November 23, 2004
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
(Mark 6:45-52 ESV)
Jesus goes back on retreat. After this miracle, they all head back to where they came from, and He goes into the mountain to pray. I won't make the obvious application to personal quiet time/devotion here -- it's too obvious that if Jesus needed it, so do we. I think what happens afterwards is much more interesting.
While Jesus is off praying, the disciples apparently decide to do some fishing. This is sometime between 3 and 6 in the morning, but they're fishermen, so they know the best time to fish is in the early morning. They head out, and immediately get into trouble. They run into a headwind, and can't get back to shore, and they are panicking. I can just see Jesus sigh right now, and head out across the water to them.
This passage sounds like Jesus was just going to head right by them, but the parallel passage in Luke makes it clear that Jesus only seemed to be heading past them (Luke 24:2 . The disciples have no clue who He is.
Sounds like us, doesn't it? We're in trouble, cry out to God for help, and don't recognize it when it comes. Reminds me of a joke I used to tell when I was younger:
A man living in Florida decided to ride out the hurricane that was coming. Sure enough, the floodwaters started to rise, and soon he had to run to the top floor to stay above the water. A police officer came by and told him he needed to evacuate, and offered him a spot in the boat he was in. "No," said the man, "I'm trusting God to save me, and I know He will." A half hour later, another boat comes by, and makes the same offer. Same response. Finally, the waters are so high that the man takes refuge on his roof. A police helicopter flies by, and once again the police offer the man a ride to safety. Same response.Even though the disciples had seen what Jesus could do, in the miraculous feeding of 5,000 people, they still didn't know who He was, and really hadn't understood what they miracle meant. They lacked the faith to see that Jesus could provide them safety, and assurance, and security. They missed the point, and they didn't see Him as their shepherd. They were so fixed on their one idea of a conquering Messiah that they missed the servant Messiah that was prophecied as well.
Finally, the waters rise too high, and the man soon drowns. He arrives in Heaven, and is rather upset. "I trusted You!" he sayd to God. "I trusted You, and You left me to die!"
God said, "What are you talking about? I sent two boats and a helicopter, what do you want?"
The theme of this section seems to be that Christ supplies all our needs. Our problem comes in when our expectations are different from God's. He knows better than we do what we really need, and what we simply want. We need to recognize what God is providing for us, and be grateful.
November 13, 2004
Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat." But he answered 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 it to them to eat?" And he said to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see." And when they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
(Mark 6:33-44 ESV)
This is probably the most familiar parable of them all. Five thousand men (and who knows how many women and children) fed with a few loaves of bread, and a few fish. It's parallels are in Matthew 14:13-21, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-14 -- one of the few miracles that are mentioned in all four Gospels. I think that should show us the importance of what happened here.
Something bigger happened than just a bunch of people pooling their lunches so that everyone could have enough to eat. This is Jesus making sure that the people who had followed Him had enough to meet their needs.
Most of the people hadn't left their houses planning on following Christ that day. They saw Him, and decided they wanted to hear what He had to say. He could have easilly decided that the crowd was too big to deal with, and gone back to where He and the disciples had been for their retreat. But He was moved with compassion on them, because they were "like sheep without a shepherd." They had no real leadership, no instruction, nobody to take care of their real needs, and they didn't even realize it. They were just wandering around, and they saw in Jesus someone who might be able to meet their needs, and take care of them. They didn't realize who He realy was, but they knew that they could count on Him to meet their needs.
And then the test came. After listening to this guy teach all day long, they got a little hungry. They hadn't planned on sitting in on his teaching -- they were out running errands, maybe shopping. It was late, and they had to get some food. Jesus could have turned them loose, sent them out to buy their dinner, but He was their shepherd. He was taking responsibility to meet their needs. And He did it in a way that helped show them all the kind of power He had.
How often do we have needs, and panic? How often does the car break down right when funds are at their lowest, and we have no clue how we're going to pay for it? And how often do we sit calmly back and say "God will handle it. He's in charge, not me."
As familiar as this passage is, I think we often forget the message. My God shall supply every need of yours according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus.
November 07, 2004
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.
(Mark 6:30-32 ESV)
Short passage today -- I hope to have the rest of the chapter up by the end of the week. The priority this week has to be the theology paper -- 12-15 pages due Friday, about the theological method of Philip Melanchthon.
And a more ironic passage I could not have used. After teh interlude where Mark tells us about what happened to John the Baptist, the disciples return from their teaching trip (verses 7-12). They tell Jesus about the things they did -- but we don't get to know. This is one of those places in teh Bible where I really wish we got more information -- what happened? Were they able to cast out demons? Were people receptive of them? Did anyone come back with them, to learn at the feet of Jesus? We don't know.
I figure that's for a good reason. The teaching that the disciples were doing didn't have the power of the resurrection behind it. They taught that the Kingdom of God was coming -- that Christ had arrived, and that He was going to establish His kingdom. Without the truth of the resurrection, though, that could have been misunderstood. We've seen examples already, and we see a great example in Acts, of people who expect Jesus to be the political Messiah they were expecting. That wasn't His goal -- He came to be the sacrifice for our sins. Without redemption, without the reconciliation between God and fallen man, the Kingdom of God cannot be established. Fallen mankind has no part of the Kingdom -- that is for the redeemed of the Lord.
I expect that there were people who became interested in Jesus, probably started paying more attention to His teachings. I wonder how many were still there after He was killed. That's probably the other reason we don't know about the results of this trip -- many were not true conversions. You've seen those if you've ever gone door-to-door on a Saturday morning.
The part of this passage that gets me the most is the last part. They've just finished some hard work -- their first, really, since they started following Christ. They're tired. They may be frustrated. So Jesus suggests a retreat.
If you've spent any time in Baptist churches, you know what a retreat is. You take a bunch of people, in the middle of summer (or fall, sometimes. I always went to the summer ones), go out to the middle of nowhere -- usually the middle of the woods, near a lake, on some property that the church owns. Bunch of cabins, a kitchen building, a chapel, and nature. Time to recharge -- physically and spiritually.
This is something that I think we tend to ignore. We're so busy doing God's work, we burn ourselves out. We end up being no good to anyone, and our other responsibilities (family, friends, etc.) tend to get ignored. We make the sacrifice -- and never even think that our loved ones never got a choice in the matter. They sacrifice, too. And sometimes, they don't like it.
We don't have to go out in the woods. All we need to do is take a time out, to take care of the other things God has given us.
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