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Friday, May 20, 2016

The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ

Jesus Asleep in the Boat – A Mystery of Revelation, Redemption, and Recapitulation

by Lawrence Fox 
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41)

Primary education emphasizes the three “R”s -- reading, writing, and arithmetic. All other studies build on these three. A primary study of the Person of Jesus Christ within Sacred Scripture also includes the three “R”s -- revelation, redemption, and recapitulation. The Catholic Catechism states that within each event in the life of Jesus - in both silence and activity – there exists the profound mystery of revelation, redemption, and recapitulation. 

Christ’s whole earthly life -- His word and deeds, His silences and suffering is a revelation of the Father. (CCC 516) The Catechism goes on to explain that Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Such comes to us through the blood of the cross primarily, but this mystery of redemption is at work throughout Christ’s entire life. (CCC 516)

The Catechism also states that Christ’s whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All that Jesus did, said and suffered had as its aim -- restoring fallen man to his original vocation. (CCC 518) As a side note, the word recapitulation means to “sum up,” “to restore” and “to recapture.”

Recapitulation is not the same thing as “fulfillment” which deals with types in the Old Testament realized or fulfilled by the lives of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Mother, John the Baptist, the Apostles, and other Christian Saints in the New Testament. I am only making a distinction here; not separating. Examples of fulfillment would include King David speaking in the Psalms about being betrayed by his friend who shares bread with him. (Ps. 41:9 NIV) This prayer is literally fulfilled in the life of Jesus who is betrayed by Judas while at supper sharing bread. (John 13:26)

Isaiah makes the prophecy,
“The virgin shall
conceive and give birth to a son” (Isaiah 7:14) which is literally fulfilled by the Virgin Mary.

Here is an example of recapitulation: Jesus is the new Adam who remains obedient to God’s voice, therefore bringing life (not death) to the members of His Mystical Body, the Church. Jesus is led into the desert by the Holy Spirit and for forty days fasts and prays. Jesus’ sacrifice and victory over Satan’s temptations both reveals and redeems, but it also recapitulates in Himself the Exodus of the Israelites -- wandering 40 years in the desert.

It should be noted that the three “R”s are summarized in the opening chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Church in Ephesus stating: “In him we have redemption” (verse 6) and “in the fullness of time, God recapitulates (sums up) all things in Christ,” (verse 10) and again “I keep asking that the God Our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know him better” (verse 17). 

The theme of recapitulation is found extensively in the writing of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (130 to 202 AD). In his apologetic work titled, Against Heresies. He writes, “He (Jesus) would not have had real flesh and blood, by which he paid the price [of our salvation], unless he had indeed recapitulated in himself the ancient making of Adam.” A more complete example of recapitulation from Irenaeus’s work combines the actions of Christ and the obedience of the Virgin Mary:

"So the Lord now manifestly came to his own, and, born by his own created order which he himself bears, he by his obedience on the tree (recapitulated) renewed and reversed what was done by disobedience in connection with a tree; and the power of that seduction by which the virgin Eve, already betrothed to a man, had been wickedly seduced was broken when the angel in truth brought good tidings to the Virgin Mary, who already [by her betrothal] belonged to a man. For as Eve was seduced by the word of an angel to flee from God, so Mary by the word of an angel received the glad tidings that she would bear God by obeying his Word. The former was seduced to disobey God and so fell, but the latter was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. As the human race was subjected to death through [the act of] a virgin, so was it saved by a virgin, and thus the disobedience of one virgin was precisely balanced by the obedience of another." (Richardson, Cyril, ed._Early Christian Fathers (ECF), p.333)

With these things in mind, I decided to search and find the three “R”s within the events narrated in the Gospel according to Mark which begin with the words, “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.” 


Mark (4:41) writes that Jesus was in the stern of the boat, sleeping on a cushion while the winds and the waves were distressing the disciples. What can be gleaned from the fact that Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat? The word “sleep” reveals that Jesus
Sleeping Christ: a human being 
truly possesses a human nature, both body and soul:
“He is a man like us in all things but without sin.” (Heb. 4:15)

The Alexandrian Church Father, Didymus the Blind (313-398 AD) states, “Sleeping and eating are not the function of a divine spirit but a human spirit.” Didymus wrote these words to correct the Arian teaching that Jesus did not possess a human soul. The heretic Arius (256-336 AD) taught that the created word was a divine spirit animating the body of Jesus (i.e. Jesus did not have a human soul).

The key to discerning Sacred Scripture is to be able distinguish “one thing” from “another thing” without separating; which is especially true as it related to the Person of Jesus Christ. The non-Christian sees the humanity of Jesus Christ but as to recognizing his divinity, that is another story. It should not surprise anyone since Jesus was condemned to death -- not for professing his humanity -- but his divinity.
“Amen, Amen before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 5:58) "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Mk. 14:62) For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, all the events in the life of Jesus - in both silence and activity – show Him to be a Divine Person.
And so, Jesus asleep in the stern of the ship reveals his humanity. His actions after he wakes up reveal his Divinity.

Mark then records that his disciples woke Him and when Jesus got up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves,
“Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and the sea was completely calm. 

When the disciples witnessed what Jesus had done, they asked each other the terrifying question, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” The disciples are confronted by the Person of Jesus who sleeps as a man and speaks with the power of God. It is important to hear the emotion “fear of the Lord is the first stage of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10) within the words of the disciples. They tremble and ask, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” The apostles sense that Jesus is something greater that Moses, Elijah or Elisha.

Mark prepares the reader for this event by capturing earlier in the Gospel that the people were amazed at Jesus' teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. (Mk. 1:22) The prophets and teachers of the law could only re-iterate or interpret the Law of Moses. Jesus said that he completed such Law. The apostles are now faced with Jesus, Who speaks with the same Authority -- the same Voice --  that gave the Law to Moses. And He has authority over the winds and the wave.

Sacred Scripture identifies God alone having the power to calm the winds and seas. Psalm (89:8-9 NIV) states, “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? …You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.” The Lord God Almighty rules the seas. Jesus awakes, speaks and the seas are calmed and the winds abate. Mark’s narrative literally fulfills another revelation of God in the Psalms which states, “Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. For he (God) spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves…then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble … He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.” (Psalm 107:23-30 NIV)

Psalm 107 recaptures the story of Jonah, who in an attempt to flee from the will of God boards a ship in the city of Joppa with merchants and God raises up a mighty storm and waves. It should be noted that Joppa is the city in which Peter – while staying in the home of a tanner names Simon - brings the Gospel message to the Gentiles; baptizing Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, and his entire household. (Acts. 9:42 & 10:1-48)

Anyway, Jonah was cast overboard and swallowed up into the belly of a large fish and the seas and winds become calm. The Pharisees and Scribes asked Jesus for a

sign, and Jesus said this wicked generation would only receive the sign of Jonah who was in the belly of the fish for three days. Jesus was alluding to his death, burial, and resurrection on the first day of the week. The apostles understood the connection between Jesus’ words to the Pharisees and the event in the boat only after the descent of the Holy Spirit, “I will send another comforter who will remind you of everything I said.”

Anyway, several of the apostles were merchants of the sea and they too cried out to Jesus, who then hushed the wind and the sea and brought them safely to shore. Jesus by revealing his power over the winds and sea establishes the next “R” -- the reality that every moment of Christ’s life embodies the work of redemption.


The term “sea” has several connotations within Sacred Scripture. The Book of Revelation identifies the sea as the place upon which Satan stands and out of which the beast emerges. (Rev. 13: 1) In this context, the sea represents the Gentile nations, which persecute the People of God. During the time of Noah, God executes judgment over sin through the rising seas, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.” (Gen. 6:11-13) Within the “Song of Moses,” God is praised
for using the sea to execute judgment against Egypt and bringing redemption to the twelve tribes of Israel, “Horse and rider he has thrown in the sea! … Your love guided the people you redeemed.” (Exodus 15:1-11)

Jesus’ power over “the sea” (nature) demonstrates his authority to judge, to wash away sin, and redeem all of creation. Jesus tells his disciples that all authority in heaven and earth has been given him. (Matt. 28:18) The old water of judgment is replaced by the “water and spirit” of baptism which now saves a person, “and this water (Noah’s flood) symbolizes baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1Peter 3:21) 

Paul says something very similar in that the children of Israel while crossing the Red Sea were baptized into Moses. (1Cor. 10:2) Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that he is the source of this living water, “but whoever drinks any of the water that I shall give him will never, never thirst.” (John 14:4)

Tragically, some Christians miss this correlation because they separate water, blood, and Spirit in support of "faith alone" or "spirit alone." And yet John the beloved disciple identifies “spirit, water, and blood” as one (en). He states, “This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are one." The text actually literally states that “the three are in the one.” (1 John 5:6) My point is that Jesus’ authority over the waters is manifested in God’s Word recited over the waters of baptism, “In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” which as Peter says, “now saves you.”

John the Evangelist while “in the spirit” sees the “Book of Life” being opened and the sea giving up the dead. John then sees a new heaven and earth for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away and “there was no longer any sea.” (Rev. 20: 13 & 21:1) This little phrase “no longer any sea” reveals that judgment over sin and death and the redemption of God’s elect is now complete. The manner in which Jesus’ disciples awake him introduces the next “R” identified as recapitulation.


Mark writes that the disciples woke Him exclaiming, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Any person would consider Jesus’ response to His disciples as being over the top. Who wouldn’t be scared in the same situation? But upon further reflection the disciples’ words, “Teacher, don’t you care..?” tells you what is taking place. Their response is similar to the reaction of the Israelites when faced with the barrier of the “Red Sea” in the front of them and Pharaoh’s army in the rear. They cried out to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” (Ex 14:10-31) Within this event in Jesus’ life, the twelve disciples are the ones
being called -- through the gift of faith -- to re-order (recapitulate) the lack of faith demonstrated by the twelve tribes of Israel. It is not going so well, but Jesus is patient.

Mark intimates in another chapter that the disciples’ manner of speaking to Jesus represents a “hardness of heart.” (Mark 8: 17) The Israelites grumbled in the desert, “And he (Moses) called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites tested the LORD saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’” (Exodus 17:7) 

The response by the disciples is nearly the same, “Is the Lord among us? Does he not care for us?” The irony is that Jesus’ name means “Yahweh Saves” and therefore “I AM" was with them. Jesus asks his disciples, “Do you still have no faith?” On one level Jesus is reminding his disciples that their fear is rooted in the same lack of faith, which prevented the children of Israel from entering into God’s rest. (Psalm 95:11 NIV) On another level Jesus’ question, “Do you still have no faith?” is reminiscent to God asking Moses, “Why do you cry out to me?” and then God commanding Moses to lift the rod to part the Red Sea. (Exodus 14:10-31) Jesus in essence is saying to his apostles, “Why do you cry out to me, lift up my name.”

I can imagine hearing Jesus saying to his disciples, “If you had the faith of a mustard seed, you could have said in my name to the winds and the sea, ‘Be still!’” Such faith requires knowing that Jesus is “God with us.” (Matt. 1:23) Jesus was certainly with them in the boat – which can symbolize the Ark of Noah, but also the Church -- with the apostles being the foundation and Jesus being the cornerstone. While in the boat, there is the presence and comfort of God in the midst of evil and tribulation. What is so required from Jesus disciples is to “lift up the name of Jesus” during trials and tribulations. Which brings us to the final point, by entering into the three “Rs” -- revelation, redemption and re-capitulation -- the disciple is participating in the events in the life of Christ.


Jesus calls his disciples to participate in his Divine Life so that through them God brings forth and shares his Divine Revelation with all of humanity. Jesus calls his disciples to continue his work of redemption by acts of faith, hope, and charity. Jesus – Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever -- offers His disciples the opportunity by grace and faith to re-order (recapitulate) the people of the past, present, and future. God planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39 & Ephesians 2:19)

By studying Sacred Scripture and searching with devotion for revelation, redemption, and recapitulation, the saint of God is able to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” (2 Pet. 3:18)
Did you enjoy this piece? There is more Pentecost: Why were there 120 Jews in the Upper Room?

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