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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Mark 6

Verses 1-6

Rejection in Nazareth

The Lord Jesus departs from the house of Jairus and goes to Nazareth, the city where He grew up, and where they have had Him in their midst for so long. There the disciples will receive new teachings for servants, and therefore He takes them with Him and they follow Him. This new teaching begins with Him being rejected. Every servant must take this into account.

On the Sabbath He goes to the synagogue, the usual place where teachings from the Scriptures are given. In the synagogue the law is studied and taught, but it only happens in an outward form. The heart is outside of it. Religion means for the masses of visitors to the synagogue only tradition with forms. It’s about what the fathers say. The fathers may have said many good things, but in practice it takes up a larger place than Scripture.

The Lord comes to the synagogue for the third time. In Mark 1 we saw a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:23) and in Mark 3 a man with a withered hand (Mark 3:1). They were both unable to serve because of their condition. We see in these two cases together that religion without “truth in the innermost being” (Psalms 51:6) makes incapable of serving.

This time it is about His Word. He is teaching here in the synagogue. His teaching amazes the many who hear Him. They wonder in amazement where He has got all His knowledge from, how He is so wise and where He has got the powers He does. They experience something special; they know how to name it. However, it’s just a question of amazement, without really wanting to know the secret. That is no different today.

They know exactly who his family members are. And precisely because He comes from such a humble family, there is nothing through which He can be special to them. If He behaves in a special way, it must be because He imagines Himself to be something. That is why they take offence at Him, that is to say, they turn against Him and thereby shut themselves off from the blessing of His presence.

It makes clear how much the Lord has been on earth as an inconspicuous Man. He has simply worked as a carpenter. That was not according to the thoughts of people who believe that holy men do not work. He did not do miracles as a little Boy, as the apocryphal books attribute to Him. Remarkably, they call Him “the Son of Mary” and not Joseph, as children are usually called.

We see here that even the despised inhabitants of Nazareth take offence to the humblest Lord of all, who is also the humblest Servant of all. Even the smallest persons of humanity are not free of the same spirit of the world that blinds the most intelligent spirit. That the true Heir to the throne of David would be a “carpenter” was and is too much for flesh and blood to accept.

They know him as “the carpenter”. This means that the Lord has learned and done this work of Joseph. This makes it very clear about the period of time which Scripture is virtually silent, the period of His life on earth until His thirtieth year when He began to travel the land. The Creator of heaven and earth spent a considerable part of His daily life in this world in this humble but oh so beautiful handiwork.

The Lord knows that this is how they think of Him. His conclusion is what is always true for all those who want to do God’s work: someone who brings God’s Word into the immediate vicinity and closest family ties is not appreciated there. A prophet brings God’s Word to the heart and conscience of people. This is often assumed from a stranger rather than someone they think they know well.

Because of their unbelief, the blessing hand of God is held back from them. He cannot do great works there. He is always willing to serve, but is limited in the exercise of His love where the doors are not opened to undergo its influence. There is no breeding ground for God’s work. Only where there is a need, His tireless love works, yes, there it must work.

He heals the few sick who come. That’s all. It’s not that He tried to do power here and it didn’t work out. No, He couldn’t do miracles because of their unbelief. That’s different from the preachers today who try miracles and when they fail attribute that to a lack of faith in those who want to experience the miracle.

In Matthew 8, the Lord marvels about the faith of a pagan who had only heard of Him (Matthew 8:10). Here He marvels about the unbelief of His fellow citizens who have experienced Him for so long. Yet He does not stop serving. There are other villages where He has to do His work. He leaves Nazareth to teach in the surrounding villages. The unbelief closes the manifestation of love only for itself. Love seeks other ways. Christ continues His work elsewhere.

Verses 7-13

Sending the Twelve

In His love for the miserable among His people the Lord is going to extend His service by sending out the twelve. He first calls them to Himself. From His presence He begins to send them out two by two. They do not leave on their own initiative. Only when He orders them to go somewhere, they can go. He also provides them with the necessary power over the opposition they will meet. They are sent two by two, that they may testify of Him (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:1). He also gives them power over the unclean spirits. He is the Servant, but He is also God, for the communication of that power can only be done by Someone Who is God.

They need take nothing but a staff to lean on in their walk. The starting point is this: trust in the mighty protection of Him Who has sent them and that they will lack nothing. He is the sovereign Lord. All things are available to Him.

Wearing sandals means that they will have to walk a lot. In order to do work for the Lord, effort must be made. Spiritually, it means that for this work it is necessary for the feet to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15). That is to say, in order to do a work for the Lord, we ourselves must have the peace of the gospel in our hearts and show it in our walk so that we can pass it on wherever He sends us.

They also do not need to take extra precautions against the cold. It is not necessary to have two tunics. Unnecessary luxury is only a hindrance in the work. Service to the Lord is not a holiday trip.

He gives clear orders for the stay. They don’t have to enter somewhere, stay there for a while, and then find another place to lodge. Such behavior would not speak of inner peace, but of unrest. They can enter a house and have to stay there until they go to the next town. They do not have to worry about housing. Where the Lord has prepared a heart to receive them, they can stay there.

If it turns out that somewhere they are not welcome and there is no ear that listens to their preaching, they should not stay there any longer. They must shake even the dust of that city from their feet, so that they will not take anything, not even the dust, from it. That will be a testimony against that city because they reject the gospel that is brought to them.

The disciples do what the Lord says. Their first work is to call people to repent. In their preaching they also use the power they have been given to cast out demons. They also anoint many sick people with oil, possibly as a medicine, but perhaps even more so as a symbolic act that expresses the value of the sick person as a person. Where anointing happens in the New Testament, we see that it happens to honor someone (Luke 7:38; John 12:3), while not anointing is seen as dishonor (Luke 7:46). In the Old Testament, priests, kings, and sometimes prophets are anointed.

The fact that the disciples do this to the sick may mean that those who may be desperate for life are particularly encouraged by this act that they are important to God. They would know in the persons who anoint them that God is after all looking after them. The subsequent healing provides proof of this.

Verses 14-16

Herod Gets Restless

History is interrupted here to present Herod’s response to the works of the disciples in the Name of the Lord. In this way it is made clear in what kind of world the servants who have just been sent by the Lord Jesus are doing their service. It is a world in which evil powers are in control.

Herod is an instrument in the hand of satan. He is also under the power of his own carnal lusts. We see in him what the world is made of. He also has a conscience. The Name of the Lord is a blessing for some, while he is a threat to others. The latter is the case with Herod.

When he hears the Name that has become revealed from the works of the disciples, all kinds of suggestions come up. There are those who connect the powers that Christ does with a John the baptist raised from the dead. Others believe Elijah has come and is at work. Still others have the explanation that it is just another prophet, as there have been so many. All suggestions are based on the imagination of the spirit of people who have heard something, but have never examined Scripture themselves.

For Herod, however, it is certain that John himself is at work. For him, it cannot be otherwise than that John the baptist, whom he has beheaded, has risen. Although an executioner beheaded John (Mark 6:27), Herod knows that he actually did it himself, because he is the commissioner. He may have silenced John, but not his conscience, for that speaks.

Verses 17-20

The Testimony of John

It had begun when Herod had had John taken captive and put him in prison. He had done this for the sake of Herodias. Herodias was the wife of his brother Philip, but Herod had taken her and married her. His new marriage did not change the fact that she was “the wife of his brother Philip”. She was and remained so. John had spoken to Herod about his wrongful marriage and told him clearly that this was wrong.

That didn’t please Herodias. John had become someone who had to disappear from her life because of his condemnation of her marriage. But she did not have the power to do so.

God had arranged for John to have access to Herod’s court. We see here an example that the Word reaches the conscience even where we least would have expected it. We also see here that an unconverted person can listen with reverence when the Word of God is brought. We also see that conscience remains active even when a person does not repent.

Herod had respect for what John said, also because John lived up to what he said. Herod knew him as a righteous and holy man. Out of a sense of reverence he protected John, without doing anything with what John said, although he was addressed and even liked to hear John. But the man was too much of a prisoner of his morally unrighteous and wicked life and of the distinguished position he held. It costs him too much to give that up.

Verses 21-29

John Beheaded

The moment comes when Herod is faced with a final choice. There comes a “strategic day”, that is, a strategic day for the devil. Under the permission of God, the devil controls the circumstances in such a way that in Herod is seen what happens, if the conscience is not listened to when it comes in the light of God. Then a man even puts to death the person he acknowledges as a prophet.

We realize only to a very small extent the power of that impure and cunning adversary, the devil. It is exactly the opposite of what the Lord is doing in grace in the midst of His disciples. He is not the greatest in their midst, but the Meanest and the Servant.

On the occasion of his birthday, Herod gives a banquet. To add luster to the banquet, he invites all kinds of dignitaries for a meal. Such a banquet also includes something that stimulates lust. The daughter of Herodias meets this requirement in an excellent way. The food is very satisfying, the performance of the dancer is even more satisfying if possible. The cooks don’t get to hear what the girl gets to hear for their performance.

In his boundless pride, Herod says things that are reserved for God alone. Herod does not act in a whim, but is completely captured by his passions. Therefore, he swears that he will give the girl what she asks for, even if it is half his kingdom. That’s what Ahasuerus once said to a girl, Esther. How different was her answer. Instead of the kingdom, she asked for the life of her people (Esther 7:2-Leviticus :), while this girl, instead of the kingdom, asks for the death of a faithful witness of God.

At first, the child does not know what to answer to Herod’s offer and asks her mother. Her mother has been searching for and thinking about a possibility to kill John for so long, that she doesn’t have to think for a second. Her daughter has to ask the head of John the baptist. The girl turns out to be of the same kind as her mother. Immediately and in haste she goes back inside and proclaims that she immediately wants the head of John the baptist.

In a frenzy of sinfulness, during a brass party, Herod becomes entangled in his own carnal lusts to fulfill the wish of someone as bad as himself or, if possible, even worse. He is trapped by his own word, which he, for fear of losing face with all his high guests, does not revoke. This is the end of the conscience of a natural man who does not come to appear in God’s light with confession of guilt. Herod commands something that he perhaps could not possibly have imagined he would ever do.

But he is trapped by his own lusts and cannot go back, that is, he does not want to go back. A dance and the prevention of loss of face are worth more to him than the life of the prophet of God. That’s the ruler of Israel. He commands and John is beheaded.

The head of the prophet is given to the girl in a dish and she gives it to her mother. Incredibly cruel is the scene that gives the girl and her mother the greatest satisfaction. What deeply depraved creatures these two women are. To such atrocities any man can come who stands apart from God and rebels against Him when His thoughts are revealed to him.

The disciples of John pay their master the last respects and lay his body in a tomb. There it will be until the resurrection, for the burial of the believer is not the end, but points over the tomb to something new of which the resurrection from the dead is the beginning.

Verses 30-33

With the Lord

The Lord has sent out His twelve disciples in Mark 6:7. Here they come back to Him without having received a special command. They are called “apostles”. Apostle means “sent one”. They come back to the humble Servant to tell Him all that they have done and taught. In their report they begin with their deeds. Then they tell Him what teaching they have given.

It is good that they come back to their Master to report. It is an example for us to report back to Him when we have been allowed to do something for the Lord. Let us also learn from the example of the disciples that for us it should not be so much what we have done as what we have passed on from Him in teaching. This can be verbal, but also through our example. Each week we should be able to say what we have learned from the Lord in God’s school, for as long as we live, we are in school. When Paul and Barnabas report, they tell all that God has done with them (Acts 14:27; Acts 15:4).

The Lord is full of attention for them. He also knows that they need some rest after their service. The many who come and go enjoy the blessings of the service of the apostles. Yet they have no real interest in the Lord because they do not stay. Such experiences can be particularly discouraging. It requires a great deal of effort, while the result seems so small. There will always be an abundance of work that can occupy them (and us) to such an extent that even time to eat is lost.

The Lord has not turned His servants into robots that can go on and on forever. He takes them to be with Him, for true rest can only be found in His company. He finds it necessary for His servants to occasionally separate themselves from the work in order to be alone with Him. A suitable environment must also be found for this. That suitable environment is not the city with all its noise and amusement, but a secluded place, where nothing can excite the senses and one can allow oneself to be taught by the Lord in complete rest and undisturbed. Finally, He says that they may rest “a while”. It is not the intention to withdraw completely from the work, but to regain with Him the necessary strength for the next service.

The apostles follow His advice. They leave the field of work by boat and the many who come and go, to a desolate place by themselves. But the rest is limited to the rest in the boat. The people see the Lord leaving with His disciples. They also see where they are going. The Lord does not let the boat take a different course, for He never shames expectations. The people who want to come to Him hurry so much that they are at the place where the boat comes ashore even earlier than the ship.

Verses 34-38

You Give Them to Eat!

When the Lord goes out of the boat and sees the large crowd, He cannot help but be moved with compassion over them. He sees a great flock without a shepherd. Their religious leaders are not shepherds, but mercenaries, thieves, and robbers. They do not care for the herd at all, but want to profit from it (John 10:8; John 10:12; Ezekiel 34:2). The Lord, on the other hand, is the good Shepherd (John 10:11).

From His compassion He begins to teach the large crowd many things. People in need especially need healthy education for their spirit, even more than healthy food for their body, although the Lord does not forget that need.

The disciples are people of time and practice. They think they need to remind their Lord that the place is desolate and that it is already late. What they lack is the compassion He has. Their advice is to send the crowd away, because then the people could buy something edible. Surely that advice speaks of caring for the people, doesn’t it?

That may seem so, but they do not share in the compassion that the Lord has for the crowd. What is more, they lack faith in a Lord Who can also provide for bodily needs. Could He send the crowd away after He has revived their spirits, without also reviving them physically? They do not yet resemble Him, but He will continue to teach them. That’s why He is going to use them. He is going to do a miracle without the crowd asking for it. He answers the need with “give” (cf. 2 Kings 4:42-Acts :). He is always the mild Giver. In this giving He involves His disciples. He teaches them to give with compassion. In this way He prepares them for service. Not only power is needed to speak the Word with power of attorney, love is also needed.

His commission leads the disciples to count their money supply. That is the only thing they can think of. They believe that they must satisfy the Lord’s demands out of and with their own means. But He never asks anything without providing us with what we need. The response of the disciples shows how little faith they have in the resources present in Him.

Faith is most evident in knowing how to make use of what is in Christ to meet the needs that arise at any given time. Faith judges that the greater the difficulty, the more appropriate the opportunity for Christ to reveal Himself.

When they have told Him how much they have, He does not fill the gap, so that there would be enough to buy food. He could have done the same. But He asks what food they have, for He wants His disciples to give them to eat. They have to ‘go’ and ‘look’. They need to see how many loaves of bread they have. When they have found out, they bring Him the results. They can even report that there are also two fish. He’s going to use those.

The Lord likes to make use of things that we would despise in our human wisdom. The question is not what this means to so many people who have to eat of it, but what it means to Him. Similarly, Moses also learned that the Lord can use what he has (Exodus 4:2-Leviticus :; cf. 1 Kings 17:10-Nehemiah :; 2 Kings 4:2-Joshua :). Bread and fish are food and as such speak of the Lord Jesus. The application is that it is about what we have learned from Him. Sometimes this is by casting out the net and catching the fish in it, such as listening to a lecture. That is simply collecting. It takes a whole process to prepare bread. It also takes a lot of work to learn from Him.

Verses 39-44

The Five Thousand Fed

The Lord commands - He is the Lord! - the disciples that they should divide the crowd into groups. There must be some order. Those groups must sit down on the green grass. That speaks of peace, freshness, and abundance. It is reminiscent of Psalm 23 where the shepherd makes the sheep lie down in green pastures (Psalms 23:2).

The size of these groups is sometimes taken as an indication of the size of a local church. When a church in a certain place becomes larger than a hundred people, it becomes difficult to have a certain contact with all of them. The danger is then great that there is no equal care for all and that some are overlooked.

When the Lord has taken the loaves and the fishes, He looks up to heaven. All His actions are connected with heaven, the dwelling place of His Father. That determines His words and His miracles. Here He connects the little with the fullness of heaven. Then He blesses, that is, He expresses a thanksgiving to God. He does not bless the loaves. He breaks the loaves and the fish which are multiplied in His blessing hands to a quantity sufficient for all.

He uses the disciples as intermediaries. In this way He turns their evil - the proposal to send the crowd away - for good. His intention is to show them that His love takes pleasure in working through human channels. Only what speaks of Him and what comes from Him can become food. If we are constantly dependent on Him, we can be a blessing to others. Then we know that He can use the little we have to serve others.

The crowd has not just something, a little, to eat, but enough. They can eat to satiation. There are even twelve baskets full of pieces left. By this miracle, He is again proving that He is the Messiah (Psalms 132:15).

Abundance never leads to waste with the Lord. Nothing of what He has given as a blessing is wasted. The crowd may have enough, but He also has a blessing for others who have nothing. Abundance serves for the want of others (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:14). It is not by chance that there remain twelve baskets full. The number twelve has a symbolic meaning. It indicates the blessing the Lord has for the whole people of God at the end of time.

Of those few loaves of bread and those few fish, a crowd of five thousand men alone ate. The miracle is undeniable. He is Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23), God Who visits His people for blessing. He brings the house of His Father, where there is bread in abundance (Luke 15:17), to the needy man.

Verses 45-52

The Lord Jesus Walks on the Sea

After the miracle of the feeding, the Lord made His disciples get into the boat and go to the other side. The fact that He has to make His disciples go, indicates that they did not wish to leave without Him. In doing so He makes them experience what it is like to be sent away from Him, something they themselves had asked Him to do with the crowd (Mark 6:35-Zephaniah :).

The time has come for the Lord to send the crowd away. He has taught them from the Word, and saturated them with bread. He has proved Himself to be the Messiah, but they have not accepted Him. That is why He will - in picture - set the people aside for a time. But also with His disciples He has seemingly no connection. He leaves them alone. This is a picture of the present time, the time when He is not on earth. Israel has been rejected for a time, while He Himself during that time takes His place in the high places to pray for His own.

While He is absent, evening falls. The boat is in the middle of the sea, and He is on the land. There is distance between the disciples in the boat and Him. So we find ourselves in the night of the world. The disciples do not see Him, but He sees them. He also sees that they are in difficult circumstances. He sees their frantic attempts to get through that situation. After He has prayed, He comes to them at the darkest hour of the night. It is the fourth watch, when the night is almost over, between three and six o’clock.

The Lord walks on the sea against which the disciples fight to the death. Thus is He above our circumstances. He does not have to fight them, for He controls them completely, they are under His authority. For Him, these difficulties do not exist. He allows them into the lives of His own, that they may learn to trust in Him. He does not deliver His disciples directly from their distress. He wants to pass them by, as if He did not notice their need. He will not pass them by, but by pretending to do so, He wants to teach them something.

When the disciples see Him walking on the sea, they think He is a ghost. They scream it out of fear. Believers who are severely tested can sometimes lose sight of the Lord altogether and come to the conclusion that they are dealing with the devil. When we see that here with the disciples, we don’t have to blame such believers. He doesn’t blame His disciples either.

If it was a ghost, which they thought it was, then they were dealing with the power of the evil one. They had received the power over the evil one from Him (Mark 6:7). But they can only use that power in constant dependence on Him and that is what they lack here.

They do see Him, but instead of being encouraged they are frightened, because they don’t recognize Him. Then He opens His mouth with words of encouragement, assurance, and comfort. At first He does not speak ‘to’ them, but ‘with’ them. He is so close to them that there is no more distance between Him and them. He encourages them with the words: “Take courage.” He assures them it’s him. He comforts them in their fear by telling them not to be afraid.

They see Him, but instead of being encouraged, they are frightened because they don’t recognize Him. Then He opens His mouth with words of encouragement, security, and comfort. At first he does not speak ‘to’ them, but ‘with’ them. He is so close to them that there is no more distance between Him and them. He encourages them with the words: “Take courage.” He assures them it’s him. He comforts them in their fear by telling them not to be afraid.

Then He climbs in the boat with them. The result is peace. So it is in the life of the tried and tested believer. When the Lord enters his heart, the wind settles down and with Him there also comes rest. That rest arouses great amazement.

The reason for their unbelief and unfamiliarity with Christ is their hardened heart. The neglect of a work or a miracle of His has a hardening working on the heart. This is not only true for unbelievers, for whom it is fatal for eternity (Hebrews 3:7-Ezra :). It also applies to believers for whom it is not fatal for the sake of eternity, but for whom it does have a limiting effect on the life of faith on earth. That is why every teaching needs new teaching. We do not cease to know and trust the Lord, for our hearts are so often hardened.

Verses 53-56

Healings in Gennesaret

The Lord said that the disciples had to cross over to the other side (Mark 6:45). That is why they arrive there. They left without Him, they arrive with Him. Moreover, they are richer in a great experience, both of their own powerlessness and of His omnipotence and consolation. They come to Gennesaret and moor to go ashore. The Lord is known in that region. When He has left the boat, the people immediately recognize Him. This will be partly because of the testimony of the man who was freed by Him from a legion of demons (Mark 5:20).

His presence sets many people in motion who have to deal with suffering in their immediate environment. These aid workers look where there is need and bring the suffering people to Him on resting beds. If we want to bring people in distress to the Lord, we must first put them on a resting bed and then bring them to Him. Such people should not be subjected to an additional burden in order to get to Him, for that could be an obstacle. On the contrary, it is important that they are brought to Him in a quiet manner. The aid workers do not ask Him to come to them, but they search for Him.

Wherever there are people who need the Lord, He works in grace. He has come for all. It doesn’t matter if they live in a big city, in a small village, or even somewhere remote in the field. He comes everywhere so that He can be reached by everyone. Earlier, a single woman touched His garment and was healed (Mark 5:28). Now many come with the request to touch Him, if only the fringe of His cloak. This means that they want to bow down before Him. This attitude always results in blessing. All who touch Him are therefore saved.

Our responsibility is to bring people to the Lord. It is the responsibility of people in need to touch Him in faith. The means, the beds of rest that we use, radiate the peace that these people can obtain with Him for their hearts and consciences (Matthew 11:28-Joel :). This section gives a brief outline of what will happen when Christ returns to earth.

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Mark 6". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/mark-6.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.