Lexegete | Year B | St. Mark
Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 21, 2009 (Lectionary 12)
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 (29)
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
1 Samuel 17:[1a, 4-11, 19-23] 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20 (9)
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Prayer of the Day
O God of creation, eternal majesty, you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm. By your strength pilot us, by your power preserve us, by your wisdom instruct us, and by your hand protect us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Alleluia. Now is the accept- | able time;
now is the day | of salvation. Alleluia. (2 Cor. 6:2)
1a. CONTEXT - Mark 4:35-41 / The Stilling of the Storm
This passage belongs to the fourth group of miracles in Mark - all of
them amazing in scope: the stilling of the storm, the healing of the
Gerasene demoniac, and the raising of the daughter of Jairus - with its
interlude healing of the woman with the 12 year hemorrhage. Quite
probably the collection had been made prior to Mark, and what he has done
is to add the command to secrecy. How are we to understand these
miracles, as Mark presents them? Note that they are juxtaposed to the
parables of Chapter 4, where Jesus reveals to the disciples, as an inside
group, what the secret of the realm of God is, while the crowds largely
remain ignorant (4:11; 4:34). By contrast, the disciples are the only
people present at the stilling of the storm. They are also present at the
exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac. They play an interactive, although
uncomprehending role in the healing of the woman with the hemorrhage.
The inner circle, Peter, James and John, witness the raising of Jairus'
daughter. These miracles, following on the parables as they do, are also
manifestations to the disciples of the secret of God's realm.
Yet, the disciples seem unable to understand the secret. As a result,
Jesus is now presented as in a state of some conflict (or dramatic
development) with the disciples, which will not be settled until Peter
makes his confession at Caesarea- Philippi, saying, "You are the Messiah"
(8:29). At the conclusion of this section of miracles, we might expect a
summation, like those at 1:32-34 and 3:7-12. The rejection at Nazareth
follows instead, with a negative summation: "And he could do no deed of
power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured
them. And he was amazed at their unbelief" (6:5-6). It is just here, that
Mark makes Jesus' healings explicitly dependent on people's faith,
although it is implicit in the instances of the paralytic (2:5), and the
woman with the hemorrhage (5:34). Their faith, too, is the result of an
act of God, since faith always requires divine initiative as its beginning
point. When Jesus is faced with the refusal of his own townsfolk to hear,
see or comprehend, once again he finds himself in conflict (or dramatic
development) with unbelief and misunderstanding.
The conflict raised by misunderstanding reaches its climax in the
forming of his enemies' resolve to destroy him, already present at 3:6.
Historically, this statement would have been anachronistic at that point,
but the intention of Mark in using it there is theological. Mark is telling
his readers that these growing conflicts, including those caused by the
healings, aren't separate incidents in Jesus' life, but connected incidents
that will reach their true climax in the passion. Mark is relating the
miracles to the passion in a new way, that the tradition has not done
before. Yet, he isn't forcing a meaning on the miracles that was foreign to
the earlier tradition, or to Jesus himself. In the earlier tradition the
miracles were seen as manifestations of Jesus as the Messiah. Yet, this
belief had come to the church as a result of the death and resurrection of
Jesus, and therefore the telling of these stories had always depended on
faith in his death and resurrection. As for Jesus himself, the miracles
were signs of the inbreaking realm of God. They derived meaning and
significance only from what was still in the future. The church accepts
that with the death and resurrection of Jesus the realm of God has already
1b. Text: Mark 4:35-41 (NRSV)
4:35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side."
4:36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.
4:37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.
4:38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
4:39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
4:40 He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?"
4:41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
35Καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ὀψίας γενομένης, Διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πέραν.
36καὶ ἀφέντες τὸν ὄχλον παραλαμβάνουσιν αὐτὸν ὡς ἦν ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ, καὶ ἄλλα πλοῖα ἦν μετ' αὐτοῦ.
37καὶ γίνεται λαῖλαψ μεγάλη ἀνέμου, καὶ τὰ κύματα ἐπέβαλλεν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον, ὥστε ἤδη γεμίζεσθαι τὸ πλοῖον.
38καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἐν τῇ πρύμνῃ ἐπὶ τὸ προσκεφάλαιον καθεύδων: καὶ ἐγείρουσιν αὐτὸν καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἀπολλύμεθα;
39καὶ διεγερθεὶς ἐπετίμησεν τῷ ἀνέμῳ καὶ εἶπεν τῇ θαλάσσῃ, Σιώπα, πεφίμωσο. καὶ ἐκόπασεν ὁ ἄνεμος, καὶ ἐγένετο γαλήνη μεγάλη.
40καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τί δειλοί ἐστε; οὔπω ἔχετε πίστιν;
41καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν, καὶ ἔλεγον πρὸς ἀλλήλους, Τίς ἄρα οὗτός ἐστιν ὅτι καὶ ὁ ἄνεμος καὶ ἡ θάλασσα ὑπακούει αὐτῷ;
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979,
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London
2. ANALYSIS: Mark 4:35-41
Mark uses language in his accounts of Jesus' crossings of the Sea of
Galilee that have him making successive journeys from west to east
without any mention of a return trip, either by sea or by land (4:35 and
5:1; 5:21). The Greek phrase used (eis to peran ) normally means to go
from the area of Palestine, that lies to the west of the Sea of Galilee and
the Jordan River, to the land lying to the east of the sea and the river.
Any attempt to straighten out this problem will owe more to the
imagination of the one who solves it than it will to Mark's text. That it
was a problem is illustrated by the way the other two Synoptic Gospels
corrected Mark's language. While both Matthew and Luke reproduce the
first eis to peran (Matt. 8:18, although he has inserted some other
material between the command in v. 18 and its execution in v. 23; Luke
8:22), neither one of them reproduces the second one, in Mark 5:21.
Matthew omits that material altogether, while Luke changes the eis to
peran to hypostrephein, a word meaning "return." And so he eliminates
the problem of consecutive crossings from the west to the east shore.
This makes it clear that Mark's format isn't capable of providing the
information needed to recreate Jesus' historical itinerary, and the more
historical appearance of that itinerary in Matthew and Luke is due to
their attempts to clarify one of their literary sources. They seem to be
as dependent on Mark as we are, for an outline of Jesus' itinerary. And we
will do no better if we try to construct a chronological sequence from
Mark's narrative framework. We learn in 4:35 for example, that Jesus and
his disciples set out across the Sea of Galilee "when evening had come."
Before we hear again of any chronological reference ("on the Sabbath,"
6:2), Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee and stilled the storm, healed the
Gerasene demoniac, made another trip across the sea, healed the woman
with the hemorrhage, went to Jairus' house and raised his daughter from
the dead, and "returned to his own country." If we are meant to think that
the day following the evening of 4:35 was the sabbath of 6:2, then all
those events occurred on that one night, which is absurd. Any attempt to
say that a longer period of time was meant will find no support in Mark's
It is just this kind of discovery about the nature of Mark's format
that leads scholars to conclude that Mark has arranged his material in
this way, not to make a historical point, but to make a theological point.
To read Mark as an historical narrative is to misread him. What we must
try to find is the theological point that caused Mark to arrange his
materials in the way that he did. What this means is that we can't move
from the shape of Mark's narrative to conclusions about the history of
Jesus with any hope of finding historically reliable results. That is due
to the fact that Mark's narrative in its present form exists at least two
levels removed from the historical events themselves. The most recent
would be the present form of the Gospel of Mark (this would also hold
true for Matthew and Luke, but we are mainly concerned here, with Mark).
The prior existence of material is represented by the traditions and the
tradition-complexes available to the Gospel writers.
3. STRATEGY: Mark 4:26-34
Following from previous discoveries about historical inconsistencies
we turn our attention to another discovery that points us in the direction
of correctly perceiving Mark's theological point. Most of the passages
about the Messianic Secret occur in Mark's editorial sections, either in
summaries (1:34; 3:12, where he has Jesus forbid the demons to speak), or
in additions to the units of material (5:43; 7:36; 8:26 where he has Jesus
forbid those who are healed to speak). Mark's editorial comments create
additional inconsistencies - either the command to silence is disobeyed
(7:36), or it is given in situations where it was impossible to observe
(5:43). These inconsistencies indicate that the theme of the secret
probably was not already present in the tradition, and even less likely to
have been a historical fact in Jesus' ministry. Therefore we may
conclude that it was a creation of Mark, himself. In only two places is
the command to silence evidently earlier than Mark's own invention: 1:25
and 1:44, where it seems integral to the conventional stories.
To test this theological invention vs historical convention usage of the
Messianic secret by Mark, we need to ask - if Jesus actually sought to
play down his miracles, why is it that the attempt failed? Of course we
know that the amazement of bystanders was a traditional feature to end a
story of healing. Yet Mark has gone further, in stressing the amazement of
the crowds and of the disciples (without their understanding), until
Peter's confession (8:29). Yet he, too, is commanded to remain silent
(8:30). From this turning point on, Jesus begins to reveal to the disciples
that as Messiah (Son of Man), he must suffer. This, too, must be kept
secret until after the resurrection (9:9). Here is the motivational clue to
Mark's theological construction. According to Reginald B. Fuller, "the
Messianic Secret is really an aside addressed to the reader. [ She or] he is
intended to see that the miracles, along with the other disclosures of
Jesus in his ministry are revelations of the risen Christ addressed to
him [ or her], the reader."
If we take this view, there is no place for miracles as open
manifestations of the divine glory. Instead, as revelations during the
earthly life of Jesus they are mysterious, indirect, hidden and
paradoxical, in character. Like the disciples in the storm-tossed boat, we
too, can rub our eyes in uncomprehending amazement, as the wind and the
waves apparently obey this man. Yet, we can do more. We can see history
interpreted from the future vantage point of the resurrection, in this
event. We can see the disciples taking him in the boat with them "just as
he was" as a starting point for a funeral sermon - a "crossing to the other
side" on the way from death to resurrection. Other boats were with him.
There is comfort in that phrase, for all who will yet cross that storm-
tossed sea from which no traveler has yet made a return voyage. Perhaps
we can even go a step further, interpreting Mark to mean that the boat(s)
are a metaphor, or a symbol for the church(es) undergoing suffering and
persecution. The message of comfort is: they are not alone in their
conflict - their Lord has died and has risen again, to take command of
history in a completely unprecedented way - as Lord of the cosmos. After
his death and his resurrection, our Lord can truly ask - "Why are you
afraid? Have you still no faith?" (4:40.)
4. REFERENCES: Mark 4:26-34
Aland, Kurt, ed. Synopsis of the Four Gospels. Wuerttembergische
Bibelanstalt, W. Germany: United Bible Societies, 1976, p. 122.
Achtemeier, Paul J. Mark: Proclamation Commentaries, ed. by Gerhard
Krodel. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975, pp. 13-16.
Fuller, Reginald B. Interpreting the Miracles. London: SCM Press LTD.,
1963, pp. 71-73, 75-76.
(All scripture quotations are from the NRSV.)
Exegete: Rev. Carol M. Worthing, D.Min., Ph.D. Following an illustrious career in teaching, counseling, and parish ministry , Dr. Worthing retired as executive director of the Texas Conference of Churches in 2003. She moved back to Duluth, Minnesota, where she had been baptized and confirmed at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. She has two adult sons. Here current activities include retreat leadership at various sites, including the McCabe Renewal Center affiliated with St. Scholastica’s Monastery, a Monastic Community of Benedictine Sisters who live according to the Gospel and the Rule of St. Benedict.
John the Baptist | June 24, 2009
Psalm 141 (8)
Luke 1:57-67 (68-80)
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, by your gracious providence your servant John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth and Zechariah. Grant to your people the wisdom to see your purpose and the openness to hear your will, that the light of Christ may increase in us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Alleluia. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righ- | teousness' sake,
for theirs is the king- | dom of heaven. Alleluia. (Matt. 5:10)