Mark’s Gospel is intentionally sparse when it comes to details. Mark’s goal is to tell the Good News in as efficient a way as possible. He uses the word “immediately” with reckless abandon. Things are happening in a hurry, swift decisions must be made, and Mark want us to come to know the saving love of God with great haste.
It is odd, then, when spurious details show up. It makes us pause. We slow down for just a second to ponder the implications of this word or that phrase. These details keep us from racing to the finish line. We have one such example in the Gospel lesson for Sunday. It is a brief passage, only six verses long, and it tells the story of one of Jesus’ great miracles: calming the storm and raging sea. It ends with the disciples fearing a great fear, wondering just who this man really is (more on that tomorrow), but stuck in the middle is an odd little detail.
“Other boats were with him.”
Other boats? More ancient translations say “other little ships,” which is even more curious, I suppose. Anyway, as I read the Gospel lesson this morning I was drawn to the other boats. Who was on them? Did they experience the same sort of fury that the disciples’ ship endured? Did they know that it was Jesus who calmed the storm? Were they part of the group that was filled with awe?
So much of life is simply paying attention to your surroundings. There are people all around, many are suffering, some are experiencing great joy, the vast majority are staring at their phones unaware that peril lies just ahead. The world is full of “other boats” that are following the uncharted course of Jesus, whether they know it or not. As disciples, we should pay attention to those other boats and invite them to see the amazing things that we see. We should tend to them with kindness and compassion. We should note when the waters around us are empty or when God has placed some extra traffic in our wake. Opportunities for evangelism, discipleship, and service are all around, if only we’d pay attention.