Mark 6:45-52 “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 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.”
To understand this text, it’s crucial to know the context. Just prior to this, Jesus has fed the five thousand. He multiplies five loaves and two fish to feed the huge crowd. Then he sends the disciples on a trip across the lake. Later in the night, he spots them struggling against a ferocious wind and comes to help them. Mark says that Jesus was ‘about to pass by them.’ This doesn’t mean that Jesus intends to ignore them. But it means that He wants to reveal His power and His presence to them in the middle of the storm. Maybe you remember a blockbuster moment in the Old Testament when God ‘passed by’ someone. In Exodus 33. Moses was meeting with God. God told Moses he had found favor in His sight. And then Moses made the big ask. He said, “God, please show me your glory.” And God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’... Exodus 33:18-19 (ESV) The words ‘pass by’ are the same words used in Mark to describe Jesus passing by the disciples. God passed by Moses and now Jesus passes by the disciples. What is Jesus doing? He is showing the disciples his glory! He wants the disciples to see his majesty! He wants them to know that He is God!
Characteristically, the disciples don’t get it. Instead of recognizing that Jesus is the divine Son of God who has come to be with them, they think He is a ghost. But Jesus responds by doing all He can to assuage their fears. He says, “It is I.” These are the words God used to reveal His great name to Moses in Exodus 3. Jesus is saying, “I Am.” With this phrase He identifies Himself as the very Son of God. He is unmistakably claiming to be deity.
When Mark says, ‘…they did not understand about the loaves’ (v. 52), what is he telling us? Had they understood the feeding of the five thousand, they would have known Jesus’ true identity when He came to them on the lake. They would have understood that Christ has power and authority over all things. That He can create bread and fish, and that He can control the waves. How many signs will Jesus have to give the disciples before they get it thru their thick skulls? What will it take for them to finally get it? They’re not the sharpest knives in the drawer. But in spite of their failures, Jesus still comes to them! He doesn’t let their hard heartedness keep him from coming and being there for them! But this means there’s still hope for me! How many times will Jesus have to demonstrate his power before I get over my skepticism? How often will Jesus have to intervene in my life before I surrender my fears? What will it take for me to finally get it? Sometimes we think the only way God is going to come near to us is when we’re living in perfect faith and obedience. When we have it all together spiritually. But Jesus will cross any barrier to meet with us. Not just when we feel like we’re on top of things spiritually, but also when we’re in the darkest of times and struggles.