January 30, 2024
Tuesday morning Bible Study on the Gospel of Mark 6:45-52
Good morning on this beautiful warm January morning. I pray that God's revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ in the season after the Epiphany of our Lord is bringing to you a sense of awe and wonder at the power and love of God for your very life. Today I have a greeting for you from Pastor Ron and Becky who have been busy with their families in MN, and especially busy with the repairs to their home after a flooding event. They are really hoping to be back in early February. They send their love. This week at church we will have our Gospel Music Group leading worship, and after, a carry-in meal. I hope that you will be able to be with us for what has become a really wonderful worship event.
Today we move on to the next passage in chapter 6 of the Gospel of Mark. Like the passage about the feeding of the 5000+++, the next story is very familiar. In verses 35-52 we have the story of the disciples on Galilee in a boat at night, having been sent to cross Galilee by Christ. What we have probably focused on in this passage is the storm, and Christ's subsequent walking on the water. For the Scandinavian Lutherans, I grew up in a Swedish Lutheran congregation, this passage was often key. After all, these people were often sea faring, so the story of Christ saving of the disciples was, and probably still is, very important in these communities. Though Mark does not speak of Peter walking to Christ, it is the same source which provides that story, and all of the Gospels, but Luke, hold this passage in common with a few twists and differences. Matthew 14:22-33 and John 6:16-21 are the Gospels who share this story. Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan, I should not have been surprised by the bigger than life painting to the right of the altar of Peter falling through the water and reaching out to Christ for His saving hand. When I go to my home congregation today, the art has been painted over with brilliant colors shaping the half dome of the altar, but it will always be vivid in my mind. So, we have the storm and Christ's coming on the surface of the stormy waters to save the disciples, but what is written "between" the lines here is really important too.
We need to know that after such a large and surprising miracle, Jesus was faced with several on-going issues in His life.
1. The break that He had intended to take with His Disciples never happened. More than 5000 people followed him, needed feeding, healing, and being taught God's Truth, but this ended up becoming far more than just that miracle. I hope that Christ's sending away the disciples was an act of sparing them from the crowd's exuberance, for Christ had probably grown, grown to the point where He was worried that the people would move to make Him their King. Remember that this area was best known for its political and religious zealots in all of Israel. Jesus may well have not wanted His followers to be influenced by this radical thinking. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of such a push to crown Christ King. We don't know how Jesus dismissed the crowds, and we have no record of the witnesses, who would become later authors of the Gospels, of what Jesus said to get them to leave. Jesus had already been through those 40 days in the wilderness and its temptations for Him. Perhaps this move to crown Him king was tempting. After all, we do see Jesus needing to isolate and pray over all of this before He sees the distress of the disciples on Galilee.
2. There was the issue of His responsibility for the disciples. When He saw the disciples in trouble, he moved immediately to help His friends, just like He moved to feed that hungry mass of people. Wherever Jesus saw people in need of help, He moved to bring that help to their lives. That's you and me too. In our sin we are constantly in need of Christ's help if we are to have hope that we can be right with God. Christ comes to us through His gift of himself in the bread, (This Is My Body) and the wine, (This Is My Blood). Our hope comes from His constant Spirit intervention in our lives. We need His help, and He comes to bring it to us! We know that the Sea of Galilee event happens late at night because the 4th watch is the last of the night's divisions. 6PM to 6AM. The fourth watch would be 3AM - 6PM. It would seem that the disciples had been trying to get across Galilee for quite some time, fighting against the wind to do so. I know, you might be saying, well aren't they fishermen who are always in boats? The problem for them was their fishing was always within a few blocks of the shore, and now they are on the body of Galilee, perhaps miles from any shore. They are in trouble. Galilee is a fairly shallow body of water; its waves are devastatingly deep and close to each other just like the ones on Lake Michigan.
3. Another difficulty which Jesus faced every day was the hostility of the orthodox religious community that was always after Him, no matter where He went. This miracle of the feeding may well have created for them a greater feeling of moving more quickly to stop Jesus. He was a threat to their lives, its power and wealth and manipulation of the people who were so desperate for God's help! In addition to the orthodox, there was Herod Antipas, the current Jewish king who was frightened and suspicious of this threatening teacher of God's Truth, who Herod could only see as an enemy.
Jesus carried all of these things on His heart, and we must not forget that He already knew how this would all end. Even with all of this before Him, Jesus moved forward with confidence. For you and me, there is clue here about how we should handle all of the unknown trouble which may come our way. Jesus conquered the storms of this life, and so can we when we face all the coming troubles and storms with Christ in, with, and around us every moment of every day. Next Monday we move on to yet another crowd, in need of so much healing and hope.
In Christ's love, Pastor Kim