“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” Mark 6:48 (ESV)
Jesus Did What?
Reading the stories of Jesus and His disciples in the gospels is a never-ending discovery. I must have read and recited Jesus feeding the five thousand, healing the leper, and walking on water hundreds of times. Yet, recently, I encountered something new, and honestly, unsettling.
The book of Mark shares a couple of details surrounding when Jesus walked on water that the other three gospel writers do not. First, while the disciples were struggling to survive crossing the Sea toward Bethsaida (at Jesus’ instruction I might add), Mark shares that Jesus waited on land until about 3:00 am, watching their struggle from afar. Second, as Jesus began his trek across the sea, Mark includes that Jesus “meant to pass by them.” The New Living Translation even goes so far as to say Jesus “intended to pass by them.”
Why would Jesus choose, desire, or intend to continue forward while his servants and best friends faced the possibility of drowning? Where is the compassion He displayed to over 15,000 men, women, and children through the bread and fish only hours before?
Jesus’ Word is Truth
Jesus instructed the disciples to proceed to Bethsaida, affirming that he would meet them there. His direction was clear and true. Jesus IS the Truth (John 14:6), and, as such, there was no doubt in His mind that the disciples would arrive safely on the other side. Therefore, Jesus was in no hurry. Maybe He even got in a good chuckle as the disciples rushed frantically about their swaying ship.
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Jesus waited until the opportune time to begin crossing the sea towards them, knowing His timing would most maximize His glory and the disciples’ good.
The disciples didn’t yet understand this, though. To them the waves were crashing and the boat was splintering. Life seemed short to be lived. In the midst of the storm, they couldn’t see God’s hand at work. They struggled in their own strength to stay afloat instead of trusting in peace and seeking God’s glory.
How often do we feel the same way? We think we are drowning, wondering why Jesus hasn’t shown up. Why would He give us instructions only to leave us to die spiritually and emotionally? In the midst of our obedience, we feel alone and vulnerable. We begin to doubt God’s word spoken to us.
In those moments of doubt, we must stand on the rock of truth. Jesus IS truth and only speaks the truth. If He’s given us a mission, He will see to it that it is completed. The journey to completion may prove tumultuous at times, but He will carry us to the other side. The timing will most display His glory and usher in our good.
When Jesus Passes By
So why, then, did Jesus intend to pass by the disciples? There’s another part of Scripture where we see God “pass by” that reveals God’s intention.
“Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And He said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name, The Lord.” Exodus 33:18-20
God passed by Moses in order to reveal His glory in a magnitude that Moses, a human, could withstand. Moses came down from the mountain having received more insight into the realities of the spiritual realm than perhaps any human being before him. As a result, God empowered Moses to usher forth the His law in a way that set the Israelites apart from all other peoples for centuries.
Perhaps Jesus sought to do the same. As the disciples caught a glimpse of Jesus walking on the water beside them, it could have provided revelation of Jesus as Christ, God incarnates, more clearly than they had before seen. He was providing an opportunity for them to see Him in full glory.
It seems, though, that the disciples weren’t ready. Still entrapped by fear and doubt, Jesus seemed a ghost to the disciples. Mark writes that the disciples “hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:52). Their eyes were not yet open, so Jesus paused and calmed the disciples in their distress.
Seeking His Glory
This passage challenges me greatly, and I hope it does you too. How many times is God desiring to reveal more of His glory when all I see is a ghost. How often is my heart is so hardened that I don’t recognize the workings of God right in front of me? We now enjoy complete access to the Father in a way that Moses himself only tasted. When we seek His glory, He reveals it. When we put our trust in Him, He is faithful.
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In the midst of the trials of life, we often expect God to show up in certain ways. We long for Him to swoop in and solve everything in a miraculous moment when His plans are far greater than what we could ever hope for. In the moments when it feels that God is passing us by or has forgotten about us in the midst of our storm, we can keep our hearts and eyes open to see Him move in more mysterious and miraculous ways.
May we seek God’s glory with open eyes and hearts, and may we have the courage to withstand any doubts that could blind us from a vision of His glory. When we seek Him, we will find Him. All that remains is for us to live with openness.