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Bible: What Does Mark 6-7 Teach Us About the Signs of the Divine Messiah?

Updated on September 8, 2016



Nazareth: No Time for Jesus

Jesus returns to Nazareth with His disciples (v. 1).

While teaching in its synagogue, He first causes astonishment and then offense among its members (vv. 2-3).

Something about His words, His “mighty works,” or His familiar heritage keeps them from believing in Him.

[Here is another prominent passage that clearly shows that Mary had other children.]

Jesus laments the lack of spiritual receptivity of His hometown folks.

Elsewhere, He received wonderful responses; Nazareth, however, does not honor Him at all (v. 4).

Consequently, Christ heals only a few people there, leaving town amazed at their unbelief, and He continues His “circuit teaching” elsewhere (vv. 5-6).

Verses 7-13 provide a truncated record of the apostles’ first solo mission.

[See Matthew 10 for complete details and commentary.]

Herod Antipas


Herod's Belief About Jesus

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Herod, John, and Jesus

Whereas Matthew relates the story of Herod and John the Baptist, Mark adds several notable points.

First, Herod, ridden with guilt over his implication in John’s murder, adheres to his belief about Jesus’ identity—that is, He is John resurrected—despite the testimony of other worthies (vv. 14-16).

Second, whereas Matthew writes that Herod did not arrest John because the ruler feared the people, Mark notes that this usurper respected John as “a just and holy man,” that he protected him, and that he listened to him with joy (v. 20).

Herod’s “moment of truth” came when his “wife” Herodias and her daughter Salome backed him into a corner before “those who sat with him” (v. 26)—“his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee”—at his birthday feast (v. 21).

Promising Salome “up to half my kingdom,” Herod never envisioned her dastardly request (v. 23).

No substantive difference from Matthew remains in the rest of Mark’s account.

After hearing about John’s execution, Jesus tries to withdraw with His weary, hungry disciples to a retreat of sorts.

Despite His attempt to spend some “down time” alone with them, “the multitudes” track them down (vv. 30-33).

What most normal human beings would have done—that is, show annoyance with their self-centered persistence—does not pertain to the Lord; instead, He compassionately spends time teaching His sheep (v. 34).

Mark’s account of the feeding of the five thousand plus differs in only a few minor details from Matthew’s.

From Mark, we learn that the bread would have cost two hundred denarii (v. 37), that the crowd “sat down in ranks, in hundreds and fifties” (v. 40), and that five thousand men attended—he makes no mention of women and children (v. 44).

[Mark seems partial to numbers.]

A Late Night Stroll


Jesus Walks on the Water

Again, Mark’s next episode—the one featuring Jesus’ walk on the water—diverges from Matthew’s.

For example, when Jesus was alone on the land, He saw them straining as they rowed (v. 48a).

He also mentions that the Lord “would have passed them by” (v. 48b).

[Unless Jesus had extraordinary human eyesight, He probably could not have seen their struggle; therefore, Mark seems to communicate Christ’s omnipresence here.

Secondly, Mark’s reference to Jesus’ seeming indifference to the disciples’ plight presents an enigma.

Did He intend to let them struggle until they noticed Him on the water?]

What Mark omits—Peter’s walk on the water—also puzzles the one familiar with Matthew’s account (cf. Mt. 15:28-31).

While Matthew later mentions the fact of the disciples’ hardened hearts (cf. 16:7: a statement recorded after the feeding of the four thousand), Mark reveals it at this juncture (v. 52).

The final verses of this chapter (vv. 53-56) Matthew’s comments answer sufficiently.

The Tradition of the Elders


Pharisaical Hypocrisy

Mark 7

Mark’s parenthetical observations detailing the Pharisees’ traditional cleansing procedures constitute one way his account differs from Matthew’s (vv. 2-4).

This “special way” (lit. with the fist) [v. 3] of washing their hands the disciples of Jesus do not practice, so the Jewish leaders carp at their Leader (v. 2).

To follow the “tradition of the elders,” these fellows believe that they must fastidiously cleanse many other items as well (v. 4).

Mark’s record of Jesus’ response highlights Isaiah’s prophecy of hypocritical worship (vv. 6-7); Matthew mentions the Mosaic passages first, then the Isaianic (cf. 15:4-6).

The former also inserts the transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning a “gift” for the benefit of his Gentile audience; Matthew, writing to Jews, does not need to elucidate the meaning with this detail (v. 11).

Except for these small changes written for emphasis’ sake, the passages convey the same message (vv. 5-13).

[Recording Jesus’ exact words does not seem of paramount importance at times.]

Spiritually attuned “ears” will understand that moral defilement originates in man’s heart (the core of his being), not in his food (vv. 14-16).

Still spiritual babes, the disciples need more instruction on this matter to strengthen their understanding; thus, Jesus lists thirteen evidences of man’s depraved nature (vv. 20-23).

The Syro-Phoenician Woman

Jesus Syrophoen
Jesus Syrophoen

Healing the Demonized Girl

From Gennesaret, Jesus travels northwest to the region of Tyre; the text does not say whether His disciples accompanied Him, but they did (v. 24; cf. Matt. 15:23).

He had apparently arranged to stay at someone’s private home there, and wanted to visit without alerting the public eye (v. 24b).

Nevertheless, word travels to a Gentile—a Syro-Phoenician woman and the mother of a demonized daughter—who pleads for Him to cast out the spirit terrorizing the child (vv. 25-26).

Again, the textual divergences provide fascinating insight into how someone writing to Gentiles approaches the story.

Mark does not say (as Matthew does) that Jesus “answered her not a word” (cf. 15: 23a).

He does write, however, a statement that mollifies the Jewish attitude a little: “Let the children be filled first” (v. 27).

The faith inherent in her response to Him qualifies her as a worthy Gentile (vv. 28-29); her daughter soon lies in bed released from the demon, having been cast out from afar (v. 30).

[Is it seemly that Matthew should come across as harsher and more jingoistic?]

A Proof of the Messiah

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The Deaf Hear Again

Apparently having completed His mission in Tyre, Jesus travels through Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee where he encounters people bringing Him a deaf-mute to heal (vv. 31-32).

Mark provides specific details of the Lord’s method of curing this man:

(1) He dealt with him alone (v. 33a);

(2) He put His fingers in his ears (v. 33b);

(3) He took His spit and touched the man’s tongue with it (v. 33c);

(4) He looked to heaven with a sigh (v. 34a);

(5) He spoke, “Be opened” (v. 34b).

With his hearing restored and his tongue unbound, the man speaks with no residual effects from his prior condition (v. 35).

Again, overjoyed witnesses disobey Jesus’ explicit commands not to spread this news abroad by widely proclaiming the excellence of His works (vv. 36-37).

© 2014 glynch1


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