As Jesus speaks and acts in John’s Gospel, the people hear him at one level while he seeks to move them to a deeper level. When Jesus feeds the 5,000, for example, the crowd, stomachs filled, rushes to make him king. Jesus flees. God wants the hungry fed, but there is a deeper hunger and a better bread.
The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. (Somebody once said that next to Homer’s Odyssey the Bible is the “eatingest” book in the world.) But John’s Gospel is the only one that sets the miracle at Passover. The connection is charged: It is God who feeds and saves, and a meal is a sign of God’s justice and mercy.
After the remarkable healing of a woman who had suffered for 12 years from hemorrhages and after the raising of the dead child of Jairus, Jesus goes home to Nazareth accompanied by his disciples. He teaches in the synagogue on the sabbath, and the people are amazed both at his teaching and at the murmured accounts of the healings.
In considering Mark’s story of Jesus’s stilling the storm and rebuking the wind, the Book of Job is helpful. It reminds us that in the Old Testament creation is described in part as a great struggle between God and the sea. In fact, the sea is presented as a monster that only God’s ineffable power can tame.
It was a great day for multiculturalism. It was the Tower of Babel turned upside-down, and what fell out was a glorious manifestation of the grace of God. It was also a tough day for future lay readers: all those forbidding names—Parthians, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Cappadocians, Phrygians, Pamphyilians—that whole crowd.