Summary: When the disciples forget who Jesus is and what he does for them, Jesus doesn’t abandon them, he gets in the boat.
We have been working our way through Mark 6 for the past month or so. We’ve had readings from it every week, and even a couple of sermons. And today, sadly, we get to the end of Mark 6. I love this chapter, because it is vintage Mark. What I mean by that is that God used Mark to write a Gospel, a history of Jesus earthly ministry, that is fast paced, hard hitting, and to the point. The pace is incredible (the word “Immediately” is used about 40 times), the language isn’t flowery, but concise, and yet the book is jam packed with the teachings and actions of Jesus. When you read through it, or hear it out loud, you don’t want to blink, because you might miss something huge.
Just look at what has happened in chapter 6 (in 1/16th of the book): Jesus is rejected in his hometown, the Apostles are sent on mission impossible, which God makes possible (healing, preaching, casting out demons in Galilee), John the Baptist is beheaded and buried, Jesus feeds thousands of people with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and then we get to today… Jesus walks on water!
There is something that the Holy Spirit wants to teach us with HOW Mark tells this story. I say that because I know some of you were reading along, listening to how Jesus walks on water and thinking, something is missing. Where’s Peter? Jesus walks on water out to the boat. The disciples are afraid, and then isn’t Peter supposed to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus?
Rest assured that Peter is there with all of the rest of the disciples, and that all of that happened, but Mark doesn’t mention this part of the account. WHY? There is a point to be made here about how we study the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). They all tell the story of Jesus life and ministry, and many of the events they talk about overlap. But we are blessed to have these 4 witnesses and their unique perspectives, because they each help us to focus in on different aspects of Jesus life and ministry. It’s fun to compare different accounts in the different Gospels, but there is also a great benefit to taking each account individually, apart from the others, and seeing what message God is trying to get across.
It’s kind of like when Anne and I both go to a wedding. We will focus on different things. If you ask Anne what the Bride’s dress was like, she might say something like, “it was a beautiful, empire waist gown, with beading on the front, and made from a shimmery satin.” I would answer that question by saying, “It was white.” Someone might ask, what the bride looked like, and Anne would say, “she had great eye makeup, diamond earrings, and great shoes.” I would say, “the bride was very pretty.” Anne might say the flower were, “calalilies.” I might say they were, “real.” There would be details that Anne would focus on that I wouldn’t. On the other hand, at the reception, I could look relate the buffet configuration to you from memory after glancing at it once. Same event, different details, different emphasis, but each has it’s own purpose.
It’s the same way with the Gospels, and we are blessed for it! And how are we blessed by Mark’s account of Jesus walking on the water. Well, there are a whole lot of thing we could talk about, but the main point is this: Mark wants us to know, God wants us to know, is who Jesus is, and how loving and patient Jesus is even when our faith is weak, even when we, “just don’t get it.”
I say this because if there is one thing you should be able to say about the disciples when we start this reading, it’s that they should be on a spiritual high. They just witnessed Jesus take 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and feed more people than you can fit into the new Columbus Clippers Stadium. And afterwards, there were 12 big basketfuls of leftovers (which I think James was going to combine with some cream of mushroom soup to make into a casserole).
And then they hurry off to the boats to get to their next stop Gennesaret, and Jesus stays back to get some time to himself to pray: “Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.”