Mark 6-7: Desperate

There’s a form of imaginative prayer in which you take a Gospel passage and put yourself into the scene, imagining what it would be like to be a disciple of Jesus, or a Pharisee, or a bystander, or whatever. I’m really bad at that.

But in Mark 6, there’s one line that dragged me into the scene. It’s the first of the two stories where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed a 4-figure crowd (with leftovers!). And in about 6:39, Jesus has everyone sit down in rows and sections. I’m not sure why; that detail doesn’t come up in the second feeding, two chapters later.

But it makes me think: what would it have been like to be in the back row? I mean, I get antsy when I’m toward the back of a lunch buffet, where the might run out of dessert. In fact, just generally, I am an unrepentant line-switcher who hates waiting for my turn. If you were in the last row of a crowd of 5,000, being served a few loaves of bread…why would you stay?

Faith, sure. But I’m thinking desperation, too. You stay if you can’t think of a better option (and they were in the middle of nowhere, late in the day, not a convenience store in sight). And that theory might have something to it, because after Jesus feeds the crowd and sends them off to bed, the rest of the chapter is one of those general “Jesus at work” summary types. Except it doesn’t focus on him teaching, or exorcising demons, or doing magic tricks. It focuses on people bringing their sick friends to him in hopes that he can make them well.

It takes faith and love to drag someone who is sick to a healer. But it almost always takes desperation, too. In Mark 7, one of the most unsettling stories of desperation jumps off the page – the Syrophoenician woman whose daughter has a demon and who begs and argues with Jesus to get his healing. (It works, even though you don’t want to think of Jesus needing to be argued into it.)

For whom would you be so desperate? It seems to me that to parent is to know that answer. Marriage can teach us the love that sparks that kind of desperation, too (was I the only one devastated by that Google Super Bowl ad?). 

Whether you focus on Jesus on the cross, or on His mother at the foot of the cross, it’s pretty clear that that sort of desperation is interwoven into the center of the story of God and us. I have said this so often that you’re probably rolling your eyes, but the biggest way we get God wrong is expecting divinity to be connected to ultimate power. We think power is the most important thing in life, so we think that for God to be God, He has to be all powerful. But power isn’t the central thing in life; relationship is, love is. The God we want isn’t the one on the throne; it’s the one on the cross, so in love that He’s desperate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: