Message: Mark 6 tells us that after Jesus miraculously fed the 5,000+ people with 5 loaves and 2 fish, he sent his disciples off into the boat while he went off into the mountains to pray. Night time came and Jesus was still on land when he saw them in the middle of the sea struggling to row their boat, fighting through and being battered by heavy winds. By 3am he started walking toward them on the water and they didn’t recognize him. They were terrified and cried out because they thought he was a ghost. He spoke out to them and identified himself, and then once he climbed into the boat with them the wind stopped and they were astounded. This is the same story we read from Matthew’s perspective in Matthew 14 where we also read that Peter walked on the water with Jesus. Luke skipped this story entirely, but we will see it again in John 6. Each account came from the different perspectives of who those who were there, and each perspective reveals little pieces of insight to the surrounding events. Mark’s account adds on something interesting at the end in verse 52 that almost sounds out of place. After he tells the whole story about the storm and Jesus calming it when he climbed into the boat he said it was because “they had not understood about the loaves, and instead, their hearts were hardened.”
What I got from this, is that the miracle that took place with the fishes and loaves triggered some questions that left them confused. Their unresolved questions caused a hardness of heart. Because of their hardness of heart they were distracted and feeling distant, which, ironically are grounds for a perfect storm. The physical storm they experienced was a mirror reflection of their spiritual condition so when things got rough and intense they did not see Jesus and they did not recognize him in the midst of their storm. Once they heard his voice things changed, and once he boarded the boat with them the storm stopped. In fact, John’s account of this story is fascinating because he actually says that as soon as Jesus boarded the boat and the wind stopped, they were immediately back at shore where they had started! Almost like they woke up from the nightmare and discovered that everything was as it should be. I really related to this story because I have felt the spiritual and emotional distance from God when my questions begin to consume me. By nature, we want to understand the why and the how of our situations, but we will never understand the bigger picture because we don’t have the mind of God.
Command: Don’t allow my questions and confusion to create a distance and a hardness of heart. Bring those questions to him and talk to him about the giant elephant in the room I am trying to ignore.
Promise: Jesus is nearer than I will ever realize, even when I can’t see him and when I don’t recognize him in my circumstances. Verse 48 describes how Jesus saw them struggling in the boat with the wind and waves. This was BEFORE he started walking toward them. He saw them in their struggle because he was never far away in the first place, and when they struggled, he came even closer.
Warning: Questions are to be expected, but when our questions cause confusion, it also causes a hardness of heart and a distance from God because we become offended by what we don’t understand. Offense leads us into isolation and when we are offended and isolated, we can’t see clearly, so we don’t see him and we can’t hear his voice even when he is right there with us.
Application: This brings to mind a very specific situation in my life where a long period of enduring a storm in my life started to wear me down and raise some questions. I allowed the questions to sit there unaddressed and I felt a gradual distance set in. I knew the distance was coming from me and not God, but because I also had a hardness of heart, my prayer life got quieter and even when I was praying it felt distant. I would say things like “I just feel like being quiet right now.” I knew in my heart that I was offended by God because I was overwhelmed by the storm going on around me and I didn’t understand why I was still in it. My mind played tricks on me because I knew my thinking was wrong, but clearly my emotions were running the show. I also knew that the thing I needed most was to be in the word, but my hardness had consumed me so deeply that my reading had gone from steady and consistent to few and far between. When I did read, the joy, the hunger and the fascination was gone because of the questions lingering beneath, but when I committed myself back to reading consistently and when I started writing again, I could hear God’s voice again. I still have some questions to work out, but I know that every time I have brought my questions to God with an authentic desire for understanding, and not an offended heart, I have been able to see the things he had always been trying to show me- one layer at a time. I need the fog of offense to lift so I can see clearly. Lord Jesus, thank you so much for your patience and your kindness as I work out hard questions with you. As I struggle to understand a complex and infinite God with my finite mind. Thank you for never leaving me, even when I lose focus and drift off. Help me to run toward you and not away from you when my questions come so that I stop wandering around in a foggy isolation. Thank you for bringing back the hunger and the love for your word.