I've been reflecting on Hebrews 1, which tells us that Jesus is the best representation of God's nature we're ever going to get.
In that context, I'm thinking about Mark 6:48-50, yet another place where Jesus is representing Father’s nature.
"He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened."
I observe some things here:
• Jesus saw his best friends straining at their work, because circumstances were against them, and he did not stop the events raging against them.
• Jesus let his friends struggle all through the night.
• I remember the aphorism, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” So in the darkest part of the night, Jesus came to his friends. He still didn’t take the storm away, but he brought his presence to them in the midst of the storm. I love how he does this.
• He walks “out to them,” but “He was about to pass by them.” God does that sometimes: he comes to me, but … There are a hundred sermons in this line, but the bottom line is that he came “to them,” and he came close enough to see, but he was not stopping for them. That’s worth thinking about. “He was about to pass by them.”
• But his appearance scares them silly. God’s presence can be terrifying, if I’ve been focusing on the raging storm.
• He didn’t actually get in the boat with them until “They cried out.”
• We know from the other gospels that in here somewhere is the bit where Pete walks on the water, but it’s not in this particular gospel. While that’s a really exciting story (especially for Pete!), apparently that’s not the important lesson here.
• When Jesus gets into the boat, the storm dies down. Isn’t that how it goes?
• They were completely amazed. Duh. This one is not surprising!
• But the reason for their amazement, and maybe for their terror earlier, was because they didn’t understand God’s provision; they “had not understood about the loaves,” the story earlier in the chapter where Jesus “he had compassion” for the crowd of 5000 and taught them and fed them.
Apparently my not knowing God’s compassionate goodness leads to me being freaked out at circumstances, freaked out at his presence showing up unexpectedly, and leads to me being amazed when he changes things.
The last line teaches me that if I misunderstand God’s goodness, my heart gets hardened, and I’ll misunderstand what he’s doing. I might want to guard against this.
And the best way I can think of to guard against this is to be persistently thankful when I see him doing things. If nothing else, it helps me pay attention to what he's doing (so I’ll actually see what he’s doing), and it helps keep my heart in a healthy attitude toward him.