Jesus came proclaiming the good news. Good news for the poor, according to Isaiah 61, is freedom for the captives, release from darkness for the prisoners… and this is because (Isaiah 40) her hard service has been completed, her sin has been paid off… Israel has done her time, her deficit has been paid off, and she is out of debt, and no longer owned by anyone. The Lord proclaims a general release. He is commanding all tyrants to let go of the people they have enslaved. No contract of debt bondage is binding, they are null and void. Our masters don’t have the power to hold you any longer. You are no longer under arrest. You cannot be held. The authorities have to admit who they are holding – this is ‘Habeas Corpus’ – and release them. No more detention is over. No fines need be paid. We have paid them enough, since we have been paying interest that has been compounding faster than you can pay it down. This is not merely news, but an announcement to all masters that we are no longer their slaves. The locks turn, the doors fly open, the warders have gone, the gate swings wide, our way out is clear before us.
This entire morass is the consequence of man’s being hunted by man. This hunting and being hunted has become chaotic and destructive that it is difficult to say where blame lies, so we sum this up by the name Satan, the personification of the pursuit, catching and tying up of mankind, which is the of man’s unreadiness and inability to live with his fellows. Man is afraid, and afraid of them. He is panicked and lashes out. He is stampeded into retribution, trying to get his own back, to inflict pain on whoever inflicted pain on him. The limitlessness of the violence that unrolls one who just wants to see all mankind tied down and thrashing around forever, each only ever able to harm, and to hurt those nearest to them and so endlessly and helplessly to pass on the evil on, in a kind of living destruction. All Israel is sloshing around in the waters of chaos, over their heads in trouble, and with every moment making this worse for themselves.
The Lord wades in. Christ goes into the water until it goes over his head. This is the meaning of this immersion the river, this baptism with John. He hauls those he catches out onto dry land, one at a time, as it were hauling in a net, with people caught in it or clinging to it as though it were a long rope-ladder. Through all the events of the gospel of Mark we see Jesus hauling the people of Israel out of the water, the underworld domain of death. He pushes through the flood and storm into which the land and people of Israel have fallen, pulling people out, and dragging them to solid ground, out of this violence and turmoil. He cuts us loose from the folds of the endless vengeance, and so extricating us. The more we cling to this rope ladder he has thrown us or this net he is dragging behind him, the more we are pulled free of all the other coils of entanglement which have been holding down.
Since they are at Capernaum, on the shore of this inland sea of Galilee the Lord likens this hunting to fishing. The fisherman hunts an underwater creature and hauls it up to the surface. Fish don’t want to remain down there, in the dark. They want to be creatures that live in the open, in the air and light as we do. But at the moment, men live in dark dank environment, swimming through the slimy, treacly, glutenous environment created by their own vicious acts. They live in a world of revenge, in which everyone is permanently set against everyone else and so fear another.
These men, the apostles, are now going to be the rescue service, that drag us one by one out of this suffocating mesh of entanglements in which we are drowning. The waves caused by our own acts and our own irresponsibility are swamping us and whipping up a storm. Yet we still have the power to subdue the water, simply by calling out, ‘Lord, save us’.