The perfect place to preach: Mark 4:1-2

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered round him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.

Mark 4:1-2, NIV

15th March, 2024: Paphos, Cyprus

Jesus is still living and working in Capernaum, next to Lake Galilee. The nature of the geography means that the large crowds who were following Jesus would gather on the edge of the town, next to the lake. We know of one previous instance where this happened, and there was the risk of Jesus and the disciples being literally pushed into the lake by the crush of the crowd. On that occasion, ‘[Jesus] told the disciples to have a boat ready for him.’ (Mark 3:9). It is unclear whether that first time, Jesus actually resorted to using the boat. We need to remember that most of the people in the crowd have come to seek or witness dramatic healings, although Christ’s declared intention is to preach (Mark 1:38).

Last Christmas I ran a large event in the town centre in the middle of a busy market,  which involved a stage, a band and a likely crowd of about 300 people. I had recruited a wonderful team of about a dozen stewards. Before the event, I needed to brief the stewards, so we gathered at the back of the stage for me to talk to them. It was a slightly breezy day, and there were lots of distractions. They all wanted to know what I had to say, and I have lots of experience of ‘throwing my voice’, but it was a challenge to make these few people hear me. Our ready access to megaphones, microphones and portable PA systems can make us forget just how difficult it is to make yourself heard by large groups of people.

Whilst the actual location referred to here is open to discussion, there are several places beside the lake where the land rises quite quickly.  This time, Jesus uses the boat (which, incidentally, Luke tells us belonged to Simon – Luke 5:1-3). By selecting the right place, and by placing himself on the water a few yards off shore, Jesus is able to address a large crowd of people standing on that rising ground, his voice amplified by the landscape and reflecting off the water (For a study of how this might work, click here (link to Bible Affirming Truth website)).

The separation from the people allows Jesus to remain the centre of their attention. The boat allows Jesus to maintain distance from those who have come looking for the opportunity to touch him and receive healing, yet it seems that now, they are ready to remain and listen to what he has to say. This, then, is the perfect place to preach.

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

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