Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mark 6:45–56

Mark 6:45–56 (ESV): Jesus Walks on the Water, and Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret


Once again I’ve decided to combine a couple of ESV section headings into one post; the first is a significant miracle of which we’re all familiar, while the second seems (to me) to be more of an aside between stories than a significant event itself. I won’t push that point too far, though; it’s in the Bible, which means that God wanted it there for a reason.

After feeding the 5,000 in the last passage, Jesus has the disciples get in a boat to cross over to Bethsaida. He is sending them on ahead while he dismisses the crowd, and then he goes up on a mountain to pray.

That evening, when the disciples are already well out on the sea (though moving slowly because they are going against the wind), Jesus walks out toward them on the sea. At first he means to walk right on by them, but when they see him they assume he’s a ghost and cry out in fear, so he reassures them that it’s him and gets in the boat with them. As soon as he does the wind ceases. But the disciples still don’t understand what’s going on:

And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. (verses 51b–52 (ESV))
Once they get to the other side of the sea, to a place called Gennesaret, people immediately recognize Jesus and start sending sick people to him to be healed. In a stark contrast to Jesus’ reception in his hometown at the beginning of this chapter, Jesus heals many people here:

And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. (verse 56 (ESV))


Once again we have an instance of Jesus going off by himself to pray. In fact, that might very well be the reason that he sent the disciples ahead: so that he could get some time alone to devote to prayer. And so I make my usual comment that I make whenever Jesus specifically takes time for prayer: If Jesus, who is God, feels the need (or desire) to take time to pray to the Father, then how can we mortals possibly think we don’t need to pray?

One of the things that interests me about Jesus walking on the water, one of his most famous miracles, is that he didn’t appear to intend it to be famous. When he first sets out he doesn’t even plan to stop and get in the boat with the disciples, he seems to intend to simply walk all the way across the sea and meet the disciples on the other side. I’m sure that would have been considered a miracle too, that Jesus had somehow beaten them to the other side of the sea, but not in the way that it was received when the disciples actually saw him walking on the water.

This passage gives one of the main reasons that I don’t ever let myself think that I’m somehow smarter or better than the disciples. They didn’t understand about Jesus feeding the 5,000 because “their hearts were hardened.” They didn’t understand what was going on because God had not [yet] given them the supernatural understanding necessary to figure these things out. Anything I understand now that they didn’t understand then is only because the Holy Spirit has enlightened me, not because I’m somehow smarter or more spiritual than they were. And of course it’s always easy to have perfect hindsight, whereas the disciples had no idea how any of these situations they were in were going to turn out, so I do my best to keep that in mind too.

It’s also interesting that Chapter 6 starts with Jesus being essentially rejected by the people of his hometown, and ends with him being very well received at Gennesaret. When Mark originally wrote this letter it didn’t contain chapter or verse numbers, but I’m sure the people who introduced chapter numbers later on did this on purpose, starting the chapter with Nazareth and ending it with Gennesaret.
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