REAL PEOPLE - Week of June 12th

By Judy Nichols

June 12, 2016


    I love how the Bible does not gloss over the failings of the characters in its stories. If we never saw their humanness in all its mediocrity, we would be even more tempted than we are to think we have nothing in common with them.

    Sometimes you have to read between the lines to get the full story. The sixth chapter of Mark is a series of seemingly unrelated episodes in the life and ministry of Jesus. Yet, taken together, they can make us feel a bit more sympathetic toward the disciples. While it’s true that they often just "didn’t get it," it’s also true that sometimes there were extenuating circumstances that should be taken into consideration.

    Jesus gave instructions and sent the twelve out in pairs to preach, heal, and cast out evil spirits. In today’s terms, He sent them on a short-term mission trip. They returned exhausted but full of stories to share with Jesus. There were so many people coming and going around Him that there was no time to eat, let alone rest. So Jesus says, "Let’s get out of here and go somewhere to relax a bit." But when they get there, they’re met with a crowd, a big crowd.

    Can you imagine the disciples’ disappointment? They’re looking forward to a little time to themselves but are, instead, thrust into yet another ministry opportunity. And not only this, but Jesus turns his attention to teaching the crowd, seeming to forget His disciples’ need for a break. After a while, it’s starting to get late. The disciples see an opportunity to get their down time, so they mention to Jesus that He should send the crowd away to get something to eat. Instead of taking the hint, Jesus turns up the heat, telling them, "You give them something to eat." Is it any wonder they respond with incredulity, if not sarcasm? "Do you want us to spend seven months’ wages to buy bread for them?" Jesus says, in essence, "Go see what you can find." In a crowd of probably ten to fourteen thousand people (five thousand men, plus women and children), they find five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus blesses the food, breaks it, and feeds the whole throng with enough left over to fill twelve baskets.

    Finally, Jesus turns his attention to his disciples and tells them to head to the other side of the lake while He dismisses the crowd. At last, their chance for some rest looks like it might happen. But the trip across the lake is fraught with trouble. Contrary wind makes the rowing difficult. In the wee small hours of the morning, after hours of straining, they see what they think is a ghost walking on the water toward them. Their terror turns to amazement when Jesus identifies Himself, gets into the boat, and the winds die down.

    The post script to the story (Mark 6:52) says, "They did not understand about the loaves but their hearts were hardened." This is a sad commentary, but completely understandable. They were exhausted, overwhelmed, and under-prepared for all they faced. How often am I in the same condition? I do not recognize God’s activity in the midst of my circumstances. Focused on my own needs, my humanness renders my heart hard to the reality of God’s presence.

© Judy Nichols 2016

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