The Reading: Mark 6:45-52
“They were distressed in rowing … he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased.” (vv.48-51) RSV
We draw today to the end of coping with the storms of life. This story follows soon after the calming of the storm (Mark 4:35-41) that we have been studying. But this is different. Jesus wasn’t even with them in the boat since he had sent them on ahead of him. They were fulfilling his will and walking in obedience, so the storm was not because they were out of God’s will.
When Jesus did arrive – across the water – he was at first not welcome: a ghost! Why did the disciples not recognise him and welcome him into their boat? It was not just because they couldn’t see or that his arrival was unexpected. The answer lies in the text, though it is not obvious at first, “For they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” (v.52). Earlier in the day they had witnessed and had taken part in the miracle of the Feeding of the 5000, yet they had ‘hardened their hearts” in ignorance and unbelief.
Such an attitude of heart means that they were not growing in faith and awareness of Jesus. It meant that they were starting to follow Jesus and his commands in their own strength. Their discipleship was starting to become an uphill struggle. Their joy and energy was gone and they were “distressed” (v.48). The result was not that they were in danger (there was no storm), but that they were going nowhere fast.
When our faith shrinks and we baulk at what Jesus has done, we too will not recognise him. We will mysteriously be bereft of his presence. Indeed we may think he is a “ghost” and a threat. If he comes into the boat he may rock it! How foolish can we become? Very, it seems. Spiritual blindness quickly follows hardness of heart. They were exhausted and struggling. Discipleship had become an uphill slog.
Lord Jesus Christ, you know that we are struggling to row the boat of life. Forgive us for striving in our own strength. Come and bring your ability to calm us and to calm our surroundings. With you alone can we make it to the other shore. Amen.
Explore More – Luke 10:39-42
1 Why was Martha “distracted by many things”?
2 What did Mary have that Martha had neglected?