Mark 6:45-52 (Ninth Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 12—Series B)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
July 26, 2015
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text this morning is the Gospel lesson recorded for us in Mark 6:
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
There are a couple of strange things going on in our Gospel lesson today. By “strange” I mean “odd,” “unusual,” maybe even “weird.” First, we encounter a strange Jesus. He comes walking on the water when He sees the disciples being tormented by the wind as they were rowing along, but . . . was actually desiring to pass by them. Weird. The second strange thing is the label given to Jesus’ disciples. They are “hard-hearted.” That’s a term used for Jesus’ opponents and enemies. How odd that disciples and enemies would be described in the same way! Strange things are going on in our Gospel lesson today. So let’s jump right into the strangeness and oddity of it all so we can come to know Jesus better.
Jesus is portrayed by Mark in this Gospel as someone who is odd. Jesus is quite a strange individual, someone who we might call quirky. For example, Jesus heals a leper in Mark 1. Next, Jesus censures the guy and throws him out. (1:43) Then Jesus tells the healed man not to tell anyone what had happened, and the man does, and Jesus goes out into the desert to escape from the crowds that follow, even though He said that He has come to preach. (1:45) Strange! When Jesus comes walking on the water to come to the disciples, Mark records that “He was actually desiring to pass by them” as they looked on. Why go out there in the first place when you see them struggling if you want to simply elude them? Weird! After Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He curses the fig tree that didn’t have any figs, even though it was not the season for figs! Odd!
As readers of Mark’s Gospel we are compelled to ask ourselves, “Who is this guy?” He’s so strange. Can you see why Jesus’ family thought He was crazy? The religious leaders said He was spirit-possessed, maybe due in part to Jesus’ tendency to interact and converse with demonic spirits as He threw them out of those they had possessed. It seems that no one really knew what to do with or what to make of Jesus, much less the disciples who were with Him day in and day out.
What did we hear last Sunday? “And when it grew late, [Jesus’] disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’ But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ And they said to him, ‘Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?’ And he said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have? Go and see.’ And when they had found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’ (Mark 6:35-38) So Jesus fed 5000 men with the five loaves and the two fish, and everyone ate and was satisfied, and there were 12 basket-fulls of leftovers, one, interestingly enough, for each of the disciples.
Who is this Jesus who is able to heal the sick, cast out unclean spirits, and multiply bread and fish so that a small stadium full of people could eat their fill? Who else can He be but God? But the disciples didn’t understand about the loaves. They didn’t understand who Jesus is. For if they had understood, they would have not cried out in fear when they saw Him walking on the water. They would have called to Him with faith and trust for help. The disciples did not see Jesus for who He truly is—they thought He was a phantom, a ghost. And Jesus, who wished to pass by them, does not, but offers them hope, “Be of good courage; it is I! Stop being afraid.” Jesus, Lord of all creation, who walks on the water, “who treads on the high places of the sea,” (Job 9:8) comes to the frightened disciples like a shepherd comes to his frightened sheep.
But they don’t understand. Their hearts are hardened. They don’t comprehend that Jesus is God who has come in human flesh, in a physical way, unlike any experiences of those in the Old Testament. For Jesus is no less than the Lord God, the Creator and ruler of all creation, come to redeem and rescue His creation.
This is what Mark wants us to come to know by faith as we see in the pages of God’s Word that he was privileged to pen, that Jesus Christ is God. Jesus Christ is Lord of all creation, especially the crown of His creation, people. This is what Mark intends for us to understand as we see this Jesus do such strange things. How much stranger or odder can it get then the Son of God taking on human flesh and becoming like one of His creation? The Son of God becomes fully human. He becomes angry when the Jewish leaders do not accept his dealings with the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath. (Mark 3:5) Jesus doesn’t know who touched His garment after the woman does so in the crowd and she is healed of her bleeding. (5:30-33) Jesus moans and sighs. (7:34; 8:12) He eats and sleeps. He cries. But He alsomultiplies bread and fish; He walks on the seas; He calms the wind and the waves; He heals the sick and raises the dead. Jesus brings to humanity the reign and rule of God in His person and in His saving work.
Jesus is the God who has come to be with His people no matter where they are. He came to the disciples walking on the sea in the midst of a strong wind. Do not think that He cannot come to you in your time of need. Of course, the Lord of Creation comes to His frightened sheep in strange ways. Well, in ways we wouldn’t expect. How cool would it be to have Jesus come to us walking on the water, or just appearing in a room as He did after Easter! But that’s not His chosen means. Oddly enough, Jesus comes to us by means of words, water, bread and wine.
It is the very Good News Word of Jesus, the Word about Jesus, which is the “power of God unto salvation.” (Rom. 1:16) It is the Word that declares sinners forgiven of all their sins because Jesus died on the cross, shedding His blood to purchase and win that forgiveness for us. The Words of the Gospel in Absolution are the power of God releasing you from your sins and from the guilt of your sins. From the cross of Christ to your ears and hearts by the words of Christ spoken in His stead and by His command, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” you receive the blood-bought forgiveness from the Lord of Creation who comes to you with this Word of Absolution.
Christ Jesus has also chosen to come to you by means of water. Not walking on it, but washing you with it by the power of God the Holy Spirit. From Titus 3:5, “[The Lord] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism delivers Christ to you, clothes you with Christ, and brings Christ to dwell in you as His temple, a temple of the Holy Spirit. And as Christ comes to you through water and the Word by the power of the Spirit, He delivers to you forgiveness. He rescues you from death and devil. He gives you eternal life.
Then there is the bread and the wine. How honored these simple elements of creation are to be the means by which the crucified and risen Son of God comes to us so that we can eat the bread which is His Body and drink the wine which is His Blood. By faith we eat and drink forgiveness and are satisfied as Jesus delivers His very crucified and risen Body and Blood to us for our life and salvation.
To be sure, Jesus Christ is the God who cares for you. He is the God who became fully human so that He might purchase your forgiveness and salvation from sin and death by His death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb. He is the God who comes to you in the Means of Grace, the Gospel in Word, water, bread and wine, delivering to you the forgiveness and salvation which He won for you on the cross. In your times of trouble and fear, Christ comes to you through these Means. He is present in His holy Word, offering you the comfort of His love and grace and peace. Read the Scriptures. He is there. Christ is present in your Baptismal faith by the power of the Spirit. He dwells in you and grants you the very fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. In His holy Supper, the Lord Christ invites you to His table to feed you with His Body and Blood, in, with, and under the bread and wine. He comes to you with Himself and feeds you with Himself to forgive all your sins and to strengthen you in your times of need.
What, then, do we leave here today with after seeing the strange things in our text? We leave more confidently trusting that Jesus is the God who comes to us. He’s the God who comes to us in His Word and Sacrament with forgiveness and life. We leave here no longer afraid because Jesus Christ is the God who is with us—Emmanuel—our Savior. Amen.