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( Mark 6 ) THE SERVICE OF CHRIST WHEN REJECTED
The great truths that come before us in chapter six are connected with incidents that take place in the country, the king's court, the desert place, the mountain and the stormy sea. In the first two incidents we learn the low moral condition of the world that rejects Christ: in the last three, we discover the fulness of the resources in Christ for those who follow Him apart from the course of this world.
(Vv. 1-6). In the first scene we see the Lord in His lowly service of love associating with the humble folk of "His own country," "His own kin," and "His own house". He comes into their midst with divine wisdom, and divine power, ministering the truth among the poor of the land, and healing some sick folk; but in no wise does He pander to the vanity of human nature that loves pomp and display, and rejects men because of their humble origin. The Lord's ministry of grace makes manifest this low moral condition of the people. They are indeed astounded at His teaching and His wisdom, and cannot but admit His "mighty works," but "they were offended at Him." The flesh is ever the same, so that in our day are we not in danger, at times, even as Christians, of hindering the work of God by the pride and vanity of the flesh that slights the ministry of a servant of God because of his humble origin; or, as servants, we may fail by seeking to obtain a hearing on the ground of wealth or social position. With the Lord all was perfect; the failure was on the part of the people. These simple country folk belittled the wisdom of the Lord's teaching, and the might of His works by saying, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" And they said, "His brothers and sisters are with us." They failed to discern the glory of His Person and the grace of His heart, that though He was rich yet for our sakes He had become poor that we through His poverty might be made rich. Thus the Creator had become the Carpenter, and the Son of God the Son of Mary. The Lord reminds those that reject Him, because of His humiliation, that "A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and amongst his own kin, and in his own house." This does not imply that the Lord was rejected in His own country, as we might be, because of known weakness or failure, but that familiarity with Him in the affairs of this life are used to discount His divine mission from God.
The result is He could there do no mighty work because of their unbelief. It is a solemn consideration how much, in our day, unbelief may hinder the work of God. If faith, as in the case of the sick woman of the last chapter, draws forth the blessing, it is equally true that unbelief hinders its outflow. Nevertheless, His grace, rising above our pride and unbelief, healed some "sick folk" even though the blessing is limited to "a few". "He marvelled because of their unbelief." Alas! do we not at times give Him occasion to marvel at our unbelief? Nevertheless He pursued His way, teaching in the villages round about, unwearied in His service in spite of pride and unbelief.
(Vv. 7-13). The rejection of His service may hinder any performance of a mighty work in His own country, but it cannot stay the grace of His heart. Thus the Lord sends forth the twelve as a fresh witness to His presence in grace and power for the blessing of men. A striking witness is borne to His glory as a Divine Person by the fact that He "gave them power over unclean spirits." Anyone can exercise power and perform miracles if the power is given to them - but, who but God can give the power? Further the manner in which they went forth was, in itself, a witness to the presence of the Lord of all. They were to go forth taking nothing for their journey. They were to rest in the providing care and protection of the Lord present on earth, who would so dispose of the hearts of men, and govern circumstances, that they would lack nothing.
Their mission was not to degenerate into a social round of visits. They were on the service of the Lord, and therefore were to abide in the same house in any particular place. The substance of their preaching was repentance, for the presence of the King, and the good news of the Kingdom, had been proclaimed, with the result that the leaders had rejected Christ because of the greatness of His claims, while the people had refused Him because of the lowliness of His position. The leaders accused Him of doing His mighty works by the power of the devil; the people aid He is only a carpenter. The nation is called to repent of this wickedness. Moreover, it was a final testimony for judgment was to be pronounced upon those that rejected this mission.
(Vv. 14-29). The result of this mission, accompanied by signs of power, was that "His name was spread abroad." Would that all servants so ministered Christ that they left behind them a savour of Christ, and the sense of the preciousness of His Name. Alas! too often the preacher may be so advertised, and so many methods adopted that appeal to the natural man, that the preacher's name becomes spread abroad rather than the Name of Jesus
Nevertheless, however widely the fame of Jesus may be proclaimed, unless there is a work of God in the soul, it only leads to speculation, as in that day, when some said that it was John the Baptist risen from the dead, others that it was a prophet. But the speculations of the human mind never reach the truth as to the Person of Christ. However, the fame of Christ reaches the court circle. Already we have seen the utter lack of all spiritual discernment in the lower classes, now we are to learn the low moral condition of the higher circles. With king Herod, the report of Christ does more than lead to speculation, it awakens an uneasy conscience. This leads to the story of his sin. He had formed a guilty marriage with his brother's wife and had been rebuked for his sin by John the Baptist. This rebuke had aroused the enmity of Herodias the guilty adulteress. She would have killed John but could find no way to do so, or Herod feared John knowing that he was a just man and a holy. Herod, though an unprincipled man, could appreciate goodness in others, and indeed listened to John and did many things by his counsel. However, Herodias waits her time, and a court revel gave her the opportunity she sought. The king, pleased by a dance, makes a rash promise, and rather than break his promise has John killed. It has been well said, "The devil's promises are better broken than kept."
The rejection and murder of the Forerunner is a solemn indication that, in due time, Herod will take his part in the rejection and crucifixion of Christ.
(Vv. 30-44). The apostles, having fulfilled their mission, gathered themselves unto Jesus." Having been sent forth by the Lord, they now return to Him. How good for every servant, when any little service has been accomplished, to get back to the Lord and tell Him all things that they have done and taught. Too often we are inclined to tell others, though at times it may be right to encourage the Lord's people by telling them of His work. There is, however, this great difference, if we gather the assembly of God's people together, as was the case with Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, it should be to rehearse "all that God had done, and how He had opened the door" ( Act_14:27 ). But when, after service, we gather together unto Jesus, it is to tell Him what we have done and taught. How good for our souls to pass in review our acts and words in the presence of One, Who will never flatter, and before Whom we cannot boast, and from Whom nothing can be hid; there to learn, it may be, our weaknesses and defects. Alas! we may be full of ourselves and our service; but, in the Lord's presence we can speak freely of all that possesses the thoughts and burdens the mind, and thus have our spirits calmed so that we may think soberly of ourselves, or forget ourselves and our service to be occupied with Himself. We have no record of any comment on their service, but we learn the Lord's sympathy and care for His servants. They had spoken of their service, but He is concerned about them and the rest they need. Hence, He can say, "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest a while." The eternal rest remains, but here there is the "rest a while."
It has been pointed out that there are three reasons for the disciples being led apart into the desert place. First, the Lord retired into the desert on account of the murder of His witness, a sure sign of His own rejection and crucifixion. This indicated that the dispensation was about to change, and so the Lord takes a place outside and apart from the guilty nation. This dispensational reason is prominent in Mat_19:13 . Secondly, there is a reason for the Lord taking an outside place in connection with the service of His disciples. Very naturally this has a prominent place in the gospel of Mark. Their service had taken them into the world, and had created such a stir that "there were many coming and going." Under such circumstances the servant needs to be drawn apart from the restless spirit of the world to be with Himself, and rest a while. The third reason for this incident is presented in the gospel of Luke, where we learn that the disciples are drawn apart to be instructed of the Lord ( Luk_9:10 ; Luk_9:18-27 ).
In our day we, too, need to be withdrawn from the world to learn that we are not of it, even if sent into it on the Lord's service. Our blessings are heavenly not earthly. So, too, we need to be alone with the Lord to escape the spirit of the world, with all its restless activity, and never more so than when some little testimony for Christ has for the moment made some stir in the world. We also need to be in the privacy of the Lord's presence to learn His mind.
At the Lord's word they depart into the desert place privately. However, "the people saw them departing," and, in their eagerness to reach Christ, "outwent them, and came together unto Him." It seemed then that, after all, they would be robbed of their rest. But the Lord, in His tender care for His own, and compassion for the people, came out from the place of retirement to meet the people. There might be rest for His disciples: there was no rest for Him. His compassion would not let Him rest; so we read, "He began to teach them many things."
When the day was far spent the disciples came from their rest, and said to the Lord, "Send them away." It would seem as if the disciples looked upon them as intruders upon their rest and would fain be rid of them. But the Lord will not send them away hungry, for is it not written, "I will satisfy her poor with bread." No failure on the part of Israel can wither up the kindness and compassion of the heart of Jehovah. He will "teach them many things" for the blessing of their souls, and provide the loaves and fishes to meet the need of their bodies. He is the same today; in spite of all our weaknesses and many failures He cares for our souls and provides for our bodies. Moreover, in carrying out this work of love, He uses others. He can say to the disciples, "Give ye them to eat." But, as so often with ourselves, their faith was not able to use His power. They can only think of how much they would require, forgetting the vast resources they had in Christ. Having made manifest the utter inadequacy of their own resources, the Lord brings their little - the five loaves and the two fishes - into touch with heaven's plenty, with the result that five thousand men "did all eat and were filled."
(Vv. 45, 46). The story unfolded in the following verses brings again before us the great fact that the Lord was about to leave His disciples in a world from which He was rejected. The Lord had just fed the multitude, His compassion being drawn out to them as sheep not having a Shepherd. Alas! not only were they without one to lead them into green pastures, and care for their souls, but when the Good Shepherd came into their midst they had no eyes to discern His glory and no heart to receive Him. So, the Lord having sent away the people, "departed into a mountain to pray." In picture the nation is dismissed, while He takes a new place on high to intercede for His own who are left to witness for Him in a world from which He has been rejected.
(Vv. 47 - 52). The disciples find that not only are they bereft of the bodily presence of the Lord, but that they have to face the storms of life, and have to toil in rowing. Everything in this world is contrary to the Lord's people. But if the world is against us and the devil is opposed to us, the Lord on high is interceding for us. But if the Lord is absent, He is not indifferent to the storms and difficulties His people have to meet. "He saw them toiling," and He came to them. But He came in a way that set forth His superiority to all the circumstances they were in, for He came "walking on the water." The display of a power so far beyond that which is possible to man, filled the disciples with fear. "They were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered." But the One whose power is greater than all the storms that men or the devil can raise, is the One Who is for us. He had been praying for them on the mountain, He had seen them toiling, and now He comes to them. Nevertheless, He tries their faith, even as believers are often tested in our day, for we read, He "would have passed them by." His power, His intercession, His loving care, are all at their disposal, but have they the faith to avail themselves of His fulness? In their trouble they cry out, "and immediately He talked with them," saying, "It is I; be not afraid." He may come to them in the glory of His power, above all storms, but He assures them that it is Himself - Jesus, their Saviour, Shepherd, Friend. The One that a little while before men had rejected as only a Carpenter, is now seen to be the Creator who can walk upon the sea, and Whom the winds and the waves obey.
Alas! like ourselves too often, the disciples had not "considered" the greatness of His power and grace displayed on a former occasion. Occupied with themselves and their difficulties their hearts were hardened and little able to avail themselves of their resources in Christ.
(Vv. 53-56). The chapter closes with a foretaste of the blessing of a future day when Christ will come again, and through a godly remnant of the Jews bring blessing to the earth. Then indeed the toil of the godly will be over, opposition will end, the storms will cease, and Christ will be received where once He was rejected.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Mark 6". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18