Lectionary Year B
July 16, 2000
Mark 6:14-29

Step III: Immediate Context


Pre:Mk 6:6b-13
Jesus public ministry is in full swing (v. 6b). He empowers his disciples by giving them authority over unclean spirits and sends them out in pairs (v. 7). For this mission, they are only supposed to be equipped with bare necessities (vv. 8-9). He gives them instructions as to where they should stay, and what they should do if people refuse to hear their message (vv. 10-11). Finally, v. 13 reports successes of their ministry in Jesus' name.

Post:Mk 6:30-42
v. 30 seems to pick up the thread of v. 13. In v. 30, the apostles come back from their "mission trip" and report about their deeds and teachings to Jesus. Apparently aware of their hard work, Jesus takes them aside to take a well-deserved break (v. 31). But they cannot slip away unnoticed, and the people rush ahead to meet them. Jesus has compassion on them like sheep without a shepherd and begins to teach them. As the days wanes, the disciples want to send them away to the surrounding villages in order to find something to eat. But Jesus tells them: "You give them soemthing to eat!" (v. 37) The disciples do not see how, and He shows them. Looking up to heaven, He blesses the loaves and fishes and breaks the food in order to be distributed. (41) "And all ate and were filled (v. 42).


As already mentioned in Step II, the pericope of 6:14-29 seems to be a curious interlude between the Mission of the Twelve and the Feeding of the Five Thousand. In vv. 14 and 15, one encounters several speculations about Jesus' identity: Herod thinks He is the resurrected John the Baptizer, the people think He could be Elijah, possibly one of the prophets. But they do not have an inkling about Him being the Son of God. In Mk 8:27-30, Jesus wants to know from His disciples who the people think that He is. They answer: Well, some say you are John the Baptist, others think you are Elijah, or perhaps one of the prophets. Then Jesus wants to know their opinion: "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answers: "You are the Christ/the Messiah!" In 9:2-8, Jesus' identity is disclosed on the Mount of Transfiguration, where Peter, James and John witness an encounter of their Lord with Elijah and Moses. From a cloud up above they hear a voice, revealing: "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to Him!" Whereas Jesus' identity only seemed to have been revealed to Himself in 1:11 ("You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased), now the disciples are assured of who He truly is.

The section 6:17-28 does not seem to relate to the rest of Mark's gospel at all. One might be reminded of Jezreel's schemes against Naboth in order to gain his vineyard in 1 Kings 21 and her influencing Ahab to have Naboth killed. Or one might be reminded of the cunning Esther who charmed Ahasverus so that he made her queen instead of Vashti and threw a great banquet in her honor. Thus, Herodias seems to be in good traditional company.

v. 29., however, seems to re-connect to Mark's gospel. In a similar scene to John's disciples taking his body and laying it in a tomb, Jesus' body is taken by Joseph of Arimathea in 15:45-46, wrapped in a linen cloth and laid in a tomb. The cousins John and Jesus appear to share not only blood bonds, but also a similar life's end.

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