November 1, 2010 David Balzer

Mark 6: The True Shepherd

Have you heard the news? Brad Fittler’s coming back to play State of Origin! It’s big news. Well, it is if you follow Rugby league. And if you live in NSW or QLD. It probably doesn’t rate a mention in the news in the rest of Australia.

 

But it’s big news. Certainly among the QLD coaching staff. Because Brad Fittler can really take a game by the scruff of the neck, and win it all by himself. And not only that, he makes his team-mates play better too.

 

And as well, there’ll be the EMOTIONAL side of it. He’d retired from Origin in 2001. And they LOST that game. So everyone will be trying to win it for him. Give him the fairytale finish he missed out on last time.

 

Yes, Fittler’s got them worried!

 

And it’s this sort of attention Jesus is starting to attract. Back in chapter 3 verse 6, we read that the Pharisees and the Herodians began to plot how they could k ill Jesus.

 

The Pharisees and the Herodians! The two most unlikely allies. But when it comes to Jesus, they’ve got one thing in common. They both want him DEAD.

 

The Pharisees are the Jewish traditionalists. They want to purify Israel. Remove all the foreign elements. The filthy Gentiles.

 

And the Herodians are the politicians. In bed with the Roman oppressors. They love all the culture and wealth and power the Romans have brought. They were COMPLETELY OPPOSITE.

 

Except when it came to Jesus. He was a threat to their authority. And they both wanted him OUT OF the WAY.

 

Waiting for a shepherd

And for BOTH groups, this commitment to the cause showed int eh way they treated THE PEOPLE. Everyday Israelites were just there for THEIR benefit. To promote their own agendas.

 

Whether it was the RELIGIOUS agendas of the Pharisees. Or the POLITICAL agendas of the Herodians.

 

It was leaders like THIS that God hated. And it wasn’t just in Jesus’ time either. It had been going on for hundreds of years.

 

Like in Ezekiel’s day. Listen to the way HE described the leaders in HIS time. Leaders who were only interested in feathering their own nests. Ezekiel 34.

(Ezek 34:2-6 NIV)  “”Son of man, prophesy against THE SHEPHERDS OF ISRAEL; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel WHO ONLY TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES! Should not shepherds take care of THE FLOCK? {3} You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, BUT YOU DO NOT TAKE CARE OF THE FLOCK. {4} You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have RULED THEM HARSHLY AND BRUTALLY.

 

And then God promises to be the SHEPHERD that these leaders WEREN’T. Verse 11.

(Ezek 34:11-16 NIV)  “”‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. {12} As a SHEPHERD looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, SO WILL I LOOK AFTER MY SHEEP.

 

And how was he going to do it? By sending ANOTHER leader LIKE DAVID. Someone who’d be the shepherd HE was. And who’d look after the people like GOD did. Working WITH God. A bit further down. In v23

(Ezek 34:23-24 NIV)  “I will place over them one SHEPHERD, my servant David, and he will tend (or SHEPHERD) them; and be their SHEPHERD. {24} I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.”

 

God had PROMISED a shepherd. Someone to care and look after the people. To FEED them, and PROTECT them. And that’s what the people wanted NOW. They were WAITING FOR A SHEPHERD.

 

That’s what Jesus recognises. Verse 34. When he sees the huge crowd. “He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. A flock without a leader.

 

And so that’s what Israel’s hanging out for. Another King David. A true shepherd.

 

But it’s not King Herod. He’s just a puppet ruler to the Romans. Only interested in building great palaces for himself.

 

And it’s not the Pharisees. They’re more interested in tying people up with rules and regulations, than they are about really FEEDING the people.

 

The Chief Shepherd and his assistants (1-13)

But then Jesus comes on the scene. He’s upsetting the apple cart, and the leaders are worried. He’s come to be the leader that God’s promised. The chief shepherd.

 

But it’s not the sort of rule that people are EXPECTING. And his hometown is worse than ANYONE. Because no-one gets it more wrong than THEM. When he starts preaching in Nazareth, verse 2, all they can see is the boy who grew up on their streets. The one with the grazed knees.

 

“That’s no Chief Shepherd. No new King David. It’s just that tradesman from the corner shop! Acting like he’s God’s gift to preachers!”

 

And verse 3 says they TOOK OFFENSE at him. The one God sent to be the new King! And to them, he’s no different from anyone else. Let alone any better than the rest of the leaders.

 

 

And the result? Because they didn’t want anything to do with this KING, the KINGDOM HE BROUGHT passed them by. Verse 5. They missed the KING, so they missed THE KINGDOM.

(Mark 6:5-6 NIV)  “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. {6} And he was amazed at their lack of faith. ”

 

 

Imagine you were Jesus’ disciples. How would you feel after this? Perhaps you’d been expecting a warm welcome. (After all, this is Jesus’ home town) But all you get is ridicule, and a cold shoulder. You’d be discouraged and upset. How does Jesus deal with the disappointment? Take everyone away for a holiday- to re-charge their batteries, and restore some perspective?

 

But no, he’s got a better idea. Rather than a cushy holiday, he’s got a tough field trip in store for them. The sort of thing to sort the men out from the boys.

 

He throws them in to the deep end. Verse 7. He sends them out two by two. As his representatives. It’s a quick training trip, so there’s no time for luxuries. Verse 8. “Only take the bare necessities”. And verse 10. There’s no time to shop around for the best accommodation. “Take the first offer you get for a bed. And don’t move on to someone else, just because the cooking is better”.

 

It’s only work experience, so don’t hang around if they won’t listen to you. Verse 11. If they’re not interested, treat them like Gentiles. “Shake the dust off your feet as you leave! And move onto the next town” For followers of Jesus, that’s only to be expected. Because if people rejected THE BOSS, you can be sure that’s what they’ll do to the offsiders.

 

And so they went out and did all the things Jesus did. With HIS authority. They preached that people would repent. And they drove out demons, and healed sick people. In fact, verse 13, they drove out MANY demons and healed MANY sick people.

 

These are the Chief Shepherd’s ASSISTANTS doing some shepherding of THEIR OWN. Feeding the people. Helping to bring in the new kingdom God’s promised.

 

And they’re attracting plenty of attention. Just like Jesus, healings and driving out demons tend to attract a crowd. And the disciples were whipping up a media frenzy.

 

Verse 14. Word even gets all the way back to the palace of Herod. There are ALL SORTS of theories. Jesus is John the Baptist. Or Elijah. Or another prophet.

 

The False Shepherd (14-29)

And now Mark drops in a FLASHBACK. An explanation for why Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist.

 

Because some time BEFORE, Herod had John the Baptist PUT TO DEATH. And Mark chooses to describe it HERE. Why?

 

In fact it almost seems like it shouldn’t BE here. Let’s take it out, and listen to how the story goes. I’ll read vv12,13, then jump straight to v30.

(Mark 6:12-13 NIV)  “They went out and preached that people should repent. {13} They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” (Mark 6:30 NIV)  “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.”

 

And then we move into Jesus’ feeding of the 5000. It’s all a bit bizarre, until we remember it’s a technique Mark likes to use. “The sandwich technique”. (That’s the technical name). He starts a story, then puts ANOTHER story in, then finishes the FIRST story.

 

He did it with Jesus’ mother and brothers in Chapter 3. And he did it with Jairus’ daughter in Chapter 5. And he does it here again in Chapter 6.

 

It’s to make us COMPARE the two stories. To take them together. We’re comparing TWO SHEPHERDS. Herod and Jesus. The Two kings. And two feasts. One king feasted extravagantly to satisfy his own desires. And the result was a sickening murder. He didn’t care anything about the sheep under his care.

 

The OTHER king feasted simply. Including all his flock. And there was plenty for everyone. And he had compassion on his sheep.

 

One king was the FALSE shepherd, who only feathered his own nest. The other king was the TRUE shepherd, sent from God, in David’s line, to feed his sheep.

 

So now Mark tells us about the FALSE SHEPHERD.

 

Verse 17, Some time before, John the Baptist had been giving Herod a hard time. It was about his new wife. The problem was she used to be married to his brother. She divorced HIM to marry Herod. And that was a big no-no.

 

But when John pointed it out, Queen Herodias wasn’t too pleased. So she plotted to kill him. Verse 19. He was a marked man, and all Herodias had to do was wait for the right time. And finally it came. Verse 21.

 

The King’s having a BANQUET. A feast for all the important people. For everyone who’s living the high life at the expense of the people. The government officials, the military commanders, and the wealthy landowners. The power of GOVERNMENT, the power of the SWORD, and the power of WEALTH.

 

And it’s no formal business lunch. More like a buck’s party. Because Herod’s step-daughter comes in and dances for them. And everyone loves it. Especially Herod.

 

He puts his MOUTH into action before his BRAIN’S in gear. And he promises the girl anything she wants.

 

And Verse 24. Because Herodias has put her up to it, she has to check with mum. Mum jumps at the chance, and goes for the THROAT. Literally. “Ask for John the Baptist’s head”. So she does.

 

And Herod’s PRIDE is as great as his FOOLISHNESS. There’s no way he can back down in front of his important mates. So he gives the order. And John is executed. Verse 27.

 

Herod keeps his HONOUR. Herodias gets her REVENGE. John loses his HEAD.

 

It’s an awful story, isn’t it? It sums up what FALSE SHEPHERDS are all about. It paints a picture FAR BETTER than some long list of sins.

 

They’re shepherds who care more about their own stomachs, and bank balances. More about satisfying their passions, and maintaining their pride, than they do about the SHEEP they’re supposed to be feeding.

 

And it’s THAT sort of behaviour Jesus has come to save us from. And it’s THAT sort of shepherd Jesus is NOTHING like.

 

The True Shepherd (30-44)

So we switch back to the present. Verse 30. The disciples have come back from their mission. And now we’re going to find out about the TRUE SHEPHERD.

 

Everything’s gone well, and the disciples gather around Jesus like excited school children. They got so MUCH attention on their trip, people followed them from everywhere.

 

But popularity was always something Jesus ran from. Because crowds THERE FOR THE WRONG REASONS meant he couldn’t preach. They got in the way. He couldn’t tell people what his kingdom was REALLY like.

 

And that’s what’s happening here. Verse 31. So many people they can’t even eat. So Jesus takes the disciples away for a rest. But it doesn’t do much good. The crowd’s pretty insistent. Because as the boat glides into the shore, they’re already there. (They’ve run all the way to get there first).

 

And as Jesus looks out at all the people waiting expectantly for him. As he sees the longing – the DESPERATION – in their eyes. Longing for healing and wholeness and relief from pain. What’s his attitude? It’s the same as it’s always been. Verse 34. he has COMPASSION on them. He feels their pain.

 

And why does he feel that way? Because they’re like sheep without a shepherd! No guidance. No pasture to feed on. No protection from the wolves. What they need is a SHEPHERD.

 

Is that what we see when we look at the people around us? Sheep without a shepherd? Friends whose whole lives are taken up with keeping up with their peer group. Drinking this much alcohol, or smoking this, or sleeping with this person. Saving for THIS holiday, or THAT flat-screen TV, or new bathroom.

 

Chasing the cheap thrill, the high, the temporary satisfaction, the acceptance and approval of others.

 

Because that’s all they can see to life. No idea about where they’ve come from, why they’re here, or where they’re going.

 

Jesus is the only shepherd who can give them direction. Who can shepherd and feed and protect and tend them. Do we look at our friends like Jesus does?

 

Do we live that out in OUR OWN LIVES? Jesus is the only shepherd who can give YOU direction. Who can shepherd and feed and protect and tend you. That’s a wonderful truth!

 

The people need a shepherd. But not the sort they think. And so He TEACHES them many things. Verse 34.

 

So many things that the day drags on. And the disciples’ stomachs start growling. So v35, the disciples come to Jesus, “This is a remote place, and it’s already late. Send everyone home so they can get some food”

 

But Jesus has a plan. He’s not just BEING a shepherd, he’s going to SHOW them what SORT of a shepherd he is. He’s GOD who is the shepherd. So he says to the disciples, “YOU give them something to eat”

 

“No way! That would take eight month’s wages! Do you want us to blow all that on bread?!” they say.

 

But Jesus asks them to find out how much food they HAVE got. Five small loaves of bread, and two dried fish.

 

It’s enough food for Jesus to show WHAT SORT of shepherd he is. That he provides for his sheep. He gets everyone to sit down on the green grass. Just like contented sheep.

 

Then he thanks God for the food. And then the disciples pass it out. And there’s a miracle, because there’s enough for everyone! SO MUCH that the disciples, who are on clean-up duty, fill up their bags with left-overs. Now THAT’S a shepherd who provides! In a way that only God can do!

 

The True Shepherd Mistaken (45-46)

But rather than seeing GOD, the crowd see a REBEL LEADER. A military commander. Who’ll do battle against the Romans. In fact, 5000 men aren’t a bad start for an army.

 

The true shepherd’s mistaken for something he ISN’T.

 

Jesus knows what’s going on, because he IMMEDIATELY sends the disciples away, and dismisses the crowd. And verse 46, he goes by himself up on a mountain to pray.

 

Now MARK doesn’t tell us the reason for the sudden end, but John 6:15 says that Jesus knew they wanted to MAKE HIM KING BY FORCE, and so he withdrew to the mountain by himself.

 

The kingdom Jesus brought wasn’t going to come by the sword, or by an army, or military rebellion. It was a kingdom WAY BEYOND national boundaries, and a particular place in history. It’s a kingdom that stretches all the way to Australia. In the 21st century. And beyond!

 

And it was only going to come by JESUS BEING OBEDIENT TO HIS FATHER’S WILL. Obedience which would lead to THE CROSS.

 

And so, Jesus needed to strengthen his will. He needed to re-affirm his direction. He needed the guidance of his Father. And so he prayed.

 

The True Shepherd Revealed (47-56)

Mark picks up the story again in the middle of the night. Verse 47. Jesus looks out across the lake from the top of the mountain. And he sees his beloved disciples straining at the oars. The wind’s against them, and they’re getting nowhere fast.

 

And he has compassion on them. And he wants to comfort them. And to relieve their suffering. Because that’s what shepherds do.

 

It’s time to reveal the true shepherd. AGAIN. Because they’ve missed it before. (Verse 52. They didn’t understand about the loaves). If they recognise who he is, they’ll be comforted.

 

So he goes walking on the water. He walks PAST THEM. To show them that he’s there. And to show them who he is.

 

Just like God who showed Moses what he was like. Exodus 33:19. When Moses was scared, and didn’t feel like he could do what God wanted. God showed him his glory. He PASSED BY Moses to show him how majestic and mighty and holy God was.

 

Why? To comfort and strengthen him! And that’s what Jesus is doing here. Showing his disciples that he’s God – to comfort and strengthen them.

 

And that’s what he says. Verse 50. Take courage! I AM! Don’t be afraid. He even uses the same name that God gives Moses in Exodus 3. I AM. It’s God who uses that name, and that’s what Jesus does.

 

And just to make the identification complete. He hops into the boat, and the wind OBEYS THE ONE WHO CREATED IT. It bows down to him, and STOPS.

 

Once again the disciples are amazed. Verse 52 says it’s because they didn’t understand about the loaves. They missed the significance of the loaves. Not that they missed that there was a miracle. I think that was pretty obvious. But they missed what it was SAYING about Jesus.

 

God did miracles through lots of MEN. But the disciples missed that this was GOD who was doing the miracles.

 

And what’s more. They missed the significance of God doing what he did FOR THEM.

 

God the great shepherd sent his chief shepherd, Jesus FOR THEM. It was Jesus who had compassion ON THEM. Because they were sheep without a shepherd. It was Jesus who provided for THEIR NEEDS.

 

They missed it with the bread.

 

And it was Jesus, the glory of God, and the ruler of the wind, who passed THEM by. To show THEM who he was. WHY? To comfort THEM!!

 

Here is the ultimate, infinite, holy and majestic God of the Universe. Who created bread, who walked on water, and who controls the wind. Only God can do that.

 

But it’s more than that. This same awesome God cares enough to provide bread for his sheep. And to identify himself to comfort and strengthen his sheep.

 

And if you’re one of God’s family, then Jesus is YOUR shepherd too. And Mark’s words are for your comfort. In knowing who Jesus is, we’re strengthened for the task.

 

Jesus is the God of the Universe. He’s the one whose your shepherd. Who’ll keep you from harm. Who’ll always work out his plans for you. Sometimes his staff will whack you because going in the wrong direction. But it’s only because he LOVES you.

 

It’s not too bad being a sheep!

 

And Jesus feeds his sheep in ANOTHER way, too. The night before he was crucified, he was having a last meal with his disciples. And he wanted to PREPARE them for when he left.

 

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