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Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 - The making of a shepherd

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

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The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.


This is the Gospel selection to be read aloud by a priest on the eighth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 11], Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. This reading will be preceded by one of two pairs of Old Testament – Psalm, called Tracks 1 and 2. Track one focuses on Second Samuel’s story of David suggesting to Nathan the need to build a house for the Ark, only to have Yahweh say, “No,” to that idea. Track two then centers on a reading from Jeremiah, where Yahweh spoke to him, telling of the danger those who falsely lead His flock shall face. Both Psalms allude to David being a house of Yahweh, in the flesh, while Psalm 23 is the “Lord is my shepherd” song. The Epistle reading from Ephesians accompanies these, where Paul wrote of the marriage of souls to Yahweh, which states how one becomes a good shepherd.

This reading begins with the section of Mark that tells of the feeding of the five thousand and then Jesus walking on water, but both of those events are skipped over. It begins with the arrival of the flock and then the flock following Jesus to the other side of the sea, to Gennesaret. I wrote about this reading selection and posted it on y website in 2018. I comes with maps and diagrams and is information still pertinent today. I welcome everyone to read that commentary at this link and offer comments, questions and suggestions. Grammar checkers are always welcome. Today, I will take a different view on a few things that come from these selected verses.

Verse thirty is a statement of transition, one that tells of the apostles returning from their commission in pairs. In this that says they “gathered around Jesus,” the Greek text written is “synagontai hoi apostoloi pros ton Iēsoun,” where it should be recognized that the word “synagontai” is the same root from which comes “synagogue.” A “synagogue” is from the Greek word “synagogē,” meaning “assembly” or “gathering together.” This statement is then saying that the apostles found their “synagogue” as wherever Jesus was.

It should be remembered that Mark wrote about Jesus being rejected in Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6), which then led to his telling that Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs (Mark 6:7-13). While the apostles were out in ministry, probably each going to his hometown and also finding rejection there, John the Baptist was beheaded by Antipas and his body taken and buried by his followers (Mark 6:14-29). Prior to this timing, Jesus had riled the leaders and scribes in other synagogues; thus, in the interim, Jesus had found a safe place to comfortably teach, without disturbing any of the Jewish elite. The beginning of verse thirty is then designating Jesus as a traveling synagogue.

In the segment of words the NRSV has translated as saying “and told him all that,” the Greek text says: “kai apēngeilan autō panta ,” which is importantly marked [use of “kai”] to be understood fully, rather than miss the meaning by not realizing these words make a profound statement. When “apēngeilan autō” are simply translated as only saying, “they told him,” that importance is missed. The words “apēngeilan autō” is better stated as “they proclaimed him,” where “autō” is a statement of “self,” with a “self” equating to a “soul.” This then says “all” the apostles [from “panta”] had gone into ministry as extensions of Jesus, such “they proclaimed” to those they ministered as would have done Jesus, because their “selves” had become one with the “soul” of Jesus. Jesus was not yet dead and his soul fully separated from his body of flesh, but his soul was still allowed by Yahweh to possess his disciples, making them apostles [“messengers”] ‘in the name of Jesus.’ Thus, “everything” they did in ministry [from “panta”], they did the same as would have Jesus; and, that “all” is then stated as “what they had done kai what they had taught.”

It should be understood that Jesus was not ‘in the dark’ about what his “messengers” would do and teach. All were connected to Yahweh at that point, so Jesus did not need a ‘report back’ about what they experienced. Certainly, like excited children explaining to their parents what Santa Claus brough them for Christmas, the wanted to tell Jesus everything. Certainly, he let them talk. However, he knew “all” because his soul was with them “all.”

In verse thirty-one, Mark [thus Peter] denoted it was important [from the use of “kai”] to grasp what Jesus said to his returning apostles. The NRSV translation has this as, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” A literal translation of the Greek has this transform into: “Come you yourselves apart own into solitary place , kai refresh small .” This needs a full breakdown.

The Greek word “Deute” is capitalized, meaning the word takes on a divine level of meaning, beyond the routine and ordinary “come hither” or “come!” Rather than Jesus giving an order to his apostles to “follow” him some place, he was actually speaking as Yahweh’s voice, explaining how the apostles had done things and taught things beyond their routine and ordinary capabilities. As such, Jesus said they had “Come” to a state of being that was heavenly, so they had been empowered to be like him.

This then leads to the Greek words “hymeis autoi” which ordinarily says, “you yourselves,” but the statement of “you,” which is the second person plural identification of a soul –“ego” – all of those self-identifications had “Come” to Jesus to see what could be done and taught. By the addition of “yourselves,” as the second person plural of “self” or “soul,” all of their souls that had identified with different bodies of flesh, different relationships and families, all of those souls had “Come” to Jesus. Therefore, Jesus was not telling anyone where to go, but he was telling them to where that had “Come” with him.

The Greek word “kat’ ” (abbreviation of “kata”) can then be translated as “apart,” as “of that which so joins itself to one thing as to separate itself from another.” [1.e of Thayer’s Greek Lexicon], where the meaning says the souls of the apostles had been separated from the routine and ordinary control their souls exercised over their bodies of flesh. For a soul to be “apart” [or to Come “down from, i.e. from a higher to a lower plane” – HELPS Word-studies] from its flesh and the flesh still be alive [not dead], this says a divine possession was the reason. As such, the spirit of Jesus joined with each of the souls of the apostles, becoming the dominant controller of those bodies of flesh. One of the abilities they had [what “they had done”] was cast out unclean spirits, which was an opposite form of possession, where the souls of bodies of flesh were “apart” from their actions, instead being led to do sinful acts.

The Greek words “eis erēmon topon” then says, “into solitary place,” where “into” properly says, “"motion into which" implying penetration ("unto," "union") to a particular purpose or result.” [HELPS Word-studies] This says the souls of the apostles [twelve] were each “in union” with a “solitary” direction. The word “solitary” does not mean singular, but each self-ego had been set “apart,” as “deserted,” so rather than twelve different ideas of what to do in ministry had been overtaken by one same direction, due to all having been made “desolate” of self-purpose. This unity of spirit was then the “opportunity” that was given to them – their “place” as messengers of Yahweh – as a forecast of where they would be, each individually, after ‘graduation’ from the ‘school of Jesus.’

Following a comma mark and another use of “kai,” Mark stated the importance of “refresh small.” Here, the Greek word “anapausasthe” is routinely and ordinarily translated as “rest,” which gives the impression that being a “messenger” of Yahweh is such hard work that after a few weeks of ministry one needs a ‘sabbatical.’ The intent here has quite the opposite meaning, as Jesus was telling his apostles that their self-egos had been given a break from having to make decisions on what to do and say, due to “you yourselves apart into solitary place.” All the pressures of resisting sinful influences and all the pressures of not knowing how to respond to the forked tongues of lawyers masquerading as holy priests was set aside. The ‘sabbatical’ was ministry, when they no longer had to deal with being nobodies of importance, so they could take pride in their souls being so insignificant and “small.” This realization would be why the egotist Saul changed his name to Paul, meaning “small” [in Latin].

From seeing the meaning of what Jesus said, the second half of verse thirty-one, as well as verses thirty-two through thirty-four is a statement that the souls of the apostles having been married to Yahweh – as newbie reborn Jesuses – they became necessary ‘deacons’ in the “synagogue” of Jesus, which was across the sea from Capernaum [where Jesus lived and where the fishermen’s boats were moored]. When is says “those coming kai those going were many , kai not even to eat they had opportunity,” this is not speaking of the apostles. It speaks of those who attended this newly formed gathering around Jesus, where he held sermons in a “solitary place” that was outside the government of Galilee, where a flood plain met a steep hillside [with great acoustics]. The part about “not even to eat” [led by the word “kai,” thus important to truly grasp] means those seekers were starved of spiritual food, which is supposed to be the reason for “gatherings” of Jews. When Jesus set up his “synagogue” with twelve freshly trained ‘deacons,’ those who were starving spiritually had finally found an “opportunity” to be fed.

It is essential to read these verses in this new light, as the feeding of the five thousand men [who came with families intact, meaning probably ten to twelve thousand were crammed into the Jesus synagogue, all hungry for spiritual food] required the food be passed out by apostles. Those twelve need to all be seen as if Jesus was doing the handing out, times twelve. While the apostles had been interning as ministers, Jesus had others assist him in beginning his new place of gathering, which Peter was not a party to, so he did not write about that. Therefore, it is important to see that Jesus was not worried about how tired his disciples were, as it makes more sense to see him greet their return by saying, “Now that you see how easy this is [with Yahweh’s help], we have some real work to do.”

Because of the leap over the nineteen verses that lead to the final four verses in this chapter [and this reading selection] there is missing the aspect of the apostles still doing works of the Spirit, while also having doubts were swirling stormily within them. The doubts they experienced on the sea when Jesus was not with them physically signify their souls fighting against the presence of a divine possession, in the same way that Jacob wrestled with himself before he gave in and accepted Yahweh within. They would not rid themselves [and again “self” equates to a “soul”] of their natural drives to control their own bodies of flesh, always keeping their ego intact as much as they could, until Jesus was seen tortured to death and buried; and, the timing of this series of events is still in the first year of Jesus’ ministry.

This means the link between the first verses and the last verses lies in verse thirty-one, which says “not even to eat they had opportunity.” [The NRSV says, “they had no leisure even to eat.”] All of the verses, beginning at verse thirty-three, deal with feeding both the apostles and the other Jewish seekers with the spiritual food they needed. This is where the “shepherd” theme is stated in verse thirty-four.

When the NRSV translation says, “Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there,” this speaks of the sheep of the flock recognizing Jesus and his apostles. In this way, the apostles were like the rams that led their own sheep that followed their lead. Jesus was recognized as the shepherd, who cared for all the rams and sheep alike. This makes the synagogue or the gathering place be the sheepfold. There is great imagery of a flock of sheep running to the call of their shepherd, when it is time to be protected, in the words that say: “they hurried there on foot” (in verse thirty-four) and “[they] rushed about” (verse fifty-five).

When all of this is related to shepherding, one needs to see that the flock is fed by being led out to pasture. In that basic need being met, there are illnesses and injuries, as well as growth of wool, all of which needed tending. The shepherd learns the way the flock communicates their needs and lets a need for medical treatment be known. Thus, the key statement that leads all of this says, “[Jesus] had compassion for them.”

The Greek word “esplanchnisthē” was written, which the NRSV has simplified as “had compassion.” The root word [“splagchnizomai”] means “to be moved in the inward parts, to feel compassion.” (Strong’s Definition) The implication of its usages says “to have pity on, to be moved.” (Strong’s Usage) HELPS Word-studies says the root comes from “splanxna, 'the inward parts,' especially the nobler entrails – the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys,” where the physical organs are merely symbolic of the soul of Jesus having deep feelings for the souls of his Father’s flock, to whom he was sent to shepherd. This must be seen as a trait of all divinely possessed ministers of Yahweh, as one’s soul must be moved to help other souls, not be content with thinking one’s own soul [or those souls in flesh that are friendly and related] is all that matters.

As a Gospel reading chosen to be read aloud on the eighth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own personal ministry for Yahweh should be well underway, it is this shepherding aspect that is the central theme [vividly clear and present underlying] in all the accompanying readings. One must set aside one’s own self-ego [as much of a struggle as that will be] and let one’s soul become led by Yahweh’s Spirit to become Jesus reborn. That will open one’s soul to deep feelings that care for others. One must go to the people, so the seekers will sense the presence of Yahweh and be drawn [rushing] towards one. The souls of this world are starving from lack of spiritual food; and, Yahweh sent His Son to be spread to all those souls who want to serve him as apostles.

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