewhere around 3 a.m.
b. He came to them, walking on the sea: Jesus almost walked casually because He would have passed them by. Jesus came over to them only after they responded with fear and cried out.
c. He went up into the boat to them: As Jesus got into the boat with them, miraculously the boat was instantly carried over to the other side (John 6:21). Jesus rescued His disciples from working in futility. This was a miracle meant to assure them that He was in fact in control and that He would always lovingly be there to help them fulfill what He commanded.
i. “He came walking on the waves; and so he puts all the swelling storms of life under his feet. Christians, why be afraid?” (Augustine)
ii. We also know that it was on this occasion that Peter got out of the boat, walking on the water to Jesus (Matthew 14:28-31). There is reason – from history and subtle clues, not explicitly from the Scriptures – to believe that Peter was the main source for Mark’s gospel. If this was the case, Peter may have left out the story because he didn’t want to be exalted for walking on the water – or to be humbled for sinking.
iii. “Mark does not give the incident of Peter’s walking on the water and beginning to sink. Perhaps Peter was not fond of telling that story.” (Robertson)
5. (53-56) Jesus heals many in unusual ways.
When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret and anchored there. And when they came out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, ran through that whole surrounding region, and began to carry about on beds those who were sick to wherever they heard He was. Wherever He entered into villages, cities, or in the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well.
a. As many as touched Him were made well: With this description of the healing ministry of Jesus, Mark concludes a brief section where we see the power of Jesus over the laws of nature. Normally, five thousand are not fed by one small lunch. Normally, men don’t walk on water. Normally, the sick are not instantly healed. None of this is normal, except by the power of God.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission