Mark 6:45-52

28 Jan 2024

Mark 6:45-52

Passage Mark 6:45-52

Speaker Ben Tanner


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

This morning's reading is taken from Mark, chapter six, beginning to verse 45, and you can see it on your survey sheets or on the screens in front of you.

Immediately, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida. While he dismissed the crowd after leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn, he went out to them walking on the lake.

He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, take courage. It is I, don't be afraid. Then he climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down.

They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves. Their hearts were hardened.

Thank you so much for reading that for us, and indeed, Beth, for praying for us. It will be really helpful if you can keep that passage in front of you. If you've got a bible or a bible app on your phone, then that will also be super useful. In fact, today is one of those days where I wish that we got bibles in the seats. Maybe that's on a hit list at some stage, but that will be useful to have.

Repeating yourself. Repeating yourself can be really annoying, can't it? Having to repeat yourself again and again. What parent hasn't said that phrase? If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, maybe it's with a colleague where you have to repeat and you say, I've told you this.

We've been through this before. You say repeating yourself sometimes can be embarrassing when it's called out, when a loved one or family member says, you've actually told me that already. Or, darling, you're repeating yourself. Repeating yourself can be a useful thing. Politicians do it, don't they?

Education, education, education. I'm driving home the point. Teachers do it. What is revision other than repetition? Going back over the same stuff, repeating yourself can be strange as well, can't it?

Those moments of sort of deja vu. I feel like I've been here before. Oh, I've seen that before. And actually, that last one, deja vu, might be something that you felt as that passage was read. Here they are in a boat at night, in a storm, and Jesus is going to sort it out.

Wait a second, I think I remember that story. If you've been with us since Christmas, the very first day that we came back into Mark's gospel, Claire led us through a story that sounds very, very similar to this one. There the disciples are in a storm and Jesus is in the boat, stands up. Be quiet, he says to the wind and the waves. And they calm down and they ask a question.

It's actually the one that in the reference passages there, it's back in chapter four, verse 41, they asked this question. They were terrified and asked each other, who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him. And actually, over the last few chapters, as we've been going through this bit of mark, we've seen Jesus answering that question. Who is this?

He is the one who has, yes, power over the wind and the waves. But also remember when he was at Gennesaret there he was. Sorry, the land of the Gerasenes. What did he do there? He had power over evil forces of evil that were stronger and more powerful than us.

Remember, as he was there with the woman who was bleeding, he had power over health. He was able to restore her health. Or that little girl who he took by the hand. And he said it was so memorable, he said it in Aramaic. Talitha Combe, get up, little lamb.

And he raised her from dead as if he was waking somebody up from a dream. Oh, and then last week, what did we see him doing? He was more powerful even than hunger as he provided food for 5000 men plus women and children. So he's been showing us something of his power and his compassion. In these last chapters, if you like, he's been answering the question of who he is.

And here we get a bit of a repeat. And the question comes, why is there a repetition? What's going on? Let's dive into the passage. Jesus by now has just fed 5000 in practise.

That's the men. So there are probably also women and children there. In other words, he's got a bit of a crowd that's probably probably about the size of Sheffield arena at full capacity there on the beach. And John's account of that has that crowd wanting to forcibly make him king. And so Jesus doesn't want that.

And he beats this kind of hasty retreat. We see that in verse 45. Immediately, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida. While he dismissed the crowd after leaving them, he went up on the mountainside to pray. Nothing particularly unusual about Jesus withdrawing to pray.

He does that. He goes up a mountainside to do it. What's unusual is what happens. Then. You see, here he is at night on the top of a mountain, and we're told that he looks down and the boat is in the middle of the lake.

Verse 47. And he's on the land, so it's at night, and he's able to see this boat and see his people struggling. And what does he do? He comes down from the mountain. He walks across the face of this lake as if the waves themselves were concrete rather than water, and he walks about 8 miles into a headwind in order to be with his disciples.

Now, what's going on here is much more than just a metaphor, but it's not less. What do we see here? We see Jesus, God on a mountain, communing with God, seeing his people struggling. What does he do? He comes down.

He enters into the fray with his people in order to bring about salvation for his people. There is more going on than that, but there is not less. And, incidentally, that should bring us some real confidence. If it feels at the moment like life is us straining against the oars, if it feels like life is hard. We have a God who sees, who comes, who rescues.

But you might say, that's all very well, but I've read the passage, and I've got some questions. If that's what Jesus is doing, then what on earth's going on with this passing by malarkey? Did he see it? It's there in verse 40, end of 48, he saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn, he went out to them walking on the lake.

He was about to pass by them. Now, that's weird, isn't it? If Jesus is coming to save his disciples in this storm, what is he doing passing by? Is it that Jesus wasn't quite sure where they were and just kind of stumbling his way along? Well, no.

He's been able to see supernaturally in the dark over 8 miles into the middle of a lake. It's not that he's unaware. Some people say, oh, well, maybe it's because if he didn't pass by them, then he wouldn't be in front of them, and then they wouldn't see him. But think about it. What are they doing?

They're straining at the oars. Now, you don't have to be a big sailor to know what way are you facing when you are rowing. You face backwards, don't you? You face backwards and you pull. So surely the logical thing, if you want to be seen by a bunch of rowing people, is not going past the front of them, but it's just wandering up behind and stepping in.

It'd be both the direct route and the logical route. So what is this passing by? What's going on? Well, as we look at this passage, we see deja vu of Mark four, where we were a few weeks ago. But there are some other deja vu moments going on around this time that perhaps especially the original, mainly jewish readers, would have picked up on.

Was there another time in the wilderness where bread was miraculously provided? Was there another time when God's people needed to beat a hasty exit because somebody wanted to force them into something they didn't want? Was there another time when they needed to cross a sea in darkness? Was there another time when a God would supernaturally enable a walking across a sea? In fact, we're even told that it's just before dawn.

Was there another time when God rescued his people just before dawn? Walking across a sea away from an enemy, perhaps. Let me give you another clue. The disciples in our passage here are terrified. They thought they'd seen a ghost.

They cried out, verse 50, because they all saw him and were terrified immediately. He spoke to them and said, take courage. It is I, the Greek. There's two words, ego, Amy. Literally, take courage.

I am. And as we begin to put this together, especially having just taught the book of Exodus, we begin to see all sorts of parallel themes, don't we? There, Yahweh, the I am, saves his people. Saves his people through the Red Sea. He provides for them.

He meets with God on a mountain, another interesting parallel that's going on there. And you see all these kind of exodus parallels going on in this passage. And so what then is the passing by doing? Well, those of you who know Exodus know that that's another Exodus phrase. What happens in Exodus is God's meeting with his friend and the leader, Moses.

And we're going to see this in a few weeks time when we dive back into Exodus. But Moses said, I want to see your glory. And God says, you can't see my glory, but what you can do is you can go into the cleft of the rock and my glory is going to pass by, and you can see my back. And God passes by Moses proclaiming, Yahweh, Yahweh, the gracious and compassionate God. See, there's a passing by that's going on here.

What is it that Jesus is doing here with all of these exodus links? He is showing who is this man? This man is the very Yahweh, the very covenant God of Israel, the very one who saved them out of Egypt, is the same person who is then sitting in the boat at the end of this passage. This is a massive claim that the Yahweh who passed Moses by is the Yahweh who sits in a boat in the middle of Lake Gennesaret. This is huge if we're wanting to be encouraged today, because if we are in the place of life where we're struggling against the oars and life feels difficult and out of control, the one who comes down from the mountain, who enters into the fray, who gets into the boat with us, is the very covenant God of Israel.

We don't have a watered down version of God in Jesus Christ. No, the very one whose glory passed by Moses is the one who gave himself for you and for me. But for some of us, we're thinking, okay, that's. That's pretty awesome. But I've got another question, and it's a question of what happens at the end of this passage, because actually, the reaction at the end of this passage gets very scary quite quickly, actually.

Verse 51, then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down, and they were completely amazed. Great. Just stop there. Stop there, Mark. Don't say the next verse, but he carries on.

For they hadn't understood about the laves. Their hearts were hardened. They say, oh, what's good? Jesus got in the boat. They're amazing.

And their hearts are hardened. That seems a strange phrase to use. I could understand if it was talking about Pharisees here. You know, pharisees out to get Jesus. Yeah, it makes sense for their hearts to be hardened, but here we're talking about Jesus disciples, people who've done ministry in his name, and it says their hearts are hardened.

And, of course, actually, if we're thinking about the whole Exodus imagery, that gets scarier still, doesn't it? Whose heart's hardened? In Exodus, famously, Pharaoh's pharaoh, the enemy of God and his people, his heart is hardened. So how is it that the disciples hearts are hardened? And if it can happen to them, could it happen to us?

In Exodus, there is another group whose hearts are hardened. It's the group of Israelites who are saved through the Red Sea, and they go through the wilderness. They get to the edge of the promised land, and they've got this option, do we go and take this land that we're promised? Do we trust the promises of God? And they say, no, we're not going to do it.

And we find a whole generation dies in the wilderness, that generation is described as having stubborn and hard hearts.

This is scary. This isn't where we're expecting to see hardness of heart. So what's going on? Well, we're told they're hard because they do not understand about the loaves. If you like the question that they were asking in Mark four, who is this man?

They're no longer asking. They've not looked into saying, what is it about the loaves that we don't get?

Jesus is kind of doing amazing things that are amazing, but they're not asking themselves, who is this Jesus? During Covid-19 we all learned a lot about vaccines, didn't we? And learned all sorts of things about different ways in which vaccinations happen. And I'm told one of the ways in which it happens, and you doctors can correct me later on this, but one of the ways I think it happens is that, is that you get a virus or a bug and you kind of water it down and weaken it, and then you give just a little bit to somebody. And that way our bodies, they kind of get used to fighting it.

They work out the kind of key, its weaknesses and all the rest of it. And then when the full blooded virus comes, our bodies already know, okay, I know how to deal with this. And so what you do is you get a little inoculation, a little weakened form again and again and again. And there's a danger that we do that when it comes to Jesus. Oh, yeah, I know about that.

I've got that box that I've put him in.

I've read this Bible story before. I know the answers. It's fine.

And so as we open our bibles of a morning, we look and we go, oh, yeah, there's that idea about sheep. I'll go and think about sheep. Or, oh, yeah, it's that passage. I've got this one down. I can go and think of something else.

Or perhaps we get to the stage in our christian life where actually, to be honest, we don't even open the Bible all that much. We do so at church. At church, that's where I get my spiritual fix. Maybe we're at the stage, actually, where we come along to church maybe once a month or every other month. And the danger is that we begin to stop asking who this Jesus is.

We think we know that.

We're not asking about the bread. We're not asking about what he's saying to us in the passage. We're not actually wrestling with the scriptures. And it's like we're just being gently inoculated with weakness, little Jesus, without actually coming to know him. Let me ask you, and this, challenge me.

When was the last time that you took a piece of scripture and you thought as much about what's going on in that piece of scripture as you do about the tactics of the traitors on television, or that day's wordle or that crossword of the day?

When was the last time that we sat down and we said, I need to understand this, so I'm going to study this like I study what's going on. As I'm about to get a new mortgage. I based my life on Jesus, but actually, I'm going to spend more time thinking about more or less anything other than him. And the danger is that we begin to take him for granted. And our hearts, instead of loving him, instead of being wooed by him, just become hard towards him.

Maybe we say, yeah, but I'm somebody who God has ministered through, and so are the disciples. They were just sent out. They were doing amazing things. They were casting out demons in his name.

Their hearts are growing hard.

Now, the idea of this passage isn't to be beaten up. Please don't hear me trying to just guilt trip you. But the idea of this passage is to encourage us to listen up. It's almost there. They hear of the disciples and they see God doing amazing things.

Like, we've just heard of God doing amazing things at the start of the service, and it's saying, don't let your hearts just be hardened. Now, see who this Jesus is. How do I know that that's where Jesus goes? Well, actually, if we follow on from this point on, we see Jesus repeating himself the very next verse. When they crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there.

Now, remember what happened after Mark four. They landed at the region of the gerasenes. They are different places, but Mark purposefully uses that wordplay. How do I know? Because what happens when they meet at where they land at Gennesaret?

A whole load of things that we're familiar with. You see, just a couple of verses later, you've got people coming to Jesus, and what are they doing? They place the sick in the marketplaces, and they begged him to touch even the edge of his cloak. We just heard about somebody touching his cloak only a few weeks ago with the woman who just had to touch his cloak. That might be coincidence, though.

Only we then see him speaking with a syrophoenician woman later on in chapter seven. There a gentile woman an outcast woman. We've seen him speaking with an outcast woman only a couple of chapters ago, between the last boat trip, we've seen him doing this. We see him healing somebody. And unusually and oddly, we see him using Aramaic when he says to a blind man, ephepra, when did we see him using Aramaic?

Last time, teletha koum. It's as if history is repeating itself. We saw him feed 5000 people. What do we see in just a couple of chapters later, here, before the next boat trip? We see him feeding 4000 people.

We see a conversation about the bread. We see another conversation about the bread. We see a boat trip to get away. We see another boat trip to get away. And what is Jesus doing?

He's gently repeating himself so that as we come after the next boat trip he can say, not who is this man? But he can say to Peter, who do people say I am? Who do you say I am? And Peter can say, not with a hard heart but with a soft heart, you are the Christ. Why am I drawing attention to that?

Why am I stealing the thunder of the series? To come up? I need to say this. What does Jesus do as he sees his disciples getting hardened hearts? He repeats.

He gently goes back over, he says, look, let me explain this again to you. Let me hold this out to you again. Let me show you who I am again. And if you were convicted a few moments ago he's saying to you today, let me hold myself out to you in the pages of scripture again. I am the God who came from on high who came to be with you.

Don't harden your hearts. Come back. Read again. See my glory in these pages. Don't.

Don't let it pass you by without glimpsing it.

Because the God who fed 5000 people last week with bread is the God whose table we will gather around in a few minutes time. And as you have done again and again and again we will be reminded that that God said, take, eat. This is my body given for you. See, again, taste again. Don't let it be flippant.

But let me meet you in the bread and the wine as I remind you of my cross and death and resurrection. As I remind you that I came down from on high into the fray of this life in order that I can offer you salvation.

We're going to pray and then we're going to sing a song. A song that we can use as an opportunity to reflect on what we've been thinking about. And then we'll come to the table.

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for Jesus. Thank you that you are the God of second or third chances. Thank you for the way that you are happy to repeat yourself far more than I am.

Thank you that you don't leave us with hard hearts, but continue to offer us. Come see. Look. Oh, Father, I pray that you'd help us this week not to inoculate ourselves against you with half a look here or there, but spend time sitting at your son's feet, listening to the God of all. Glory to yahweh himself.

Help us, Father, in fresh faith. In a few moments time to take the bread and take the wine, trusting that you are the God who saves. For we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

Let's stand and sing.