Mark 6

1.  Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him.

Jesus came to His home country of Galilee with His followers, and probably back to His home city of Nazareth as well.  Let us see what sort of welcome He receives.

2.  And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue.  And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things?  And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!

The people are astonished at His words and His works.  That seems natural, and yet there is a negative tone to their wonder.  We will find out why in the next verse.

3.  “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon?  And are not His sisters here with us?”  And they were offended at Him.

These people were offended at the Lord Jesus, not because of what He taught and the miracles that He worked, but rather because He was familiar to them.  To these people, nothing that was familiar could be supernatural or from God.  Since they knew the Lord and who His family were, they assumed that He could not be the Messiah.  What a strange circumstance!  And yet, how typical of humanity, when you think about it.  How many amazing and stupendous things are we surrounded by every day, and yet we think nothing of them because for us they are familiar?

Here we have the final nail placed in the coffin of the idea of Mary’s eternal virginity.  Not only is it stated here that Jesus had brothers and sisters, but His brothers are numbered for us, and their names are given as well.  He had four brothers: James, Joses, Judas, and Simon.  These brothers (or half-brothers) would have had to have been by the sexual union of Mary and Joseph.  Otherwise, they must have also been the sons of God, and this cannot be.

4.  But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.”

How sad that this is true!  It would seem that a prophet should be honored most by those who had been closest to him.  Yet, as I said above, how often the familiar blinds us to the truth.  God might honor a prophet long before those in his own country would be willing to do so!

5.  Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.

The Lord’s work was greatly hindered by the attitude of the people in His home country.  It seems that because of their unbelief, He was unable to work as He did in other places.  As was mentioned in the notes on chapter 5, unbelief is a powerful force indeed!

6.  And He marveled because of their unbelief.  Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.

It seems that the unbelief of these people was so great that it even caused Christ Jesus Himself to marvel.  How sad that they could be so blinded to the truth!

The Lord now leaves these unbelieving people, and goes about to the villages in the area teaching.

7.  And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits.

The Lord now sends His disciples out in pairs.  This was a wise way to do things, as it meant that none of them were alone if any difficulty should arise.  He gives them power over unclean spirits, even as He had.  This power was His, and thus it was His to give to them as He desired.

8.  He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts–

The Lord now begins to give them specific instructions as to how they are to behave on this mission He is sending them on.  They are to take nothing on their journey except a staff…no bag, no food, and no money.  This word “bag,” “scrip” in the old King James, was actually a beggar’s bag.  Since He was not sending them with money or food, He had to emphasize to them that they were not to beg for these things.  Bread is symbolic for any kind of food.  According to The Companion Bible, copper coins were the only kind minted in Israel at that time, so taking no copper meant taking no money.

9.  But to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.

They are to wear sandals, and take no extra clothes.  These instructions would be most foolish for any missionary to follow in our day, but with the Lord’s Own word on the matter, if these twelve would only have faith and behave in this manner, they could be certain that the Lord would bless them, take care of them, and give them the things they needed.  Yet anyone in our time who tried to do this would not be having faith, as the Lord never commanded anyone but the twelve to act in this way.  Any attempt to go on a mission for the Lord in our day in this manner would only end in disaster!

10.  Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place.

They are instructed to stay in only one house in a city, as their work was to move swiftly.  Often visitors in those days would not stay in just one home but would move from house to house in the Jewish community during their stay in any city.  They would actually start with the first house on a street, staying overnight there, and then move to the next house on the street the next night, and so forth.  This was done because of the lack of news of the outside world in those days, since, in spite of the Roman Empire and its constant road building and maintaining, travel was still difficult.  Any visitor, therefore, was expected to provide whatever news of the outside world he could.  Moving from house to house during his stay was the best way of assuring that everyone had a chance to learn the latest news, as well as to ask questions about what their friends or relatives in other towns might be doing.  This is how things would normally be done.  However, these disciples are not to behave in this way, but only to stay in one house, for their mission is urgent.

11.  “And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them.  Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!”

They are given such power over the cities they are sent to that they can curse the city so that in God’s sight that city is worse than Sodom and Gomorrah and will received a worse sentence on the day of judgment!  They do this by shaking the dust off their feet as a testimony against them.  What power they had, to determine what would happen to a city in the day of judgment!

Notice that, if it will be more tolerable for Sodom an Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for these cities, then Sodom and Gomorrah must find at least some small favor in God’s sight in that day.  We can read of this in Ezekiel 16, where the LORD says to Jerusalem,

53.  “When I bring back their captives, the captives of Sodom and her daughters, and the captives of Samaria and her daughters, then I will also bring back the captives of your captivity among them,
54.  that you may bear your own shame and be disgraced by all that you did when you comforted them.
55.  When your sisters, Sodom and her daughters, return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters return to their former state, then you and your daughters will return to your former state.

So it seems that someday God will restore at least some part of the people of the city of Sodom!  In that day, then, indeed, it may be worse for these cities of Israel than for Sodom.

12.  So they went out and preached that people should repent.

The disciples did what the Lord Jesus had told them to do, preaching repentance.  This word is again metanoia, and means not to repent but to have the after-mind.  The command for these people was to submit to God in such a way that they would not change their minds no matter what the future might hold for them.  We too should be willing to submit to God in this same way.

13.  And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.

They take advantage of the powers the Lord had given them, casting out demons and healing the sick.  The anointing with oil of the sick is an interesting practice that apparently began here.  The only previous Biblical use of anointing with oil that I know of was to mark out men to be king.  That this is now used for healing is interesting and worthy of further study.

14.  Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known.  And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.”

King Herod, perhaps responding to his guilty conscience, hysterically believes Jesus Christ to be John the Baptist, whom he had killed.  John had never done the miracles that Christ did, but Herod apparently made this connection anyway.  If you are wondering what happened and why John the Baptist was killed, you need to wait a few verses, for Mark will go back and tell us the story.

15.  Others said, “It is Elijah.”  And others said, “It is the Prophet, or like one of the prophets.”

Others thought He might be Elijah.  Remember, Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind in II Kings 2:11.

11.  As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.

Yet, it had been prophesied that Elijah would someday return to earth in various passages, such as Malachi 4:5.

5.  “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.”

Thus, these people believed that the Lord Jesus might be Elijah come again from heaven.

Others identified Him with the Prophet whom Moses had spoken of in Deuteronomy 18:18-19.

18.  I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.
19.  And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.

Of course, the Lord Jesus was the Prophet Moses had spoken of.  Yet He was also much, much more, for He was not just the Prophet, but He was also God Himself!

16.  But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!”

Herod hears these other viewpoints, but does not listen to them, however, insisting that his belief was correct, and that the Lord is John, whom he beheaded, raised from the dead.

17.  For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her.

John, speaking God’s truth to Herod, had accused him of immorality in marrying his brother’s wife.  Of course, this must have been while his brother was still alive, for otherwise there was no law against marrying your brother’s wife.  In fact, in Deuteronomy 25:5, it was commanded that a brother should marry his brother’s wife after he died if he had had no children in order to raise up seed for his brother!

5.  “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.

Thus, this was permissible, and even commanded after a brother’s death.  To marry your brother’s wife while your brother was still alive, however, was a grievous sin, as is written in Leviticus 18:16.

16.  You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.

Thus, since Herod had had a relationship with his brother’s wife while his brother was still alive, he earned censure from God’s messenger, John the Baptist.  Herod, however, instead of listening to the word of God through John, had John committed to prison.

18.  For John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

John is one of ten people mentioned in the Bible who were persecuted by rulers for telling them the truth.  Often times those in power are not interested in hearing the truth, particularly when it reflects badly upon them and their leadership.  What John told Herod about his incestuous relationship was, of course, correct, but Herod’s response was to cast him into prison.

19.  Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not;

Herodias, apparently a more wicked person than Herod himself, held John’s condemnation of their actions even more to heart than Herod did and wished to kill him.  Indeed, it is not unusual to find in such cases that wicked and lawless women are even more hateful and vengeful than their male counterparts.

20.  For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him.  And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

Herod, unlike Herodias, realized John’s power as a true prophet and protected him, and even, it seems, listened to what he said and did many things because of it.  This does not necessarily mean that he obeyed what John said, but the indication seems to be that it did throw him into confusion and doubt.  He may not have had the faith to actually obey God’s words through John, but they did effect him to such an extent that it seems he was at a loss what to do.  That he never did get around to doing what was right in getting rid of his brother’s wife and freeing John is, unfortunately, all too evident.

That Herod was unwilling to listen to God since His words affected his relationship with Herodias is a situation that in many cases is all too common.  There are many people even today who are glad to listen to what God has to say as long as it does not affect their sex life.  As soon as it does, however, they turn a deaf ear.  This demonstrates perhaps better than anything else what is truly important to them.

21.  Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee.

An opportunity arises for Herodias to take action on a day when Herod is giving a birthday feast for himself.  He has many nobles (or lords,) high officers (chiliarchs or commanders of one thousand men,) and chief men in attendance feasting with him.  These men and their influence on Herod’s state of mind provide Herodias with just the opportunity she has been looking for.  Imagine, thinking yourself “in love” with someone who is willing to plot and scheme against you!  It seems Herod got the kind of woman he deserved.

22.  And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.”

Some have suggested that this was nude dancing, but I don’t know of any way to confirm that for certain.  At any rate, we see Herod acting in his typical vein and responding to sexual pleasure more willingly than to God.

23.  He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.”

Herod further sets himself up for trouble by making a rash vow to the daughter of his illicit wife, making for her the common up-to-half-the-kingdom oath that rulers would often make to those who specially pleased them.  The idea was that you could get anything up to being made the second ruler in the kingdom.  Of course, Herod would not give her more than half the kingdom, because that would have made her even higher than Herod.  Such a rash promise made to the daughter of his mistress and now immoral wife is nothing unusual, as sexual interaction between men and the daughters of their live-in girlfriends is very common.  In fact, live-in boyfriends or stepfathers, not fathers, are the cause of the vast majority of child sexual abuse, a fact that is seldom mentioned in our society.

24.  So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?”  And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!”

This girl went to her mother for advice as to what to ask.  A considerate and obedient child she was, which is much more than her wicked mother deserved.  Her mother immediately seized the opportunity to get back at her old enemy.  It may even be that her mother had instigated her dancing for this very purpose.

25.  Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

Her response is immediate, and she eagerly carries out the will of her mother.  Her mother’s sinful attitude has drawn her in as well, and it seems that she is sadly eager to see the end of God’s prophet.

26.  And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her.

Herod was immediately sorry for his rash oath, but, to him, impressing his important and influential friends was more important than what God might think, and so he carried through with his promise.  This again is common in our day, when many will easily cast aside any consideration of God’s opinion in the hopes of pleasing their drinking buddies.

27.  Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought.  And he went and beheaded him in prison,

This “executioner” was, in fact, an official with a Latin title meaning “a man who spies out,” or a body-guard.  Herod had adopted Roman customs, which is quite natural since his rule depended on theirs.  Notice, though, that the command to kill John is Herod’s.  He is to blame for John’s death as much, if not more, than Herodias and her daughter are.

28.  Brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.

The executioner having carried out his assignment, he gives the head to the girl, and the girl gives it to her mother.  A grim trophy for a wicked and godless woman!

29.  When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.

John’s disciples, after hearing of his death, came and laid his body in a tomb.  Thus ended the career of the one the Lord Jesus described as the greatest of all born of women (Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28.)  What a sad commentary, that it was the petty jealousy of a woman that brought him to his death!