Who Then is This?

Job 38:1-11

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Mark 4:35-41

Last week we saw Jesus teaching in parables for the crowds. He later explained the meanings to his trusted disciples. Today, we see Jesus suggesting they cross the Sea of Galilee.

That day, when evening had come, Yeshua said to them, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So, leaving the crowd behind, they took him just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with himCJB 

We read in 4:1 that Jesus sat in one of the fishing boats on the shore and taught the crowd. Now, the underlined statement seems to indicate that Jesus was still in the boat when he announced his desire to cross the lake. The small problem is that 4:10 has Jesus speaking in private with his disciples; and again in 4:33-34 we are told that he explained the parables to the disciples. Most likely Mark did those two inserts during Jesus’ teaching from the boat rather than tack them on later.

This kind of thing bothers some people, but we must remember that none of the Gospels are histories, not even in the ancient sense. They are collections of teachings, healings, and examples for all of us to learn from and copy. Yes, they have historical value but that is not what the four authors were about. Mark wants us to experience Jesus in a kind of first-hand way. We can see ourselves standing on the shore listening to the parables of Jesus.

A furious windstorm arose, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was close to being swampedCJB I haven’t checked all the translations, but most say much the same, that the boat was filling with water and was close to sinking. Yet, the Greek word is gemizo, which means full. We need to take this word as hyperbole, an exaggeration to impress upon us how near to death they all were. Remember, there were several boats in the same condition.

This next verse is almost cartoonish. The disciples are standing in knee deep water, probably bailing water as fast as they can. Jesus is lying in the boat with his head on a pillow. I can’t help but think he must have been under water. But, no, this is some more hyperbole. Yes, the situation was deadly, but the boat was clearly not full of water.

But he was in the stern on a cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, “Rabbi, doesn’t it matter to you that we’re about to be killed?” CJB The question seems so quiet and mild. Why weren’t they screaming their lungs out?

And he woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, “Hush now! Be still!” The wind dropped and everything was very stillPhillips And he said to them, “Why are you cowardly? Do you still not have faith?” They were overwhelmed by fear and said to one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and sea obey him! NET

In Mark’s Gospel, this is nearly the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He only called the disciples in chapter 3; it’s little wonder they were asking, who is this man.

I think Jesus requested the dangerous crossing at night for two reasons: to give his new followers a picture of his power that they would not forget; and to heal the demoniac, another opportunity to show his power. Jesus controls the weather, and he controls the evil ones.

The reading today from Paul speaks to us in the midst of the storm. Paul uses himself as an example—using the royal ‘we’. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everythingNIV

We may not be beaten and thrown into prison, but if we follow Yeshua the Messiah we are called to purity, understanding, patience, kindness, sincere love and truthful speech by the power of God and His Holy Spirit.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Mustard Seed


Ezekiel 17:22-24

Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14

2 Corinthians 5:6-17

Mark 4:26-34

Just for the record, the mustard we eat does not come from the mustard tree named in the Bible and pictured above.

In Chapter 4 Jesus gives us four parables. The first is the Parable of the Sower where seeds fall on four types of ground. When he had completed the parable, Jesus said, Whoever has ears to hear, let them hearNIV

That statement seems to have unsettled his followers because the next verses are as follows.

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,

“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
    and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”

This seems a dark statement from Jesus, so what is going on? First, the quote is from Isaiah 6:9-10. Here is the Isaiah passage which Jesus shortened somewhat.

“Go and tell this people:

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
    be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

Make the heart of this people calloused;
    make their ears dull
    and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

Let me quote a note from the New English Translation. The Hebrew imperatival forms are employed rhetorically and anticipate the response Isaiah will receive. God was telling Isaiah that the people will not understand My words and will continue to sin.

Jesus uses this quotation to show the Twelve that most people will not understand the meanings of his parables, but the meaning is there for all those who allow the Holy Spirit to make the meaning clear.

Another citation from the NET is important. The key term secret can mean either (1) a new revelation or (2) a revealing interpretation of existing revelation. Jesus seems to be explaining how current events develop old promises, since the NT consistently links the events of Jesus’ ministry and message with old promises. Any time Jesus quotes scripture we need to go back and get an understanding of that scripture.

People through the centuries have built whole wrong religions on that one word: secret. Jesus has given us the power to understand the secret because it is not a secret in our usual sense. The parable is open; it explains the Word of God. That Word is understood by some but crowded out of other’s minds. Another way to say it: there is no secret.

Take today’s first parable. Then he said, “The kingdom of God is like a man scattering seed on the ground and then going to bed each night and getting up every morning, while the seed sprouts and grows up, though he has no idea how it happens. The earth produces a crop without any help from anyone: first a blade, then the ear of corn, then the full-grown grain in the ear. And as soon as the crop is ready, he sends his reapers in without delay, for the harvest-time has come.” Phillips

We already know the seed is the Word of God. Here, we see the seed grow where and as it will. You and I may share the Word with people, but it is God through His Holy Spirit who nourishes the seed. We can take no credit.

He also asked, “To what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use to present it? It is like a mustard seed that when sown in the ground, even though it is the smallest of all the seeds in the ground—when it is sown, it grows up, becomes the greatest of all garden plants, and grows large branches so that the wild birds can nest in its shade.” NET

The next verses read: With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everythingESV This short passage makes it clear that the parables were given to the crowds, then explained to the disciples in private. We should also remember that his disciples included more than the Twelve. Based on what we know about rabbis of the day, a group of fifty would not have been abnormal.

One more quote to close, this from Ephrem the Syrian (second half of 4th Century). The fields have but one season of harvest; but from the Scripture there gushes forth a stream of saving doctrine… The Scriptures are garnered each day, yet the years of its interpreters never come to an end; and the clusters of its vines, which in it are those of hope, though are gathered each day, are likewise without endACCS

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence