3 February 2016

Mark 6:45-52

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said; ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”’ (v. 50)

Psalm: Psalm 27


This passage follows on from Jesus feeding the 5,000 (which we looked at on Monday) and tells the story of one of his most challenging miracles, at least to 21st-century eyes, namely walking on the waves and calming the storm. It begins with Jesus dismissing the crowds (verse 45) and telling his disciples to sail over to the other side of the lake while he goes alone up to the mountain to pray.

Then, early in the morning, Jesus observed his disciples in the boat struggling against the wind, and he came to them walking apparently on the sea and intending to "pass them by" (v. 48) at which the disciples mistook him for a ghost and were even more terrified (verses 49-50). However, Jesus spoke to them, telling them to take heart and not be afraid, and got into the boat with them - 'and immediately', a phrase which occurs often in Mark's Gospel, "the wind ceased" (v. 51).

At this point we're told that the disciples were "utterly astounded" (v. 51), as they didn't understand what had happened with the loaves and fishes for their hearts were "hardened" (v. 52). Perhaps we may have some sympathy with them, for it's equally hard for us to take in all that's happened. It's a challenge also to understand why the disciples, at least four of whom appear to have been fishermen experienced with conditions on Galilee, seem to have been so panicked by a squall on the lake.

However, the way the story is told suggests that this is not simply a story about a storm at sea; rather it's more about how ill equipped the disciples were to face a storm on the sea of faith when Jesus was not with them. It's noticeable how the wind died down immediately Jesus was in the boat with them. It's also noticeable how Jesus' word's "Take heart, it is I" resonate with those great 'I am' sayings in John's Gospel, and indeed with the name of God revealed to Moses in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14). It's as if this whole story is saying, both to the disciples in the boat and to all those who have read or heard this passage ever since, that if you want to be ready to face the winds and waves, you need first to recognise who Jesus is and how he can be, as the hymn puts it, "our anchor in the storms of life".

To Ponder

  • Have there ever been a time when you felt your faith was about to be overwhelmed? Who or what was it that helped to anchor and bring you through?
  • How might this story help you towards a different understanding of the miracles of Jesus?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Wigley

Stephen Wigley is a Methodist minister currently serving as chair of the Wales Synod. He is married to Jenny, a priest in the Church in Wales, and they have two teenage sons, David and Andrew.