Sunday, September 7, 2008

Jesus Provides pt. 1

Begin reading in the sixth chapter of Mark’s gospel at verse 7 through to verse 44, and you’ll notice that verses 14-29 form a parenthetical statement to the narrative of verses 7-13 and 30-44. Jesus had called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. They, in turn, went out and proclaimed that people should repent, and they cast out many demons, anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. That is the story of verses 7-13. Then the parenthetical statement is given, which declares that the testimony of the Gospel had even reached the court and ears of King Herod Antipas. The works and words of Jesus and His Apostles had inflamed the suppressed conscience of the King; a conscience racked with guilt over John the Baptist’s murder. The implied question in verses 14-29 is “Who is Jesus?” Some said “Elijah”, others said a “prophet”, but Herod was certain that He was John back from the grave; the grave to which he had been unjustly sent by Herod.

None of the above suggestions were correct, but Mark answers the question with the section before us: verses 30-44. This is Mark’s account of Jesus’ feeding the 5,000. It naturally flows from verses 7-13, and it masterfully answers the question “Who is Jesus?”

Mark tells us that the Apostles recounted to Jesus all the stuff that had transpired in vv. 12-13. We read:
And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.
They returned from their outreach ministry excited about what God had done in and through them. “Jesus, this is where we went. This is what we said,” they reported. “Lives have been touched and changed, and questions are being asked in the community, all the way to the palace.” That is supposed to happen, isn’t it? When the followers of Christ actually follow Him, speaking, behaving, and caring as He did, then lives will be touched and changed; people will be curious as to what on earth is happening. That is what we see here in Galilee, and it is what we should see in our communities as well.

Following the Apostles’ report Jesus decided that the time was right for a retreat; a brief break to recharge and regroup. So we read in vv. 31-32:
And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.
The Lord never asks His followers to do what cannot be done. He not only faithfully provides a way of escape from temptation that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13), but He graciously allows and recommends physical and emotional respite as well. No one can work, work, work all the time without some break; even if they think they can it is not possible, no matter what the work is. Regardless of the scale, constant attention to public work is likely to make one forget and/or neglect private “soul-business.” It is far better to “come apart” and “rest a while” than to fall apart because you haven’t.

Jesus had already established a pattern of slipping away on occasion when overwhelmed by the physical and emotional demands of the ministry. When Jesus retreated, however, it was not to run away from responsibility. Christ retreated to a quiet place that he might spend time with the Father in prayer in order that He might be refreshed and renewed.
Mark 1:35 – And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

Luke 6:12 – And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

Mark 6:46 – And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.

Luke 9:28 – And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
If your holidays involve less spiritual activity – prayer, Bible reading and meditation, etc – than your normal schedule then you have a problem. This is why JC Ryle wrote
There are but few in danger of overworking themselves, and injuring their own bodies and souls by excessive attention to others. There are comparatively few who need the bridle nearly so much as the spur.
Be real enough and honest enough with yourself to know which one you need and use it - the bridle or the spur - when necessary.

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