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The Gospel According to Mark: Chapter 6

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1He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary a Or the price of the precious One and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense b Other ancient authorities read I gave at him. 4Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

14King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ c Other ancient authorities lack Jesus name had become known. Some were d Or the Christ saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

17For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod e Other ancient authorities read this righteous blood, or this righteous man's blood had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.” 19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; f Gk the praetorium and yet he liked to listen to him. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When his daughter Herodias a Other ancient authorities add in order that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John's b Or blasphemed head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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 c Or is he unable to save himself ? 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.


e Or the price of the precious One

f Other ancient authorities read I gave

g Other ancient authorities lack Jesus

h Or the Christ

a Other ancient authorities read this righteous blood, or this righteous man's blood

b Gk the praetorium

c Other ancient authorities add in order that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

d Or blasphemed

e Or is he unable to save himself ?

Text Commentary view alone

6.1–6a : Rejection in his hometown

(Mt. 13.53–58; Lk 4.16–30 ). Those who knew Jesus from his early years, before he was called into service as a prophet mediating extraordinary powers, cannot respond in faith as others can; cf. 3.21 .

5 :

The powers that work through such a prophet are dependent on people's positive response with faith.

6.6b–13 : Commissioning the twelve

(Mt 10.1,9–11,14; Lk 9.1–6; cf. Lk 10.2–16 ). Jesus commissions the twelve, appointed as symbolic heads of the renewed Israel in 3.13–19 , to expand his mission of proclamation, exorcism, and healing. They work in villages, staying in sympathetic households, building the renewal movement.

6.14–29 : Herod's execution of John

(Mt 14.1–12; Lk 9.7–9 ).

14–16 :

Herod, Antipas, son of Herod the Great, technically appointed tetrarch, but popularly known as “King,” ruled Galilee and part of Transjordan 4 BCE–39 CE. Clearly people were responding to and identifying Jesus out of their cultivation of popular tradition as “Elijah” or “one of the prophets.” Herod, however, is anxiously superstitious because he had beheaded John.

17–29 :

A popular tale of the decadent life at Herod's court and of the gruesome beheading of John that sounds an ominous note for Jesus' prophetic renewal of Israel over against the king appointed by Rome.

17–18 :

Royal marriages were instruments of international politics. John's prophecy against Herod Antipas's marriage to his brother's wife, which alienated the Nabatean king Aretas IV, father of his first wife, was politically incendiary.

19–20 :

Herod's and Herodias's respective feelings about John are reminiscent of Ahab's and Jezebel's stances toward Elijah in 1 Kings 18–19,21 .

21 :

Leaders is a misleading translation for “the first ones,” i.e., high‐ranking officials at court.

22 :

His daughter, called Salome by Josephus (Ant. 18.5.136).

29 :

John also had disciples, and perhaps headed a prophetic movement parallel to that of Jesus.

6.30–44 : Wilderness feeding of five thousand

(Mt 14.13–21; Lk 9.10–17; Jn 6.1–13; cf. Mk 8.1–10 ). First of two wilderness feedings reminiscent of God's feeding early Israel in the wilderness through Moses (Ex 16; Num 11 ).

30–33 :

In need of a temporary retreat from the rigors of their mission, Jesus and his apostles withdraw, but hordes of people clamor to them even in the wilderness.

34 :

Sheep without a shepherd, a frequent image for a people without a prophet or king to lead them (see Num 27.17; 1 Kings 22.17; Ezek 34.8; Zech 10.2 ). Coming right after Herod's execution of John, it also alludes to the prophetic tradition of political criticism of predatory and exploitative kings who become rich by “fleecing” rather than caring for their people (see Ezek 34.2–5; Zech 11.4–17 ).

35–37 :

The disciples' suggestion and protest both represent a misunderstanding of Jesus' program. That the villagers could no longer feed themselves from their own produce and had to become laborers to earn money to buy food is just the problem!

38–44 :

One of the dreams of peasants, who are always economically marginal and therefore hungry, is a future good time when food is plentiful (cf. Lk 6.20–21 ). Both the multiplication of the food and the twelve baskets left over suggest that this story is reminiscent of Elijah‐Elisha stories of feeding in times of famine (e.g., 1 Kings 4.42–44 ) and of their restoration of Israel symbolized in its twelve tribes.

41 :

Christian readers usually find eucharistic overtones in Jesus' blessing and breaking of the loaves.

6.45–52 : Second sea crossing

(Mt 14.22–33; Jn 6.15–21 ).

45 :

Bethsaida, a village at the north of the Sea of Galilee, transformed into a small “city” by Herod Philip.

47–52 :

Again the disciples are terrified, not only at the wind but also at the apparition.

50 :

Mark compares Jesus to God, using the phrase “I am” (Gk “ego eimi”; cf. Ex 3.14).

51–52 :

Yet the disciples not only lack faith, as in 4.40 , but their hearts were hardened, as had occurred with enemies of God in earlier times (e.g., Ex 7.3,14; Deut 2.30; Josh 11.20; 1 Sam 6.6 ).

6.53–56 : A summary passage

highlighting the widening response to Jesus. Mt 14.34–36 .

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