Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Six

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

Introductory Comments

The sixth chapter in Mark's gospel continues the emphasis upon Jesus' miracles that began in the previous chapter. There are also portions about Jesus sending out his disciples and about John the Baptist. Mark continues to establish Jesus as messiah, seen most clearly in the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the water. In these two scenes, the disciples are also still figuring out who this man is that they are following.

In addition to some of the miracle stories we see in this chapter, there is also some great instruction about what it means to follow Jesus. The disciples are sent out as an extension of Jesus' own ministry, and n the death of John the Baptist we see the extreme cost we must be prepared for when following Jesus.

When studying and discussing this chapter in the context of a group, there are many directions the conversation could take. It would be unrealistic to expect that you could fully discuss every single aspect of this chapter in detail with your group. Allow the Spirit to lead your discussion and engage together in the areas that are most appropriate for group.

Things to Note

In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.

(P) Prayer

(6:46) After feeding the five-thousand, Jesus sends his disciples across the sea first while he goes "up on the mountain to pray." Jesus' desire to take time to pray reminds us of a few things. First, we seek Jesus' humanity. The incarnation is a mystery. Jesus is fully divine, while also being fully human. Second, Jesus praying is a reminder of his desire to have intimacy with the Father.

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

There is no specific reference to Jesus reading or referencing God’s word in this chapter.

(F) Relates to God the Father

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to God the Father in this chapter.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to The Holy Spirit in this chapter.

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.

(6:30-44) Feeding the Five Thousand: Jesus takes his disciples away to a desolate place, so they can rest for awhile. They don't actually get the chance to do much resting, because a great crowd finds them, leading to one Jesus' hallmark miracles. It is also the only one of Jesus' miracles (apart from the resurrection) that is recorded in all four of the gospels (parallels in Mt. 14:13-21, Lk 9:10-17, & Jn 6:1-15). In the previous chapter, we noted that each of Jesus' miracles were either the result of people's faith or to increase people's faith. Here, it is the result of Jesus' compassion upon the people, because they were "like sheep without a shepherd." This is an allusion to the imagery used in the OT during Ezekiel's lament over the people's lack of leadership (Ez. 34). Jesus doesn't teach them and feed them because of their faith, or to necessarily increase their faith, but because he had compassion on them as people who were lost. The miracle resonates with messianic overtones, as Jesus has come to fulfill God's promise that a future leader would come to properly shepherd His people. Further, this miracle would very likely remind people of God's provision when he provided mana for His people in the wilderness. This miracle reveals Jesus' compassion for the people, and it also continues to reveal Jesus as the messiah who has come to bring God's kingdom.

(6:45-52) Jesus walks on water: After Jesus spends time praying on the mountain, he sees that his disciples are having a difficult time crossing the sea. Jesus begins walking on the sea, and it says that he "meant to pass by them (6:48)." This is the same verb used in the greek translations of Exodus 33:19 and 34:6 when God is "passing by" Moses and to reveal Himself. Another allusion to Jesus' divinity is he way he chooses to identify himself to his disciples when he says "it is I (6:50)." This again is the same language used for God in the OT when he announces himself as "I AM" Finally, Jesus walking on water is another sign of Jesus' authority over the physical world. What is incredible about this story is that the disciples still don't seem to have a clear understanding of Jesus. Mark notes their confusion, saying that they still didn't understand the miracle of feeding the five thousand.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

I have already explored this at length in my reflections on the miracles of feeding the five thousand and also Jesus walking on the water. Both of these miracles give further indication of Jesus as messiah. Another element that I have already mentioned briefly is that this chapter gives us a picture of Jesus' humanity. Jesus pulls the disciples aside so they can all rest. That was unsuccessful, but after feeding the five thousand, Jesus still makes it a point to find time for prayer. Jesus needed rest and prayer, just like the rest of us. They were priorities for Jesus and point to his humanity.

The question of who Jesus is continues to dominate each chapter. It is important to note that the answer to this question is being considered by nearly everyone. The opening verses to the section on John the Baptist's death, are actually about King Herod attempting to determine who Jesus is. People had speculated different possibilities, and Herod though that it was John the Baptist coming back from the dead. What follows is a description of how John the Baptist ended up in prison, and ultimately executed. People want to know who Jesus is, and the way we answer that question is extremely important.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

Similar to last week, this chapter also points to Jesus bringing God's Kingdom to bear upon earth. He is revealing what God's Kingdom will be like when it is fully revealed upon earth. There will be no more hunger, the cruel effects of nature will cease and disease will be healed.

Another element to this chapter is the way he interacts with his disciples. There is more focus on the preparation Jesus wants to provide for his disciples. He sends them out to minister as an extension of his own ministry. Jesus gave them instruction and it says that they proclaimed repentance, cast out demons and healed the sick. These activities were by and large the same activities of Jesus' own ministry. We know that Jesus would eventually end up on the cross, to satisfy the weight of sin, so that people could freely follow God. Jesus came to die on the cross, but he also came to prepare his disciples to carry on his mission after he had departed. This is also seen in the way that he continues to work so hard to help his disciples understand who he truly is.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

Extension of Jesus' ministry. When we follow Jesus, we are an extension of Jesus' own ministry. As I noted above, Jesus sends out his disciples, and they do the same things we have seen Jesus doing over the first five chapters. They are calling people to repentance, casting out demons and healing the sick. This chapter helps us to see hat what it means to follow Jesus, is to look at his life and seek to carry on his mission of calling people to follow Jesus and also seeking to meet physical needs (ie. casting out demons and healing). 

The cost of discipleship. John the Baptist paid for his own commitment to Jesus with his life. John the Baptist saw that the decisions of King Herod were not appropriate, and he was vocal about his own disapproval. Herodias was not pleased with John the Baptist, and ultimately had him executed through her daughter's request. The death of John the Baptist helps us to see that following Jesus can sometimes cost us our lives. While most people who read this will never lose their life as a result of following Jesus, we must be prepared for that possible end. Further, we must also be ready for any other cost we might endure for following Jesus, no matter how large or small.

Take the time to rest: When we follow Jesus, we must also be prepared to care for ourselves and rest when needed. Jesus saw the need for rest, and called his disciples to step back from their ministry for a short time for some needed refreshment. Know yourself, know your own needs, and don't be too prideful to rest sometimes.

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives. One application might be to consider how you could strategically and intentionally rest this week. What would that look like for you? What other applications can you think of?

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.