Mark 6:7

He called the Twelve to him, and began to send them out as his messengers, two and two, and gave them authority over foul spirits.

check your assumptions
against those of others

add your weight
support and challenge another

Two-By-Two LLC
“Extending A Healthy Way”

teamed and yoked by lot
learn to work middle out

dance together sing
released joy is authoritative

Jesus’ standard ask is for people to join in his having been joined with a creative force of new space as in the landing of Noah’s Ark or next potential Eden. “Come, fly with the Dove of Belovedness!”

Some were specifically invited to learn how to “fish for people” (maybe it should have been a pelican that descended?). They have experienced some of their own doubt and mistrust in the midst of many opportunities to appropriate what they saw Jesus doing. Now the call to “join” is going to become clearer as they are sent out δύο δύο (duo duo, two [by] two).

It will be easy to read words like ἀποστέλλειν (apostellein, commissioning/sending off) and ἐδίδου αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν (edidos autois exousian, give them power/authority) to think that they take away from new creation imagery above and in the previous verse or override an important definition of “exousia”, a capacity to choose.

This matter of choice will be important as we will find out that there is no authority seed that is planted within the Twelve that will work independent of them. There will be failures of this mission later in 9:18, and Luke 10:17 also records some surprise that they did any exorcising at all.

Knowing what we do about the disciples in general and the Twelve in specific, we might picture the pairs talking with one another about coming back with the most examples of power used for good. They might self-generously recollect, “it was those others who were scared in the storm”, or “how willing we were to share what we had before those others blurted out their financial limit at one of the feedings”. So easily a joint effort is lost through our desire to be approved. “Surely we will come back as the Number 1 team!”

Being able to coordinate and keep the pairs joined in mission, is problematic. “Mutual partnership” (Swanson192) is critical.

Mark 6:6

and he wondered at the want of faith shown by the people. Jesus went around the villages, one after another, teaching.

over-focusing on belief
without considering its limits
is like glancing at Medusa

we freeze in time and space
thick headed and stone hearted
only dynamite induced change available

by story-telling transference
all who gaze on us melt
worn out in their CPR attempts

statues and puddles
artifacts of religious history
litter our perceptual field

not doubting a door’s lockedness
saps curiosity and sits us down
until jogged to remember to play

a suspension of disbelief
opens multiple paths of trust
beyond an exclusionary faith

As we know, versification takes away some connections of a story. Do try reading a version of Mark that does not have verses notated.

Most modern commentators split this verse so the first half concludes a discrete section of Mark’s story.

As Mann290 indicates, “Here Jesus appears to take faith in God as a natural attitude and is pained by its absence.” This leads to another return to creation and the “natural” relationship between G*D and Image of G*D. For all that has wedged itself between, we grieve and commit to emptying it from power or control in our lives. Repentance that changes hearts and lives functions through a removal of blockages

The second half begins a more intense teaching/training of the disciples in participating in a larger mission through a simplification of their way of living.

The urgency of mission is pushed ahead through a paring away that a wilderness retreat brings. The clearer our heads the further we can see into the vastness of the sky and have a place to stand to better sort out real from false choices.

Verse 6a gives an ouch that leads to 6b and a renewed joining of Jesus with his chosen family. This verse connects them, but we are still don’t know the mind of the Versifier and how they saw this transition spot flow from a lack of trust to intensified teaching about trust.

Mark 6:5

And he could not work any miracle there, beyond placing his hands on a few infirm persons, and curing them;

healings are not miracles
states an unstateable

our desire for continuity is slow
confused when action exceeds a blink

unable to view reconfigurations
we can only figure a disjunction

our bayou accustomed reaction time
fails in the midst of a whitewater shoot

a community moving from suspicion
to welcoming is miracle-sized

a traumatized individual moving on
fast or slow is healing

salvific acts rejoin lost hopes
along disparate tracks

Rejection leads to counter-rejection. The Giardian Lectionary referenced a sermon by Thomas L. and Laura C. Truby, “Jesus is Cast Out and the Disciples Cast Out” that reflects on the strangeness that mere faith (a gift given us) can control the δύναμιν (dunamis, power, miracle) of a beloved of G*D:

I have always assumed he couldn’t heal because the people lacked faith as though healing depended on their faith. Now I realize he couldn’t heal because nobody came. Oh, a few defied the village ostracism and he healed them, but mostly they didn’t come. Word had gotten out that Jesus was off-limits.

This shift of perspective is one that most commentators are hard pressed to do. The strange situation of faith trumping power (except for a few physical touches) deserves more attention. Faith is not mentioned in most of the healings/miracles/acts of power found in Mark.

Here are the non-faith related acts of power:

1:21-28, in synagogue

1:29-31, mother-in-law

1:32-34, healing all sick

1:40-45, leper

3:1-6, withered hand

4:35-41, calming storm

5:1-20, Gerasene demoniac

6:30-44, feeding the 5000

6:53-56, sick in Gennesaret

7:24-30, Syrophoenician’s daughter

7:31-37, deaf-mute

8:1-10, feeding the 4000

8:22-26, blind man

What conditions have we set up, individually and collectively, to protect ourselves from uncomfortable relationships, to set off-limits?

Mark 6:4

at which Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his home town, and among his own relatives, and in his own home.”

looking through a lens
momentarily tangent
to an accustomed view
but fundamentally not of it
leads to prophecy
or its misspelled cousin madness

drop in on a troubled but stable
unforgiving line
brings an immediate reflection
on what seems forever set
cannot be otherwise
requires a happy-face mask

touch from beyond the present
exceeds two dimensions
intersections are deeper than seemed
inflections do add up
current dis-ease eventually welcomed
persistence reveals prevailing love

drawing a larger circle
expands contact
shocking more segments
shaking foundational assumptions
blind to options compassions
only embraced under duress

“…rejection is part of both the paradigm of the prophet and of the hero cross-culturally….” [Levine71]

Response to rejection is a formative moment in our growth. It can enhance or retard our claim on our gifts and opportunities to use them.

This saying recognizes a next shift in identity. In LaVerdiere’s schematic of Mark, we are completing the call to join a band of merry men and their early difficulties of lack of understanding parables, food, healing, and storms on the lake. We now leave hometowns and relatives behind to focus on teaching a mission of belovedness and change to the Twelve.

As Levine points out:

Jesus is eventually rejected by all of “his people”—however that may be understood. He was rejected by Jews and Gentiles: family (3.19b–21), townspeople (6.1–6), Gentiles who witness his healing power (5.17), Peter (8.32, 14.71), disciples (14.50), chief priests and Sanhedrin, and the “crowd” influenced by them (ch14, 15.8,11,15) those who “passed by” (15.29), the two men crucified with him (15.32), and finally, even God (15.34).

Any illusion we have of returning as a conquering hero needs to be left in the dust if we are going to do the work we sense is ours to do. Hero journeys are to bring us to a point beyond proof of worth.

Mark 6:3

Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters, too, living here among us?” This proved a hindrance to their believing in him;

political campaigns innuendo filled
child’s play compared to G*D debates
a thousand paper cuts are employed
because we’re too nice to kill outright

every war advantage applied to love
reveals well-practiced generals
killing softly with well-honed expectations
beyond which angels fear to tread

sophisticated bullies never lift a hand
wedded to a support system
gives license to sweetly abuse
psychically stonily publically privately

Mention of family brings to mind a previous reference in 4:31–35 wherein Jesus redefines family away from tribal blood. One rejection leads to a next.

If Jesus is going to redefine who his “family” is, it soon comes to a time when his previous life can, in turn, be rejected by an extended family or hometown.

The avoidance of rejection is not a reason to avoid the difficult work of understanding where one is grounded: by what characteristics will I be known?

Some details to attend to here include:

  • Mark begins with Baptism, not Birth. Mark cannot be appealed to as a reference to a much later tradition of Virgin Birth.
  • Lists of family members are as difficult as lists of disciples. Linguistically, “brother” can be a generic term that includes cousins or extended tribal members. Is the addition of “younger” in Mark 15:40 a second James? In that same verse is Salome the only named sister or is this a different Mary? What about Matthew 13:55 that adds Joseph and does not mention Joses, Judas, or Simon?
  • “Carpenter” is too loose a translation of τέκτων (tektōn, builder) which indicates a skilled craftsperson a notch above an ordinary carpenter.
  • In a patriarchal society to call someone by their mother’s name and not their father’s is a common insult form that has come down to us in the form of, “Your mother is ….”

Mark 6:2

When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue; and the people, as they listened, were deeply impressed. “Where did he get this?” they said, “and what is this wisdom that has been given him? And these miracles which he is doing?

questions carry
tentative ideas
further questions
raise suspicions

rather than attend
count ceiling tiles
note character flaws
pass a note

sacred teaching space
time stands still
sculpting repeated lives
allowing no mutation

beginning wonders
permit quenching
active danger
wrapped responses

When the next Sabbath comes around, Jesus is “teaching” in a place where faithful descendants of Israel (G*D Wrestler) honor one another with honest responses to the impact and importance of his teaching.

The journey thus far has included several synagogue scenes with disputes with the Scribes and Pharisees (people of the rules) and now we are facing an intersection between Jesus and regular synagogue attendees.

Things seem to be going well for our hometown boy. The phrases that are both question and exclamation seemingly burst forth in all their positive and negative tones of voice.

“What kind of thinking is this?”

“This is Wisdom!”

“How accomplished!”

The adulation and dismay of all the crowds encountered come together in the special caldron of home territory. This is the third engagement with a synagogue. As in all good fairy tales the third time is where the change happens. This will be the last time Mark reports Jesus in a synagogue

For the moment things seem to be going swimmingly. Jesus’ healing fame has preceded him. His telling the story of Creation continuing to be present and changes needed to keep up with a Living G*D was captivating. It engaged the whole life of individuals and the community. There is something for every-one and everyone to be working on. For some this is energizing; for some this is enervating. Some were honored by his presence and words; some were shamed by both.

Attend to this turning point and learning from it. There will be more decision points built on past scenes and preparing for a next.

Mark 6:1

On leaving that place, Jesus, followed by his disciples, went to his own part of the country.

brokenness takes its toll
if you are the broken
if you are the repairer
both and each
carry residual effects

home has its appeal
comfort food
flowing through the body
carrying caring kisses everywhere
enough and more
releasing free breaths

home carries old tapes
injured siblings discounted self
disappointed parent lost best friends
scrapes and scares
reenacted without release

hometown as wilderness
horror multiplied
center of frozen fantasies
forgiveness forever needed
wonder and fear
approached ambiguously

A hometown can be a wilderness place where there is a temptation to fall back into old familial patterns, taking your place in the family pecking order. Home is also a place of retreat and further formation after a most busy time of intense scenes of healing. This is a time of particular tension following 3:21, 31–35 where Jesus redefines family.

Note that the Greek might better be translated as the disciples coming along with Jesus rather than the call language of following.

Here is Swanson on home and coming of age:

European Americans expect that one comes of age by leaving home and journeying off to adventure, hence the drive to “go away” to college. For Lakota young people, they come of age by growing up among their family, their parents and grandparents, to be sure, but even more so their aunties and other relatives who have known them long enough not to be fooled by anything. In the scene in Jesus’ hometown, European Americans hear Jesus pushing against exactly the force they themselves had to fight in order to become a person of integrity, an adult. Native Americans hear something else. They hear Jesus resisting those people who have the right and responsibility to remind him that they know his brothers and sisters, and that they knew his parents when they were his age as well. This string of small scenes in Mark’s story plays better, and more truthfully, if the hometown people are played the way Lakota culture would understand them.

Mark 5:43

but Jesus repeatedly cautioned them not to let anyone know of it, and told them to give her something to eat.

it is enough that it happened
to know a magician’s simple how
is best kept under wraps
so mums the word

she walks it happened
this much is undeniable
more would be TMI

the practicalities of life happen
ground us in a next best choice

feed this potential mother-in-law

We have previously heard injunctions to not tell about a dramatic change in life. Between the last such charge in 3:12 addressed to “demons” identifying Jesus as “G*D’s Partner” and before that, in 1:44, to a person whose flesh was cleansed, there have been two recent times when a command to silence did not happen—the Geresene in 5:19 is instructed to tell his own people and the Hemorrhaging Woman in 5:34 is simply sent off with a blessing.

LaVerdiere140-141 suggests that context (spiritual maturity?) of the person healed is the deciding factor in keeping their story quiet.

The skin-diseased man dared Jesus for a healing and a healing qua healing came. There is not a good way to tell this story without saying more than can be claimed.

The demons were upset about their being silenced and were revealing relationships before their time was ripe. This leads to questions for which there is no good response and subsequent confusion.

Here a faithful synagogue leader will be put in an untenable position should he speak favorably about his daughter’s healing. He won’t have the required two witnesses (only a spouse).

On the other hand, the Geresene desired to follow Jesus (to learn more) and is instructed to set up next visits to the Decapolis by telling his story. He had a call to meet and silence would not facilitate it.

The Hemorrhaging Woman started with faith that a healing could be accomplished and quietly claimed it without publicly daring Jesus. To “Go in peace” is different than leaving in silence.

Today there are still those who claim more than is helpful to say about Jesus and Church and those who don’t say what they do know. This is a question of discernment for any claiming to be Christian for it affects ecclesiology, discipleship, and missional extension.

Mark 5:42

The little girl stood up at once, and began to walk about; for she was twelve years old. And, as soon as they saw it, they were overwhelmed with amazement;

she walks around dazed
as uncertain as new sight
confused about people and trees

a sleepwalker pleases us nonetheless
even as any between-state scares us
better than a zombie but still disturbing

amazement at a moment of quickening
hopes and fears jostle with one another
until one mostly settles into our life

one such occurrence can last a lifetime
what are we to do with so many surprises
coming our way overwhelming our day

This verse is doubly Markan with two, count them, two “euthys” (immediatelies). To return to Swanson’s translation: “BANG the little girl rose and walked around (she was, after all, twelve years old). BANG: ecstasy beyond ecstasy.”

The girl (or, depening on perspective, young woman) had been invited to rise. In less than a heartbeat, she rose.

With a healing claimed or grabbed by an older woman and requested on behalf of a young woman we are reminded that there are no formulas for healing. Is healing connected with the faith of the person in need of a healing, the need of a community for a tangible sign in their midst, the loosing of power on its own terms, or just because. Whatever the circumstance it seems clear that magical words in another language is not at the heart of healing. Sometimes just a declaration (“Take up your mat.”) or the gentle taking of a hand while softly crooning a lullaby will do—

O little one, precious young one, we bid you rise.
Come back to us from dreams afar, we bid you rise.
Join in this song sung just for you, we bid you rise.
Help us extend this song to all, we bid you rise.

When this daughter rose (to dance?), those present are described as amazed, astonished, overjoyed, shocked, or surprised. Merriam-Webster gives a derivation of the Greek ἔκστασις (ekstasis): “from existanai to derange, from ex- out + histanai to cause to stand”. With an invitation to rise accepted, “ecstasy” is a preferred descriptor here. Barnstone161 holds both, “They were amazed and in great ecstasy.”

Mark 5:41

Taking her hand, Jesus said to her, “Talitha, koum!” – which means ‘little girl, I am speaking to you – Rise!’

Tentative and provisional
A single life or all society
Learns to be on guard
In defense against unknown danger
That slouches in shadow almost here
Hand outstretched toward our heart
Asserting breath’s frailty word’s silence

Kindness is not protective or victorious
Of or over existential threats
Under a shroud of ever-increasing sleep
Merciful kindness invites us to dance

An unnamed woman reached out to touch Jesus. Jesus now reaches out to touch an unnamed girl. We find responses to calls and calls expecting a response. We are to hold our call and response lightly lest we get trapped in a bygone call or a compulsive response.

These two are related to one another in a larger rhythm of ministry. Myers puts it well:

The healing journey must, however, take a necessary detour that stops to listen to the pain of the crowd. Only when the outcast woman is restored to true “daughterhood” can the daughter of the synagogue be restored to true life. That is the faith the privileged must learn from the poor.

Touch is basic ministry, even more basic than conversation. Touch connects and raises partners who had not previously seen one another in this fashion. Touch is basic from G*D working clay to what it means to fish for people.

In Mark the result of touch is an arising, a great getting up moment (ἐγείρω, egeirō, arise!). This same word is used with Simon’s mother-in-law (1:31), a paralytic (2:11,12), and Jesus after death for teaching the good news of change in hearts and lives through partnered mercy (14:28; 16:6).

If arising does not happen, it may well be that our touch was more about ourself than another. This is a time to revisit a wilderness retreat with a question about our own privilege and blindness to the depth of need of the poor and dispossessed.

Try using Mark’s Aramaic and Hebrew words to make a poem: Boanerges (Thunder, 3:17); talitha koum (arise, 4:41); corban (gift, 7:11), Ephaphatha (open, 7:34); Hosanna (save now, 11:9); Abba (daddy, 14:36); Golgotha (Skull Place, 15:22); Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani (My G*D, my G*D, why have you left me, 15:34).