This morning as I read Mark 6, I am struck at the varying emotions the disciples feel in following Jesus: no doubt as they were straining at the oars they were feeling frustrated. Going back over the past few days, we can see that they had returned from their short term missions trips all excited and ready to tell Jesus all the stories of what they saw happen. But the crowds were so constant in their coming and going, that Jesus and his guys didn’t even have time to eat.
So Jesus says, “Let’s get away from the crowds for a while and rest.” Very comforting words to anyone who has just returned from a short-term mission trip or too many busy frenetic days!
All they wanted to do was to go away with the Master – And yet, when the people saw them leaving many of them “from many towns” ran ahead and were waiting there when they landed.
Not just a couple dozen – but more than 5000!
So much for the quiet time of rest with the Master.
Jesus has compassion on them and so he spends all day teaching and then miraculously feeding them, then sends the crowds away. Finally – time alone with the master.
But wait – no - “Immediately after this, Jesus MADE his disciples get back into the boat…”
I admit I don’t really like this verse. I’d much rather have Jesus give good suggestions to these weary men:
“Hey guys, why don’t you head back and I’ll join ya later…”
“I’m heading up into the hills, but you can do whatever.”
“I know you’re tired, but why don’t you go back across the lake – I’ll stay here and maybe the people won’t follow you.”
No – he MADE them get into the boat. My guess is that they were not real thrilled to row the “red-eye” boat back across the lake in the middle of the night after a very long and frustrating day.
Now at 3am they are out in the middle of the lake – “straining at the oars” in yet another miserable storm. But at this time, Jesus comes walking to him on the waves. Naturally, they were terrified, thinking that Jesus must be a ghost. Yet Jesus reassures them, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Jesus climbed into the boat – the wind stopped and the disciples were astonished by what they saw.
Frustration, terror, astonishment – it’s no wonder they didn’t understand Jesus. Who was he? How could he soften their hearts to believe? He was so unpredictable – seemingly preferring the crowds over themselves.
Sometimes the way Jesus comes to us will terrify us and/or frustrate us and/or astonish us. We will not always be able to wrap our finite brains around his infinite ways and means. I far too often want to understand the significance of events…but when wallowing in my own unmet needs and weariness, my heart is hard and I fail to believe.
As my friend Jan Meyers writes in her book, Listening to Love we usually respond to God’s leading in three ways: “Is that you Lord?” then so many times when you realize it is his voice there is that, “Oh no, it IS you Lord!” Prayerfully, as we continue to lean into him during the uncertainties, we can arrive at the ability to say, “Oh Good it’s you Lord.” Life is still crazy and frenetic and difficult to understand – but you are with us.