Mark 6

Readings for this week July 1 – 5
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Day 1 – The Compassionate King

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 6:30-34

In verse 30 Mark uses the word ‘apostle’ to describe the disciples upon their return from having been sent out in pairs (see verses 7-12) preaching, healing and casting out demons – just as Jesus had been doing. They had been ‘sent out’, specifically sent by Jesus to follow in his footsteps, doing as he had done. They were, as the word literally means, ‘emissaries’ of Jesus, messengers on his behalf. They had observed the master, absorbed his teaching, both that given publicly and also what he had taught them in private, and had then gone and done the same. Now they had returned, and we see Jesus the compassionate teacher realising how tired and exhausted – and elated, which is its own kind of exhaustion – they are, and how much they need some rest. So he leads them away to a quiet, solitary place. A place that is not quiet for long…

Two clashing agendas confront Jesus: his disciples’ need for rest and the crowd’s desire for teaching. How will Jesus react? Will he be annoyed at the interruption and the crowd’s neediness? Will he drag his disciples away somewhere else and ignore the crowd? Or will he abandon his tired disciples in order to minister to those who have sought him out? Well, none of the above as it turns out. The king has compassion for his disciples and also for the crowd. He knows the disciples need rest and the crowd wants to hear him. His compassion leads him to teach them and then to give them bread as well, with the disciples right by his side, helping, being feed themselves, and seeing the kingdom in action again.

Question to Consider
Have there been moments when God has reached you through rest or even in spite of your lack of rest?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for knowing we need rest and giving us spaces to come to you for rest and renewal. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Expecting a Little More…

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 6:35-38

“You give them something to eat.” When told that everyone was hungry and needed food, this is what Jesus told the disciples. Obviously he expected them to do something, to react in some way; I doubt very much he was being facetious, though a little gentle teasing wouldn’t be unusual!  And I don’t think he meant for the disciples to pool their money and send someone out for some food. He was expecting more from them. They had spent much time with Jesus, listening to him speak of the kingdom of God, watching him heal and cast out demons – they had even just returned from being sent out in pairs by Jesus, having cast out demons and healed the sick themselves! But they were still exhausted, not having rested yet.

The disciples had access to something that could completely transform lives, heal people, release people from demonic possession, challenge the dehumanising structures of society – and feed a multitude of people. But, even after all that they had already seen Jesus do – and had done themselves – they still didn’t think to call upon the power of God in this seemingly more mundane situation. A simple, painless solution seemed the most obvious: send the people off to go and buy themselves some food. End of story, what’s the fuss? But Jesus saw the opportunity for something greater, a further sign of the immanent kingdom of God, a chance to show the power of God literally feeding and comforting God’s people – and to show the disciples what could have been enacted in them, through the power of God, if only they had trusted him to provide.

Questions to Consider
Have there been times when God was asking you to do something but you thought it was far beyond you? Why? What happened?

Prayer
Loving Lord, forgive me when I don’t see far enough. Give me vision to see the things that you would accomplish through my openness and obedience to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – True Kingship

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 6:17-29

One thing that is emphasised in the feeding of the 5000 is the nature of the king, and the fact that Jesus, rightful king, come to reclaim creation and set it to rights again, is not one to lord it over his people, oppress them and take advantage of their plight. When faced with a huge, hungry  crowd – a crowd that has, remember, tracked him and his disciples down when they were off on their own, trying to have some time together, a crowd that has invaded time Jesus thought would be a chance to rest and recuperate – Jesus had compassion on them. He saw their distress and their need and he responded to it with understanding, empathy, compassion and action.

Today’s passage from Mark, from just a few verses earlier in this chapter, illustrates the wide gulf between the needs and demands of the people and the response (or lack of) from their current rulers. In these verses we get a glimpse of life in the court of King Herod. Ensconced in his palace, he feasts and celebrates, he entertains his soldiers and the sycophants that surround him, he indulges the intrigue and backstabbing that his followers engage in. He is wasteful, wanton, and woefully lacking in the leadership that his people are crying out for. For him, kingship is a jaunt, an excuse for excess. The contrast with Jesus is stark. Jesus sees the crowd “like a flock without a shepherd” (verse 34), and steps in like a king should, offering the compassion and love that is indicative of the true king, the coming king, who is soon to be fully revealed.

Questions to Consider
What does true kingship look like? What does following our king look like in everyday life?

Prayer
Heavenly Lord, thank you for your compassion and your love, without which nothing would be possible in this broken world. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Why Doesn’t He Do Something Now?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 6:39-44

There is an abundance of food in the world today yet also an abundance of starvation, malnutrition, scarcity and want. We see it on the news, we hear the stories of famine and hunger, we know of the multiple “sponsor a child” or “feed a community” programmes that have proliferated in the wake of the sheer volume of need that faces the world today – and this in spite of our ability to feed so many people so well. We just don’t seem able – or, if we are being honest with ourselves, willing – to feed those in greatest need. And the cry of many people – whether Jesus followers or not – is for God to do something. If Jesus can feed more than 5000 people with just a few loaves and fishes, then surely God can solve the world’s hunger and starvation. Why doesn’t he? He did it then; why not now?

The answer is in what Jesus said and did. “You give them something to eat,” he told his disciples. And then, once he had taken the food and blessed it, he gave it to his disciples to distribute. Jesus involves us intimately in the outworking of his kingdom power in the world. It is not just a magic trick, it is not just an awesome display of God’s power; it is the in-breaking of the kingdom of God to wage war on the evil powers of this world, and an invitation to all to join in the fight against all that would seek to subvert God’s rule and disfigure humanity in the process. In the name of Jesus we are to challenge all that stands against God and all that dehumanises our fellow human beings, and we are to do so with the power of the cross – and with the compassion that led our king to take up that cross in the first place.

Question to Consider
How is God calling each of us address – and end – hunger and poverty?

Prayer
Lord, give me courage to follow where you lead and be obedient and compassionate to love to the extent that you did, regardless of cost. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – One Small Contribution Leads to So Much

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 6:1-14

Another telling of the story of the feeding of the massive crowd of more than 5000 with such little food is also found in John’s gospel, and we look at this today as there is a small detail in this story that makes for very interesting reading. In John’s telling, the food to feed the multitude (five barley loaves and two fish) comes from a small boy, who offered his food. Now, I don’t think the boy looked around at the hungry crowd, looked at his lunch, and thought, “Oh, yeah, easy, we can feed everyone with this.” There was a massive disjunction between what everyone around him needed and what he could provide to meet that need. There was no way he could have thought that what he had was enough.

But he offered what he had anyway. He gave what little he had, in expectation of….what? What was he expecting? Had he heard or seen Jesus before and thought maybe another miracle was on the cards? Did he hope at least the speaker would get fed? It was not the young boy’s responsibility to work out how to feed 5000 people with his lunch. It was not his task to make sure that, somehow, everyone got fed. His only responsibility that day was to make sure that the food provided to him to eat was used appropriately and purposely. And giving the food to Jesus was obviously what he considered appropriate. He didn’t need to know what Jesus would do with it. The boy may have had hopes that perhaps this miracle-working rabbi would do something amazing with his modest meal, but all he could control was whether or not he gave of what he had.

Questions to Consider
What do you have to offer? What might you be being asked to give for God’s use?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me look for those small opportunities to give what I have for your use, regardless of the limitations I think I see. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)