As Jesus and the disciples set out on one of their many trips across the Sea of Galilee, they were hit by an unexpected and violent crisis, as recounted here in the Gospel of Mark.
Sudden violent storms from the east in the early evenings of winter are well known in the area. The fisherman here call them Sharkia, Arabic for shark. The disciples are fighting for their lives. So does Jesus join the battle to save the boat? Not according to the Bible account:
It’s the act of someone with incredible power, and it makes the disciples question who on earth Jesus was. Not surprisingly, the Bible says they are awestruck. Jesus – it appears – can control the very elements.
Now, of course, from a modern western scientific perspective, the fascinating question is “what really happened?” Perhaps the storm was about to subside anyway, and the “miracle” may have been little more than good timing.
But in order to understand the miracle as a sign, we need to focus on the meaning of the event rather than the event itself. That meaning was what left the disciples awestruck. It was more than shocking, it was scandalous.
By rebuking the wind and the sea, Jesus was showing that he had authority over the elements. As only God could claim such authority, Jesus was acting as if he was God.
But for the disciples, that revelation was not to be greeted with unalloyed joy. It was much too complicated for that. They were all too aware that for a Jewish man to act as if he were God could mean two things. Either he really was God in human form, or this was nothing short of blasphemy, and blasphemers were mad or demonic. Either way, they were usually dead before long.
There are signs that, right from the beginning of his ministry, Jesus’ actions were consciously unprecedented, dangerous and forbidden.
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In his own time, Jesus was famous as a miracle worker. The miracles shocked those who saw them – not because of the spactacle, but because of the dangerous message they carried about Jesus. In these pages we follow the new BBC series, The Miracles of Jesus, and try to decode three miracles to find out what they were all about.
Images copyright BBC / Religion 2006
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