Friday, September 28, 2018

Devotional: The All-Sufficient “Shepherd,” Mark 6:30-56

Mark 6.30-56 outline

After the disciples returned from their successful “ministry trip” Jesus pulled them aside for rest and another lesson in trusting him. Rest and withdrawal from ministry is something all followers of Christ need periodically. However, a crowd saw them go and followed them. Now, Jesus will use this opportunity for teaching the disciples a lesson about how ministry is done. The point is that Jesus is the all-sufficient resource for anything God calls us to do, so his followers need not fear their own inadequacy, failure or even all the forces of darkness. All ministry must flow out of faith in Christ.

With the feeding of the 5000+, (6:30-44) Jesus teaches this lesson quite graphically to the disciples and to the crowd that follows him. The people are hungry; for food, but also really need guidance, direction, protection and relationship with God. They are “sheep without a shepherd” (6:34). So he teaches them, not just with his words, but with a very physical object lesson. He asks the disciples to do the impossible task of feeding these people with five loaves of bread and two fish. How can they possibly do that? The only way is to bring the people to Jesus. So they sit the people in  groups of fifties and hundreds and look to Jesus. He does the miracle, the disciples distribute the food and everyone is fed and satisfied. The point is that the ministry of discipleship that God calls us to do is also impossible. The only way we can do it effectively is to bring people to Jesus. He is the only “shepherd” who has the resources the sheep need..

The second miracle (Mark 6:45-52) is done for the disciples after Jesus dismissed the crowd. It is significant that the miracle follows Jesus’ withdrawal and time of prayer. When he saw the disciples struggling against the wind and waves he moved from his intimate time with his Father to help them. When the disciples saw him walking on the water they thought he was a “ghost,” and their fear, already stirred up by the wind and waves, was increased by their terror of the supernatural. But, when Jesus got into the boat everything was instantly calm. The lesson: When you are with Jesus there is no reason to be afraid of anything in the physical or spiritual world. The disciples should have already learned this from the previous miracle. When you are with Jesus (and connect others to him) he has every situation well in hand.

How sufficient is Jesus? Just having contact with him, touching “the fringe of his garment” (Mark 6:56 ESV) healed people, overcoming the results of sin its curse. Whoever came to him was healed, Literally, the passage says ἐσῴζοντο, “they were saved.” Again the point is that Jesus is the only sufficient source for life and ministry. Ministry that is effective trusts Jesus and brings people into his presence.

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