Why the Zealots Wanted Jesus to be Their Leader: Studies in Mark, Pt. 18

In the last couple of posts dealing with "Studies in Mark," I have been analyzing the story generally referred to as "The Feeding of the 5,000." I have argued a number of points in those posts: 1) The story is not just about a "feeding," it is also about Jesus "teaching," 2) The 5,000 men in the story were political zealots, 3) The zealots wanted new leadership because of all the evil and corruption brought about by the Herodian family, and 4) The way that Mark arranges and tells his stories in chapter 6, is done purposefully and with numerous echoes from the Hebrew Scriptures.

In this post, which I will keep short, I want to add some more thoughts on this. In thinking about the arrangement, structure and context of Mark's narrative of the story about the 5,000, a question came up: Why did the zealots choose Jesus to be their new religio-political leader? In other words, what piqued their interest in Him above anyone else? After thinking about ths question from a number of viewpoints, I soon began to think about it from a literary (or narrative) point-of-view and it really made a lot of sense. Let me explain.

In all of my posts up to this point, I have shown repeatedly that Mark's account of the Gospel has an incredibly religio-political sense to it. Indeed, in the opening verses, Mark portrays Jesus and John the Baptizer in the roles of Caesar and his forerunners (e.g. they are replacing them!). Moreover, in 1.14-15, Mark is already talking about a new "kingdom" being brought about by Jesus. After the initial chapter, the reader constantly sees the synagogue and political leaders out to kill Jesus and in 3.6, the Pharisees and the Herodians team up against Jesus--a teaming up that would have been unthinkable in that time period. So, as Mark shows, the situation is intense.

But before the encounter with the 5,000, Mark also shows a number of supernatural things: Jesus drives out demons, heals lepers, calms the winds and the waves, heals an impaired woman and raises a dead girl among other things. And it is at this juncture that my initial question needs to be asked again: Why did the zealots choose Jesus to be their new religio-political leader? Actually, we might ask: Why wouldn't they have? Think about it, if they want a new military leader, isn't Jesus the best choice? If they find themselves in a war and they are up against a mighty evil, their new leader can drive it out! If they find that some of the soldiers have come down with illnesses, He can heal them! If they are traveling and get caught up in a storm, He can calm it down! If they get injured and bleed, He can heal them! If they die in battle, He can raise them to life! If they are on an excursion and lack food, He can feed them! Again, why wouldn't these zealots want Him to be their leader?

In the eyes of these military men, Jesus is the type of leader one could only dream of! But this brings me back to one of the points raised in my previous two posts: Mark tells us that Jesus not only fed the people but "taught" them too! What He had to do was teach them about His identity, that He was not that kind of leader or any other leader they had ever seen or heard of. This is, again, why I say that the "teaching" aspect of the story cannot be swallowed up by the "feeding" aspect of the story! Besides, as anyone who reads the narrative will recognize, the teaching comes before the feeding. This means that it is after Jesus explains who He is that the miracle takes place; in other words, the multiplying of the fish and loaves is a testament to what Jesus taught about Himself, not a stand alone event as so many preachers and commentators imply!

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