When He’s Faithful (Which Is Always)

By Elizabeth Baumann

A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 6:47-56

47 When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. 48 When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by. 49  But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; 50for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

51 Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.


If, like me, you get to the place where every time you crack open the gospels, you say, “Yeah, yeah, I know this one…”, I’ve found the answer: switch lectionaries. The way the lessons are parsed often breathes new life into the so-familiar words. Take today’s gospel.

We all think we know the story of Jesus walking on the water, but actually, all three synoptic gospels tell the story differently. Today’s version from Mark begins as Jesus looks out from the hill where he’s been praying through the night to see the disciples’ boat struggling to cross the water. It’s a dark and stormy night, and Jesus has sent his chosen followers out by themselves, and they’re in trouble. So Jesus comes to them the only way he can: he walks. When they see him, instead of being relieved, they’re terrified. They don’t recognize him. Yet Jesus gets into their boat, and once he’s with them, the storm ceases. Marks tells us they were astounded, and they did not understand about the loaves. Jesus just provided, in our lesson yesterday, in the most visceral way, but they still don’t get it.

Our lectionary beautifully parses this out so that we read it along with the next part, in which the people of Gennesaret immediately recognize Jesus, and immediately begin to bring him their sick. See the contrast? Unlike the disciples, the people know Jesus when they see him, and they respond with tremendous faith and trust, bringing him their most vulnerable. He honors their faith: Mark tells us he healed everyone he touched.

So, harden not your hearts. When we trust Jesus with our vulnerable parts, he is faithful. And when we fail to recognize him coming to us, he still gets into our messy boats and steers us to shores of greater faith.

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Pennsylvania
The Diocese of Derby (Church of England)


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