Sundays on Mark (18): Jesus the miracle man

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections on Mark’s gospel

This week Mark 6:45-56: Jesus walks on water

This story is tightly tied to the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 and the probable resultant ‘messianic mania’ that followed. ‘Immediately’Jesus packs the disciples off, deals with the crowd by dispersing them and withdraws for prayer. This is a repeated pattern in Mark [see after the Sabbath healing (1:35-9); here in ch 6 and also in 14:26-42. Jesus walks a solitary path of the surprising, unexpected and ultimately unacceptable Messiah. He consistently rejects being boxed in to the people’s expectations. His is a Messianic call that does not fit with the glorious warrior reclaiming Israel’s spiritual and political freedom.

His walking across the lake and the disciples’ reaction echoes the earlier calming of the storm. They are ‘on their own’ and struggling and Jesus comes to them and not only solves their immediate problem (a tough row in the middle of the night) but demonstrates his power over natural elements. In both cases their reaction is one of fear and lack of faith. The reference to ‘hardened hearts’ regarding the significance of the just performed miracle, shows that they have not yet begun to grasp the significance of who he is.

And you get this sense with the people in Gennesaret too – there is intense excitement as the word spreads and you can imagine village squares filled with the sick, lame, paralysed and walking wounded – all wanting a healing touch of his power. Jesus’ message or identity is not mentioned – it is this miracle worker’s restoring power understandably people are desperate to experience. And he graciously responds.

Prayer: We thank you Lord Jesus that you come to us graciously despite our hardened hearts, despite our limited understanding and despite our self-interested motives. Help us through your Spirit to have hearts of faith, deeper understanding of your glory and renewed motivation to serve others in love. Amen.

Jesus Walks on the Water

45Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

47When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

53When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.

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