Formations 08.05.2018: Our Daily Bread

Mark 6:6b-13, 30-32

Bread and Fish from the Roman Catacomb of Callixtus.

Studs Terkel, in the early seventies, interviewed a number of workers ranging from farmworkers to baseball players, proofreaders to gravediggers, actors to hair stylists. From these laborers, Terkel observed a twofold purpose in human labor. “It is,” he says, “about a search… for daily meaning as well as daily bread.”

When the disciples go out to rest after a season of work, they approach the same concern. They ask if they should send the crowds away to find food. Then they ask if they need 200 denarii to buy bread. “No,” Jesus tells them. Their service and five loaves from a boy would be enough.

This feast of the five thousand tells us about the work of God. But it also invites us to see the rest of God. The exilic poet sensed God’s rest in creation (Gen 2:2-3). As early as the exodus, this same God provided food for Israel’s rest. As they waited between Egypt and the rest promised in Canaan (see Deut 3), they received enough manna to save for the seventh day (Ex 16:26-31). From its earliest stories, Scripture remembers and envisions rest as a reality blooming in all parts of life.

This week we see daily rhythms of work and rest oriented around this great vision. Jesus sends the disciples out to work, and as they go, they sow rest physically and spiritually and socially. When they return, Jesus calls them out to the wilderness to rest.

Either they don’t find it, or their rest includes action necessary to bring crowds into their feast. The line is blurry, at least for me, so I’m stuck with other questions. They come from Studs Terkel’s observation. What do our daily practices of work and rest mean? What do they mean in our lives? In our neighbors’ lives?

When Moses comes to Pharoah and asks that Israel go out into the wilderness for three days of celebration, Pharoah responds, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to you labors!” (Ex. 5:4). There was no time for Israel to rest in Egypt’s expanding economy. Their work meant his rest.

Or, when Jesus and the disciples went out to rest, they were met by crowds. And when the disciples see that the people needed food to continue resting, Jesus helps them share food together so that they might continue to rest together.

Discussion

• How do your daily practices of work and rest lead you to relate to the people around you?
• What prevents you from resting? What prevents rest in others’ lives?
• In the coming week, how might you choose to work and rest in ways that help others flourish in both body and spirit?

Reference Shelf

Sabbath and Eating

Despite the seriousness with which the rabbis viewed the Sabbath, it was in many ways a festive occasion. Before the Sabbath began at sundown on Friday, marked by the blowing of the trumpet, lights were lit, since kindling a fire was forbidden after Sabbath began. The celebration began with a blessing (Kiddush). It involved synagogue services on Friday evening and on Saturday morning. On Friday, the scripture reading was from the Psalms, while in the morning service, it was form the Torah. The remainder of the day was for relaxation and enjoyment. Three meals of food, cooked before Sabbath began, were served, often with invited guests present. The day ended with a benediction.

[…]

The attitude of Jesus and his disciples toward the Sabbath as reflected by the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) in some ways is in harmony with the picture of the Sabbath drawn from the OT and rabbinic sources. The women who were trying to take care of his body after the crucifixion rested on the Sabbath “according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56). Jesus was said to have been an invited guest for a Sabbath meal in the home of a leader of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1). Mark and Luke report on his activities as a teacher on the Sabbath in Nazareth (Luke 4:16) and in Capernaum (Mark 1:21-27; Luke 4:31-32). A number of the incidents involving conflict arose from his custom of going to the synagogue on the Sabbath (Matt 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11; Mark 1:21-27; Luke 4:31-37; se also John 5:9-18; 7:23; 9:14-16). The Gospels show Jesus in conflict with the authorities about the Sabbath activities of himself and his disciples at two points. All the Synoptics record the story about the disciples going through a field of ripening grain on a Sabbath day, plucking the ripening heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands to separate the husks from the grain, and the eating the threshed grain (Matt 12:1-8; Mark 2:23; Luke 6:1-3). By rabbinic interpretation plucking ripe grain and separating seeds from the husks was threshing grain and thus a violation of the command not to work on the Sabbath. Deut 23:25 permitted such an activity on other days. Eating was not an issue since eating was permitted on the Sabbath. Jesus’ emphasis here and elsewhere as regards Sabbath regulations was that human need transcended legal technicalities.

John H. Tullock, “Sabbath,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1995), 780–81.

Into the Wilderness

The term “apostles” (lit., “the ones sent”) appears only in v. 30 in Mark, since the reference in 3:14 seems to be a later harmonization with Luke 6:13. The term is particularly appropriate here since the disciples are returning from the mission on which Jesus had sent them. A translation rendering a non-technical meaning, such as “the missionaries,” would be possible, but by the time Mark wrote Paul had already used the term in a technical sense (see esp. 1 Cor 1:1; 9:1, 2, 5) to claim equal authority with the Twelve, who are called “apostles” in Matthew 10:2 and Luke 6:13 (cf. Acts 1:26; 2:37). The role of an apostle in the early church was related to the Hebrew concept of a shaliah. An apostle was not greater than the one who sent him, but the commonly accepted principle was that “a man’s agent is like to himself ” (m. Berakoth 5.5; cf. 2 Chr 17:7-9; John 13:16).

Having been sent out with explicit instructions, the disciples report to Jesus what they had done and what they had taught when they returned. Because they have successfully completed the first stage of their training, Jesus may already have been looking ahead to his need to teach the disciples the lessons of the self-denial and suffering servanthood that lay ahead (see 8:27-38). Jesus’ plan to withdraw for a season with the Twelve may therefore have been for the purpose of teaching as well as rest (in Mark kat’ idian, “by themselves,” typically means a private place for rest and teaching: 4:34; 9:2, 28; 13:3). The following phrase “to a deserted place” (erēmon topon; cf. 6:32, 35) is characteristically redundant but evokes the wilderness (erēmos) overtones of the exodus experience that were also prominent with John the Baptist and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (1:3, 4, 12, 13, 35, 45). In Mark the term only appears in chapter 1 and in the present context.

The pace of activity throughout Mark’s account of Jesus’ ministry is frenetic. The crowds press about him (1:33; 2:2; 3:32; 4:1; 5:24) so that they cannot even eat (cf. 3:20). The feasting at Herod’s court contrasts, therefore, with Jesus and the disciples’ inability to eat and with the simple fare of bread and fish that he will set before the crowd. Herodias found an “opportune time” (eukairos; 6:21, 31) to betray John at Herod’s feast, but Jesus’ opportune time had not yet arrived.

R. Alan Culpepper, Mark, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentaries (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2007), 206.

William Scruggs is a graduate of Mercer University. His favorite pastimes are adding music to his listening list, TV shows to his viewing list, and books to his reading list. When he isn’t pretending to check items off these lists, he spends time with friends and plays music. He is excited for the opportunity to continue exploring the rivers of Middle Georgia and to stay in Macon as an associate editor at Smyth & Helwys.

*****

For further resources, subscribe to the Formations Teaching Guide and Commentary.

Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.

William Scruggs is a graduate of Mercer University. His favorite pastimes are adding music to his listening list, TV shows to his viewing list, and books to his reading list. When he isn’t pretending to check items off these lists, he spends time with friends and plays music. He is excited for the opportunity to continue exploring the rivers of Middle Georgia and to stay in Macon as an associate editor at Smyth & Helwys.

*****

For further resources, subscribe to the Formations Teaching Guide and Commentary.

Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson. To purchase the volume quoted in today’s Reference Shelf, please click Here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email