Mark 6 Commentary

vv.2-3 “Blindness to the truth takes many forms, and those closest to Jesus do not have an advantage in understanding who he is. They are perplexed about the source of Jesus’ wisdom and deeds and ask themselves (6:2b), “What’s this wisdom that has been given him… ?” […] The question assumes that wisdom has been given to Jesus and that miracles have been done by his hands. What they cannot ascertain is where one so familiar to them could get all this power. Their preoccupation with this issue means that they never get around to asking the crucial question: What does it all mean? The answer to that question will ultimately lead them to the answer of its source (3:27). They are not driven so much by a desire to know what is behind Jesus’ miracles as by an itch to confirm their private prejudice that he cannot be all that remarkable.”[1]

“Their reservations about Jesus and his failure to do any “miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them” suggest that Jesus is powerless to work miracles apart from people’s faith. The text prompts us to ask why. The people of Nazareth already knew of Jesus’ miracles (6:2) but refused to believe. Their cynicism prevented most from bringing their sick to him for healing. Only a handful did so, and he healed them. Doubt has trouble believing; unbelief obstinately refuses to believe. Mark portrays Jesus’ hometown as mired in an obstinate unbelief that deprived them of the gracious benefits of God’s reign.”[2]

vv.8-10, “The disciples’ mission is an extension of Christ’s work in the world. They go as the voice and action of Christ. Jesus will not do it all. He sends out disciples to help make ministry happen. They go in his name, preach what he taught, and work by his power. He does not send them out hat-in-hand to beg for a positive response but with divine authority to call others to repentance. They are to be so dedicated to the task of their mission that personal comforts become inconsequential. […] Devotion to the task rather than devotion to oneself is therefore an absolute requirement for those who serve God.”[3]

v.11, “Later rabbinic sources note that Jews who returned from Gentile regions were to shake off the dust that is on their feet as a form of cleansing. Here it also serves as a sign against them. But there is no human militancy in the proclamation of Jesus’ message. God is the sole judge. The act of shaking off the dust is an illustration of the fact that their rejection of God’s message leaves the town accountable to God.”[4]

“Hospitality was a sacred duty in the East. When a stranger entered a village, it was not his duty to search for hospitality; it was the duty of the village to offer it. Jesus told his disciples that if hospitality was refused, and if doors and ears were shut, they must shake off the dust of that place from their feet when they left. The Rabbinic law said that the dust of a Gentile country was defiled, and that when a man entered Palestine from another country he must shake off every particle of dust of the unclean land. It was a pictorial formal denial that a Jew could have any fellowship even with the dust of a heathen land. It is as if Jesus said, “?If they refuse to listen to you, the only thing you can do is to treat them as a rigid Jew would treat a Gentile house. There can be no fellowship between them and you.?”[5]

v.14 “Herod Antipas, seventh son of Herod the Great, was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (4 b.c.–a.d. 39), serving as an administrator under Rome. Antipas was not technically a King, although his contemporaries may have referred to him as such (cf. his statement in Mark 6:23: “half of my kingdom”). He lost his position in a.d. 39 after trying to gain complete sovereignty.”[6]

v.17 “John the Baptist had publicly charged Herod Antipas with breaking the law (Lev. 18:16; 20:21) by marrying Herodias, the former wife of his (still living) half brother Herod Philip I (son of Mariamne II and Herod the Great), in a.d. 27; as a result, Herod had put John in prison.”[7]

vv.14-20 “Herod is said to have listened to John the Baptizer with fascination. John elicited both gladness and perplexity in the ruler (see Paul and Felix in Acts). How often God’s message exerts a strange power that makes people want to listen to things that disturb them greatly. Apparently, Herod could listen to sermons all day long; but like so many, he had a rock-hard resistance to repentance and was too weak to obey. The cost would have been enormous for him. He would have had to give up his wife, his dancing parties, and his abuse of power. Hearing John’s message and acknowledging that he was a righteous man, however, only served to compound the enormity of Herod’s guilt. The theme of hearing reemerges in 6:14 and 20, which brackets the first section 6:14 – 20. According to the criteria of Jesus’ parable of the sower, Herod qualifies as bad ground. He hears gladly, but does nothing. He reveres John as a prophet but cannot muster enough courage to admit he made a rash oath and should not submit to his wife’s wicked request. A fearless prophet is undone by a cowardly king, who saved his face but lost his soul.[8]

vv.35-37 “The disciples again function as straight men whose alarm accentuates the magnitude of the miracle (see 4:41; 5:31). They stress that they are in a deserted place (cf. 1:3 – 4, 12 – 13), and they ask incredulously how they can possibly feed such a number. It would require at least two-hundred denarii, the equivalent of two hundred days’ pay for a day laborer (Matt. 20:2). […] Their squawking also reveals that they still have no inkling that Jesus has divine power to supply whatever they need. […] The feeding in the desert evokes several biblical themes.  It recalls God’s miraculous provision of food. The disciples begin with hardly anything and end up with enough to satisfy five thousand. The fragments collected into twelve baskets reveal both the great abundance and the magnitude of the miracle; they end with far more than they began.”[9]

“The need can be overwhelming, and we are tempted to send the suffering and needy away empty-handed. We may have heard or even voiced the same protest the disciples made: It will cost too much for us to do anything about their need. Let them take care of themselves. They are not our responsibility. What we may really be saying is that we will not have enough money for ourselves if we have to take care of “them” as well. […] Everywhere we turn, we find the need of a hungry crowd and little or no food. Jesus instructs us to feed them.”[10]

v.48  “The fourth watch is the time between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. The Sea of Galilee is 696 feet (212 m) below sea level, resulting in violent downdrafts and sudden windstorms (cf. 4:37).”[11]

“The verb parerchomai (“to pass by”) […] This verb occurs in two key passages in the Old Testament. In Exodus 33:19 – 34:7, Moses asks God to show him his glory, and God responds by passing before him and proclaiming his identity […] And in 1 Kings 19:11 – 12, the Lord tells Elijah to stand on the mountain, “for the LORD is about to pass by.”[12]

vv.51-52 “Mark offers a surprising explanation for the disciples’ terror and amazement: “For they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened” (6:52). The two incidents are somehow connected. What is it that they do not understand about the loaves? What does it have to do with walking on the water? Minear is on target when he comments that the disciples are “blind to the presence of God and his care for men … to the full glory of the revelation of God ‘in the face of Christ.”[13]

“We not only meet God in Jesus Christ, we also learn about ourselves through him. The disciples’ fear and lack of comprehension in response to this miracle says something about the human condition when it comes in contact with the divine. The disciples thought they were seeing a ghost. They did not understand the loaves, and their hearts were hardened. We rarely see God walking past or recognize his blessing, bounty, or presence in our lives. In bridging the contexts we ought to reflect on similar experiences from our past where God met us but we were too dense to see it at the time.”[14]


[1] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 230.

[2] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 238.

[3] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 248-49.

[4] ESV Study Bible, Notes for Mark (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 1904.

[5] William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975) 166.

[6] ESV Study Bible, Notes for Mark (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 1904.

[7] ESV Study Bible, Notes for Mark (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 1905.

[8] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 250-52.

[9] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 253-54.

[10] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 259.

[11] ESV Study Bible, Notes for Mark (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 1906.

[12] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 263-64.

[13] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 264.

[14] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 267.

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