When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the discples straining at the oars, beause the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, beause they all saw him and were terrified.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:45-52
In this story lies an amazing message. We have all heard this story preached many times. Most preach that this story protrays the faithfulness of God. And it does. While the disciples where straining at the oars in the middle of a storm, Jesus shows up out of nowhere to take command of the situation. As always, Jesus saved the day, but rebukes them for having so little faith.
When this story is preached, it sounds as if Jesus's rebuke contained these words: "Didn't you know I was going to come and rescue you? Why did you have to panick or be afraid? If you had faith you wouldn't have been so emotionally unstable in the midst of the storm."
If we take a closer look and really think about it, we can see a slightly different picture. Jesus had just preached for days. Then he just performed a massive miracle where over 5,000 people were fed with a few loaves of bread and two fish. He also headed a clean-up crew, where they picked up an entire mountain of leftover loaves and fish. After that, I'm sure the people are so hyped up that they are ready to have revival for the rest of summer. I can hear the crowds chatting among themselves...
"We should crown him as king - we would never go hungry again!"
"What a wonderful preacher. He feeds us with spiritual food and then he stuffs our bellies with real food!"
"Wow! This is the best bread I've ever eaten! And it's fresh!"
"God must have baked it in heaven and gave it to us! It tastes heavenly!"
"I'm not much of a fan of fish, but who knows? If we stick around, next time he'll feed us with lamb chop or something!"
I can see the people making plans to keep Jesus, their miracle-working spiritual leader/sugar daddy. They are not ready to leave; they probably think that this miracle HAS TO BE capitalized upon. I'm sure the disciples think the same way. Jesus is at the peak of his popularity at this moment. Certainly this must be a crowning moment in his ministry. I can see the disciples "bonding" with the people - soaking up their accolades, smiling at their attaboys, and really enjoying the moment - this blissful, thankful and praiseful mood of 5,000 or more well-fed men and women and children.
I can hear Peter's entrepreneurial mind ruminating potentialities: "Hmmm.... build tabernacles here... stay here and keep preaching and doing miracles...who knows what would happen?? Perhaps this will be the place where the whole world will know that Jesus truly is...the Messiah!!!!"
But isn't it like God to never cooperate with the flesh. Our flesh, or carnal nature, always says, "Do it big! Think about the future! Make it happen! Make money! Gain favor! Save for a rainy day! Earn brownie points!" Yet the Spirit of God is as wispy as the wind. It never agrees with our self-preserving, self-aggrandizing flesh nature. It simply ignores what the flesh wants and moves on to the next agenda.
Jesus heard God's spirit whisper, "Onward to Bethsaida..."
I can just hear Jesus whisper back, "Father, look at these people. No one wants to leave. And my children...they don't want to go either. They are really one with the people in wanting to prolong the glory here. What am I to do?"
So Jesus made his disciples get into a boat (Mark 6:45). Can you imagine? He FIRMLY PUT them into the boat and pushed the boat, full of grown men, away. He MADE THEM get into a boat and forced them to leave the party. Then he instructed them to go on ahead of him to Bethsaida.
Then, with the disciples out of the way, he dismissed the crowd. Of course, the crowd was too intoxicated with joy and fellowship to leave. They were picking up the bread and fish, sorting the baskets, making friends... the women were distributing bread among themselves, the men were standing around talking about this year's crops, the teenagers are eyeing each other shyly, and the children were loudly playing, jumping, singing, and runing. People were having the time of their lives. They weren't leaving.
So Jesus left. (Mark 6:46)
He quietly slipped away and went up on a mountainside to pray.
At the 4th watch of the night, around 3-6 AM, Jesus went out to the disciples, walking on the lake. The bible said that towards evening, when the sun was going down, Jesus saw the disciples "straining at the oars, because the wind was against them." I'm not sure if Jesus saw that with his natural eyes or spiritual eyes. But his intention wasn't to rescue them. What happened next was an act of man intervening in the plan of God.
And about the fourth watch of the night, he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them, but when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit and cried out... (Mark 6:48-49)
Jesus "would have passed by them" if it weren't for the fearful cries of twelve grown men, half of which were able-bodied, professional fishermen.
Perhaps these able-bodied, professional fishermen had a valid excuse for acting so distraught. "When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and [he] was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them." Let's just assume that Jesus saw from the mountainside with his physical eyes that the disciples were struggling. It was evening. The sun was going down. The men were lined up on both sides of the boat, rowing. Six hours later, they are still rowing in the midst of a hopeless storm. Three hours later, it is FINALLY, the fourth watch of the night, and the winds still have not abated.
"He was about to pass by them..."
This Jesus is so unlike the loving, gentle Jesus that Christianity has so painstakingly stereotyped. Jesus saw the disciples struggling when evening came. Nine hours later, they are still straining at the oars, wondering if nature will defeat them afterall. Jesus walks close to their boat in the middle of the lake, not intending to help them but only to pass by, looking like an apparition, a commonly feared Jewish superstitutious water spirit.
The disciples screamed because they thought they had seen a Jewish equivalent of the Nochness Monster.
Why did Jesus do this??
Why was Jesus intending to just pass them by?
Let me ask you a question. Do you help people who really don't need help?
The answer is "no." [Unless you're only pretending to help.]
Jesus accessed the situation and knew that they really didn't need help. It was God's will that they reach Bethsaida. God's Spirit clearly directed for Jesus and his disciples to reach Bethsaida, for a tremendous outpouring of the glory of God awaits them. They were struggling, but their lives weren't in danger. There was no doubt in Jesus' mind that the disciples will make it to the other side.
However, the disciples became terrified. In their fear, they cried out. (Mark 6:49)
For this reason alone, Jesus responded to their cries and told them not to be afraid. He climbed in their boat and ended the storm.
The moral of the story is not: "Wow! Jesus is so faithful. He always comes through at the last minute and save the day. We can always count on God to answer our prayers."
This is the mentality of carnal Christians, and its unfortunate that this is what we learn in typical bible studies. Thus we are encouraged to continue to pray that our wills to be done. We pray desperately for God to come into our boat and quiet the storm. We cry out to Jesus just like the disciples; we cry out for breakthrough and for God to make everything alright again.
However, this isn't the true moral of the story. The moral of this story is spelled out for us in verse 52: "For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their hearts were hardened..."
This story has nothing to do with God's ability to calm storms, feed people supernaturally, or sooth distressed frail human souls. God is more than capable to do all of these things without even breaking a sweat. He is the creator of the Universe! Nothing is too difficult for Him!
But if the disciples took to time to consider the acts of Jesus, they may also see the finer nuisances of his personality, his intentions, his preferences; his likes and dislikes. It's never about WHAT Jesus can do. It's always about HOW He does it.
Jesus' attitude towards the whole feeding miracle was one of nonchalance: he wanted to get out of there ASAP! He took no pleasure in the praises of men, or the approval of the public. He didn't care whether he impressed anyone or not. He didn't need to do miracles to prove that He was Deity.
In the same way, Jesus does not have the psyche of a superhero: He does not need to rescue you!!! It does not distress Him to watch the disciples strain at the oars in the midst of a storm. It does not fret Him to watch you struggle in your own personal battle either.
If God was moved by pain, every time you cried, He'd be so close. Every time you got depressed, He'd speak to you. But that is simply not the case.
Oftentimes when I find myself slip into depression, I know I must fight it off because I know God can't be found there. My depression forces me away from God. For the sake of my relationship with Him, I struggle to stay afloat. (We all win some and lose some, but we keep trying.)
One time I was going through the hardest time of my life. I walked into a meeting where the guest speaker prophesied randomly to people who were seated. She pointed to me and said, "Hey you sitting there, God wants me to tell you that this very twisted and unfair situation that you are in right now...He's going to straighten it all out."
Three years later, I am still waiting for the Lord to "straighten it all out."
Could it be that the Lord isn't really interested in ending our suffering? In this spiritual Kingdom, the ways of God really doesn't agree with our self-preserving, self-defending, self-protecting, self-soothing carnal nature. Jesus clearly promised, "In this world, ye shall have tribulation." (John 16:33)
He also said, "No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." (John 15:20)
In His Kingdom, suffering, storms, persecutions, and pain all have tremendous spiritual value. It is only in those times that we grow in the Lord. Jesus said, "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (John 12:24) The perfect storm causes death to self like no other experience.
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." (Psalm 116:15)
Jesus was unimpressed with feeding 5000 with bread and fish. In the same way, he is not hard pressed by our storms and trials and personal sufferings. When He sees us struggling, He is not under pressure to save us. He is the author and finisher of our salvation. He is confident to carry us through to the end. We are the ones who aren't confident of that sometimes.
It was out of fear that the disciples cried out to Jesus. They were not commended for their cries. They were reminded of their lack of faith and hardness of heart.
If God has arranged the perfect storm for you, will you endure to the end? Or will you cry out for it to please please please end???
What if your storm is the price of admission you must pay to gain access into glorious places in the Kingdom of God? What if your pain is God's way of marking you as one "set apart" among the masses of Christianity? What if this present problem is the necessary trade-off for the spiritual treasure God has prepared for you? What if this present crisis is God's perfect will in your life?
It is hard to not cry out for God to fix the problem. Please please please end this thing that drives me insane. Yet, if He is my Lord, and He purposefully pass me by with no intention of calming my storm, why must I intervene Divinity with my "mere man" mentality? Why must I, a droplet in time, tell the God of eternity what to do?
In the midst of all that you suffer, remember that God does not exist to solve your problems, calm your storms, or "straighten your messes." It seems like the greater purpose is to train you to remain steadfast under greater and greater stress. He isn't interested in ending our pain. He's interested in carrying out His perfect will in your life.
So herein lies my agreement with Almighty God. I don't pray for him to never pass me by. I don't pray for Him to climb in my boat. I don't pray for Him to command the storms to cease. I don't pray for Him storms prematurely. I don't pray for Him to hold me till I fear no more. When I don't know how to pray, when all my prayers are cries of insecurity, God wants me to simply pray, "Lord, let THY will be done..."