Thoughts on Mark 6-8


During the past 10 days or so, I have been doing my lectio praying from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6:31 through chapter 8. For most of this time, I have been trying to write down a summary of my impressions and thoughts on this section of Mark's Gospel without much success. Even now, I am not coming close to putting together a coherent summary of my impressions of this section of Scripture. However, I feel I must try.

A great deal happens in this section and the thrust of it is not really favorable to the disciples. As a reminder, here is a brief outline of the section.

(A) Jesus and His Disciples (6:6b-8:33)
a. Introduction (6:6b-34)
(B) Summary statement (6:6b)
a. Mission charge and return of the disciples (6:7-13, 30)
b. Interlude: Opinions about Jesus (6:14-16)
c. Interlude: John the Baptist’s death (6:17-29)
d. The Loaves Section (6:31-8:26)
(C) Feeding of the 5000 and its sequel (6:31-7:37)
a. Feeding of the 4000 and its sequel (8:1-13)
b. Conclusion: The Blindness of the Disciples (8:14-21)
c. Appendix: The Blind Man of Bethsaida (8:22-26)

I have been reading and praying and studying this section, almost obsessively, because, while the stories are so familiar, there is much that seems quite obscure. I am no further ahead in really coming to an understanding of what is really going on here than I was when I started. For example, the feeding of the five thousand narrative begins with this exchange between Jesus and the disciples:

“And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; send them away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat.’ But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ And they said to him, ‘Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?’ And he said to them, ‘How many loaves have you? Go and see.’” (Mark 6:35-38)

Why does Jesus feel it necessary to tell the disciples, “you give them something to eat.”? He knows they don’t have the resources on their own to do so; I suspect he knows what He is about to do. So why does He offer what appears to be a taunt?

Another example, at the start of the section about the blindness of the disciples in chapter 8:14-21, the passage begins as follows:

"Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

They have just witnessed Jesus feeding large crowds with just a few loaves and fish, one wonders how they could be so obtuse as to forget to bring bread along for the journey. How could they forget bread after the events of what seems to be just the past few days?

There are many other such questions that arise from this section of Mark’s Gospel. One thing I learned in consulting commentaries is that many of the questions I had have been asked for a very long time, with no good answers being available.

It is clear, that Mark is writing about mysteries that are beyond our understanding. I can make generalizations about this passage of Scripture; there are obvious Eucharistic overtones to the narratives and, in the presentation of the disciples, I can assume this all represents some commentary of the state of the Church before the descent of the Holy Spirit. But, I can’t go much beyond that.

My initial reaction was one of frustration, but as I thought about this, I have let all that go. I don’t need to understand everything, not in an intellectual sense. I can accept the generalizations and be thankful that there is enough of Scripture that I do understand to provide more than suitable guidance for my daily life as a Catholic.

Perhaps the important thing is, like Jacob, to wrestle with these passages. Perhaps something is gained that is simply imperceptible to me now and that will benefit me at a time of greater strength and maturity. That is now my hope and my prayer.

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on July 15, 2007 10:54 AM.

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