The Other Boats We Never Notice

I read the lectionary gospel reading this morning. It is the passage set down in my Bible reading notes for today’s devotions, Mark 4.35 – 41, the passage about Jesus stilling the storm.
It is a passage I read dozens of times; preached on a few times, read numerous comments about and even seen famous paintin6a0120a4f88a1c970b014e8ac611db970d-320wigs of.
So I found myself asking, what is there in this passage that I’ve never seen before? Surely I’ve seen it all! Then, towards the beginning of the passage this little sentence caught my attention: There were also other boats with him.
I swear I had never seen that sentence before!
The wider verse reads: “Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.”
We are much more familiar with the rest of the story. As the disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee the storm blows up. Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat. The frightened disciples wake Jesus, he calms the storm, Jesus challenges the disciples’ faith, and the disciples are awe-struck that “even the wind and the waves obey him.”
Traditionally we’re told that this story tells us that we need to trust Jesus in all the storms of our own lives – he never leaves our boat. He’s always with his followers.
But what about the ‘other boats with him?’ Who were in them? Where were they going? Why did they also get into boats when it says that they left ‘the crowd’ behind them? How did the disciples in the ‘Jesus boat’ feel about the other boats? Did they feel a particular ‘ownership’ of Jesus?
Weren’t they affected by the storm also? Or was the storm so localised that it only affected the boat that Jesus was in? The words ‘with him’ suggest that the other boats were in reasonably close proximity so it is surely fair to deduce that they got caught in the squall also.
Jesus actions affected not only him immediate followers, but others on the lake also. They might or might not have been ‘followers’. There is a fair degree of evidence that they ranged from miracle-seekers to serious God-seekers.
God’s care is not just the preserve of the Jesus people.
In the midst of own dramas and life issues, and the struggles and dynamics in our particular “boat” (personal life, work, church), we are subtly but unmistakably reminded: We’re not the only ones. “Other boats were with him.”
Perhaps there are more ‘boats’ around us on the journey of faith than we realise, and they carry with them the whole range of belief and unbelief, agnosticism and whole hearted believers. Perhaps those God cares about are more than those who are in the same boats as us. It’s the journey not the brand that is important.

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