Mark 7:24-37 A dog and a deaf man

Discussion question:

Look up a map of places Jesus went in the gospels. How big is the region that he visited?

Read Mark 7:24-37

Context

Jesus and the twelve disciples have been travelling from village to village, teaching and healing. Great crowds have gathered around Jesus and he and the disciples seem to be finding little rest.

In Mark 5 Jesus was in the Decapolis (meaning ten cities) where he cast out demons from a man and the people asked Jesus to leave them.

The theme of defiling appeared in the last section. Pharisees and teachers of the law were instructing people on how to stay clear of sin but Jesus says that sin starts from within us. All kinds of evils come from inside and defile a person. For example, contact with a non-Jew was regarded as a source of defilement but Jesus taught the truth about sin: it comes from within.

Observation

Structure

  • 24-30 Jesus goes to the Gentiles
    • 24-26 The Syro Phoenician
    • 27-30 Begging for crumbs
  • 31-37 Jesus opens ears
    • 31-32 Begging for a hand
    • 33-37 Be opened!

24-30 Jesus goes to the Gentiles

“Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.” Leaving the conversation with the Jews, Jesus goes to a place at the outskirts of Israel. Jewish leaders had come from Jerusalem and talked to him about defilement (Mark 7:1). Jesus called them hypocrites because they were discarding the word of God and listening to the rules of men. These were the teachers of Israel. Jesus left them and went to Tyre. Tyre is at the northern most border of Israel, with Sidon just above it. Jesus has walked out to the boundary of the promised land (Joshua 19:29).

Being so close to Israel, Tyre has a particular history with the Jews. In the days of Joshua, they marked the boundary of Israel. In the days of Solomon, they provided wood for the building of the temple. But across the pages of the Old Testament there are warnings against Tyre. They represent the final remnant of the Philistines who were the enemies of Israel (remember Goliath!). 

“…entered a house and did not want anyone to know it…” Jesus was not all about raising attention but we may ask why did he venture far north? Was it for rest? We might conclude this but it’s not clear. Who did he stay with? We don’t know. I’m reminded of the story of Elijah the prophet who stayed in the house of a widow in the same region – the region of Sidon (1 Kings 17). The faithfulness in Israel was lacking and Elijah stayed with a foreign widow and healed her son.

“…could not keep his presence secret. In fact…” The woman did not hesitate to come to Jesus when she heard about him in the region. It is like Isaiah 34:1 says, “come near, you nations, and listen; pay attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world, and all that comes out of it!” Sounds good doesn’t it? But Isaiah 34 goes on to talk about how God is angry at the nations. What will Jesus do in response to this woman?

“The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia.” She is not a Jew. We might like to contrast her with the men who gathered around Jesus in Mark 7:1. Jesus had called them hypocrites.

“She begged Jesus…” She did not treat Jesus as an equal or that she deserves anything from him. She humbled herself. She is desperate.

“…it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” This is a very hard thing to hear from Jesus. Is he calling her a dog!!?! Yep. Is this the Jesus you know? Well, he is speaking with her using a parable to engage with her. If the children of Israel are natural heirs, she is not an heir and so how is she represented? Jesus chooses to use a dog in his analogy.

“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Now, before we unpack this, it would be well to remember that you and I are not biological Jews (most likely you are not). In the Anglican Prayer Book we say, “we do not presume to come to your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your abundant and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather the crumbs under your table; but you are the same Lord whose nature it is to always have mercy.” We create this prayer from the humble position of the woman in this story. The woman was shown her place in the mercies of God but she uses the parable of Jesus to be bold and reply to him.

“For such a reply…” The woman has testified to the mercy of God and that even the scraps are better than nothing.

31-37 Jesus opens ears

“Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon…” The regions at the outskirts of Israel. His stay in Tyre was brief with only one event worth recording by Mark.

“…the region of the Decapolis…” Last time Jesus was there, he drove out demons from a man and the people of that area begged Jesus to leave them (Mark 5:17) But the healed man began to tell everyone in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him (Mark 5:20).

“…they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.” The people who had driven Jesus away were now begging Jesus to heal again. They brought a man who was deaf and hardly able to speak. While this is a fact, it also resembles the spiritual state of our world. The world needs their ears opened to hear the word of God and then be able to speak it. The people of the Decapolis have benefited from the open mouth of the demon possessed man and now they are coming to Jesus in faith.

“…away from the crowd…” What follows is a very private and intimate healing. The point of which is the man being restored rather than a public spectacle.

“…fingers into the man’s ears…spit and touched the man’s tongue…deep sigh…” The healing is very earthy and tactile. When the Syro-Phoenician woman had her plea answered, Jesus did it remotely – no spectacle. But here, we have Jesus right in the man’s face. Why? Couldn’t Jesus have just healed him with the touch of his clothes or a simple word? Why take him aside and be so intimate with him? Many will answer that this shows Jesus’ tenderness toward the man who cannot hear or speak. Jesus used a method that the man could understand. Even the ‘sigh’ is a deep exhale that the deaf man would see is Jesus praying. This seems ok to me but I wonder if there is more? 

Isaiah 35:4–6 “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.

This is why the miracle is pronounced with the words of Jesus: “Be opened!”

Our God has come. He has not remained distant and healed with him mighty hand from heaven but he has drawn near. He is opening the ears of the deaf and he is unmuting the tongue so they may shout for joy! Jesus is God come in the flesh to save us. And look what happens next:

“Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking…” Ok, they were not being obedient but how about that the mute were shouting for joy! They couldn’t stay quiet.

“He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark is making sure that we have understood this point. Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah.

Suggested questions for running this study.

Q1. Who had gathered around Jesus in Mark 7:1 and what was Jesus’ conclusion about them (Mark 7:6-8)?

Q2. Where is Tyre and Sidon? How is the woman described in Mark 7:26? How is she different to the people of Mark 7:1?

Q3. Who are the ‘children’ that Jesus refers to in Verse 27?

Q4. Given that Jesus shows mercy on the woman and her daughter, what is the point of Verses 24-30?

Q5. How did the people of the Decapolis treat Jesus last time he was there? (See Mark 5:17-20)

Q6. How did they respond to Jesus now?

Q7. If Jesus was able to heal from a distance or by having people touch his clothes, why the detail of Verses 33-35?

Q8. Read Isaiah 35:4-6. How is Jesus fulfilling scripture? Does this help answer Question 7?

Meaning

The leaders of Israel were not teaching the word of God to the people and had no understanding of sin. The Word of God who had come to them was a mystery to them. But when Jesus goes abroad to the outskirts of Israel, he shows that the kingdom of God is being readied for the whole world to receive him. He is God come to us so that the nations will sing for joy. The world that was deaf to God’s word will be opened and the mute who are unable to speak God’s word can now rejoice that the gospel is unleashed.

Application

Challenge#1 Must love dogs

Jesus showed mercy to the outsider. After the resurrection, the Gentiles became the focus of God’s mission in the world. Jesus had come to bring eternal life to the children of Israel but he knew that the gospel would go to the nations (Acts 1:8). God’s mission has always been global, but the Jews had failed to see that. When we stop and consider that we are the nations – not Jews – then we have received the mercy of God that we do not deserve. We are the dogs that God loves.

Challenge#2 Be opened!

The gospel message is opened for all to hear. It’s not for one race. It’s not for one gender. It’s not for the elite or the special. It is for all who will listen and be amazed at Jesus. Once the world lived in darkness and once you and I were in darkness. But the light of God has come to shine light into our hearts. The man from the Decapolis had a private encounter with Jesus and his life was forever changed. May we pray for more to come and hear the message of Jesus and have their ears opened and their tongues loosed!

Challenge#3 No longer beggars

The woman begged Jesus and the people of Decapolis begged Jesus. He has come to bring healing to the nations with generosity and joy. All are welcome to come to him and enjoy our relationship with God.

Mark 7:1-23 – Where sin comes from

Discussion question:

How are you going with washing hands, social distancing and being careful when venturing to the shops?

Read Mark 7:1-23

Context

The disciples have been drawn into Jesus’ teaching circle. He sent them out on mission in Chapter 6 and began to show them how to be shepherds, but they still have hard hearts (Mark 6:52). Jesus has been teaching the crowds in parables so that only those who have ears to hear will listen and understand and be saved. Jesus has upset people in Chapter 3 with healing done on the Sabbath. Jesus’ message when spoken plainly has been to repent and believe.

Observation

Structure

  • 1-5 – Defiled hands
  • 6-13 – The word of God defiled
  • 14-23 – Defiled hearts

1-5 – Defiled hands

“The Pharisees and some teachers of the law…” The greatest resource of information we have about the Pharisees comes straight out of the gospels. They were super serious about keeping the law of God. Mark takes us from the disciples learning to do mission and shepherding with Jesus to the Pharisees and teachers of the law.

“…hands that were defiled…” When Mark inserts some commentary in Verses 3-4, it is because he writes his story to the world who may not be familiar with the traditions of the Pharisees and Jews. The issue is more than dirty hands – the issue is ceremonial – it is a religious problem that they see – it is a question of how to deal with sin! These Jews feared being out of favour with God. It stems back to the Levitical laws: being unclean means you cannot participate in holy activities and if you cannot do that then you cannot receive forgiveness! These laws were given by God to teach us about the great separation between us and God. As Mark points out in Verse 4, the Jews were now riddled with many traditions – more than what the law of God gave. They are living under rules that have exceeded the restrictions given in the days of Moses.

“…from the marketplace…” Note that some of the traditions are to do with interaction with Gentiles (people of other nationalities!)

“So [they] asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition…” Good job for them to ask a question. There are no stupid questions so long as we are ready to learn from the answer. The question boils down to a small accusation: why are you not instructing your disciples to live like godly Jews? Why don’t you walk like we walk? Why aren’t you following the rules? But the question implies that the traditions are right. The question highlights their concern for keeping their hands clean and undefiled as if this is what God is most concerned with. This opens Jesus up to ask: where does sin come from?

6-13 – The word of God defiled

“…you hypocrites…” No subtlety here. Jesus is about to apply OT scripture directly to the Pharisees.

“…their hearts are far from me.” Isaiah 29:13 is quoted by Jesus. The verses preceding this in Isaiah give an amusing account of everyone being offered to read the word of God and finding reasons why they cannot but they go on obeying human traditions that have been taught to them. The chapter also talks about the blind seeing. The many who live by following the teachings of others are like the blind being led by the blind.

“They worship me in vain…” It is a waste of their time. There is no benefit to them in doing these things.

“…their teachings are merely human rules.” This is why the worship is in vain. As Isaiah 29 goes on to say, the clay can’t tell the potter what to do! As if the clay knows better than the potter. The irony of this is that Jesus is teaching the teachers of the law from the very text that they should know. He is not introducing some new insight – but repeating what they should already know.

“…let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” That sounds awfully obvious and ridiculous for them to be doing this and yet we are prone to do these very things. To equate being Christian with what Christians do rather than reading the word of God and being transformed by it – that is honouring God with our lips but not with our hearts.

“And he continued…” Jesus has started. Get the popcorn out.

“… a fine way of setting aside the commands of God…” See the problem is that they are not listening to God but to human tradition: ie, religion. They put tradition before God, making it the authority. It’s like being taught to drive and you flick the lever on the right to make the indication of you turning – but then when you sit in a European car with the indicator switch on the left, you insist on using the right lever when you turn. So people watch you clean your windscreen every time you want to turn a corner!

“And you do many things like that.” Verses 10-13 provide an example of what they do wrong. Instead of doing the right thing by parents, the Pharisees imagine they are serving God better by giving the money to Him. They are defiling the word of God by placing their laws above the laws of God.

Note that Jesus did not answer the question asked of him. Rather, he accused the questioners of being wrong to the heart. This is not a simple issue, it goes to the heart of how they worship God. They worship him in vain. Next, Jesus turns to the crowd who are more likely to hear him and teaches them – he directs his answer to those who have ears to hear.

14-23 – Defiled hearts

“…Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.” He doesn’t talk to the Pharisees. They have not listened to him or his Father. Jesus expects us to listen and to understand. Our faith is not about do this, do that, but about listening and understanding. We are about changed hearts which change our lives, not about new practices that instruct us to worship in vain.

“…it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” Simple one liner to set the record straight. You cannot upset God by simply eating something. Paul spends a great deal of time in his letters assuring his readers that it is no longer about special days or food or deeds done to the body. See Colossians 2:16-23 as one example.

Now look at verse 16! Side note on the accuracy of the bible. Verse 16 is not included but at one point in the past, some copies of the bible included a line here which read “if anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.” Similar to Mark 4:23. Adding that line would fit perfectly well with how Jesus began in Verse 14. It is removed from our bibles because there is more evidence to suggest that this was not there in the original. Our modern translations will include the verse number and a footnote to tell you what has happened here. This is an example of ‘textual criticism’ (not like insulting the bible but being critical in working out the original text). Anyone interested in pursuing a study in textual criticism will discover how much work has gone into ensuring that the bible we read today is the most accurate bible that we have had! Dare I say that our NIV and ESV and HSBC are more accurate than the KJV because of ongoing research. More than enough said here.

“…his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked.” I take it back: there are stupid questions. The disciples were labelled as having a hard heart back in Mark 6:52. The pharisees had no heart for God because they would not listen to God’s word. Now we have the disciples scarily close to being in the Pharisee camp – because they are not listening in order to understand (I know, they are asking the question and so that is good, but Jesus’ response tells me that they can work this out if they just listen).

“Don’t you see…?” Jesus describes the digestive system. With one line, Jesus took the laws of God and unbound them to mankind. This tells me that when Jesus says elsewhere that he has not come to abolish the laws, he must mean something other than, I’m not going to shut them down – or maintain them. He has come to fulfill them. It’s like taking the laws to the final conclusion. Obedience to God, respecting him as the creator and LORD Almighty is where we have always been directed. Our hearts for him. Our allegiance to him. Although the law of Moses forbid certain foods, God was teaching a young nation to walk with him. Galatians 3:23-25 compares the law with a guardian or a school teacher that kept Israel until the fulfillment of the law came. Again, this is a big topic which every Christian must grapple with: how does obedience to God and faith work together? Jesus is teaching us to look beyond the rules and deeds and see the devoted heart that God wants. He wants listeners who understand.

“…out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come…all these evils come from inside and defile a person.” You don’t need to eat pork to become a sinner! Being a sinner is way easier than that! If we limit sin to a list of dos and don’ts then we miss the point of sin. We are defiled, made unclean before God, by our own thoughts.

“Sexual immorality, “ a Pharisee might focus on what is and what isn’t sexual immorality but a heart that is for God will understand that any time we twist the beautiful gift from God to be used, even in the mind, for selfish pleasure, ignoring the love and care for the other person, we have sexual immorality. It’s not just what we do but how we think.

“…theft, murder, adultery…” not just what we do but when we meditate on these things. 

“…greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance…” All very selfish terms. When we put ourselves above others and seek first our wealth and wellbeing over others. That is our hearts demanding to be king!

“…and folly.” Foolishness is a life that doesn’t listen to God.

“All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” There is no need for a ‘devil to be sitting on your shoulder’. We are all very capable of cultivating evil from inside. Where is evil in this world? Check out your heart.

Suggested questions for running this study.

Q1. Who are the characters and what is the problem described in Verses 1-5?

Q2. How does Jesus answer the question? Does he even answer it when he speaks to the Pharisees and teachers of the law? (Verses 6-13)

Q3. What does Isaiah 29:13 teach us about the Pharisee’s problem? 

Q4. What are some examples of human tradition in our day?

Q5. Who does Jesus direct his answer to in Verse 14? Why did he not give this answer to the Pharisees?

Q6. How does Jesus treat the disciples in Verse 17? Why do you think he is being so hard on them?

Q7. What is common to all the things Jesus lists in Verses 21-22?

Meaning

Our own hearts defile us as we continue to live for ourselves and not for God. When we listen to God’s word with understanding, we will honour him because we will let him soften our hearts rather than constructing a new path for ourselves which may be called religion. The Jewish leaders were not honouring God because they were not even listening to him. They put their rules above God’s word. Religion cannot help us. Giving our ears and hearts to God will move us from dull folly to responsive wisdom.

Application

Challenge#1 Read the bible with understanding

Many will read the bible as if it is a directive manual. They will read it looking for what they need to do. Many will read the bible as an inspirational book. They will search the pages for verses that inspire them so that they may feel pleased with where they’re at. Many people will simply not read the bible and will turn to human teaching to work out how to live self-righteously. We must read the bible to listen and understand. Folly is one of the evils listed by Jesus. Dull was what the disciples were being. Hearts far from God is where the Pharisees were. When we read the bible, be listeners and read for understanding.

Challenge#2 Tradition is religion

What things do you do as part of your honoring to God that are more a result of human tradition than an authentic worship? Start by listing all the things that you do regularly for God. Church. Growth Group. Singing. Giving. Keep the list flowing. Why do you do them? Is it important when and how it is done? Are there any things that you feel hurt by when they are not done ‘properly’? Why is that? How do we decide what is worshiping God in vain and what is worshiping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)?

Challenge#3 Changing our hearts

How do you fix a defiled heart? How do you stop being driven by what the heart wants? Similar to challenge 1, it is about hearing from God’s word and training the heart to be changed. If we think with our hearts, then we will let evil win. If we are determined to think and act with our brains, we are likely to fail because our hearts are so powerful (not the muscle but the passion and desires within). The solution is to have our minds transformed by the word of God and train the heart to love what God loves. Now, this can only take place by the power of God through the Spirit of God. We don’t get that lesson from this passage but Romans 8:5-11 is one good place to see how the Spirit will train our minds to reject the heart impulse (the flesh) and choose wisdom over folly. The Spirit trains us through the word of God. We need to reign in our hearts to submit to the Spirit by His word.

Mark 6:30-56 sheep without a shepherd

Discussion question:

Have you ever felt like the last person to understand what is going on?

Read Mark 6:30-56

Context

Before hearing about John the Baptist in Herod’s house, Jesus had sent the 12 disciples two by two to preach that people should repent. There have been a few lake crossings in this gospel and back in Chapter 4, Jesus had stood up in the boat and told the storm to be quiet and it was! Word about Jesus has spread and people have been wondering ‘who is this man?’

Observation

Structure

  • 30-44 Feeding the five thousand
    • 30-34 Sheep without a shepherd
    • 35-38 How many loaves do you have?
    • 39-44 From Jesus to the disciples to the people
  • 45-56 Jesus brings…
    • 45-50 Jesus left the disciples on their own
    • 51-56 The sheep follow the Shepherd

30-44 Feeding the five thousand

30-34 Sheep without a shepherd

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported…” This is the first time the disciples are referred to as the apostles. Mark writes this account after all is finished and the community who read this know them as the apostles. But also the word apostles means ‘sent ones’ and that is exactly what Jesus had done in Mark 6:7. This picks up after that mission was at an end. The account of John the Baptist created a sense of time passing in the story. The disciples must have been excited about what they did and witnessed. And they did it unaccompanied by Jesus. NB: They were so excited about all that they had done and taught and yet it seems that this whole section resolves with the fact that Jesus does everything – the disciples don’t seem to catch on to this yet. 

“…get some rest.” What a wonderful encouragement from our Lord. Just because there is more work to do doesn’t mean that we must sacrifice our rest.

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them…” Jesus does not see dollar signs or an opportunity for an ego boost, he sees people who need something. He felt for them.

“…they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them…” A crowd of lost sheep. They are shepherded through teaching.

35-38 How many loaves do you have?

“Send the people away so that they can go … and buy themselves something to eat.” Remember that Jesus had already said to the disciples that it is ok to go and get some rest. Now the disciples are showing compassion on the crowd and suggesting that they be let go to get some food for themselves.

“But [Jesus] answered, “You give them something to eat.” We’re getting closer and closer to the point of this story. Jesus is going to feed five thousand plus people miraculously, but he is going to involve the disciples in the work. Something that would be impossible for any person to do will be made possible through Christ.

“…more than half a year’s wages!” The disciples have not yet learned to trust Jesus. They have also outlined the magnitude of the problem for us.

“How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” Jesus is involving the disciples in this act of compassion. They have identified the problem and Jesus is helping them to solve it in ways that they could not have imagined. It must have felt like a fruitless exercise to them.

39-44 From Jesus to the disciples to the people

“…Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups…” A lovely extra bit of details about the green grass 🙂 Everyone is ready for a picnic without the sandwiches! But Jesus again helps the disciples to break down this problem and prepare the crowd to be served. It’s a bit like Israel being divided into clans and Moses leading the people by groups.

“…he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute…” Jesus is sent by the Father whom Jesus gives thanks to. The disciples receive from Jesus who is directing them. And they distribute it to the people. WARNING: bringing a Roman Catholic reading to this passage will see the Eucharist (communion) at work with the bread being provided by Jesus and distributed via the apostles. But there is no need to see this as the Lord’s supper. There is no deeper link here than providing food for the people. A better connection would be to look back to the wandering people in the wilderness who were fed manna from heaven under Moses. Also, there are fish provided too and a great deal of leftovers.

“They all ate and were satisfied…” Five thousand men plus extras were satisfied by this miracle.

“…and the disciples picked up twelve basketful of broken pieces of bread and fish.” Notice again how involved the disciples are here. Jesus is trying to teach them something. They have seen the concern (V35) and they have seen the resources (V38), they have seen the size of the problem (V40), they distributed what was given and gathered what was left over. They saw better than anybody that day what was possible. 

Summary: Jesus saw that the disciples needed rest. Jesus saw that the people needed a shepherd. Jesus directed the disciples to provide for the people with the resources that Jesus brings.

45-56 Jesus brings…

45-50 Jesus left the disciples on their own

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him…” The rest that they needed is still on Jesus’ mind. They won’t get the rest while Jesus is with them. Notice that Jesus ‘made them’ get into the boat. Remember back in Mark 4:36 that the disciples were taking Jesus places. On that episode they commanded the boat with boldness but were frightened by a storm which Jesus commanded. This time, Jesus sends them off and we’ll see again how little Jesus needs the disciples!

“… he went up on a mountainside to pray.” Jesus also needed time alone with his Father.

“Later that night…he was alone on the land.” The theme of being with or without Jesus continues in this passage. They were ‘out there’ on the lake and he was alone on the land.

“He saw the disciples straining…shortly before dawn he went…” A super hero would see people in trouble and fly to them but not our Lord. He sees our straining and struggle and waits for the right moment. In God’s wisdom it is good for us to have struggle.

“…he went out to them, walking on the lake.” You know, as you do! A simple bible reading would stop and conclude that this is the important part of the story. But a deeper reader will see that this is just one element of the story. The point is more than ‘look at what Jesus can do!’ The point lies in how he treats us and why he has even come to us.

“…they all saw him and were terrified.” The last thing they expected to see was their teacher walking by them on water. While they strained, he strolled. NB: do ghosts exist? While the answer is no, there is a spiritual realm with angels and demons and there is a story of King Saul bringing Samuel back from the dead and there is that time when Moses and Elijah stood with Jesus on a hill! There is also superstition and over imagined realities that we have no concrete answers to. Best to just say no.

50-56 The sheep follow the Shepherd

“Immediately he spoke to them…” The quickness of Jesus here is contrasted with his delay in Verse 48. 

‘“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them.’ Surely Jesus didn’t get into the boat for his own benefit but for theirs! The disciples need Jesus. Jesus understands their need. They are not alone and the man who can feed five thousand with a few loaves and the one who can walk on water has come from heaven to walk with them. To direct them.

“They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” It’s at this point when I read this story that I thought I had understood the loaves but then Mark reintroduces the point here! The disciples had not yet caught on to what the crowds seem to be craving. The crowds are amazed at Jesus and will go out of their way to find him and spend ridiculous hours with him. The disciples are still thinking 2 dimensionally about mission. Jesus wants to send them but they must realise that they go with Jesus. They saw the crowd who needed to be fed but Jesus directed them on how that would get done. It is time for the disciples to start believing that Jesus can feed multitudes, cast out demons, raise the dead and walk on water. Have they even answered the question that they asked back in Chapter 4: Who is this man? We are told that their hearts were hardened and so they are yet unwilling to see who Jesus is.

“…people recognised Jesus. They ran throughout the whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.” This simple and excited faith is what Jesus wants from his disciples. If only they could see what the crowds were seeing!

Suggested questions for running this study.

Q1. What events were the disciples talking about in Verse 30? How did they describe the events?

Q2. How easy was it for Jesus to do things in these Verses? Look over the whole story and note all the amazing things that Jesus is said to have done and how simple it was for him.

Q3. What problems did the disciples face in all these Verses? How did the disciples think each problem should be solved?

Q4. How are the crowds described throughout these verses? What were their needs and how were they resolved?

Q5. What was Jesus waiting for the disciples to learn? Compare what Jesus was doing while the disciples were straining themselves on the lake.

Meaning

The disciples had a special and close connection with Jesus and yet they had not yet become excited about who he is. We are all sheep without a shepherd. Without Jesus we struggle against the wind. With Jesus we are directed to teach one another to have faith in him. Jesus saw the crowd who was lost and he began to teach them. Jesus saw the disciples’ who were afraid and said “take courage because I am here.” Jesus has now left us to do this without his physical presence. But the same practice is followed. Rely on God and not our own strength. See the difficult task before us and take courage. The needs of the many are solved by knowledge of the One.

Application

Challenge#1 Jesus is the solution to all of our problems.

In this passage we see Jesus solving problems in ways that the disciples did not foresee. The disciples even thought that their mission was done by them alone! Jesus, who can walk on water, provide food out of virtually nothing, and can heal simply by being present has much more to say and contribute to our problems than we can even imagine. The disciples still treated Jesus like a side-kick to all of their needs. Both the calming of the storm and the walking on water incident left them blown away (pun). But Jesus challenged them on both occasions about their fear. Why are you so afraid? Where is your faith? (Mark 4). And “Take courage. Don’t be afraid?” (Mark 6:50). Jesus is asking us to put him at the centre of the solution to all of our problems. Without him we are just straining at the oars against the wind. But with him, we can be directed and take courage.

Challenge#2 Finding rest in the middle of chaos.

Jesus shows teaches us the importance and value of praying in the quiet when he does it so often himself. He didn’t wait for a quiet moment, he created one.

Challenge#3 Think lost sheep, not problems to solve.

We are all like sheep that have gone astray. We all need the Great Shepherd. It’s not some more than others. The disciples needed to see this of themselves rather than being the muscles for Jesus. When we see this then we can spend more time directing people to Jesus than solving people’s problems. The more we try and fix people’s problems the more weary we will become. But keep directing people to Jesus and we will find this solution much easier. Even Jesus saw the sheep without a shepherd and his solution was to direct them to the word of God as he taught them.