A ReMARKable Life Series
  • The gospel of Mark is a short, action-packed book that focuses on how Jesus Christ is the Messiah for every man, woman, and child. Christ – fully man, fully God. But Jesus wasn't the rescuer God's people had imagined, and many didn't recognize Jesus as their answer to prayer. We, too, can miss out on what God wants for us if we're only looking for answers that fit our expectations. Join us for this series as we explore Jesus' heart for people and we can change the world by serving one person at a time and helping them connect with God.
4. More Than A Story Teller (Mark 6:6b-7:37)
  • Jesus and the 12 withdraw from Nazareth, and He continues to teach and minister from town to town in the region and eventually leaves Galilee. He sends the 12 out to minister, empowering and instructing them in their mission. The story of the beheading of John the Baptist at the command of King Herod is recounted. Jesus feeds 5000 men and those with them, and walks on water, again proving who He is by these and more miracles. In the face of this, the opposition of the Pharisees and the Jewish religious establishment mounts. Though Jesus confronts His opposition, He nevertheless by so doing seeks to show them the true Kingdom of God.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Jesus calls His followers to minister in His name. (Mark 6:7-13, 30)
  • Jesus is the ultimate and total provider. (Mark 6:8-10, 42, 51 & 52)
  • Jesus constantly reaches out and responds to those in need because of His love and compassion. (Mark 6:34, 38-44, 55 & 56; 7:33)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • Where and how are you sent to minister in His name?
  • Do you rely on God's provision and empowering? If not, how can you?
  • Do you have a heart of compassion for those in need like Jesus did? If not, ask God to give you that kind of heart.
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Why did Jesus send out the 12?
  • Why did Jesus give the 12 the instructions He gave to them?
  • What is the importance of the story of John's death to the overall story of the gospel of Mark?
  • What did the feeding of the 5000+ and Jesus' walking on the water show about Him, and why did the 12 not seem to get it?
  • What was the error of the religious authorities in their view of ritual cleansing? Why was Jesus correct to indict their unbelief?
  • Why did Jesus leave the Galilee region? Why did He bring His message to the Jewish people first?
  • Describe the faith of the Syrophoenician woman and the men who brought the deaf man with the speech impediment.
  • Why did Jesus command people not to broadcast the news about what He was doing?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What is the message that you carry with you as a follower of Jesus?
  • Why are people (like King Herod) afraid of the truth and of righteousness?
  • What What does the story of the feeding of the 5000+ mean to you? What are the implications for your life?
  • What does Jesus' walking on the water mean to you? Why is it important that Jesus thought enough about the 12 to try to get them rest, to calm the water and to continually explain to them what He was teaching?
  • What is faith? How much faith is required for Jesus to respond?
  • What can be the problem with religious traditions and authorities?
  • What does it mean to you that evils come from inside and make one unclean? What can one do about those evils that are within?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
In the last Notes, we left Jesus amazed at the unbelief of the people of His home town, Nazareth (Mark 6:6a). Consequently He left Nazereth and taught in the other villages in Galilee (Mark 6:b). Presumably to extend the reach of His ministry, and as a forerunner to His doing so through the Church, Jesus commissioned the 12 to ministry and sent them out in pairs (Mark 6:7). The story of their Jesus’ instructions and their ministry is told in verses 7-13 and 30 of chapter 6. While it is not clear from the text when this ministry of the 12 took place, and where, it seems it is still in the Galilee region. In any case, the 12 are sent by Jesus to preach His message of repentance, to do healings and to cast out demons, all the things that Jesus Himself was doing. The 12 go in His power, not theirs, as His emissaries; their ministry is to be personal, spiritual and shared, and is to be based on fully trusting God for literally everything (Mark 6:8). They are to be considerate of their hosts, staying with them until they leave town, and conscious of the judgment aspect of Jesus’ message, namely that rejection of the message brings judgment (Mark 6:11). So the 12 went out and ministered, and they did just what Jesus had told them to do (Mark 6:13, 30).

Word of Jesus’ ministry was spreading far and wide. Even King Herod (not the King Herod of Matthew 2:1, who was Herod the Great. The Herod Mark mentions is one of his sons, Herod Antipas, who was given a portion of his father’s kingdom by the Romans on his father’s death, specifically the regions of Galilee and Perea. He did not actually have the title of king from Rome, but the title was popularly used. His brother was Philip who ruled in the area of Palestine and in the Northeast.) Mark uses the mention of King Herod to ask the question, “Who is Jesus really?” in the context of the answers people were giving. Some viewed Jesus as John the Baptist risen from the dead; others viewed Him as Elijah; still others as a prophet (Mark 6:14 & 15). Mark also uses the mention of King Herod and John the Baptist to give an account of John’s death. Remember that John’s ministry had ended when he was taken into arrested (Mark 1:14), and now we learn that it was King Herod who had arrested him and put him in prison (Mark 6:17). Upon learning of Jesus ministry of miracles, Herod was thinking that John whom he had beheaded (Mark 6:16) had risen. Herod thought this out of guilt and remorse, not because he thought highly of Jesus. Mark then tells us that Herod had John arrested at the behest of his wife, Herodias, who had left Philip to live with Herod (who was actually her uncle!). John called the King out for his living in this incestuous relationship (Leviticus 18:16), and Herodias hated him for it, wanting him dead. Herod acted as john’s protector, however, listening to him, and knowing him as a righteous man. But Herodias got her way when, at a birthday party Herod held for himself with all his high officials and Galilean leaders (Mark 6:21), she had her daughter dance for Herod and his guests (likely a lewd dance) which so pleased Herod that he made an oath in front of his guests to give her whatever she wanted. The girl immediately went to her mother who told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist, which the girl did and added “at once” and “on a platter.” In that culture, oaths were considered irrevocable, so Herod had no choice but to follow through notwithstanding exceeding sorrow, and forthwith had John beheaded and his head brought on a platter and given to the girl who then gave it to Herodias. John’s disciples took John’s body and buried it. Why all this detail from Mark concerning John the Baptist? It seems Mark’s purpose is to show that Jesus is not John the Baptist resurrected, that the opposition to the gospel is reflected in the rejection by Herod and Herodias of the application of the truth of John’s message, and that the good news will nevertheless continue to be told.

Upon the return of the 12 from their ministry, Jesus wisely suggests they get away from the crowds and rest (And this is a good reminder to all who minister the gospel … it’s OK and in fact wise to pull back from ministry from time to time; rest is truly a “God thing.”). So they leave in the boat to go to a remote place on the other side of the Sea of Galilee (Mark 6:31 & 32). Meanwhile, the crowds figure out what’s going on and travel on foot to where Jesus is headed, actually arriving there ahead of them (Mark 6:33). Instead of being irritated that He and the 12 cannot get away from the multitude, Jesus’ heart of compassion and love goes out to them as He realized they were just sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). So He taught them until the evening at which point the 12 told Jesus He should send them away to get food. Amazingly, Jesus told the 12 to give them something to eat. Impossible! There were (as we learn in a few verses) literally thousands of people there, and feeding them would cost far more money than any one of them had (Mark 6:37). Then, to show that He is indeed God the provider, Jesus has them find and bring him some bread, which they do, bringing Him 5 loaves and 2 fishes (hardly enough for two people), and proceeds to put the people into groups of 50 and 100, and after blessing the food, keeps breaking it until there was enough food for everyone and 12 baskets full left over. Mark tells us “they all ate and were satisfied.” (Mark 6:42). Indeed, as the divine provider, Jesus showed that He meets needs, having just fed 5000 men plus women and children who had nothing. Interestingly, contrast this feeding with the banquet that King Herod gave to the so-called important people who supposedly had everything (Mark 6:21).

From the gospel of John, we learn that the crowd was so taken by the miracle that Jesus had just performed that they were going to take Him by force and make Him king (John 6:14 & 15), which was clearly not why Jesus came into the world. He was not a political Messiah the Jews hoped for, and hence He made the 12 leave immediately by boat to Bethsaida (Mark 6:45), sent the people away, and went away to the mountain to pray (Mark 6:46). It was a time of crisis, namely that the temptation was present to take His ministry in a direction that was other than what the Father and He purposed. It was a time for prayer (another good lesson for all of us in ministry). During the night, between 3-6am, Jesus amazingly saw from afar that the 12 were having trouble in their boat because of difficult headwinds. So Jesus came to them, walking on the water of the Sea, the 12 thought they were seeing a ghost, and were so frightened them that they cried out. But He spoke to them and assured them who He was, and came into the boat whereupon the winds ceased (Mark 6:47-51). The 12 were utterly astonished, but should they have been? Mere hours before they had witnessed Jesus multiplying bread and fish enough to feed thousands. Surely this was the Messiah, God in Person, and so walking on water and stopping the winds should not be a surprise. But they had missed it; Mark notes that their hearts were hardened. Even Jesus’ closest followers were having trouble seeing Him as more than a story teller.

Ultimately they arrived at the northwest shore of the Sea, at Gennesaret, and the people recognized Jesus immediately. So, the ministry scene continues, with people coming from all around for healing. Mark 6:53-56 seems to summarize Jesus’ ministry to date in terms of its impact: people flocked to Him wherever He went, and He responded with healing miracles, undoubtedly teaching them at the same time, and all with a heart of compassion (Mark 6:34) and to reveal that He truly is the Messiah in whom is salvation and forgiveness from sin. But how would people respond to what He was saying and who He really was? Was it just to get healed and nothing more? Was it just to disprove who He was? The tension in Mark’s story is building with each passing verse.

And sure enough, chapter 7 begins with another group of religious authorities from Jerusalem who are following Jesus to judge Him, critique Him, and discredit Him. But why? Because Jesus didn't fit their expectations; because Jesus didn't adhere to their “traditions;” because Jesus threatened their nicely wrought religious order; because Jesus was drawing people away from them and their teachings. In short, they came to Jesus for all the wrong reasons. So they indict Jesus and His followers for not adhering to the Jewish rules about ritual cleansing (which Mark explains in verses 3 and 4). These men weren't worried about Jesus or His health or that of the 12; they were concerned that they weren't “following the right rules.” Interestingly, they didn't criticize Him directly, but asked why His disciples didn't “walk according to the tradition of the elders.” (Mark 7:5). Jesus was unfazed His response was basically that they were hypocrites for equating man's rules with God's Law and actually using man's rules to end-run God's law, all with the appearance on the outside of righteousness yet with unbelief and disobedience on the inside. He even gave an example of one of their rules that, when followed, allowed a child to avoid having to care for his or her parents and thus nullified the requirement of the Law to honor one's parents (Mark 7:9-13). Then turning to the crowd, He told them directly that it's not the food that makes one unclean but what comes from the inside (Mark 7:14 & 15) In private, He spoke to the 12 to explain what He meant, marveling at their inability to understand. Sin comes from the heart, and nothing that goes into a person (i.e., whatever kind of food) makes him or her unclean if their heart is full of evil, and He named a number of evil things that come from within (evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, slander, pride, foolishness. Mark 7:21 & 22). The religious authorities had missed the entirety of the point of the Law, keeping the externals while rebelling in their hearts, such that what Isaiah the prophet pointedly said about the religious authorities of his day (Isaiah 29:13) was absolutely true of those seeking to indict Jesus in His day. The religious authorities weren't following God; they were following man.

Jesus then took His ministry away from Galilee and instead went into territory populated mostly by Gentiles. Clearly by such a move He was underscoring that His message was for all. He went first to Tyre, a city on the Mediterranean coast, northwest of Galilee. He stayed in a home to avoid “announcing” His presence (Mark 7:24), but the word of His presence got out anyway as even the folk in this area had heard about this Jesus the miracle worker. Indeed, one woman who had heard about Him and had a demon-possessed daughter came to Him as soon as she knew He was in Tyre. She was a Gentile, described by Mark as a “Syrophoenician” by birth. (The city of Tyre belonged to ancient Phoenicia, an ancient people comprised of various city-states along the Mediterranean coast. The Greek culture had permeated much of the area, such that some translations denominate this woman as a Greek, as opposed to a Gentile.) In any event, she was not Jewish, and yet she came boldly to Jesus and begged Him to drive the demon out of her daughter. Jesus' reply seems very odd as He told her that the children need to eat first, and it is not right to take the children's bread and feed it to the dogs (Mark 7:27). What did He mean by that? In the Greek culture, more well-to-do families had dogs as pets, as opposed to dogs being mere scavangers in Palestine. The children in such households would be fed before any food would be given to the pets. By this illustration, Jesus was indicating that the gospel message was meant first for the Jewish people, and He is not a magician. In effect, He was asking her to demonstrate faith in Him as opposed to a request for Him to do a pagan magic trick to “heal” her daughter. The woman responded, and her answer showed that she understood the priority of the Jewish people in terms of the message of this prophet, but that even dogs get to eat crumbs (Mark 7:28). Notice that she called Jesus “Lord” indicating at least some level of faith in Jesus and His ability to heal her daughter even while attending to the needs of His people first. Having witnessed her faith, Jesus told her that her daughter was healed, and she went home to discover it was true indeed (Mark 7: 29 & 30). The message in this story was not so much Jesus' power to cast out demons, in this case exercised from a distance, but that He was open to the faith of all who came to Him believing, even to Gentiles!

Jesus' ministry to Gentile areas continued after He left Tyre. He traveled through Sidon, which was a city on the coast of the Mediterranean north of Tyre, then to the Sea of Galilee and southeast into the Decapolis region which was inhabited principally by Gentiles (Mark 7:31) While there, a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment was brought to Him (Mark 7:32). Those who brought the man begged Jesus to heal him. Did they have faith in Jesus' ability to heal this man, or did they just think Him to be a pagan magician? It seems the former, and one wonders what they knew of Jesus came from the testimony in their area given by the demon-possessed man Jesus had healed (Mark 5:18-20). The crowd that was gathered may have wanted a public show by this man, Jesus, but He did not allow it and instead took the man aside. He used gestures and signs (fingers in the man's ears, putting spit on the man's tongue; looking up to heaven) so that the man knew what He was doing. He spoke an Aramaic word (which Mark translates for his readers) that was a command, “Be opened.” and the man was healed immediately. As previously (Mark 1:34, 43; 5:43), Jesus told the man and his friends and the crowd not to broadcast what had just happened, but to no avail. The people were amazed and wouldn't stop talking about it (Mark 7:36 & 37).

In this passage from Mark, we continue to see Jesus ministering in Galilee and then beyond into Gentile areas, performing miraculous healings, making food for thousands, walking on the water, and all the while teaching that people need to repent for the kingdom of God was at hand. He also sent the 12 out to minister likewise in Jesus' name, which they did. And all along, the opposition continued from the religious authorities, and we see also opposition to the application of truth that resulted in the murder of John the Baptist. The question, “Who do you say Jesus is?” is the common thread in these stories, and the responses continue to be varied, with the most striking responses of faith coming from the Gentiles, the ones the Jews would least expect to respond much less to be given God's word. And the 12 continue not to understand Jesus, though they see more and more proofs of His divinity (the feeding of the 5000+ and the walking on the water). Where is this all heading? Jesus' ministry is not at all haphazard, but is intentional in terms of His spreading the good news of the kingdom throughout several regions and resisting attempts by people to mold His ministry to political ends. Jesus came to bring salvation; He was the God-man who is showing Himself to be such by unassailable miracles. And what does He ask? He calls people to faith; to believe in Him based on what He has said as attested in its truthfulness by what He has done. He is indeed the Messiah; He calls people to follow Him. And that same message resonates today.