bible blog 954

This blog meditates on the Episcopal daily reading, which today is a marvellous story about Jesus walking on the water. Readers will see that I don’t consider it a report about something that happened then, but a promise about something that happens always.

Daily Headline: Rescuers struggle through the night to find suvivors of explosion in Mexican Oil HQ: mexico

Mark 6:47-56

47 When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land.48When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by.49But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out;50for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’51Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,52for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Healing the Sick in Gennesaret

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat.54When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him,55and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.56And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

he-qi1This story and others like it have caused difficulties for modern readers. Did Jesus really walk on the water? All sorts of ingenuity have been used by those who want to insist that all stories in the Bible are historically true; and all manner of scorn has been poured on their efforts by those who know that people can’t walk on water. At least the latter party has some sense: nobody on this earth, not even Jesus, walks on water. But that’s a very limited way of thinking. Both parties are wrong, for the story is not historical, at least as regards this alleged happening. Rather it is an imaginative fantasy about the relationship of Jesus to his followers, in all history.

 The ship of faith is struggling against the wind, in the darkness. Jesus is not with the boat, he is alone on land.  It is night, the night of fear, the night of betrayal, the night of disciples separated from their master, the night of crucifixion. But dawn comes. Early in the morning, the morning of the women at the tomb, the morning of Mary Magdalene, Jesus comes walking  in the power of God over the deep waters. He has his own destination, but seeing their struggle, he stops and gets into the boat with them. Seeing that they are more terrified by his presence than by the wind, he identifies himself as The Lord, “It is I!” Now they can get to the other side of the lake.

As we can see it’s a story about the whole history of Jesus and his disciples; but more, perhaps, for it seems to me that Mark is also giving his readers a picture of the relationship of God and humanity. Humanity is in the boat, struggling against the wind, in the darkness of chaos. God comes on his own Way, but decides to get in the boat with them. So God shares humanity and its dangers in Jesus, identifying himself as God, “It is I ! I am who I am!”. With his help, the ship of humanity gets to land.

Those who think this is fanciful have perhaps limited experience of storytelling which has often mingled fact and fantasy to present a truer history of events.

And perhaps some of my readers, like me, will have sweated and struggled through a dark night, in a leaking boat, menaced by storms of memory and guilt, only to find that One stronger than storms and stranger than dawning, is with me, and will stay with me till I find harbour.waterwalking_dog_t470

Isn’t this approach better than arguing about whether Jesus had webbed feet?

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