Believe in Jesus or reject him. Devote your life to him or deny him. Praise him or criticize him. There are many ways to react to Jesus, but one thing you can’t do is ignore him. There is no middle ground.
From the end of Mark 4 to the beginning of chapter 6, Jesus continues his tour across the sea and back home. Along the way, he interacts with many different characters. But they all choose to react in either fear or faith.
Read Mark 4:35-6:6.
This section is a little long, but these stories are interesting to compare side-by-side. At first, Jesus crosses the sea with his disciples and settles down for a much-needed nap. The disciples rudely awake him when a sudden squall threatens to capsize the boat. I imagine them pointing at the waves breaking over the boat and shouting, “How can you sleep when our lives are in danger? Why are you not freaking out like us?” Maybe one of them shoved a bucket into his hands and cried, “Help us bail out the boat!”
Jesus knew buckets were not enough to save the boat. Mere human power could not save their. So he stood up and stopped the storm at its source. Then looking at his disciples, Jesus questioned their trust in him. He was saying, “You don’t need to be afraid when I am with you. I am in control of the happy ending. My actions have proven you can trust me.”
The disciples were stunned. Their faith may have increased, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his power over the storm scared them too.
For the rest of the trip, Jesus naturally draws people to him, either to send him away or ask his help. And they are all afraid of something. The possessed man ran to him while he was still far off. The unclean spirits were afraid of his wrath. The people in the area, afraid of his power, come to beg him to leave (imagine the negative economic impact of losing 2,000 pigs). The freed man wanted to be with Jesus. Across the sea again, Jairus falls at his feet afraid for his daughter’s life (even though the Jewish religious leaders like himself were Jesus’ greatest critics). The sick woman was so desperate that she struggled through the crowd just to brush her fingers on his cloak. She was afraid to ask his help because her disease made her unclean. But her faith was stronger than her fear.
Her response to Jesus couldn’t have been more opposite to the reception waiting for him at home. When Jesus returned to Nazareth, his hometown where all the neighbors watched him grow up, the people there couldn’t grasp that the boy they knew from infancy had become a travelling rabbi and sensational miracle worker. They were so offended by his presumption that Jesus couldn’t show them as great of miracles as he had done elsewhere. “And he marveled because of their unbelief” (vs. 6:6).
The people who knew Jesus the longest were blind to his miracles and deaf to his teaching. Like his family, they may have worried his antics would embarrass or otherwise mar their community. He was defying the expected social norms, and they wanted nothing to do with his new movement.
They chose fear over faith.
Jesus has offered the choice between fear and faith ever since. Either we can continue living in fear–fear of change, fear of consequences, fear of what Jesus might do in our lives if we let him. Or we can surrender it all and listen when he says, “Do not fear, only believe” (vs. 5:36).