Thursday, April 19th. Mark 6:47-52

 

When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the lake, 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.’ Then 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. Mark 6:47-52

 

The more slowly you read this passage, the more confusing (or is it intriguing?) the passage becomes.

 

You notice that it has now become evening and you instinctively realize the power of darkness.  Bad things (we think) happen under the cover of darkness.  More people are afraid of the dark than are afraid of the light of day.  But why is it that we think of daylight as normative and darkness as inconvenient?

 

The boat is alone on the lake because Jesus sent the disciples out there.  Jesus, we read yesterday, “made” the disciples get into the boat to cross to Bethsaida, on the other side of the lake.  And Jesus is alone on the land.  We hear that and assume then that, with every minute they are apart, the disciples on the boat are getting farther and farther away from Jesus, who remains stationary on the land.  But then suddenly Jesus “sees” them straining against an adverse wind.

 

How can this be?  Is Jesus “one of us” or not? Is he “truly human” or is he a celestial Superman with x-ray vision, super human strength, and magical powers over common human limitations?  It seems these questions are instantly answered as Jesus takes a stroll on top of the waves.

 

Two more strange twists yet remain.

 

The passage says that Jesus “intended to pass them by.”  What?  Didn’t it just say that he headed “towards” them precisely because he saw they were straining against the stormy wind?  What happened?  Did he plan on helping them but suddenly change his mind?

 

Then he appears, or at least his disciples notice him, and they are terrified.  Wouldn’t you be?  It is not the sort of thing one expects to see, even out at sea.  And yet isn’t that what happens when we are in the midst of a storm in life?  We can be absolutely consumed by a difficulty but then, when another difficulty surprises us in the midst of the initial one, the initial storm recedes even as the waves of the next batter us.

 

Why is it, by the way, that we think that good weather is normative and storms are unwelcome intrusions?

 

Then the final twist.  Jesus says, “‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ These words of comfort and presence are what we expect to hear from him.  That the waves stop once Jesus gets in the boat seems the point of the whole story.  We want to stop right here and let this story be an encouragement to us.  But the story doesn’t stop.  It forces us to see the reaction of the disciples.

 

They are astounded.  Astonished.  They don’t understand.  They don’t get it.  Then the kicker:  They don’t get it, not because of the marvels they have seen, but because their hearts have become “hardened.”  They don’t see because they refuse to see.

 

Which Jesus do you follow?  The “Superman” Jesus with extraordinary powers to right all the wrongs and fix all the hurts of life, who could in fact “intend” to pass us by?  Or the Jesus who gets into our boat with a word of encouragement and an invitation to let go of our fears?

 

Against which Jesus were the hearts of the disciples “hardened?”

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, we pray that you see us.  That you see us in night and day, in calm waters and raging storms.  See us.  And more, be with us.  Come to us.  Travel with us, that we never walk alone.  Open our eyes to see you in all things, through all times, regardless of what is happening.  For we trust that when we see you with us, you will swallow up our fear and light our path, and we will know we are all in the same boat.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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