Summary: As it begins a story about Jesus feeding a crowd isolated in the wilderness, the Gospel according to Mark comments that Jesus felt compassion for the people because he saw them as “sheep without a shepherd.” They were people denied leadership. People who were considered expendable. People who could be manipulated for the gain and pride of their so-called leaders. Bad leadership has a way of dehumanizing people, because bad leaders choose domination and intimidation as their tools. The wider context of this part of Mark’s narrative, with its focus on numbers of people attracted to Jesus, reminds us that Jesus was not the kind of leader who imposed his will on others or who sought out followers. His qualifications were not about displaying his gifts, flashing his charisma, or manifesting courage; rather, he restored people. He demonstrated a commitment to their well-being and wholeness. Preachers might be inspired by this story to consider their own vocations as leaders. Sermons are opportunities to put leadership into action, not with the preacher insisting on their own authority or cleverness, but with the preacher offering the refreshment of the good news and reiterating the opportunity for all to share in God’s healing, restorative intentions for this work and its people.
I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Mark 6:30-34, 53-56. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.