Jesus, unwelcomed home
Jesus gets no respect at home in Nazareth1 Jesus left the area and went back to his hometown, taking his disciples with him. 2 On his first Sabbath back in Nazareth, Jesus went to the synagogue and started to teach the people. Many of the locals were shocked at what they heard. Talking among themselves they asked, “Where does he come up with this stuff? All these insights and the power to do miracles—where does it come from? 3 Isn’t this guy a carpenter? He’s the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon isn’t he? Don’t his sisters still live here in town?” These people felt incredibly offended by Jesus. 4 Jesus told the people, “A prophet can get some respect just about everywhere he goes except at home. Hometown folks, relatives, and the family don’t generally honor their homegrown prophet.” 5 He wasn’t able to do many miracles there. He did heal a few sick people by putting his hands on them. 6 The lack of faith that he saw in his hometown shocked him. He left and traveled around, teaching in neighboring villages.
Disciples on a road trip7 Jesus met with his dozen disciples and gave them a mission assignment. He was sending them out in pairs, two by two. He gave them the power to exorcise demons. 8 He told them not to take any supplies with them, other than a walking stick. No bread. No bag. No money stuffed inside their belt. 9 He said it was okay for them to wear sandals. But he added, “Don’t take an extra pair of clothes.” 10 He said, “Once you go into someone’s home, stay there and use that as your ministry base until you leave that area.” 11 If you end up in a place where people don’t want you and won’t listen to you, leave. Shake their dirt off your feet. That will send your message of disapproval.” 12 The disciples left and told people to start saying no to sin. 13 The disciples exorcised many demons. They healed many sick people by anointing them—pouring olive oil on them.
John the Baptizer beheaded14 King Herod heard about what was going on. Jesus was well known throughout the region by this time. Some folks were saying, “Jesus is John the Baptizer, back from the dead. That’s how he’s able to do miracles.” 15 Other folks were saying, “He’s Elijah.” And others said, “He’s a prophet like those classic prophets from ancient times.” 16 When Herod heard these rumors he said, “Oh no! This guy has to be John, the man I beheaded. He’s back from the dead.” 17 Earlier, Herod himself had ordered John arrested, tied, and detained in prison. Herod did it for his wife, Herodias. She used to be married to Herod’s brother, Philip. 18 John had been telling Herod, “It’s not legal for you to marry your brother’s wife.” 19 This infuriated Herodias. She hated John and wanted to kill him. But she didn’t know how to get the job done. 20 Herod was her problem. He was afraid of John. But he also respected him as a man devoted to God and justice. So Herod protected him. John’s messages left Herod confused, but Herod enjoyed listening to him anyhow. 21 Herod’s birthday party provided the perfect time to kill John. Herod invited the most important people in Galilee. That included military commanders and government officials. 22 Herodias had a daughter who could dance. She danced for Herod and his dinner guests. They liked what they saw. Herod liked it enough that he told the young girl, “Ask for whatever you want and I’ll give it to you.” 23 Herod vowed he would do it. “As long as it’s no more than half of my kingdom, I’ll give you whatever you want.” 24 So she checked with her mom. “What do you think I should ask for?” Her mom said, “The head of John the Baptizer, of course.” 25 Immediately, she rushed back to the king. She told him, “I want the head of John the Baptizer on a plate. And I want it now.” 26 The king got very sad very quickly. But he had vowed to give her what she wanted. And he did it in front of a room full of dinner guests. He had to do what he promised. 27 The king didn’t hesitate. He called in the executioner and told him to come back with John’s head. The executioner went to the prison and beheaded John. 28 He put the head on a plate brought it back and gave it to the young girl. The girl gave it to her mother. 29 When John’s disciples found out what happened, they came and took John’s body and gave it a burial, putting it in a tomb.
No alone time for Jesus and disciples30 The apostles wrapped up their mission trip and came back to Jesus. They had told him about what they did on the trip and what they had taught the people. 31 Jesus said, “Let’s get out of here. Let’s go where we can be alone and rest for a while.” There was such a constant stream of people coming and going that Jesus and his disciples weren’t even getting a chance to eat. 32 So they got in a boat and sailed off to a place where they thought they could be alone. 33 Well, a lot of people saw them leaving and recognized them. Folks from towns all over the area tracked them, trailed them on foot, and beat the boat to where Jesus was headed. 34 When Jesus stepped out of the boat and saw a large crowd, his heart melted with compassion. They looked like sheep without a shepherd. So he started to teach them many lessons.
5,000 for a fish dinner35 Later in the day the disciples went to Jesus and said, “We’re out here in the middle of nowhere and it’s starting to get late. 36 You should send them away so they can go to villages and buy something to eat.” 37 “No,” Jesus said. “You go ahead and give them something to eat.” The disciples said, “What? It would take almost a year’s salary to buy enough bread to feed this crowd!” 38 Jesus asked, “Well, how many loaves do you have? Go and find out.” They came back and reported, “Five. We have five loaves of bread and two fish.” 39 Jesus told the crowd to sit in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat in groups. Some groups of 50. Others of 100. 41 Jesus picked up the five loaves of bread and two fish. He looked up at the sky and said a prayer of blessing. Then he broke the bread into pieces and gave them to his disciples so they could pass them out. He did the same with the fish. 42 Everyone ate as much as they wanted. They filled up. 43 The disciples picked up the 12 baskets full of leftovers, bread as well as fish. 44 This crowd of people who ate the fish and bread included 5,000 men.
Jesus walks on water in a windstorm45 As soon as the meal was over, Jesus told his disciples to get in the boat and go ahead of him to the other side of the lake, toward Bethsaida. He said he would stay behind and get the people headed on their way home. 46 After the people left, Jesus went to the mountain to pray. 47 Later that evening, the boat was still out in the lake while Jesus was alone on land. 48 Jesus saw the disciples pulling hard on the oars, fighting against a strong wind. In the darkness before daylight, Jesus stepped onto the lake and started walking toward the disciples. He caught up with them and was going to pass alongside them. 49 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They screamed. 50 They all saw Jesus. And they were all terrified out of their minds. Right away Jesus said to them, “Courage, men. It’s me. No need to be afraid.” 51 Jesus climbed right into the boat with them. When he did, the wind suddenly died down. The disciples were absolutely amazed. 52 They didn’t understand what had happened with the bread earlier. Their heads were too thick.
Jesus heals everyone who touches his robe53 After they crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret and tied up the boat. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 Folks took off running. They scattered throughout the territory, gathering up the sick and carrying them on mats to Jesus, wherever he went. 56 When Jesus walked into a village, town, or rural community, people brought their sick to the market center. When Jesus came by, the sick would plead with Jesus to let them touch the edge of his robe. Everyone who touched him got well.
Nazareth was about a day’s walk southeast of Jesus’s ministry headquarters in the fishing village of Capernaum, about 20 miles (32 km).
The 24-hour Jewish Sabbath extended from sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday.
This seems to have been the strategy Jesus used in Capernaum. His landing place there seems to have been the home of Peter (1:29). That seems to be the “house” that Mark refers to whenever Jesus is in the Capernaum area.
More literally, Jesus tells the disciples to shake the dust off their feet as “a testimony against them.” It’s unclear what exactly Jesus meant. Some Bible experts say this may have been a warning, urging the people to repent. Or it may have been a bit like a witness in court testifying against a defendant. In this case, the disciples were testifying in advance against these people who would one day face their final judgment.
Pouring olive oil on people was an ancient Jewish tradition known as anointing. It was a way of showing people that they had a connection with God. A prophet named Samuel anointed young David as the future king of Israel. “Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David from that day on” (1 Samuel 16:13 New Living Translation). Christians picked up that tradition and used it in a ritual that included praying for the sick and placing hands on them. “Do you have any sick people there? If so, ask the church leaders to pray over them and to anoint them with oil. Do this in the name of the Lord, invoking the Lord’s authority” (James 5:14).
Herod Antipas (20 BC-AD 39). He ruled the region of Galilee, where Jesus lived and ministered. He was appointed ruler there about the time many scholars say Jesus was born, in about 4 BC. He ruled the area for more than 40 years. But he managed to get himself banished to what is now France in AD 39.
Jewish law classified it as incest for a man to take his brother’s wife while both of them were still alive (Leviticus 18:16; 20:21).
None of the Bible writers tell us the name of Herodias’s daughter. But Josephus does. He was a Jewish writer and a Roman citizen in the first century. He said that Herodias’s daughter was Salome, from Herodias’s first marriage. That marriage was to Philip, brother of Herod. So Herod was Salome’s uncle, and her stepdad.
Many Bible experts would agree that this young lady did not dance the polka. It may not have been a lap dance, either, but it was most likely arousing. This room was full of men feasting on a banquet and probably drinking something stronger than root beer. So if we are trying to figure out what dance the young lady performed, we can likely cross off a clog dance, a square dance, or the cha-cha-cha.
Apostle means “official messenger,” such as a delegate or an ambassador sent to deliver a message. The title “apostle” came to mean disciples hand-picked by Jesus to tell his story and spread his teachings. The title usually referred to the 12 original disciples of Jesus and Paul, who met Jesus in a miraculous encounter while Paul was traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians (Acts 9:5).
Sea of Galilee is a harp-shaped lake about 13 miles (21 km) top to bottom and 7 miles (11 km) at its widest point. Since Jesus stayed in the northern part of the lake area, people on shore could probably keep his boat in sight as he traveled.
The disciples asked if they should take 200 denarii and buy bread. A denarius was a day’s salary for the average worker at the time. Working six days a week, this would have been the salary for more than eight months. That’s a lot of bread for a lot of bread.
Moses did the same kind of thing with the Jews during their 40 years in the badlands. He created administrative groups of 1,000, 500, 100, and 10 (Exodus 18:25). Some Bible commentators say what Jesus was doing here was more than just dividing people into groups to make it easier to serve them. He was also reminding them of a time when God used miracles to provide for his people.
Some Bible experts say Jesus was blessing the food, like some people of faith today still do. Others say they wonder if he was blessing God and thanking him, since he was looking up. Jews typically looked down when they prayed, bowing before God. Jesus, instead, seems to have been looking up toward God, anticipating the power God would give him so he could perform this miracle. That’s the speculation among some Bible experts.
The Greek word usually refers to a male, but is sometimes used more generically to refer to a group of people, men and women. Bible experts say that in this case, however, it most likely refers to just the men in the crowd. Matthew’s version of the story makes it clear that the count did not include women and children (Matthew 14:21).
Bethsaida was a fishing village. It took about a five-mile (8 km) walk along the Sea of Galilee shoreline to get there from the ministry headquarters of Jesus in Capernaum. The grassy hillsides near Capernaum is where Christians in the early centuries said Jesus preached his most famous sermon of all, the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus may not have gone to what we would describe as a mountain. We might call it a rolling hill. There are plenty of rolling hills along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Some Bible experts say Mark may have used “mountain” because it’s a symbol and a reminder that God sometimes appeared to his people on a mountain. “The LORD came from Mount Sinai… He showed his greatness from Mount Paran” (Deuteronomy 33:2 New Century Version).
The time was literally “the fourth watch of the night.” Romans measured nighttime by the guards’ three-hour watches. The fourth watch of the night stretched from 3 AM to 6 AM.
The disciples may have thought he was a ghost coming to take them into the next life after this windstorm was finished with them.
Mark may have been trying to say that the disciples still have not figured out who Jesus is, even after the miracle that took place when Jesus fed a massive crowd of thousands with what amounts to a lightly packed picnic basket of bread and fish.
More commonly translated “Their hearts were hardened.” That’s a phrase Mark used to describe the enemies of Jesus (3:5). But he used it again to describe the disciples (8:17).
If Jesus fed the crowd anywhere near the vicinity of Capernaum or the rolling hills around the gently sloping Mount of Beatitudes, the disciples didn’t land their boat where Jesus sent them. He sent them east a few miles (km) to somewhere in the vicinity of Bethsaida. They ended up in the opposite direction, on a heavily populated, three-mile-long (5 km) plain between Capernaum and Tiberius. Mark offers no explanation for this. Bible experts make a wide variety of guesses. Maybe they were blown off course. Maybe the name of Gennesaret was misplaced and should have been kept with the story of the feeding of the crowd, but some editor got confused. Or maybe these were two separate stories that got patched together. Those are some of the theories.
A market center was more than a place to do business. It was often one of the most popular meeting places in a town or a village.
When Jesus goes home to Nazareth, he gets a weak reception. The hometown people “felt incredibly offended by Jesus” (6:2). Based on what Mark says and what you may have read in other Gospel stories about his visit home, what do you think might have been some of the reasons the people got upset with him?
Jesus gave his disciples “the power to exorcise demons” (6:7). Do you think there’s a place for that kind of ministry in the church today? Or do you think the “demons” that were exorcised were more likely physical or mental problems, such as epilepsy or multiple personality disorders?
Jesus sent his disciples out on a mission assignment. They were apparently to tell people about the teachings of Jesus. He gave them strange instructions. “He told them not to take any supplies with them, other than a walking stick. No bread. No bag. No money stuffed inside their belt” (6:8). Mark doesn’t say why Jesus did that. Why do you think he might have done that?
The Bible isn’t the only book that reports King Herod beheading John the Baptist. A Jewish historian named Josephus, who was born about 10 years after that execution, confirmed the story. He wrote that after Herod lost a battle to some Arabians, the Jews concluded God was punishing him “for what he did to John, who was called the Baptist. Herod killed him, a good man who commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both in righteousness to one another and in piety to God, and in this spirit to be baptized.” It’s rare that Bible characters show up in ancient writings like this. What do you think about that—the fact that it is rare, but that it does happen from time to time?
Story of Jesus feeding “5,000 men” (6:44), not counting women and children, is one of the more famous stories about him. With five loaves of bread and two fish, he hosts a whopper of a picnic. All four Bible books about Jesus tell that story: Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13. And two books add the story of another picnic for 4,000: (Matthew 15:38; Mark 8:1-10). Let’s assume these stories are not some kind of metaphor, but that the miracles really took place. What do you think was the point of the miracle, if there was a point beyond simply feeding hungry people?
Perhaps one of the stories in the Bible that is hardest to believe is the story of Jesus walking on the water (6:45-52). Some Christians reading the story wonder if it’s one of those legendary kinds of stories that got exaggerated. If we read the story like a critic, as many people do, what elements in the story might suggest there is some exaggeration going on?
Most Christians probably accept this story of Jesus walking on water as genuine history, correct in every detail . Other Christians might allow for some humanity in the process, with the possibility that the people telling the story to the Gospel writers may have gotten some of the details wrong. What do you think would be the argument for accepting the story as mostly if not completely accurate?
Jesus seemed to be developing a reputation that might compare today with that of a rock star or a movie star. Whenever Jesus walked into a village or town, he drew a crowd. People “scattered throughout the territory, gathering up the sick and carrying them on mats to Jesus, wherever he went” (6:55). How do you think this was going over with Jewish scholars and other Jewish leaders?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus says “A prophet can get some respect just about everywhere he goes except at home” (6:4). Do you think that’s true of just about anyone who is successful or who is respected by a lot of people? If so, why do strangers give us the respect that our family and friends don’t?
LIFE APPLICATION. King Herod didn’t want to execute John the Baptist. But his wife’s daughter had performed an entertaining dance for him and his guests. So he promised to give her anything she wanted. “And he did it in front of a room full of dinner guests” (6:26). She wanted the head of John the Baptist on a plate. “The king didn’t hesitate. He called in the executioner and told him to come back with John’s head” (6:27). The king considered his pride more important than John’s life. In what ways do we put more stock in our pride than we should?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus got tired. At one point, he tells the disciples, “Let’s get out of here. Let’s go where we can be alone and rest for a while” (6:31). They get in a boat and sailed off. But when they come to shore on a different part of the lake, they were greeted by a large crowd. Jesus, “his heart melted with compassion,” got back to work teaching the people. What lesson do you see in this little story?