Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Things are not Always what they seem.

Mark 6:45-52 NRSV   45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.  46 After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.  47 When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.  48 When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by.  49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out;  50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."  51 Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,  52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Mark writes in verse 48b that Jesus intended to pass them by. On the surface this phrase seems to indicate that Jesus, although aware of their predicament, has no intention of helping. But, things are not always what they seem. If we read this only as a miracle story of Jesus rescuing the disciples then we miss the richness of the phrase “he intended to pass them by.  Often we argue about whether the miracle really happened or not, missing the point of what the story teaches us about Jesus and our relationship with Jesus.
Let’s take a closer look of Jesus’ intent to pass them by. If you recall in 1 Kings 11, Elijah stood at the cave entrance waiting for the Lord to “pass by.” The Lord did pass by, but not in the wind that was so strong it was splitting the mountains, not in the earthquake, and not in the fire. God passed by in the sheer silence that followed these things. He reveals his presence with Elijah in the sheer silence.
Moses is on Mount Sinai in the presence of the lord. He asks the Lord, “how can I know I have found favor in your sight?” It seems for Moses that the only thing that will do is if the Lord will show Moses His glory. God says, “Exodus 33:19  "I will make all my goodness pass before you . . ” God passes by Moses to reveal his presence with Moses and the Israelites.
Passing by, then, is not what it seems. In passing by God is making a revelation. God reveled himself to Elijah in the cave, God reveled himself to Moses on the mount, Jesus is revealing himself as God’s Son by “passing by” the disciples. The unfortunate thing is, they don’t get it. As Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, “None of this had yet penetrated their hearts” (52b).
Things are not always what they seem. Passing by does not literally mean passing by someone or something without a thought. It is a revelatory experience. For Elijah God reveled himself in the ”sheer silence.” For Moses, God was revealed from God’s  back as God passed by Moses. And Jesus revealed God’s presence in him and with the disciples as he “passed by”.  
Has Jesus “passed by”? Did you miss it? Did it not penetrate your heart? Look today for all the ways Jesus passes by. It might come in the most unexpected way. Things aren’t always what they seem.

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