Today’s reading in Mark is Jesus walking on the water. Immediately I pictured the Sea of Galilee in my mind, and the meek and mild fishermen who still clutter the small docks. I also flashed back to early 2017 when as I gazed out my hotel window in Tiberias and witnessed the most spectacular sunrise over the Sea of Galilee. (And yes, the above pic is me Snapchatting the experience and being a goofball. But it was pretty!)
Going to the Holy Land and walking where Jesus walked (minus the water part!) literally changed my life. It made the Bible come alive. It is like the difference between watching something in black and white, and then seeing it in color. If you have not been to Israel, I strongly encourage you to go. I lead a trip every other year or so, and half of those trips are to the Holy Land. Every Christian should experience the Sea of Galilee, the River Jordan, Masada, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Capernaum, Petra – at least once in their lives.
If you are interested in turning the Bible into 3D vivid HD color, my next trip is a Mediterranean Cruise through Italy, Greece, and Turkey – The Journeys of Paul. www.mattmeinke.com/trips
At the end of the walking on the water story, after the disciples cry out in fear, after he gets in the boat and the wind ceases, then Mark states, “And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” For me, being there in Israel helped give me a measure of understanding I did not have previously.
Scholars over there speak of the Fifth Gospel. At first I was confused, thinking they had canonized some text in the Eastern Church that I didn’t know about. Finally a professor at the Hebrew University pulled some of us non-natives aside and said, “The fifth gospel is the land itself. The land tells a story! You cannot possibly understand the first four gospels until you understand the Fifth Gospel.” He was right.
Maybe I still do not know the Messiah. Perhaps, like the disciples, I still do not truly understand where his power was from. But because of Israel, God’s presence has become all the more real to me.
It has also helped me to trust the text – and to trust in God. Trust is the key to many of these miracles. In a similar story, where Jesus calms the storm, he is asleep in the boat amidst a huge storm raging around them. I don’t know how many of you have been in a small boat during a storm, but this is nearly impossible.
His being asleep is a theological sign for us, not a nautical one: Jesus trusted God. In the story of Job we see a similar thing. The one who is asleep trusts God. The world’s chaos is of no consequence.
Here the disciples thought he was a ghost. They were afraid. They did not trust that their lives were in God’s hand – or worse yet, they didn’t even know that. No matter. Either way, they are not putting their eggs in the right basket. To trust in the Lord is the most essential quality for the miracles. As it turns out, to trust in the Lord is the most essential quality for our very lives.
Think about giving yourself the gift of visiting the Holy Land. I promise it will radically change your walk of faith. It is the power of seeing Jesus, and the text, come alive.