In Thursday morning’s Women’s Bible Study we discussed two perilous crossings. The first is in Mark 4:35-41, and the second is Mark 6:45-53. Both of these stories are similar – the disciples are in a boat, they encounter bad weather and/or choppy waters, and then Jesus stills the stormy weather. But there are differences in these two stories as well.
In the first journey, the crossing was made under the protection of Jesus. Jesus says to his disciples “Let us go across to the other side.” But He was in the stern, sleeping, when a great windstorm arose and the waves were beating into the boat, overtaking them. “Do you not care that we are perishing?” and Jesus simply says, “Peace! Be Still!” Storm over. He does ask one question – “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
In the second journey in Mark 6, however, the disciples make the journey on their own. In fact, the episode begins on a tense note. It says that Jesus forced them to make the journey on their own – 3 times the spatial opposition between Jesus and the disciples is stressed:
1. He forces them to go ahead while he dismissed the crowd
2. He leaves them to go pray in the hills
3. The boat was far out to sea while he was alone on the land.
And this time, when they were "straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the seas. He intended to pass them by."
What does that even mean – he intended to pass them by? It was only when they were terrified because they saw what they thought to be a ghost walking on the sea and they cried out, did Jesus say to them “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” And then the wind ceased.
The two phrases Jesus utters in times of terror:
"Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?"
"Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."
Faith, or a lack of it, is a major theme in these stories. The Disciples in the Gospel of Mark are known as the Duh-ciples – they just don’t seem to get it. And as these two crossings progress, so does the Disciples’ lack of understanding. Chet Myers in his commentary on Mark, “Binding the Strong Man,” writes that ‘the tension between Jesus and the disciples mirrors the tension between His church and the ministry to which it is called.’
It is important to remember that The Boat is a common metaphor for the Christian Church. The purpose of a boat is to travel the waters, sometimes among the choppy and turbulent seas. The purpose of a boat is not, however, to be tied up at the dock in a safe harbor.
At the end of our study yesterday, Deacon Renee Erickson sang us a song, including this important verse:
"When the winds of circumstance seem poised to destroy my ship,
How many times has it slipped my mind…..
it was Christ who suggested the trip."
Peace Be With You,