Chapter six is the second-longest chapter in Mark, surpassed only by chapter fourteen, which records the night of Jesus betrayal and arrest. Having returned to Nazareth, Jesus preached in the synagogue on the Sabbath as was his custom (Mark 6:1-6). However, validating the adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” his hometown neighbors rejected him, primarily because they had watched him grow up. This led Jesus to state what has become another proverbial saying: “A prophet is without honor in his own country.” Mark made the interesting point that Jesus was in fact hindered from doing miracles here because of their unbelief.
Matthew recorded Jesus’ sending of the twelve to preach, heal, and cast out demons earlier in the chronology than Mark did (Mark 6:7-13; Matthew 10). However, it is possible, and even likely, that he did this on more than one occasion. Jesus’ powerful ministry caught the attention of Herod (Mark 6:14-29). It is somewhat humorous that God recorded Herod’s superstitions; he thought John the Baptizer had been resurrected and was haunting him. This led to Mark recording the reason for John’s death – he had repeatedly spoken out against Herod’s illicit marriage to Herodias (his brother’s wife), until she had had enough. Not unlike a politician today caught with a “hot mic,” Herodias caught Herod making a drunken promise for anything her daughter wanted. Herodias had her request John’s head, literally, on a silver platter.
Jesus knew the importance of rest after a period of intensive ministry, so when the Twelve returned from their latest itinerant tour, Jesus took them away for a break. However, the crowds would not stay away, so Jesus continued to teach them (Mark 6:30-34). After a long day of teaching, when the crowds did not leave on their own, Jesus tasked the disciples with feeding the crowd (Mark 6:35-44). By this time, they should have known to trust him for everything. Instead, they complained that it was impossible, so Jesus performed his greatest miracle (save the resurrection itself) – feeding possibly as many as 20,000 people with five small loaves of bread and two fish, with twelve full baskets left over.
Following this massive meal, Jesus personally sent the crowd away and sent the disciples across the lake, while he went up the mountain to pray, which was probably his intention when he took the disciples there for their retreat originally (Mark 6:45-52). As the Twelve fought a supernatural storm, Jesus walked across the top of the water. Only Mark contains the humorous note that Jesus intended to walk right past them. Instead, he got into the boat with them, stopped the storm, and went to the other side with them. There he continued to heal those who sought him out (Mark 6:53-56).