Monday, June 8, 2009

That'll learn 'em

Christ Stilling the Waves
Edward Burne Jones

On that day,
when evening had come,
he said to them,
‘Let us go across to the other side.’

And leaving the crowd behind,
they took him with them in the boat,
just as he was.
Other boats were with him.

A great gale arose,
and the waves beat into the boat,
so that the boat was already being swamped.

But he was in the stern,
asleep on the cushion;
and they woke him up and said to him,
‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’

He woke up and rebuked the wind,
and said to the sea,
‘Peace! Be still!’
Then the wind ceased,
and there was a dead calm.

He said to them,
‘Why are you afraid?
Have you still no faith?’

And they were filled with great awe and said to one another,
‘Who then is this,
that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
Mark 4:35-41 NRSV

I am currently preparing my second sermon of the year, based on the above passage.

It is a wonderful section of the Gospels, and Mark's version is my favourite telling of this event. In typical Marcan fashion, he places the moods of the disciples closer to the surface than the other evangelists. Throughout Mark, the disciples seem hopeless, they don't understand anything, and seem to constantly need reassurance. They doubt Jesus' divinity.

Yet, in Mark, Jesus is also a bit stroppier. The episode where he curses the fig tree, and in the above passage:

He said to them,
‘Why are you afraid?
Have you still no faith?’
In Matthew and Luke, He is gentler toward them; he understands they not understanding. Here in Mark, you can almost hear His frustration. How much more will they need? As we know, it will take a lot more than just claming a storm to prove who He is.
Before going into some homelitical exegesis, there are two bits of information that aren't in the reading, but from earlier within the same chapter.
Again he began to teach beside the lake.
Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake
and sat there,
while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land.
Mark 4:1 NRSV
This lets us know where Jesus was, the fact that He was already in the boat, and that He had been teaching there before. This was not a new occurance, but I suspect this is the largest crowd He has had up to this point. There were so many people, He had to step into the boat, either for the sake of space, or to gain height so a larger than expected crowd could hear and see Him.

I like to think there is something about the fact that He alone is on water, while severyone else is on land. Something for further investigation.

Jesus then taeches in a series of parables. After this Mark informs us:

he did not speak to them except in parables,
but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Mark 4:34 NRSV

To the average punter, He spoke in mysterious tales. Those who get it will get it. However, He will explain all this in full to His disciples. I can't help but think that the stilling of the storm is one such occasion.

Jesus sleeps, the storm comes, the disciples freak out and complain to Him that He doesn't care. Was this a test? Was the stilling of the storm an enacted parable to teach faith?

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