They were completely astounded.
“Does not compute.” In older television shows, when we still imagined artificial intelligence having limitations, a robot would make that statement when given a command or information that did not make sense according to its programming. It would then go back to reassess the data.
In his Gospel, Mark shows us how an encounter with Jesus was so extraordinary that people seemed to react almost like one of those robots.
When Jesus freed a man from an unclean spirit at Capernaum, “the people were astonished” (Mark 1:22). Does not compute!
When he taught in the synagogue of his hometown, people were utterly “astonished” (Mark 6:2). Does not compute!
And in today’s Gospel (Mark 6:51), when Jesus walks across the water to the disciples in their boat, they “were terrified” (Mark 6:50). And “their hearts were hardened,” or in another translation, “their minds could not grasp” what Jesus had done (6:52). Does not compute!
Since that time, people have struggled to accept Jesus’ words, especially his words about who he is. As we read in John’s first letter, some people claimed that the Son did not really become human (4:2-3). Even today, some claim that Jesus was an ethical teacher but not really the Son of God. Does not compute!
The truth of Jesus’ Incarnation is so hard to grasp, and not just because we can’t fathom the immortal God becoming a mortal man. We struggle with the message of Christmas also because we find it hard to imagine that God would become human in order to be close to us and in order to reveal his love to us. Such humility, such love, simply does not compute.
We’re still in the Christmas season, so as you pray today, take the time to “compute” or, better, to contemplate the reality of the Incarnation. Ponder, as Mary did, that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world (1 John 4:9). Marvel that God not only sent his Son but sent him for you! Be astounded that Jesus not only laid down his life but did it out of love for you. If this does not “compute,” you’re in good company. Just keep asking God to persuade you of his love.
“Jesus, I stand in awe of who you are and all you have done for me.”
1 John 4:11-18
Psalm 72:1-2, 10, 12-13
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