And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he (Jesus) 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.”
Mark 6.47-50 (ESV)
Jesus has just fed the 5000 and having made his disciples get into the boat to go before him to the other side (v.45) he dismissed the crowd and went up on the mountain to pray. It is a very familiar story but as I read it yesterday morning in my Quiet Time the words I have highlighted in bold jumped at me for I had never before seen the situation in this light.
The NIV translates as follows He was about to pass them by but the majority of English translations (my information courtesy of Biblegateway.com) either translate as does the ESV or with a form of words that imply that passing by was his intention.
This raised a question in my mind and presented me with a challenge which I want to share with you this morning.
Why would Jesus want to be seen by his disciples in their need (the wind was against them) and yet mean to ‘pass by’ them?
What can I learn from this which I can apply to my daily walk with him?
“The ESV Study Bible has this helpful note ‘He meant to pass them by, not so that they would fail to see him (in which case he would have stayed further away so that they would not see him “pass by”) but so that they would see him “pass by” walking on the water, thus giving visible evidence of his deity (and thus answering the question they asked after he stilled the storm in Mark 4.41): ‘Who then is this?’”
Sadly, the disciples failed to understand what they saw, thinking that Jesus was a ghost! They yet failed to grasp who Jesus was – God himself in human form.
You and I have abundant evidence from the Word of God and from our Christian experience as to who Jesus is and so, seeing him we should have no fear.
Consequently in the storms of life, and they are many, the fact that Jesus can be seen as he passes by should strengthen and encourage us to know that we are not alone.
In one sense the disciples in this situation should not have needed him actually in the boat with them – his seen presence passing by should have been sufficient to enable them to master the storm and come safely to land. But he responded to their fear by getting into the boat with them!
So with us in our daily lives, knowing who Jesus is and that he knows our problems and weaknesses should be all we need as we think back to his unchanging faithfulness. Yet there will be times when, as it were, he gets into the boat with us as our fear seems to overcome our faith. At other times when perhaps we feel he is distant he is actually passing by so that he can be seen, so we simply need to look to know we are not alone. In such circumstances the sight of him gives faith to continue.
Whichever situation it is for our best and our blessing.
Know him deeply. Trust him fully.