Questions like, why did Jesus heal people and then tell them to “tell no one” - isn’t that the opposite of the purpose of the Gospel? It’s questions like this that remind me that the Word of God is anything but boring; there is always more to learn and more to explore in His majesty!
One question that has stuck with me all week is found in Mark 6:45-52 - the story of Jesus walking on water.
“Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” (ESV)
While there is a lot to unpack in this passage, the thing that caught my attention was the phrase “He meant to pass by them.” In the sentence just before we see that Jesus could see they were struggling, so why would He go through all the trouble to walk on the water just to pass them by? Was it because He had a divine appointment on the other side and He knew they would eventually make it over? Was He so consumed with the task at hand that He didn’t intend to help His newly appointed disciples? If that was the case, why did He walk within sight of the boat in the first place? Did He not care that they were in need? What was the point?
I do not think this is a story of an uncaring Jesus who was interrupted on His way to do more important things. I believe the answer to this is found in a few places in this passage: “they saw Him”, “they were terrified”, and “they called out” - I find it interesting that this happens immediately after they just witnessed Jesus feed the 5,000. While they are fully aware of the miracles He is capable of, they don’t expect Him to be in the midst of their troubles. They left Him praying on the other side. They were not expecting Jesus to show up.
Matthew Henry explains this section like this:
“He would have passed by them, that is, he set his face and steered his course, as if he would have gone further, and took no notice of them; this he did, to awaken them to call to him. Note, Providence [the protective care of God], when it is acting designedly and directly for the succor [assistance and support in times of hardship and distress] of God’s people, [may] sometimes seems as if it were giving them the go-by, and regarded not their case. They thought that he would, but we may be sure that he would not have passed by them.”
This means that Jesus wanted to help them, but they had to first call out to Him to receive His help. Divine disposition does not rule out human action. We do not sit back and wait for God to save us - we cry out to Him for help!
Jesus shows up and says “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid”. He then gets in the boat, calms the storm, and the verse tells us they were utterly astounded! Mark then tells us in what might be misinterpreted as a throwaway line in Scripture that “they did not understand about the loaves.”
Okay Mark, now what are you talking about? Let’s go back to where we are in this story:
These men, who at this point have seen Jesus perform many miracles - including a huge one just the night before, don’t understand. Mark 8:17-19 gives us the answer, Jesus says to them “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” (ESV)
It seems hard to believe! I know I begin to rebuke the foolishness of the disciples, yet, when I reflect on my own life, I realize we are the same. I perceive and do not understand, I have eyes but do not see, I have ears but do not hear - I have a short-term memory!
How often do I not see the spiritual realities all around me? How often do I forget that God is the answer to my every need, that there is more than just what I can see physically right in front of me, there is POWER in prayer, wonder in His love, joy in His presence, and truth in His Word.
I am often just as blind to the Glory that is all around me, even amid His workings in my life. I am quick to forget and even quicker to believe that I can do things on my own. I forget to cry out!
So if you’re like me or you find yourself believing that Jesus couldn’t possibly care about your individual struggles, I want to remind you that even when your eyes, ears, and memory are failing you, we do serve an amazing God who cares deeply about you, so much so that his blameless Son bore all your pain, sin, and inequity just so that you could be reconciled to Him. He will not leave you in the middle of the storm, He will not forsake you. Even when you cannot see it, He is already on His way - are you calling out for Him?