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 6:50-52
Jesus’ disciples were privileged to witness most of his miracles. They witnessed Jesus feed 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes (Mark 630:-44), had seen him heal the sick (John 5:1-15), raise the dead (Mark 5:21-43), give sight to the blind (Matthew 9:27-34) and cast out demons (Mark 5:1-20). Having received his power, even they were able to cast out demons and heal the sick (Luke 9:7-9). Yet, when confronted with another challenge, they sought to address it with their fleshly strength rather than his almighty power.
Immediately after feeding the 5,000, Jesus put his disciples on a boat and sent them ahead of him to Bethsaida so that he could have some alone time to pray. The disciples strained at the oars against a strong wind as they sought to reach the other side. Unlike their teacher, they did not default to prayer. They relied on their own natural strengths. Several of them were fishermen, accustomed to such challenges and seemingly equipped to address them in their own strength. But they struggled to make progress.Despite his not being summoned, Jesus approached them miraculously by walking on the water out to their boat. They were shocked and afraid. They did not expect the supernatural. They thought he was a ghost and didn’t even recognize their teacher in the midst of their fear.
Jesus calmed them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” He climbed into the boat and the wind died down. They were amazed because they had not understood about the loaves, their hearts were hardened.
What did they not understand about the loaves? The question is essentially unanswered, but I think they failed to understand that Christ’s power trumped the natural, and that it was available for their provision. Peace was available to them if they believed and lived in a state of expectancy. Instead, they relied on the strength of their own backs and suffered fear rather than rejoicing when their Lord arrived to deliver them from their distress.
Lord Christ, let me learn to rely on Your power, rather than my own. Amen.
~ Stephen Peterson