Mark 4:36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
There’s a wonderful 17th century painting created by a Dutch artist Adriaen van den Venne called “Fishing for Souls,” which depicts the confusion during the time of the Reformation. It’s a picture of a stormy lake and many people are struggling in the water. Different boats are full of Roman Catholic and Protestant clergy trying to help the swimmers get into their vessels. On either side of the lake, hundreds of safe spectators are watching the whole tumultuous scene.
Venne portrays the anxiety that common people were feeling at that time. They didn’t know which side to turn to for salvation. The Roman Catholic Church excommunicated all Protestants and the Reformers called the Pope the Anti-Christ. Millions of people were caught in the middle of this gigantic theological struggle and were deeply troubled about the final destination of their souls. If they chose the wrong boat then they could end up on the wrong side of eternity.
Thankfully, we seem to have healed much that divides the Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism today. If van den Venne was still around, he would probably paint a picture of boats and shores that contained both Roman Catholic priests and Protestant pastors in the same vessels. Souls would still be struggling in the water, but at least Christ’s Church would be working together to rescue the perishing.
It’s Ash Wednesday which officially marks the beginning of Lent. Although I do not practice the rite of placing penitential ash thumb marks on my head, I do give thanks that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ do experience this. If this brings people closer to God, to seek His forgiveness and receive His pardon, then it is a good thing. After all, we’re all in the same boat wanting the same thing: the salvation of all souls throughout the world.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for steering our lives towards You and for allowing us to climb aboard God’s Kingdom. May Your holiness and salvation be experienced by hundreds of millions of people throughout the world on this first day of Lent. Prepare our hearts and minds for the Cross that is to come and the Resurrection that will be realized. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.