Feb 23 2013 - Mark 6:30-56 – A word to the terrified
Imagine that you have had a long, hard, but exciting day. You are probably looking forward to a good sleep but have been sent off to cross the Sea of Galilee before you take your rest. You then discover that you cannot set the sail and take your rest in the boat because there is a strong wind blowing directly against you; you must row. And so you attempt the rowing, perhaps different ones from your company rowing together in shifts. But, despite all your efforts you are making very slow progress due to the opposing wind. And it is dark, very dark, for it is now past midnight.
Then, all of a sudden, you catch sight of something off to one side of the boat. As you peer into the darkness you see that it looks like a man, walking past you, walking on the water! It must be a ghost, an ill-omen surely. The boat is now in uproar as all cry out in terror, crying out also in prayer to be saved from this thing.
And your prayers are answered; you are saved. For the figure now speaks to you, "Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid" (Mark 6:50). And immediately you recognise the voice and the figure – it is Jesus. And now he is with you in the boat. And now that he is here, the wind stops its opposition and you are soon safely arrived at the shore.
As Mark relates this story he adds, "They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened" (6:51-52). That they were amazed we can understand; it had been a day of amazements. By why does Mark link their amazement with them not having understood about the loaves? Perhaps he means that they had not yet grasped the answer to their own question, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" (Mark 4:41). Had they not seen in his feeding of the five thousand that here is the one who fed Israel with manna in the desert; here is the God of Israel come to his people in the person of Jesus? Here is the one who commanded the waters of the Red Sea and they parted so that the Israelites walked across on dry ground. Why should such a person not walk across a lake on the water? Why should not the presence of such a person still the wind and bring his companions safe to shore?
And, are we still slow to understand? Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He still speaks to us as he draws alongside us in the moments of our panic, "Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid." Maybe we have known his presence and experienced remarkable answers to prayer in times past but have then failed to learn from these things – we ‘have not understood about the loaves.’
Begone unbelief, my Saviour is near,
And for my relief will surely appear:
By prayer let me wrestle, and he will perform,
With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm…
His love in time past forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink;
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,
Confirms his good pleasure to help me quite through.
Living God, thank you that when we were struggling in the storm and finding no way forward, you came to us in the person and gentle power of Jesus of Nazareth. Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you that you have promised never to leave us on our own, but to be with us to the very end of the age. Keep me from the fear that would overwhelm me. Soften my heart by the power of your Spirit that it may receive the impress of your character. May I delight in your presence this day and serve you with confidence and joy through the strength which you supply.