March 6 is filled with rich accounts, starting with the people of Nazareth expressing contempt for “this Jesus” who seemed to be walking far above the stature from what the locals knew of him. Immediately next is the description of how John the Baptist was beheaded, followed by the accounts of Jesus feeding 5,000+ people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and finally, Jesus calms the storm by speaking to the sea. I really struggled to discern what to focus on, so rich are all of these accounts, but what rises to the top is the concept of mental purity.
To explain, today I am visiting my mother in South Dakota and I attended the local Episcopal Church service. In the Book of Common Prayer there is a Collect for Purity that we recited today: “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Reading Mark 6 from the backdrop of this Collect for Purity, I ask myself, were the people who were “offended” (verse 3) at Jesus’ speaking with power and wisdom – had they at first consecrated their hearts to God? Were “no secrets hidden” from the Lord? Did they harbor no hidden pride, stinginess or small-mindedness? How about me as I walk daily with the Lord? Do I truly lay down my “hidden” agenda from Him? Do I daily ask Him to cleanse the thoughts of my heart?
The account of how John the Baptist was beheaded (verses 14-29) is rife with Herodias’ hidden agenda, selfishness and a desire to maintain the favor of King Herod with whom she was having an affair, even going through her own daughter to secure the execution of John the Baptist. While most of our hidden agendas don’t have such outrageous results, how damaging they must be nevertheless as they remain hidden in our hearts, even festering until they find their release in some way that might surprise even us.
Continuing in Mark 6, verses 30-44, the account of how Jesus feeds the 5,000+ people began with the disciples asking Jesus to “send the people away” for they had little, if anything, to eat. Jesus did not address the state of their hearts but only showed them how the Father can multiply our meager supply with His supernatural supply. As the disciples passed out the bread and the fish, it must have been astonishing to them how the elements multiplied over and over again in their very hands! When had such a thing ever happened before? You might think they would never forget it. Yet, verse 52 says, “For they considered not the miracle of the loaves…for their hearts were hardened (calloused).”
Am I so different from them? Does not the Lord provide for me over and over, and each time, while I’m grateful, I have a tendency to forget how His mercies are new to me every day. Cleanse my thoughts, Lord, and help me to have a pure heart. Let no secrets be hidden, but help me to more perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy Name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.