Today’s Gospel reports something that happened while Jesus was on the non-Jewish side of the lake of Galilee in a place referred to as the Decapolis, that is Ten Cities. It was a region that was very influenced by the Greeks, who were a people from another culture. A deaf and dumb man is brought to Jesus who heals him by touch and word. The healed man now hears and speaks and is told not to tell anyone who Jesus is. In spite of this, the new spreads.
For the past five weeks, the Gospels have been taken from chapter six of the Gospel John, Jesus’ teaching about the bread fo life. Today we return to chapter seven of the Gospel of Mark and we discover what, in the eyes of Jesus, true religion is all about. For the Pharisees, the emphasis was on the observation of the law both written and oral. For Jesus, however, what matters is the heart. More external observance without a corresponding movement of the heart does not please God. We are invited to see what is really important for our lives.
This is the final section of Jesus’ teaching after the multiplication of loaves and fishes. His words have been difficult to understand, and his hearers have been reacting to them. The decisive moment has come. Jesus’ talk of their eating his body is too much for some because they take it literally. For them, Jesus is making an impossible demand on them and so they decide to follow him no more.
The twelve, who also find his words difficult to understand, continue to trust in him and to follow him. Nobody hears the message of the kingdom as preached by Jesus can remain indifferent to it.
Jesus fed the people and spoke about a more important bread coming down from heaven. Now Jesus affirms clearly that the life-giving bread he has been speaking about is himself. He invites those who are listening to him to eat his flesh and drink his blood that they might live now and be raised up on the last day. This is the decisive moment in Jesus’ speech. His words are so shocking and challenging that the people have to decide whether to continue to follow him or to leave him altogether. Jesus insists forcefully on the need to eat his body and drink his blood. How will the people respond? How do we respond?
In his words after the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, Jesus proclaimed: “I am the bread of life.” He invited his listeners to come to him and believe in him so that they might have the kind of life that God always wanted for them. The people cannot believe that he has come down from heaven. They know his mother, Mary and foster father, Joseph. Knowing his human origin prevents them from believing in his divine origin. Jesus does not try to make his difficult message easier but repeats that he is the living bread come down from heaven. But to understand and accept who Jesus really is, a person must be drawn by the Father. Faith in Jesus is a gift from God.
When Jesus fed the people, they wanted to make him their king. But he escapes from the mountains. The people keep looking for him, when they find him the following day at Capernaum, they engage in a debate with him. The food Jesus gave him in the desert brings to their minds the manna of Moses. They expect Jesus to perform more miracles like this. Jesus explains to them that the real giver of the manna was not Moses, but God, his Father and that it is through him that God will continue to feed his people.
This Sunday and in the coming Sundays, the Gospel Readings will be taken from chapter six of the Gospel of John. In this chapter, John speaks about the miracle of the loaves and fish and its meaning. Jesus sees the crowd following him because of the signs that he has been working.
He takes the initiative and feeds them with five loaves and two fish and there are twelve baskets full of left-overs. Following the miracle, the people recognize that he is a prophet like Moses, who had been promised (DT 18:18) and they would like to make him their king. However, Jesus leaves the mand goes into the mountains to be alone.
The disciples sent our by Jesus, come back from their mission and report all that they have done and taught. Jesus then invites them to go with him to a lonely place where they could be by themselves and rest. They go off, but the crowds follow them. Jesus does not chase the crowd away but pities them and teaches them and later feeds them with five loaves and two fish. It might be helpful to read the entire section (MK 6:30-44) since the Gospels of the next five Sundays will show the meaning of the feeding of the crowd in chapter 6 of John.
The parable of the Good Shepherd is found only in John’s Gospel and it is the only parable in his Gospel. In the first part of the parable (John 10:1-10), Jesus uses the image of a gate. He is the gate through which the sheep pass. In the second part (John 10:11-18), he uses the image of a shepherd. A good shepherd is one who knows his sheep. Jesus knows all his sheep and they know his voice. He is ready to give his life to protect them. The events of Easter proved that he was a true shepherd of his people. Jesus gave up his life freely so that all people might re-establish their relationship with the Father.
In the Gospel of Luke, the Easter story tells us how the women discover the empty tomb and receive a message from two angels. However, the apostles refused to believe their story (Lk 24:1-12). Two other disciples also experience Jesus on their way to Emmaus as they listen to him explaining the Scriptures and finally recognize him in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24:13-35). As they return to share their experience with the other apostles, Jesus appears to all of them. He assures them that he has really risen, and he give them a new understanding of the Scriptures. It is with this new understanding of the Scriptures that they are sent out to be his witnesses, starting from Jerusalem. Meeting the risen Jesus always conveys a renewed understanding of what it means to be his follower.