One of the things I’ve learned from Haddon Robinson is to pay careful attention to the text. I’m sure others have taught me this, but Robinson got through to me. There’s no substitute for what comes out of careful, sustained attention to the passage.
Take Mark 6. At first glance, it seems like a somewhat disjointed collection of stories:
- In Mark 6:7-13, Jesus sends out the twelve apostles.
- In Mark 6:14-29, John the Baptist is killed by Herod.
- In Mark 6:30-43, the apostles return and report on what happened when they were sent out. Jesus invites them to get away, but the crowds catch up to them. Jesus commands them to feed the vast crowd with a tiny amount of food.
What’s going on here? Either Mark is disjointed, or he’s saying something. It’s only when you pay careful attention that you realize that Mark tends to use a technique called Markan sandwiches. He interrupts a story with a seemingly unrelated story like this:
- Story A
- Story B
- Completion to Story A
The middle part, the meat in the sandwich, helps us to understand the surrounding story.
In this case, Mark is up to something:
- Mark 6:7-13 – Jesus sends out the apostles to minister.
- Mark 6:14-29 – John the Baptist is an example of what it looks like to be sent out to minister.
- Mark 6:30-43 – The apostles return to report what happened. They learn again that you can’t get away from ministry, and that we are called to minister out of divine resources, because our own resources will never be enough.
This blows my mind. What a profound statement about ministry.
- We have been sent out for ministry.
- The call to ministry is a call to suffering.
- Ministry takes us beyond our own resources and need for rest, but God is more than able despite our limits.
It turns out that Mark 6 is a profound statement about ministry. It’s one that I need to see. We’re called to minister and suffer beyond our limits, and God does his work in our weakness.
There really is no substitute for careful, sustained attention to the text. I love discovering things I could have easily missed. I’m also grateful for the important things we learn about ministry from this passage.