What is recorded in the Bible text?
Take just a few moments to refresh your memory by reading Mark 6: 45 – 53 once again. Do this slowly savouring every word and phrase. It is just possible, even likely, that this story will strike you in a completely new way. Give God time to work with you. There is a wise saying that says, “The first message you get from a text is almost certainly not the message that God has in mind for you.” I am not sure why God works this way with us, but he certainly likes to make us wrestle with the Word before he gives us new insights. I am sure he knows that this is good for us and he wants only the best for us. He wants us to be the very best persons we can possibly be. Time now to read, and reflect.
45Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side towards Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray. 47When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on the shore. 48Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came towards them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. 49But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. 50They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” 51He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were (completely) astounded. 52They had not understood the incident of the loaves and fishes. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened. 53After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret and tied up there.
Ever the since Jesus’ death and resurrection Mark and his community have thought and prayed about the Life of Jesus. There have been many conversations during which memories of Jesus were shared. Some told and re-told their favourite incident from Jesus’ life. Others would mention a saying of Jesus, a wisdom saying, that really touched them and had such an impact on their life. Some of them would be asked to share what it was like to have known Jesus during his life-time. These special memories were treasured. With time there was a subtle change in the pattern of sharing. Gradually those who had never met Jesus started to talk about how Jesus had touched their daily lives now, in the present. Others spoke of the changes for the better that they observed in family and friends as they grew in knowledge of Jesus. They became aware that Jesus was alive and active in their own lives, in the lives of those near and dear to them and in the community itself. They could see the impact Jesus was having on their lives – “he is risen”.
27They were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?” (Mt 8: 27)
Mark is sharing the understanding that he and his community have come to during the many years that have passed since Jesus’ death and resurrection. More than thirty years have gone by but the message of Jesus is just as alive as it ever was. This is the story of the impact of the Risen Christ on Mark and his community.
Remember: “There is history behind the text and theology in the text.”
This may come as a surprise to you. Your earlier understanding of Scripture may be challenged. In such circumstances it is always wise to check with the teaching of the Church.
From the results of recent investigations, it is evident that the life and teaching of Jesus (history behind the text) were not simply reported, so as not to be forgotten. 1
This was done with that clearer understanding which they enjoyed after they had been instructed by the events of Christ’s risen life and taught by the light of the Spirit of truth. The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, summarising some, explaining others in the light of the situation of their churches, and preserving them, always, in such a way that they told us the honest truth about Jesus. 2 (The theological truth – the truth about who Jesus really is for us – not all the literal details about what Jesus said and did.)
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Just for a moment let us travel back in time using our imagination. We are in a small house in Ephesus. The date is sometime between 90 and 100 AD. The writer of John’s gospel is looking back on the life of Jesus and the impact it has had on his life. He has travelled a long way in his growing understanding of the God of Jesus. Over the years he has moved from a blood and thunder, avenging God. Jesus has brought him to a new understanding and relationship with God. He starts to tell us his story.
14Jesus said to Nicodemus:1 “16Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. 17For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. (John 3: 16 – 17)
1 An Instruction Concerning the Historical Truth of the Gospels;
2 Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation; par 19
1 Greek name meaning conqueror of the people.