Proper 7, Year B: Mark 4:35-41: Expanding the Table

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 7, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus asks his disciples to come with him across the lake in the evening. They left a big crowd behind and got in a boat with Jesus. There were also other boats accompanying them. While they were out on the lake, a huge wind came up and the waves were coming into the boat so that it was getting swamped. Jesus was inside the boat, asleep. His disciples woke him, telling him they feared they would drown.

Jesus stood up and commanded the wind and water to be still. The wind stopped and the lake calmed.

He turned to his friends and asked why they were so afraid and why they didn’t have faith.

They were amazed at such a man who could command the wind and waves.

 

I’ve read some commentaries on this and find it compelling that when Jesus takes his disciples across the lake, it means he’s taking them toward the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people. The Christians in Mark’s time are figuring out how the Gospel changes when Gentiles come to it–many Jewish Christians were still following Jewish dietary laws and insisting on circumcision, but obviously that changed over time as more Gentiles came to faith. So they head out across the lake and when a storm comes up, they are afraid. They maybe fear how Jesus brings his love and truth to the world, and not only to those like themselves. Jesus was always expanding the table (I love this analogy in A Bigger Table by John Pavlovitz).

Proper 14, Year A: Matthew 14:22-33: Do Not Be Afraid

Jesus Walks on Water

Source: iStockphoto.com

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 14, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Matthew.

 

This is a well-known story, but try to consider it anew.

Jesus sends his disciples out on a boat. He instructs them to go to the other side of the lake and tells them he would join them later.  Then he sent the crowds he’d been teaching (this is right after the feeding of the 5,000) away so he could go up into the hills to pray.  This is not a part of the story people usually focus on, but I like this idea of going into the hills to pray. We go to a lake house in Maine almost every summer, and I can really feel the presence of God on the hill overlooking the lake where the house is perched. It’s a beautiful place to pray. He spends enough time alone in prayer that the boat has gone far from shore. The boat was having trouble in choppy waves on a windy night. Early in the morning, Jesus goes to the boat by walking upon the water. Understandably, his disciples freak the heck out when they see him–screaming that it’s a ghost.

Jesus calls out to them not to be afraid and Peter responds, “Lord, if that is really you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus says, “Come, Peter.”

I love this simple command.

So Peter gets out and walks on the water to Jesus, but then he gets afraid seeing the wind and the waves and starts to sink. He calls out to Jesus to save him. Jesus saves, as we say, and he does save Peter. He says, “Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?”

After they are back in the boat, the wind stops and his followers worship him and say, “You really are the Son of God.”

There are a lot of ways to read this story, and many have become Christian clichés about “stepping out of the boat,” “stepping out in faith,” “walking on water,” “keeping your eyes on Jesus,” etc. It can be used for good or ill (such as encouraging people to take harmful risks or give money they can ill afford to give to already rich televangelists, etc. But I like to keep it fairly simple on this blog. What is the heart of the story to you? For me today, I’m drawn back to the image of Jesus, praying alone in the hills overlooking the lake, then going down to help his friends in the wind-tossed waves. “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid,” he says.  There’s a lot to be afraid of, but we must go out and do good in this world. Do not be afraid.