Mark: The Disciples First Ministry Experience

Read: Mark 6:6b-56

The balance of chapter 6 reads like a quick synopsis of the disciples first ministry experience. The details about  John the Baptist seem like more of an important side note than a part of the story. Another interesting nuance is in verse 30 where Mark refers to the disciples as apostles. In Mark 3:14, some translations include “as apostles,” but otherwise, this is the only reference to His disciples as apostles in Mark’s gospel account. (See Mark 3:14.) Interesting.

Here’s a brief outline:

  • Jesus leaves His home town where He was all but dismissed and begins to preach in each village.
  • Jesus sends the disciples out in pairs to preach.
  • Herod hears about the amazing works of Jesus and is confused, thinking John the Baptist has been resurrected.
  • The apostles (disciples) return with stories from the field.
  • In their excitement, they forgot all about eating, plus there were loads of people following them who were also hungry.
  • Jesus feeds the 5,000. The disciples are confused.
  • Jesus walks on water. The disciples hearts are hardened.

Herod’s confused. The disciples are confused. Wouldn’t we be confused? Perhaps I should search for a different word, but Mark is reporting events that were anything but normal. No doubt we should be scratching our heads and wondering what is going on.

Feeding 5,000 (and many more!)

When Jesus feeds the massive group, it’s interesting to see the level of authority and respect He has earned among the people:

Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Mark 6:39-40

Imagine some 10,000+ people (counting spouses, children and relatives) are gathered around the countryside without sound system or any particular formal organization. Jesus directs this entire crowd AND they cooperate. I’ve been in concerts with groups of this size. It’s quite hard to imagine how He managed to direct them in the first place, let alone feed them miraculously.

This significant miracle is included in all four gospel accounts, perhaps because it’s so much greater than the story about Elisha feed 100 men in 2 Kings 4:42-44. Jesus is far superior to the prophets of old, that’s easy to say, but to the Jew in that day, this was huge. They revered the prophets for their great faith–they were the heroes of old. Jesus feeding so many through this miracle was a very big deal.

There’s no attempt to explain what happened here. All we know is they started with five loaves and two fish, fed the mass, then ended up with twelve basketfuls of loaves and fish. The disciples were probably exhausted, so Jesus sent them by boat to Bethsaida while He dismissed the crowd.

Two quick points:

  1. Dealing with so many people is hard work, even with Jesus by their side. Jesus knows this and sends them off to take a break.
  2. Jesus, once again, managed the huge crowd. He dismissed them (somehow), then goes to take a break Himself.

Jesus Walks on Water

In just a handful of verses, Mark covers this amazing event. Jesus is on the mountainside praying after dismissing the crowd and sending His disciples along. Somehow He saw them straining at the oars and felt compassion for them. First of all, how did He see them? This is just slipped into the text like it makes sense! He walks out to them just before dawn, the darkest part of the night. They freaked out! Exhausted from the day, fighting the waves, they’re sure to have lost their minds, but Jesus is making yet another point for them to consider.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:50-52

I’m trying to wrap my mind around the events captured in this chapter, but honestly it’s beyond difficult. The disciples are on mission with Jesus, witnessing firsthand the miracles and amazing teaching, get to preach themselves and watch the crowds swell, watch Jesus handle the masses, walk on water, calm the storm, and simply say, “Don’t be afraid.”

Just a normal week at church.


When I think about my minor ministry, the smallness of that which I do on a daily basis, and my inability to get much accomplished, I’m lost in my weakness. Oh me of little faith (not Ye). If nothing else, I hope I can see that God is not bound by human limitations or logic.

Lord, may I read these stories and be amazed at Your works, at Your desire to teach, to lead, to care for us. Increase my faith one more degree that I would believe You have a plan for my life for Your greater good. My greatest desire is to see people come to Christ, those who have no idea what that means, inside and outside of the church. Move me out of my comfort zone and into the world where there are those who would welcome Your message and those who refuse to listen.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

My prayer is for you to join me on this journey. Subscribe to this blog below to get an email when a new post is available.

Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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