Mark 6:30-44

The Christ Mark shows us is unstoppable.  Temptations, crowds, the questions of the Pharisees, the confusion of his disciples: he bowls through it all, heading with all his momentum for the momentous week he begins preparing his disciples for in chapter eight.  He’s also unstoppable in that, except for his short nap on the boat in the storm (4:38), he doesn’t seem to sleep, rest, even catch his breath.  This Christ moves from one crisis to another: healing, teaching, feeding, constantly meeting the unceasing demands of those around him (The first chapters are heavy on healing and short on teaching: In the later chapters the ratio is reversed.  The phrase “I tell you the truth,” which in Mark often precedes Christ’s teachings or prophecies, appears twice in the first eight chapters and eleven times in the second eight.)

Early in chapter six, he sends the Twelve out to live the kind of life he’s been living. They go forth with almost nothing, and they teach and heal incessantly. Then they return and begin to report “to him all they had done and taught” (6:30).  But things are as busy as always, and “so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat”  (6:31).  We can imagine that having returned from their missions they are tired and hungry.  Showing his usual compassion for the needs of others, Christ says “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (6:31).  We can only imagine their relief and gratitude, their quiet recognition of the love he has for them.

But this is Jesus, and they can’t expect to get rest so easily.  They set out on the lake, but “many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them”  (6:32).  This is a great comic set-up.  They went out precisely to get away from crowds for a while, but Jesus’ reputation (for compassion, for healing, for charisma) has gone before him.  People come from all the towns, suggesting that the crowd ready to meet them on the shore when they arrive is even greater than the crowd they left.

Mark tells us that when Jesus sees the crowd, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (6:33).  It says nothing about how the Apostles feel, so we can only imagine their faces falling as they row toward the shore and see the throng.  They’ve been with Jesus for a while now, they’ve seen him with crowds, and they know where this is headed.  He’ll teach, he’ll heal.  It will take forever.  People will keep asking him for things, and he’ll keep giving to them (liberally, and upbraiding not).  Their chances of having a quiet, restful getaway have just disappeared.

And they’re right.  Jesus teaches the crowd.  Maybe the Twelve sit down and listen, maybe they stand glumly by the side, waiting for his undivided attention.  However it happens, the day keeps passing, and eventually they decide they need to do something or they won’t have any time with him at all.  So they come forward and say “This is a remote place and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (6:35-36).  They’re showing compassion to the crowd as well.  Surely he’ll realize it’s for the best, and they’ll get him alone.

But that’s not what happens.  Jesus asks them to show the kind of compassion he does, to share with the crowd the way he shares with them.  His request is simple “You give them something to eat” (6:37). Imagine their jaws dropping.  Remember, this whole thing started because they were hungry, they were tired, and nothing’s said they’ve taken a bite yet.  They tell him he’s crazy (which they do pretty often) “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” (6:37).

But again, he’s unstoppable, and their normal expectations of how things work have no bearing here.  He can’t be dissuaded.  And he takes the Apostles’ lunch (five loaves and two fish) and gives it to the crowd.  Somehow, everyone is fed (perhaps even the Apostles).  And there are more leftovers (many more) than there was to start with (6:43). How does he do it?  No matter how much people asks, he just keeps on giving (and giving, and giving).  Later, Paul will name the secret: charity never faileth.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: