Keeping watch for Jesus
The Gospel reading for this Epiphany morning is from the sixth chapter of Mark and tells the story of Jesus walking on water, calming the stormy seas. Mark is the shortest Gospel, full of action and movement. (The word “immediately” appears 39 times; the narrative seems to be always rushing into the next scene.) When we read today’s story, it is important to remember where it is in the bigger picture. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus has fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish–a miracle! After everyone had eaten and all were full, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover pieces of bread and fish. They must have been amazed by what they had witnessed.
In the scene today, Jesus has sent his disciples on ahead by boat, told the crowd good-bye and gone up on the mountain by himself to pray. A storm arises and the disciples are fighting against the winds. Jesus sees that they are in trouble and goes to them, walking on the water.
The scripture says “he intended to pass them by.” Isn’t that interesting? Perhaps he knew seeing him walking across the water would frighten them and that is exactly what happens. When they see him they think he is a ghost and are terrified! But Jesus calls out and says to take heart, don’t be afraid. He gets in the boat with them and the storm stops.
Unfortunately, the disciples just don’t get it. They are “astounded” but they don’t understand what has just happened. Somehow they didn’t understand that a miracle had happened, just as a miracle had happened with the loaves and fishes.
We are in the season of Epiphany, celebrating the revelation of Jesus to the world. In this story, the disciples at first don’t recognize Jesus coming across the water. Even when they know who he is, they don’t really understand who he is. They don’t get it.
There’s an old joke about a religious man who was caught in a flood. Someone with a rowboat came by & offered him help but the man said he was waiting on God and knew he would save him. A motorboat came by and stopped but the man said again that he didn’t need help because God would save him. The water kept rising and finally a helicopter came by but the man still refused help and said God would save him. The man eventually drown in the flood. When he got to heaven he complained to God that he had been faithful and God let him down.
God replied: “I sent two boats and a helicopter for you. What more did you want?”
So, today may be a good time for us to remember to call out to Jesus during the storms of our own busy lives, but also to watch for him to appear. There are miracles all around us every day. Sometimes we just need to watching for them!