This week we are looking at Mark 6:7-31. This is another example of one of Mark’s sandwiches. Two stories are told, one begins, gets interrupted and then concludes. But remember, with these sandwiches there is a unifying theme throughout.
This section deals with disciples of Jesus faithfully following him no matter what faces them. Jesus begins by preparing his 12 disciples to go out to preach repentance, cast out demons and heal the sick. The last part of the section, verse 30, sees the 12 returning and telling Jesus all they did and taught. Disciples need to not only listen and learn from Jesus, but also do as he did.
In the middle section, Mark tells the account of John the Baptist’s death at the hands of Herod and his vengeful wife. In spite of being faced with certain death, John remained faithful. What does this story have to do with the first? Why did Mark include it with the going out of the disciples? John lays down a pattern for all disciples of martyrdom and death. While it may seem extreme to us, death because of our faith is a very real experience for many disciples of Jesus throughout history. The challenge? Will we follow Jesus no matter what we are faced with?
There is one last verse, and it’s very instructive. That is verse 31. There Jesus invites his returning disciples to “come away to a remote place and rest.” While our following Jesus often means we are doing things with him, there is another critical, but often neglected element of discipleship. That is rest! We all need to learn to rest with Jesus, and to be refreshed in that rest. Sometimes I think it is fair to say of many disciples that they would rather die doing something than resting and being refreshed by Jesus.