Chapter & verse: Mark 4:35-41
I paint. And I have a growing series of paintings of Bible stories seen from the air, inspired by the breathtaking photographs we so often see. Whole cities become networks of tiny streets; fields spread out like haphazard mosaic; coastlines become jagged lines of cliff and sweep of sandy bay. So I’ve played with imagining hovering over a Bible story. And, more than any other, one episode has emerged from the canvas. More than any other painting I’ve done, this is the one asked for. I’m just about to create it afresh, on a big scale, commissioned by a student heading towards ordination with a manse-ful of big walls to fill. This will be version five of Jesus Calming the Storm. This little episode in Mark chapter four seems to resonate and go deep.
As the most breathless and brief of our gospels, Mark plots the narrative to carry us rapidly along the tale’s trajectory. Chapter four opens with a series of parables and some explanation from Jesus about faith – about hearing and responding to the Word of God. Some seed, falling upon unfriendly ground, gets wasted and lost to stones and thorns. But where soil is rich and fertile, abundant crops grow. Faith, Jesus says, can spring to life but be snuffed out by cares and fears and challenge. The great and mighty enterprise of God, the kingdom of God’s rule on earth, is like a tiny mustard seed, Jesus teaches, secretly growing to transform the world. Then Mark sets the scene for our passage: “[Jesus] did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.” (4:34).
It’s on this day of teaching and explanation that Jesus and his friends cross the water in their flotilla of small boats. Mark has highlighted a context of outsiders and insiders – of those in the dark and those in the know. We’ve been shown that faith can run deep. We’ve been warned that faith can run out. Following Jesus is fragile for us. The way ahead is unpredictable. The wind begins to rise…
This is an extract from the June 2015 edition of Reform.