"First Thoughts on Year B Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 7, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.
As we gather again, O God, to celebrate the weekly Pasch, grant your church the joy of tasting again the living presence of your Christ in the word that Jesus proclaimed and in the bread of life we break. Drawing apart on this day of worship and rest, of refreshment and renewal, let us recognize in Jesus the true prophet and shepherd who guides us to unfailing springs of eternal joys. We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
Some Thoughts on Mark 6:30-56
Let us begin first with the meaning of the word "apostles." I think when we hear this word we immediately think of the chosen and the first 12. Am I wrong? Nope. That meaning, and that is certainly one way of understanding the word, is correct but it is applied after the church became the Church. In our reading today we might better read it in the way the gospel means it: those who were sent out. I think this changes things a bit as we read our text.
So they gather and a great many people gather around, as if in a symposium or a teaching time. And Jesus sees them like Moses, as sheep without a shepherd. And, like Moses who see his people hungry and longing he provides for them. This is a miraculous story that synchronizes Jesus with the powers and vision of Moses to see his suffering and lost people and to come to their aid. His followers do not all understand this, nor can they understand the fact that Jesus himself is to be the bread of life. But here for those of us who are also sent out, who are also sent ahead, we are able to see God's compassion and love and care for his people. Neatly tucked in here is this notion that those who are sent and are able to do great things sometimes also need help seeing that those challenges right before them are also theirs to overcome.
Our text today has a one/two punch as we take two specific and different pericopes into consideration. In the second part of our text the disciples, his inner circle of missionaries, are gathered and are sent out onto the sea to make their way to Bethsaida. It is another crossing and we should know by now that whenever there is a crossing and water that we are about to see again the creative power of God in Jesus. Indeed we do.
They are trying to make their way. The ones who have been sent out, are now sent ahead, and are struggling to make their way across the boiling sea. Again, they are challenged. We cannot dismiss this as simply difficult work. The image of the sea is always in Mark an image of powers of creation and powers against Jesus. It is the place of leviathon and the deep. Jesus walks out to them. And, they see him again as the one in whom all creation has its being and for whom even the waves obey. It is an epiphany event. In the midst of the feeding we are treated to a vison of Jesus as the bread of life and a new Moses, on the sea we see him as Moses walking through the waters to deliver his people. This passage is filled with old testament imagery and the linkage of feeding in the desert and the Red Sea crossing should not be dismissed. Jesus is the "I am." Jesus is the lord of the Haggadah, the ego eimi, the one who is, and he is the image of God at work in Moses, and in the new law. (Joel Marcus, Mark, vol 1, 431ff)
Just as this motif of Moses and the Exodus looks back it also looks forward. It looks forward to the reimaging of Christ as the crucified Lord who makes way through the sheol of death and brings us to a new banquet table which is set on the mountain top and not in the wilderness. We are given images of Christ as the bread of life. He is our new shepherd and our new deliverer. He is our messiah who leads us all and forevermore out of death into life.
As we pause and think about this for our people today we must ask what are they hungry for? What do they need deliverance from?
Moreover, we might ask as the church who is being sent...what are we being sent out to do?
How do we as church feed the masses with the Gospel of good news? Are we willing to not only change the world; are we willing to transform it through the proclamation of God in Christ Jesus?
This is a both/and scenario. Mission is at once the feeding of the body, shelter for the head, and healing for the sick. But mission is also hope for the mind, guidance home for the lost, and restoration for the separated. It is one thing for people to know that Episcopalians care. It is quite another for people to experience the caring of the Episcopal missionary and their story of transformational life.
Mark's gospel is never only about the wind and the waves, it is also always about the spirit. These two combined are the key to an incarnational message of the gospel which is apostolic and life changing.
A Little Bit for Everyone
30The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.31He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.34As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.35When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late;36send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.”37But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?”38And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”39Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass.40So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.41Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.42And all ate and were filled;43and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.44Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
45Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.46After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
47When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.48When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by.49But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out;50for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”51Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,52for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
53When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat.54When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him,55and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.56And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.