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God’s Word for You

Mark 6:49-52 Take courage

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, February 17, 2023

49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost, and they cried out 50 because they all saw him and they were terrified.

The disciples were exhausted, soaking wet, sore, and afraid for their lives. Now out in the fury of the storm they saw a shape on the sea. Unaffected by wind, waves, or cold, the shape was moving along from the west on top of the water, but it was no craft. It was a being: man-shaped, man-sized, but they did not know that it was God, the Son of God. Their fear and sinful nature seized their pitiful hearts and froze even the usefulness of reason. They were at a loss. What was it? They could only imagine that this was a ghost.

Still more confusing, the ghost seemed intent on walking past them. Whatever it was, were their minds perhaps even a little offended that this specter (The Grim Reaper? An angel of death? A demon? The devil?) payed no attention to them or to their plight. But there was no Grim Reaper. If it was an angel of death, it was passing them by. And the demons and the devil do not pay attention to our dangers because they seek our death and our unbelief above all.

But the one walking the waves was none of those. This was Jesus. By seeming to stride past them, he gave them a good look at him, and by being nearby, he invited their prayers. Prayer is speaking to God from the heart. Prayer is the natural response of faith. Prayer shows our trust in the power of God, the grace of God, and the forgiveness offered by God. Prayer, then, is a confession of faith when prayed from faith. Prayer says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

He spoke to them at once and said, “Take courage, it is I! Do not be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them and the wind stopped. And they were completely astounded, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts were hardened.

“Take courage!” Jesus said. “Cheer up!” This is a verb in Greek that only occurs as a command. He still speaks these words to us today: “In this world you are going to have trouble. But take courage! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It is often coupled with or equivalent to “do not be afraid” (Haggai 2:5; Zechariah 8:15). He offers what he gives, as God always does. Jesus gives them every reason to take courage and to give up their fear by climbing into the boat with them.

And the wind stopped. The howling, shrieking storm was suddenly over (“the wind died,” Matthew 14:21). The waves softened to nothing but a gentle rocking, and dawn was not far away. The text in Mark does not tell us how long it took them to reach the shore, but John says that they were there “immediately” (John 6:21). Whether this was another miracle, or whether a few minutes under sail in a fine breeze seemed like no time at all, they crossed finally to their destination and tied up in the harbor at Bethsaida just east of the northern tip of the lake.

They were astounded, amazed. Mark tells us the theological truth behind this amazement: they hadn’t understood about the loaves and fish. Once the miracle was over, they almost behaved as if they had dreamt the whole thing. “Miracle? I dunno. We just sort of had enough to eat, that’s all I know.” They were unable to see that God himself was among them, and so they were dumbfounded and dumbstruck (with emphasis on the ‘dumb’) when he walked out to them. On the water. In a storm. And then stopped the storm. As his hands grabbed the gunwale and his powerful carpenter’s arms hefted his body in a smooth, neat movement from overboard to inboard, they still didn’t understand, until the storm was suddenly over and they could light the ship’s lamps. Perhaps the full spring moon broke through the clouds as it sank in the west, behind the ship (Passover always takes place two weeks after the new moon, which means the moon will be full; John 6:4; Numbers 28:16). But up close and hearing his voice they knew it was the Lord.

Their hearts had been hard, but not yet in the unrescuable hardness of the Pharaoh in Moses’ day (Exodus 14:8). But the connection to Pharaoh should not be dismissed too quickly, for Pharaoh sent his chariots into the sea without faith, and they were all drowned, as Miriam sang with the women of Israel: “Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea” (Exodus 15:21). Here, encouraging and strengthening faith in the hearts of his disciples, Jesus rescued them from drowning in the sea. It is a pitiful comparison, O Christian: will I be an unbeliever today, or a doubter? No! Preserve my faith, O Lord! Keep me from the rocks and shoals of unbelief and doubt, and bring me through the day today with nothing but trust in you!

“You have kept me this night from all harm and danger. Keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please you. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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