A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.
Friday, October 30, 2020
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 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, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 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.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
After using the disciples to help Him feed the multitude, Jesus sent the twelve back out on the water towards Bethsaida so they could finally get some peace and quiet. Some critical scholars have reinterpreted the feeding of the five thousand through their naturalist lenses, suggesting that rather than literally feeding thousands from the same few loaves and fishes, the real miracle occurred once word of the small boy sharing his meager lunch with the hungry disciples began to spread through the crowd. They suggest that, following his example, everyone else who had brought their own food were stirred to compassion and likewise began to share their meals with their hungry neighbors. But in his gospel John records that the people immediately recognized the supernatural power on display before them and rightly assessed Jesus as the fulfillment of Scripture, “the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Yet Jesus saw that their devotion to Him was motivated by the desires of their bellies rather than faith in their hearts and, determined to do what they must to keep the free meals coming, they began to plot how they might, against His will, crown Him king by force.
Not at all interested in being used as a political pawn in a self-serving power play, Jesus discerned their intentions and dismissed the masses before retreating alone up onto the mountain to pray. In Mark chapter 1 Jesus rose early in the morning, while it was still dark, to spend time by Himself in prayer, and now Jesus ended the day enjoying intimacy with His Father.
Jesus prayed long into the night even as the disciples struggled to make their way the short distance across the small body of water. Seeing their difficulty fighting against the strong crosswinds, Jesus approached in a most unexpected fashion, walking across the waves. Unable to believe their own eyes, the disciples instantly assumed the figure heading their way must be some sort of apparition or evil spirit from the depths beneath, and they began to scream in terror.
But cutting through the howling wind and cries of despair the soothing voice of Jesus spoke the greatest words they could ever hope to hear directly to their souls: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” In the original language of the text, the words Jesus uses to identify Himself to the disciples are the very same words God had long ago used to reveal Himself to Moses at the burning bush, which can also be translated “I am.” Unmistakably, Jesus was declaring that He was the new and better Moses. After the Lord appeared to Moses in the wilderness, He used him to lead the Israelites out from under the bondage of the Egyptians, walk through the waters of the sea, and even provide bread from heaven. Jesus’ life and ministry not only brought a replication of the miracles of Moses, He surpassed them in every way, and from the beginning Jesus came tasked with a far greater mission: to set free the captives held ransomed by sin, a deadlier enemy than the most wicked pharaoh, emperor, or king.
As soon as Jesus got on board, the water around the boat instantly calmed even as the hearts of the disciples continued to rock from waves of confusion, anxiety, and fear. While the multitudes mistook the miracle as a sure sign of impending insurrection, whether due to their fatigue or frustration, the disciples actually missed everything altogether. To this point the disciples had seen Jesus do so many incredible things that Scripture reveals rather than bursting with faith, their sinful hearts had grown calloused and hardened to the Lord’s work.
I don’t know about you, but when I read through the gospels, I often catch myself thinking, “If only I had been there, if only I could see for myself that these things really happened, my faith would be unstoppable.” Facing particularly challenging seasons of life, it is easy to grow discouraged when Jesus fails to reveal Himself to us in a supernatural way. But, just as we see here, Jesus is never ignorant of our plight, nor is He powerless to help.
In spite of their hardened hearts, before the disciples even realized Jesus was in their midst, He saw their situation and was already making His move. Even as we struggle through the darkest nights of the soul, Jesus not only sees us, but He is already present with us. Jesus understands the hopelessness of our situation better than we ever could. Jesus is the one who moves towards us even as we drift away from Him. He moved heaven and earth so that we could know Him and be with Him forever. No little obstacle, like the lack of belief, or a boat, could keep Him away from the ones He loves.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You are an amazing God. You know our hearts, You see our doubts, and You empathize with our pain. We are helpless on our own to face the winds and storms of life, but You have not left us on our own. You have promised that You will never leave us nor forsake us. We pray that You will soften our hearts that we may see You for who You are and give You glory for all that You have done. We ask in Your marvelous name, amen.