Mark’s Gospel, the first of the four written and a foundational resource for Matthew and Luke, is structured with extraordinary literary elegance and written with shrewd intelligence, yet the Greek is rough and the sense conveyed is one of immediacy, urgency, and unvarnished reality. One of Mark’s favourite phrases is “at once” or “immediately” – you will notice how often this occurs if you read it straight through or listen to a recording of it.
Mark portrays Jesus as a real person, seeing no need to polish or tidy up the image of his Lord. This honesty of presentation becomes very clear when we compare Mark’s version with the other Gospels. Luke also tells of Jesus’ mother and brothers asking for him outside the house where he is teaching (Luke 8:19–21), but no mention is made of them thinking he is out of his mind, and Jesus’ reception of them seems more polite.
Matthew (8:23–27) and Luke (8:22–25) also tell the story of the stilling of the storm, but change Mark’s “they took him into the boat just as he was”. Matthew has the disciples follow Jesus into the boat, and Luke has him get into the boat with his disciples and instruct them where to go – Matthew and Luke make it clear that Jesus is the leader. Only Mark has the vivid, personal detail of the cushion on which Jesus slept. And when in fear they rouse Jesus, Matthew’s disciples say, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing”, Luke’s disciples say, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Only Mark’s say, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Matthew (13:53–58) also includes the story where Jesus comments that a prophet is without honour in his own town, but amends Mark’s “He could not do any miracles there” to “… he did not do many miracles there”.
Mark says the disciples took Jesus into the boat with them “just as he was”. Try to picture this. Was Jesus tired and harassed – even exhausted? Was he dishevelled, after being pulled about by desperate, needy people? Think about the boat of your life at the present time. Who is travelling with you? Do the seas feel dangerous or calm? Does it feel as if Jesus is on board with you? If so, is he awake or asleep? Is everything OK just now, or do you need to shake him awake?
Mark says that in his own town Jesus could not do many miracles because of the people’s lack of faith. Do you think that means faith in God and miracles, or faith in Jesus – “familiarity breeds contempt”? Is there any area in your own life where you long to see change and you wish you could trust Jesus more?
What do you think it must have been like to have Jesus in your family? Can you imagine living with him from day to day?
O God of truth, our companion in the everyday as well as our exalted Lord, help us to put our trust in you completely, so that your mighty power may be at work in our lives for everyone to see, bringing healing and wholeness, integrity, peace, and salvation: for we ask it in Jesus’ holy name; Amen.