2 KING 4:42-44 EPHESIANS 4:1-6 MARK 6:1-15
“Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.” This is the simple introduction to the extraordinary event that’s about to unfold. In the bible, the mountain is the place where heaven intersects with earth. Moses climbed Mount Sinai to receive the commandments from God. Jesus went up a mountain to deliver the new commandments, the beatitudes. Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration atop Mount Tabor. Now, on this mountain, the disciples will experience a moment in the kingdom of God.
Jesus looked out at the large crowd. He not only saw the people, he saw their inner longings – their hungers. He turned to his inner circle of apostles with a challenging question. “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” No one had any answer to the question except a boy who had five barley loaves and two fish. He offered them to feed the crowd. Was this naiveté or faith? Let’s think about this boy for a moment.
It was common practice for people to carry food with them when they traveled. They usually carried it in a sack they slung over their shoulder. This boy was carrying five barley loaves, the bread that the poor would ordinarily eat, and two fish. Although he was poor, he gave away all the food that he had. John, the gospel writer, wanted to make clear that this was a kingdom event, and that this boy, by giving away all that he had, was opening the door to the kingdom. The boy’s example was a reminder for the disciples that unless they became like little child, they would not experience the kingdom of God.
Jesus had the crowd recline on the “great deal of grass in that place.” This detail is referencing the “green pastures” of Psalm 23 where God sets a table, anoints the guests with oil and pours wine until their cups overflow. The people were told to recline on the grass as they were obliged to recline during the Passover Seder. Reclining, as opposed to sitting in a chair, was a sign of wealth and freedom. Jesus was readying the people for the fulfillment of the Passover that would be realized in the banquet in the kingdom of God.
Jesus said the blessing and distributed the five barley loaves and two fish to the crowd of five thousand. Everyone ate. Everyone was filled. Twelve baskets of food were left over. If five loaves and two fish could feed five thousand, how many more thousands could be fed from the twelve baskets of leftovers?!
This miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish is repeated each time we gather for the Lord’s Supper. At the Eucharist we celebrate God spreads a banquet table before us. We’re not fed with earthly food, however; we’re fed with the Bread of Life, the bread of the kingdom.
So, come to the Eucharist with the spirit of a little child. Offer to God everything you have, your five loaves and two fish. Let the Lord feed your inner hunger. Let the Lord free your spirit. Permit your soul to rest. Recline on the green grass of the kingdom of God.
JEREMIAH 23:1-6 EPHESIANS 2:13-18 MARK 6:30-34
In last Sunday’s gospel Jesus had given the apostles authority over unclean spirits and commissioned them to preach. “So, they went off and preached repentance. They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” In today’s gospel passage, the apostles had just returned from what proved to have be a very successful missionary excursion. They were tremendously excited but had trouble sharing their experiences because “people were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.”
Like a mother hen caring for her chicks, Jesus hustled them on to a boat to retreat to a favorite hideaway of theirs for some peace and quiet. It was a shock to them that the people guessed where they were going and were waiting for them on the shore along with many others they had picked up as they walked there. The only peace and quiet that the disciples managed to get was during the boat trip across the lake.
When Jesus saw “the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them; for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” The lessons gleaned from this first missionary experience weren’t over yet. In fact, they had just begun.
There wasn’t any time for rest. The people weren’t at peace. Their spirits weren’t at rest. Immediately, Jesus reached out and touched their hearts with his teaching.
Did the apostles realize that, in his response to the crowd, Jesus was teaching them, too? Did they realize that the “Jesus ministry” would demand that they pour themselves out “like a libation?” Did they realize that mere words would never be able to satisfy the deep hunger of the people? Did they realize that they would have to place their entire lives in the hands of God before they could respond to the needs of this crowd? Not yet. First, they would have to look helplessly at the crowd of five thousand as Jesus’ command echoed in their ears. “Give them some food yourselves.”
Jesus, I offer my life to you.
I give you my all, my strengths and my weaknesses.
Use me to continue your ministry
to satisfy the hungers of the human family.
AMOS 7:12-15 EPHESIANS 1:3-14 MARK 6:78-13
We have a very interesting passage to think about today. It consists of a series of instructions that Jesus gave his twelve apostles before he sent them out on their first missionary excursion. Let’s look at the details and then see what their implications are for these early missionaries and us.
“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.” Why would Jesus send them out in pairs?
In Jewish tradition two witnesses were needed to convict a person of a crime. In our tradition the presence of two witnesses are needed to legalize a wedding. These men were to be witnesses of the coming kingdom of God. The power of two is much greater than the power of one.
To strengthen their witness Jesus gave them the authority over unclean spirits. In addition to the proclamation of the kingdom the Twelve were armed with proof that the kingdom was coming; the children of the kingdom had power over unclean spirits.
“He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.” What did the ordinary person wear in Jesus’ day, and why did Jesus think it necessary to specify the clothing the Twelve were to wear?
The basic garb for men and women was the tunic. It was made from a piece of cloth that was folded in half and sewn on one side. Holes were cut for the arms to go through. No hole was cut for the head. This would prove to the buyer that it had never been used but also allowed the new owner to make an appropriately sized hole for his/her head to fit through
propriately sized hole for his/her head to fit through. The neckline was therefore totally left to the discretion of the purchaser. A woman, for example, might want a low-cut neckline if she was nursing a baby.
The outer garment was something like a poncho. It was a large piece of cloth, six to seven feet wide and eight to nine feet long. It could be two pieces of cloth sewn together or one large piece, as was the case with Jesus’ cloak that the soldiers gambled for at the foot of the cross. The outer garment was used as a cloak by day and a blanket at night.
A girdle, or belt, was fastened around the waist over the tunic and outer garment giving the wearer the ability to alter the length of the garments as needed.
A kind of sack was worn over the shoulder. It could be large enough to carry food and essentials that a traveler might need. It could also be used as a money pouch. These money pouches were commonly used by traveling missionaries to carry the donations they picked up during their travels.
So, what was Jesus telling the Twelve by spelling out how they should dress? He was telling them that they must rely totally on God. They should travel without a back-up of food or clothing or money. They were to depend totally God and on the generosity of the people who would hear and accept their message.
He was also saying something about the attitude the Twelve should have when they enter someone’s home. It was rabbinic law that when people entered the courts in the temple they had to leave their staff, sandals and money bag outside. Here Jesus is saying that the home that accepts his message is a place as sacred as the temple.
“He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. What place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.’”
Here, Jesus is directing his missionaries to be the catalysts of a new community. By staying in one home they could gently make the place a center for future instruction. When they left, their hosts could continue what they began or, at least, be a place from which future missionaries could preach.
His instruction to shake the dust of the town off their feet if they weren’t accepted there would have been a bit shocking for the Twelve to hear. Rabbinic law said that the dust of a Gentile land was defiled. When Jews had to enter Gentile territory they were obliged to shake off every bit of defiled dust from their feet before entering Jewish territory. In this statement Jesus is comparing Jews who don’t listen to, or accept, the message of the kingdom to the Gentiles who were not among the chosen people.
“So, they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”
Here we discover the message of the Twelve’s preaching: repentance. The word used in the scripture is metanoia. It doesn’t mean simply admitting wrongs done in the past and making the commitment not to repeat them. It means changing the entire direction of one’s life. It means becoming a new person, one who sees differently, thinks differently, relates differently. It means taking on the attitude of the disciple who depends totally on God. It means committing to a new community – a kingdom community. It means freeing people from their demons. It means not accepting this world and its values as our only alternative. It means becoming a new person, a new people, in the kingdom of God.
Jesus’ instruction to the Twelve applies to each one of us. This week we’re asked to question our own discipleship. To what degree do I place my trust in God? How do I share my faith? Do I believe that I have been given a role to play in the kingdom of God? Am I open to hearing Jesus’ call for personal and communal repentance? Do I hear Jesus’ invitation to be his missionary?
EZEKIEL 2:2-5 2 CORINTHIANS 12:7-10 MARK 6:1-6
This is the third week that “faith” is the theme of the gospel passage. Two weeks ago, we heard Jesus question the shaky faith of his disciples when they panicked during a storm at sea. The following Sunday, we witnessed the unwavering faith of two people: a woman who was cured of chronic hemorrhaging, and Jairus, the president of the town’s synagogue, who knelt at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to heal his daughter. This week we see Jesus “amazed” at the lack of faith exhibited by the people of his hometown, Nazareth. Let’s focus our reflection on the town folk’s disbelief.
Jesus left his family and his hometown when he was about 30 years old. Being the son of a carpenter, he most likely worked at the same trade. The specific Greek word that Mark chose for carpenter extends way beyond a wood-worker. The word describes a general handy-man and a jack of all trades. He could fix a broken chair, or build a house.
In the scene, Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, returned to his home town as an itinerate Rabbi accompanied by his entourage of disciples. His reputation as a healer and miracle worker preceded him. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the town’s synagogue. The people had quite a response to him.
“They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.”
The people’s reaction is puzzling. They acknowledged his wisdom as a teacher. They recognized him as a miracle worker and healer. But they hardened their hearts against him. In Luke’s gospel, we’re told that they were so upset with him when he said he was the Messiah that they tried to throw him off a cliff!
Mark tells us that Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deeds there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying hands on them.” What can we learn about faith from this incident in Jesus’ life?
One startling realization is that their lack of faith actually blocked the flow of divine energy through Jesus. In contrast, the woman suffering from hemorrhages believed that if she only touched a tassel on Jesus’ cloak she would be healed. Her faith connected so powerfully with Jesus that at the moment of her touch he felt a release of healing power.
Jairus’ story teaches us that humility is an essential component of faith. By acknowledging our powerlessness and total dependence on God we make space for God’s power, which is love, to enter us and heal us or, in the case of Jairus, to heal his daughter.
Faith is more than saying yes to a creed; it’s a spiritual way of life. It’s the relinquishing of our power to the All-powerful so that the life-giving love of God may find a place of welcome in our hearts.