In his book, Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton writes, “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” In our passage today, we find the disciples caught in a tumultuous sea, terrified at the thought of a ghost coming toward them. Walking on the very waves that were battering the boat, Christ commanded the horrified disciples to, “Take courage! Do not be afraid!”
- Consider the times in your life when you had to have courage. What did it look like for you to respond with courage? What about when you didn’t respond with courage?
READ THE WORD: Mark 6:45-56 (ESV)
45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the nighthe came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for 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 And 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 to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- It was the “fourth watch of the night” (between 3:00-6:00 a.m.), which means the disciples had likely been rowing for six to nine hours through the night. What words from this passage describe what that must have been like? What, do you imagine, was the emotional state of the disciples?
- In the passage immediately before this, Jesus fed five thousand people. Each of the disciples had a basket of bread left over, but that miracle was already forgotten, or perhaps, had not been understood (vs. 52). How do your emotional state and circumstances affect your ability to remember what God has done in your life?
- Compare and contrast the disciples’ responses in verses 49-50 with the response of the people in verses 54-56.
- Where are you failing to recognize the face and power of Jesus in your life right now? What would it look like for you to take courage in your moments of fear, exhaustion, or struggle?
RESPOND TO GOD
Mark drew an interesting comparison between the disciples and the crowds in this passage. Often times, it seems those of us who know Jesus best are the least likely to recognize him and to put our trust in him during our moments of need.
- Spend some time in prayer thanking God for his presence in your life—even if you aren’t recognizing it.
- Ask Jesus to give you a strong desire to live in the form of a readiness to die. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you that courage.