Yesterday I led the third session of the six-session Lent Scripure Study of the Gospel of Mark we are doing at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Minneapolis. In the first session, I gave a brief introduction to the Gospel of Mark and talked about Jesus’ Early Galilean Ministry. (Mark 1:1-3:6) Last Sunday, while I was out at Pepperdine, Patrice Stegbauer led the session on what is sometimes termed Jesus’ Later Galilean Ministry. (Mark 3:7-6:6a)
In our third session yesterday, I addressed Jesus’ ministry in and beyond Galilee. (Mark 6:6b-8:30) In my talk I focused on several episodes: The missioning of the twelve (that opens this segment), the death of John the Baptist, the invitation to rest and feeding of the multitude, Jesus’ walking on water, and healings of the deaf man and of the blind man at Bethsaida. I ended with Peter’s declaration of who Jesus is. Many of these are passages I have prayed with many times (and some of which I have written about here in the past).
To comment on one of those: After feeding the multitude, Jesus sends his disciples ahead of him in their boat and he goes up to the mountain to pray. The disciples are out on the boat on the sea and, as they are battling an adverse wind Jesus comes toward them early in the morning walking on the sea.
The disciples are terrified at what they see, thinking it is a ghost, to which Jesus says “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” He then gets into the boat with them and the wind dies down. Mark ends the passage by telling us, “And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”
There are several things we might take from this passage. First, Jesus always comes to us in the storms of life. I am reminded of the words of God to Isaiah: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”
Second, we have to ask: why did they not recognize Jesus? And why were they so utterly astonished that Jesus walked to them on the sea and then calmed the waters? Mark tells us they did not understand the lesson from the loaves and fishes. One commentator writes
Had the disciples understood who Jesus truly was there would have been no reason for them to be amazed. They would have understood that the same God who granted them power to go out and preach, and who turned a few loaves into several bakeries worth of bread, was the same God who walked on the water, calmed the seas and then climbed into the boat with them.
The disciple’s hearts were not sensitive to spiritual things. Their minds hadn’t been honed to process and understand the spiritual realities that were unfolding around them. So the disciples found themselves in a boat to be taught the same lesson all over again. The great storm came up to test and teach them again that Jesus is the Son of God. The wind and waves rose so that they would understand that God is with them and will provide for all their needs. And then Jesus walked on water.
Do we know who Jesus is? Hearkening back to my comments yesterday about worry, do we know that God is with us and will provide for all our needs?