Summary: Proper 12 (B) Jesus is very God, and as God is terrifying. Because He is also man and with us, we see God’s love for us in and through Christ. Therefore we are reassured that Christ comes to us in love and compassion.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“Awe-full God, Awesome Savior”
Last week we read how Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 with the 5 small loaves. Now that is finished, the leftovers have been gathered up. He has His disciples to get into a boat, and go across the sea of Galilee ahead of Him. He went back, and dismissed the crowds, and then He went up on the Mountain to pray. We can surmise He was up there for some time, and that He went up in the day time, for Mark writes that “when evening had come,” the boat was out in the sea and He was alone on the land. Jesus could see their boat. How, Mark does not tell you. You can see all the way across the sea of Galilee, so it might be that Jesus was seeing the boat with His eyes. But it was night and dark. So maybe He is seeing them supernaturally. Really, it does not matter much. He sees that they are not getting very far, and wind is blowing strong against them. In fact, it is now past 3 a.m., and there are still in the middle of the sea, a lake actually, which you can see across.
Jesus comes walking on the water. It says, “and He wanted to pass them by.” So, what is this? Jesus had sent them ahead of Him. Now He wants to pass them by? If He wants to get to the other side first, to be there when they arrive, why does He not just go there, appear there? Why walk on the water? Why the need or desire to “pass-by” the disciples?
Remember the Israelites exodus from Egypt? They had crossed the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army was drowned. They were in the wilderness, and Moses asked God, Let me see your glory. The Lord said, I will hide you in a rock and cover you with My Hand. You can see my backside as I pass by. For now one can look at my face and live.
God is God. He is King of the Universe. And to look upon Him is terrorizing. What does Isaiah say when He has the vision of the throne room of heaven. “Behold I am a person of unclean lips.” There is an illusion, here, then, that in the way God passed by Moses, Jesus was passing by his disciples. But when they looked out, they did not see, and is, they did not recognize, Jesus as Jesus. They thought it were a ghost, a phantom, walking on the water. And they were terrorized by his presence.
There is a time when we, too, know the terror of God. It’s not so much what is seen, but what is not. That is, it’s what we wish and hope goes unseen. I believe in God. Jesus is my Lord and Savior, we say. We even sing, What a Friend we have in Jesus. Yet, we don’t want God in all the times, and places, of our live, in every chamber of our heart, or pathway of our minds. For we have dark places. Places we don’t want God to see. For when we consider Him as He is, we don’t want He to see us as we are. Oh, we want Jesus in our hearts, just not every part of it. I did this. I thought that. I said thus and so. Whether it’s a sin that we want to shed and cannot, or that sin, which, as the apple was to Eve, is beautiful in our sight, and lovely to behold. We know that coming face to face with God is one thing we don’t want to do.
We know, don’t we, that were we to see God in His majesty, we would fall to our faces, that is, if we had not already been knocked backwards to the ground. To even think of seeing God face to face strikes terror through our hearts.
And seeing Jesus walking on the water, the disciples are beholding but a small glimpses of His power and majesty. And they are overwhelmed. But what happens? Jesus calls to them. He says, “It is I. Be of good cheer. Don’t be afraid.” And He comes to them. He get into the boat, and the sea is stilled.
So what does all of this mean? Fortunately, the text gives us the key. At the end, it says, that the disciples were amazed, just as they had not understood the loaves, for their hearts were hardened. Here, we see why they did not understand. And since this is the explanation of not understanding, it is also the key to understanding. To understand this event, our hearts must not be hardened, and we need to understand the multiplication of the loaves.