When we visited our partners in Kenya and would stop at some site or visit some folks that we enjoyed talking to, or spent too much time eating our guide and friend John Halake used to literally scream at us to “get into the caw”. He meant car but it sounded like “caw” to me. Jesus seems to be doing something like that to the disciples.
Mark 6 –
45″ Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. 46 And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. 47 Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. 48 Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. 49 And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 51 Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.”
I am always a bit stunned at the things that people get upset or frustrated or bothered about when I preach or when we read a section of the scripture. Truth be told there is a lot to be bothered about in this one little section of the Gospel of Mark. There is more that enough to provoke us poor human beings in this portion of Scripture so for fun let’s do this – we will find all the troubling aspects (at least the ones that trouble me) figure out why they are troubling, and then I will tell you which of them bothers the most people. I had several responses to Sundays sermon and I will reveal the one that bugs the most. But first ………
Here is number one – “He made His disciples get into the boat”……
The word “made” really has the force of compelling or forcing. I get the image in my mind of John Halake, or a policeman forcing a group of people to get out of a place or venue by kind of herding them along like cattle. Why is Jesus doing this? This was the scene of one of his greatest miracles? He is going to hang around after he “dismissed the crowds”. He constrains or drives the disciples onto the boat and He dismisses the crowds and it seems to be all of a piece. He needs to separate the disciples from the crowds and the crowd from Him. Why?
We have to go to John’s Gospel to understand this rather strange action of Jesus. If Jesus has to force them into the boat the implication is that they don’t want to get into the boat. John explains that the crowd was so excited by the miraculous feeding they wanted to kidnap Jesus and carry them to Jerusalem and make him king and the disciples seem to be only too happy to go along with this plan. This is all a part of the Devils game to try to destroy Jesus ministry and work. This is a continuation of the temptations that began at the beginning of Jesus public ministry. Stepping back and looking at what happened before this event, and what will happen in the next few days, we realize this was a turning point in Jesus ministry. This
seemingly simple event begins what to our eyes appears to be the beginning of Jesus publicity failures. The next day so many people run away from him, that he will ask his own disciples if they want to leave him too.