DISRUPTION, RESCUE AND OPEN TO ALL

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday June 20 2024, 3:17 pm

This week we revisit the disciples terrified and all at sea, as Jesus calms the storm. As they sail across the Sea of Galilee, Jesus – understandably worn out with all his teaching to the crowds and efforts to open the minds of the Jewish leadership – is sleeping.  Suddenly, an exceptionally rough storm blows up and threatens to swamp the boat.  The disciples cry out to Jesus, who rebukes the storm and orders the wind to be silent. Interestingly, Jesus uses exactly the same terms here to cast out the power of the storm as Mark has recorded him using to rebuke, command silence and cast out the unclean spirit from the man in the synagogue. (Mk 1:25) Immediately, there is a great calm; but no such calm in the minds of the disciples, who are confused and disturbed at what they have just witnessed and what it reveals to them of who Jesus is!

Mark’s Gospel is full of this sense of disruption of the expected, and of the overthrowing of flawed power or unhealthy understanding, to bring people face to face with the power and presence of God revealed in Jesus. Up to the moment of this episode at sea, Jesus had been on a preaching tour of Galilee, during which he had done healing miracles and had been casting out demons or unclean spirits.  Jesus’ teaching is disruptive, threatening the powers that work against God’s will, challenging the norms, pushing beyond the parameters of traditional practices and hopes, and pointing to what it means for the Kingdom of God to come near.

We saw last Sunday, in the parables of growing seed, how the Kingdom of God may have tiny beginnings, but God grows it outrageously, mysteriously and beyond the limited understanding of human minds, and opens its borders to all who would find a home within it.  In this Sunday’s passage, we see Jesus pushing boundaries again, choosing to cross to ‘the other side’ of the lake away from the Jewish communities of upper and lower Galilee, to enter the gentile-dominated Graeco-Roman Decapolis east of the Sea of Galilee. There he continues his mission to spread the good news.  Perhaps the sudden storm was not just a natural phenomenon but brewed up by the agency of what Paul (Ephesians 6:12) describes as the cosmic powers of this present darkness, … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, in an attempt to thwart Jesus in this mission? Often in Mark’s Gospel, it is the unclean spirits who recognise that Jesus is the Son of God while humans fail to see this.  Jesus’ very first action on disembarking is again to cast out unclean spirits, this time from Legion into a flock of swine.  And although – in response to local pleading – Jesus then leaves, Mark tells us that the swineherds and the healed man both carry the word onwards, Legion proclaiming Jesus around the Decapolis. 

Overcoming the terrible storm, Jesus saved the disciples and revealed himself further to them, foreshadowing his saving grace and nurturing the seed of faith planted in them.  Crossing the barrier of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus broke through divisions between Jew and gentile, spreading further his healing and planting more tiny seeds from which the good news would burst out.  The Kingdom of God has no borders, and there is room for everyone, for those still discovering Christ and for those who are most damaged and despised, to be ambassadors for Christ. 

Help us, Lord, to hold steady for you in the midst of all that terrifies us and overwhelms us, disrupt us from our comfort zones, and keep us working with you to spread the good news of your Kingdom.

Lucy G

Image: Christ calming the water by James Ensor,1891. In the Kunstmuseum aan Zee, Ostend.