Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Dr. Jeannine K. Brown has provided his reflections on Mark's Sixth chapter.
Jeannine K. Brown (Ph.D., Luther Seminary, MDiv, Bethel Seminary) is Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary, San Diego and St. Paul. She is author of Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics (Baker, 2007) and Becoming Whole and Holy: An Integrative Conversation about Christian Formation (Baker, 2011, with Dahl and Corbin Reuschling). She was associated editor of the revision of The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (InterVarsity, 2013) and is the author of the forthcoming Matthew volume in the Teach the Text commentary series (Baker, 2015). In addition to her love of studying and teaching the Gospels, Jeannine enjoys collaborative teaching and writing projects. Her forthcoming Matthew commentary in the Two Horizons series (Eerdmans) is being co-written by Dr. Kyle Roberts, a theologian at United Seminary of the Twin Cities. Jeannine and her husband, Tim, live in San Diego and have two adult daughters
What does this chapter tell us about who Jesus is?
Mark 6 builds on previous chapters to portray Jesus as Messiah. As in Mark 1-5, in this chapter people in the narrative often misunderstand who Jesus is. For example, his hometown can’t get past his identity as “the carpenter” (6:3), and Herod thinks erroneously that Jesus is John the Baptist come back from the dead (6:16).
In contrast to these faulty or inadequate perspectives, Mark portrays Jesus as teacher (6:2), prophet (6:4) and miracle worker sent from God (6:30-56; also 6:2). In fact, the miracles Jesus’ performs in this chapter evoke miracles associated with Israel’s exodus from Egypt and God’s provision for them in the wilderness. Jesus feeds the hungry (6:30-44; cf. Exodus 16), demonstrates his authority over the sea (6:45-52; cf. Exodus 14), and heals those who are sick (Mark 6:5, 53-56; cf. Numbers 21); Mark portrays Jesus as bringing about a “new exodus.” Jesus is also portrayed as compassionate: “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (6:34, also 56).
And lest we think that Mark characterizes Jesus as beyond the pale of human life and experience, we see Jesus withdrawing from the crowds in order to pray to God (6:46). It seems that Jesus is able to do all that he does—by the very power of God, because he draws from the deep well of his relationship with God (see Mark 1:35).
What does this chapter tell us about what it means to follow Jesus?
Mark 6 focuses on Jesus and the kingdom. In Jesus, God’s power is unleashed in this world for the good of humanity. His teaching, healings, and other miraculous actions are signs of the kingdom’s arrival (Mark 1:14-15).
Yet in characteristically Markan fashion, the people in his story are slow to see and acknowledge who Jesus really is. His hometown can’t get past his familial and occupational identity—they lack faith (6:5). Herod works against the divine purposes in his execution of John the Baptist. Even the disciples, who have been given authority to cast out impure spirits and find some success doing so (6:7, 13), are unable to feed the crowds as Jesus asks (6:37). And Mark indicates that they lack understanding because of their hearts are hard (6:52).
What does this mean for Mark’s reader who desires to follow Jesus? First, while Mark doesn’t offer exemplary discipleship responses in this chapter, he guides the reader by counter-example. Unlike Jesus’ hometown and even the Twelve, we should put our trust in Jesus wholeheartedly. Second, because Mark doesn’t focus on exemplary responses, our eyes are drawn to Jesus, his compassion and power. What better way to engender faith than to put Jesus on display! The object of faith deserves and receives center stage.
What in particular stands out to you from this chapter in Mark?
I was struck with how the chapter begins and ends with Jesus’ compassionate, healing power. Jesus’ hometown has seen his miraculous powers at work (6:2) yet can’t comprehend Jesus’ messianic identity. At the chapter’s conclusion, people bring their sick friends and relatives to Jesus. “They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed” (6:56). We can trust in this compassionate Messiah who has power to heal and restore. And we can come to this compassionate Messiah for healing and restoration. The accent might be less upon our faith than upon Jesus and what he can do in our lives and our world.