Jesus walks on the water in today’s passage, yet His 12 disciples respond with fear rather than faith. Even so, Jesus does not leave them, and neither does He leave us. Even when we struggle with the sin of unbelief, the God of grace stays with us and encourages us to renew our trust in Him.
The Text (Mark 6:45-52)
45 Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. 46 And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. 47 Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. 48 Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. 49 And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 51 Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.
After the miracle of feeding the five thousand men (plus women and children), Jesus goes off to be alone with His Father in prayer. The crowds go home full and amazed. Jesus sends the disciples on ahead of Him by boat. But a strong wind carries their boat out into deep water and they struggle to escape. He sees the disciples in the dark of the night (the fourth watch was from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.) from far away, walks across the violent waves to greet them, and then calms the wind to rescue them. The apostles freak out, thinking that they have seen a phantom or ghost, kind of like an evil spirit or omen. They can’t believe that it is their Master Jesus. Why?
Mark tells us that they are “amazed beyond measure” and that they “had not understood about the loaves.” What is it that the disciples failed to grasp from the last miracle? It seems like they are still wrestling with the deity or “God-ness” of Jesus. The disciples have seen Him do so many miracles, but can their teacher really be God in the flesh? They just can’t get their minds around this concept. Perhaps they have also missed the idea that Jesus would provide for them, failing to see that if Jesus would not let them go hungry, than He also would not let them perish in the boat. Mark says that their lack of understanding is due to the hardness of their hearts. Unbelief is always an issue of the heart, not just the head. Faith is not alone intellectual conviction, but a matter of our wills. The disciples still aren’t ready to believe with their souls in all that Jesus is.
Like the disciples in the boat, we still struggle to believe that our God is both all-powerful and all-good. We are tempted daily to doubt that God can and will do great works in our lives. We often show more fear than faith when faced with trials. But thankfully, even when we are faithless, God remains faithful. He does not leave us to perish. Jesus is the Son of God. He can and will rescue us when we call out to Him. He will respond to even the smallest faith that we bring to Him. Whatever difficulties and trials you are facing right now, the Lord asks you to also be of good cheer and fear not. Through His Holy Spirit in us, the Lord is always with us. Praying that our trust in His power and goodness would be great today.