45 Right then, Jesus made his disciples get into a boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake, toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After saying good-bye to them, Jesus went up onto a mountain to pray. 47 Evening came and the boat was in the middle of the lake, but he was alone on the land. 48 He saw his disciples struggling. They were trying to row forward, but the wind was blowing against them. Very early in the morning, he came to them, walking on the lake. He intended to pass by them. 49 When they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost and they screamed.50 Seeing him was terrifying to all of them. Just then he spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” 51 He got into the boat, and the wind settled down. His disciples were so baffled they were beside themselves. 52 That’s because they hadn’t understood about the loaves. Their hearts had been changed so that they resisted God’s ways. Mark 6:45-52, CEB
Here’s another boat/water story from Mark. It’s interesting how both these stories start with Jesus in isolation. In the first story, he’s asleep away from the group. In this story, he retreats up a mountain to pray, where he is alone on the land. Going “up” a mountain, in the Gospels, is often a symbol or metaphor for seeking spiritual closeness to God. Fun fact.
Jesus has done a few more miraculous healings since we last saw him on a boat with the disciples (not including the miracle on the boat itself). So, they should be even more clear as to who he is, what he has the capacity to do, etc. This passage, like the other, shows Jesus as someone more than human. Will the disciples be able to recognize that?
The focal point of this boat story is not Jesus calming the winds the disciples were up against but, instead, Jesus himself walking on the water. Evidently, they didn’t recognize him and thought he was a ghost. Their response? Fear. Once again. Even when they realized that the “ghost” was Jesus, they were still “beside themselves” and “baffled”. How could they not know or understand? Verse 52 says they hadn’t understood about the loaves. Just before this, Jesus had performed the famous miracle of feeding the five thousand, and I guess the disciples still didn’t quite grasp the nature of who he was. Because of that, they’re afraid. Because of that, it seems, their hearts became hard.
There’s a lot going on here, and we’ll look at it over a few days. The first thing that stands out to me is the disciples’ inability to recognize the true power of God and to submit to it, and trust it. Granted, I’m not sure I would have done any better in the circumstances.
As we look at this story, though, should we not view it as a reminder of God’s power and authority? Should we not consider surrendering our lives to his care and control? Or, will we resist?