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Daily Devotional • January 20

Ed Little
Knowing Jesus
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 4:35-41

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 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?” 39 And waking up, he rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Be silent! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

“Let us go across to the other side,” Jesus told his disciples. But a routine boat trip suddenly turned dangerous. And where was Jesus? Asleep!  “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” The rest of the story, of course, is familiar. Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves, and calm was restored. “Why are you afraid?” Jesus asked, and one can almost hear  surprise in his voice. “Have you still no faith?” But the disciples were, as always, befuddled. “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

This is hardly the first, and will not be the last, time that the disciples fail to understand who Jesus is. Yes, they have occasional flashes of insight. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16), Peter will confess, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!”, as Nathanael declared earlier (John 1:49). But on the whole, the disciples cannot grasp the enormity of what they are experiencing: a man who teaches with authority, heals the sick, raises the dead, and commands the forces of nature. 

Jesus chooses people who fail to fully grasp his message and we’re among them. We have a cornucopia of spiritual resources: the biblical canon, creeds, sacraments, and two millennia of theological reflection. We have received the faith in its fullness. But we and our apostolic forebears stand on level ground. Jesus invites us, as he invited them, to gaze at him in wonder, to articulate, as best we can, our experience of the one who has claimed our lives; and, when our words fail,as surely they will, to know his infinite patience. The disciples were clueless all the way to Good Friday, clueless as the sun rose on Easter Day. Yet it was they whose message transformed the world.

The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II was bishop of Northern Indiana for 16 years after serving parishes in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Joaquin. He is the author of three books; most recently: The Heart of a Leader: St. Paul as Mentor, Model, and Encourager (2020).

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Today we pray for:

Christ Episcopal Church, Pottstown, Pennsylvania
The Diocese of Pacong – The Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan
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