Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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All in the Same Boat: Mark 4:35-41
On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But 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?’ 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41And 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)

Being in a small boat at sea can be peaceful and refreshing. You control your immediate environment. You are out of reach of the busyness of the world, and yet nothing interrupts your line of sight as far as the horizon. If a storm comes though, suddenly the boat is revealed as ridiculously tiny and fragile, surrounded by life-threatening chaos.

Some of us have experienced these two things, both peaceful refreshment and uncontrollable uncertainty, during the restrictions on movement imposed through most of the world this year. But many people, especially the poor, have experienced much more the devastating threat to their lives than the peacefulness. As Pope Francis has said, let us realise that we are all in the same boat, and that humankind urgently needs to find an unprecedented solidarity.

We are the first generation to realise clearly that our whole planet is like a small boat and that the way humankind is living is inflicting damage upon it; a damage which can become irreparable. The very same solidarity which leads to human justice will give us the ways to change this together.

Jesus asks to cross the lake to the other side. It is his first visit to a territory lived in by non-Jews, the first clear sign that his life will bring a change not only to Israel but to the whole world. The storm which breaks out on the lake represents the barrier through which Jesus pushes in order to go to all people, like a plane breaking through the sound barrier.

Another man whom God told to go and preach repentance to people outside Israel was the prophet Jonah. He took to a ship in order to run away from God. On that boat he too slept soundly in a storm until he was roused by others. He was thrown overboard, and his subsequent emergence after three days supposed dead is a sign that Jesus says points to his own death and resurrection (Matthew 12:38-40).

Of course, this story is also about the disciples not fully understanding who Jesus is. Even if this is so, they had been, nevertheless, so strongly drawn to him that they had left everything and followed him.

As far as we can tell, the disciples do not appeal to Jesus thinking that he can change the situation. The words which come from their mouths are, “Do you not care?” In a situation when they think they will die, it becomes urgent to know whether they really counted for Jesus or was he actually indifferent to each of their lives. Martha was another who said the same words to Jesus, “Do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work?” (Luke 10:40) When we try to follow Jesus, there will be times when we are left vulnerable, hurt, or in danger, and we find something similar welling up within us. The important thing is that we open it in prayer, as the disciples and Martha did.

When Jesus has spoken and all is calm, he asks them, “Why are you afraid?”, not: why were you afraid? but why are you? He is asking them to reflect not just on their helplessness when faced by the terror of the storm, but also to realise more deeply who it is they have chosen to follow.

Jesus says to the storm, “Be still!” and, seeing the effect of his words, the disciples say to each other, “Who is this?” And, even if the words in the original languages do not correspond exactly, we may hold in our hearts the words of Psalm 46, which after evoking storms, war and chaos, tells us that God is with us beyond all this: “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10).

- What can I do to contribute to building solidarity?

- What difficulties (storms) will I face if I begin to build community with people outside my comfort zone?

- Who may be looking to us and wondering, “Do they not care?” How can we respond?

Other bible meditations:

Printed from: - 27 February 2021
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