God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Mark 6:31-44
26 June 2016
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Mark 6:31- 44
NIV2010 Mark 6: 30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
What would you say if one of your friends or neighbors were to ask what it means TO YOU to be a follower of Jesus? Today’s Scripture sheds a light on the tension between our desire for supernatural, we call these occurrences miracles, and the practical application of our faith in God as we live our lives.
The miracle of the Feeding of the 5,000, is a miracle which is recorded in all four Gospels (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15).
Most of us are preconditioned to expect a sermon about the miracle of multiplication when we hear today’s Scripture. I want to save this topic for a different sermon.
I understand a miracle to be an event that cannot be explained by what we know and understand at the time it takes place. Miracles happen all around us every day. We do not recognize most of the miracles because our expectations of what a miracle should be are preconditioned. Miracles are nuanced and unobtrusive interactions between God and God’s Creation. In my experience, miracles are recognized in hindsight. We will talk more about miracles at another time.
This brings me to the topic of today’s message. In Mark 6:39-40 we hear, “39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.”
As I was thinking and praying about what it means to be a follower of Jesus, I felt today’s Scripture come to mind and I felt this detail getting lodged in my head.
“39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.” Why would Jesus do that? Why not just sit in rows as if they were in a large auditorium? Why would Jesus split them in groups of 50s, 100s, and 150s?
We can learn a lot about the early church, from the letters of Paul and from the Gospels. Paul used the word “ekklesia,” which before the First Pentecost (pre-Christian days) had the meaning/connotation of “any gathering of a group of people” before God. Such gatherings were usually small, probably 50-60 souls, and the people who made up an “ekklesia” usually belonged to the same household or guild [stonecutters’ guild, bakers’ guild, cheesemakers’ guild].
In today’s story we have roughly 12,000 men, women and children gathered to learn from Jesus. Most of them were Jews, some were Roman or Greek sympathizers. Most of them met in their own “ekklesias” or synagogues at home for worship, encouragement and instruction mid-week and on Saturdays.
The reason I think that Jesus split the 12,000 person congregation is to put them into an environment that they already knew and were comfortable with. More than likely, Jesus split the people into groups that were centered around their guilds, or villages or families so that as they ate and relaxed they could think about the implications of what they learned as they listened to Jesus. Our salvation may be personal, but our faith and our response to our salvation is not because our faith and how we live it out affects others. What I mean by that is, the way we live our faith is communal, we live our faith within a community. That is why Jesus put his congregation into “ekklesias”, an environment people were already comfortable with and could relate to.
In modern Christianity we have something that we call “small groups.” I want to make it clear, “Ekklesias” of the first century are not equivalent to the “small groups” of today. Ekklesias did not think of themselves as the more personal, relational aspect of a larger church, as many small groups do today. These “ekklesias” were the WHOLE church.
The early Church Universal was organized in such “ekklesias” up until the time Christianity became the state religion and Christians were no longer persecuted. In the seventeenth century, Pietists on the European continent and Dissenters in Britain revived the “house church” ideal because they had strong disagreements with state churches (Lutheran, Reformed, Catholic and Anglican).
John Wesley, who was a devout Anglican, but whose spiritual journey was strongly influenced by the Pietists and Dissenters, encouraged all Methodists to meet in groups outside of their local church mid-week for the purposes of education and mutual encouragement, even though such meetings could lead to persecution. John Wesley EXPECTED Methodists to keep attending Anglican churches, as he did. John Wesley was the first theologian to think of small group participation as an addition to regular church attendance, not a replacement for it.
“Ekklesias” of the first century differ from the “small groups” of today because “ekklesias” encouraged growth. Their goal was not intimacy and comfort. Their goal was to challenge their members to learn about God and what it meant to them to follow the God of the Jews. That is why I suspect that whole ekklesias showed up to learn from Jesus and that is why Jesus made the decision to split the congregation into communities that arrived together.
We have a good hint of what Jesus’ message was because we have Sermon on the Mount recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5,6, & 7 and we also have Sermon on the Plain recorded in Luke 6:17-49.
Many of Jesus’ teaching were formulated as, “You have heard… but I tell you…” (Matt 5:21-22,27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44).