This story of Jesus walking on water makes me wonder if he would be able to enjoy slip-and-slides.
There are a few strange things about this opening sentence. First of all, no one is quite sure where Bethsaida is, or if there were one or two towns because there are some contradictions and confusion over its possible location. Second, why would the disciples leave Jesus alone to “disperse” a crowd of some 10,000+? Can you imagine how long that would have taken if you imagine it as Jesus standing at the door to a church and personally shaking everyone’s hand?
Jesus went to the mountain. Which mountain is that now? I also want to point out that Jesus managed to find some alone time, despite the previous story showing us how difficult that was. All I’m saying is that, once again, we don’t seem to be getting all the details, which isn’t a problem, it’s just something to keep in mind as we are interpreting.
Now, to the dramatic portion of the story. It is surmised that the disciples would have been rowing about 6 miles from shore to shore, which should have taken them about an average of 3 hours without trouble. However, they were still in the “middle”, about 3 miles out when Jesus strolls by between 3-6am. So… when did they leave? Why didn’t they sleep first? How strong was this wind that it kept them immobile? Why didn’t they turn around?
Are these details important to the story? Not really. I’m simply curious at the situation presented here. Also, I think it is entirely logical for them to freak out that Jesus was a ghost. I mean, how often do you see a human form on the water in the middle of the sea? I think that this admission gives the story some credence.
He wanted to pass them by!? Does this make sense to anyone? It might if one interprets this is the OT sense of “passing by” as in, Jesus wanted to assure them that he was with them. That seems more plausible than he wanted to strut on by while sticking his tongue out. That almost makes it seem like he caused the wind just to show off, and doesn’t sound like the serious Jesus we’ve come to know. However, it is fun to imagine this humorous side.
He calms them down. “Guys! Guys! It’s okay! It’s just me!” “Jesus Christ, Jesus! You scared the crap out of us!” “Hehehe…”
Let me just quote this line, because what the heck is going on with it?
“They were completely astonished…” Okay, that makes sense.
“because they did not understand about the loaves…” Wait… what!? Not because of the wind calming down? So… this astonishment is completely out of context here?
“but their hearts were hardened.” Is this the reason they didn’t understand? Or is this in contrast to their astonishment? Like, they were amazed but still doubted Jesus’ authority? It seems as if once again we are dealing with some form of unbelief. If they had believed, would they have been less astonished? Would they have understood how to clone loaves of bread? At this point were they simply too overwhelmed and were simply balking at everything new that came along because they really needed a time out?
Maybe after the last miracle in this chapter, we can look over them all and find a pattern? What is Mark trying to show us about Jesus?