In “preaching study” posts, I share study & reflection as I prepare the Sunday message . I welcome interaction in this process, so feel free to share your thoughts. All Scripture quotes are from the NRSV unless otherwise noted. Thanks!
After doing a little reading this afternoon, I’ll share some insights from a couple of them.
First, NT Wright in his Mark for Everyone (a fantastic series, by the way) points out that the reference to the green grass (a curiously “unnecessary” detail in v39) would have been recognized as indicating that it was springtime when this took place, which was the time of Passover. Wright suggests that the story must be read with the Passover as the backdrop. When we do that, the new creation work of God comes to the fore, he says, because Jesus’ ministry is not essentially about miracles that feed a bunch of people because they are hungry (though it’s a great thing to do), but rather that Jesus’ life and ministry is the inbreaking of the new creation work of God into the old creation because God is redeeming the world and bringing his kingdom to the world. The implication of this is that we, following Jesus, are to be the Spirit-empowered community of faith in and through which God continues his inbreaking new creation work in the world.
Next, William Lane in the commentary on Mark in the NICNT series suggests this meal as a point of contrast with the meal enjoyed by Herod just a few verses earlier. Simple vs. Lavish. Regular folk vs. Privileged folk. We could go on. It’s helpful suggestion, I think. He also points to a connection to Israel’s experience with God’s provision of manna in the desert during there 40 year sojourn before going into the promised land. The multiplication of the loaves and fishes in our text is a manifestation of the kingdom (like NT Wright suggests) that is done in a visible yet hidden manner. Visible in that the food is obvious provision, but hidden because the process of multiplying the bread and fish is hidden. There’s no indication of how it happened logistically–in Jesus’ hands? in the disciples’ hands? This brings us to another point from Lane. This miracle event is revelatory to the disciples alone. His reason for this suggestion is that the number of people was so large that it would have been impossible for everyone to watch and hear Jesus. So the only people who actually interact with Jesus and see what’s happening are the disciples. Later in this chapter, Mark tells us that the disciples didn’t understand what had truly happened here.
That’s it for now. Maybe some more tomorrow.