preaching study: mark 6:35-44, pt 2

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!

Part 1 is here. The NRSV text for this week is here.

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.

Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

4 thoughts on “preaching study: mark 6:35-44, pt 2

  1. So what is your style for turning exegesis into sermon?

    I tend to do less teaching in preaching. I have a regular (rut?) pattern of starting with a story that opens up the theme of the exegesis, teaching the basic approach of the scripture passage, andthen pulling it into the current context, and I try to round out with a story that captures the application of the ‘old’ to the ‘new.’

    I find a lot of my preaching in the context of my current appointment to be disciple forming and not evagelistic. Most of my crowd no the story(s?) and have been warming the pew for a while. My assumption (right or wrong) has been to teach them the house rules for faith — since they have already come home.

    Thanks for blogging your sermon prep.

  2. Hey Peter,

    In writing a response, I’m finding that it’s getting too long for the comments, so I’m going to put it up as a regular post in the next couple of days. Thanks for asking. It’s good to think over this from time to time.

    I’ll offer here and in the post that my favorite book on preaching is by my favorite preaching professor: Preaching from the Soul by Ellsworth Kalas. That book represents the content of his senior preaching seminar that I took with 5 or 6 others while in seminary. It’s a great book and one I reread every year or so. I’ve got others I’ve read too. I’ll post them.

  3. guy– take a look at the verbs– took, blessed, broke and gave. those are the four traditional verbs around every Jewish meal. we see them also in the eucharistic liturgy. if i remember right, the first three of these verbs are clearly in a past tense– but the last one– gave– is in an imperfect tense (i think that’s right). the imperfect has the sense of something that happened in the past and yet has ongoing significance. in other words– as jesus gives the food to the hands of the disciples– it is actually being multiplied– perhaps in the exchange itself.

    again– as you say— for the crowds this one was perhaps like david copperfield makes statute of liberty disappear. a big wow and then on to the next thing. but the miracle was really for the disciples i think– as they were the only ones to really witness it up close.

    think of the implications of these four verbs for disciples– take, bless, break, give– and think of the implications of that imperfect verb tense on the last verb. the miracle is in the exchange— our lives in his hands being simultaneously given out to others– the miracle of the unending capacity of Jesus at work through us despite our clear limitations. clearly this is the essence of the eucharist isn’t it— “that we may be for the World the body of Christ redeemed by his blood.”

    sounds like your into some good stuff here guy.


  4. yeah, jd. I remember you preaching along those lines, though I didn’t remember the concentration on the imperfect implications of “given”. Seems like Nouwen talked about this rhythm in With Burning Hearts, but I could be misplacing that. I do think I’ll be addressing the taken, blessed, broken, given movement, especially with the communion service this week. But I love what NT Wright points out about the backdrop of Passover b/c of the “green” grass indicating that this occurred during the spring. Pretty rich. the closer you study the biblical text, the more impressive the writers are for their theological acumen and literary intentionality–you know, in addition to the Holy Spirit working inspirationally and all.

    thanks for the comments and the help.

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