Some of the disciples made their living fishing in the waters of Galilee (Matthew 4:18). They were comfortable navigating the seas at night. But this was different; the more they strained to get to the other side, the more the sea held them back.
Jesus' Power Over the Sea
The Sea: Chaos and Disorder
The sea often represents chaos and disorder in the Bible (after sin and death are banished in the new heaven and earth, there will be no more sea, according to Revelation 21:1). In Exodus, the Red Sea was split by God so His people could pass through, escaping the bonds of Egypt and ultimately entering into the promised land.
Here in Mark’s gospel, God’s people—Jesus’ disciples—once again contended with the sea. Once again, the chaos could only be overcome through the merciful intervention of God.
By the way, “the fourth watch of the night”—the hours between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m.—is a horrible time to be in a storm. Imagine that it’s 4:30 a.m. and instead of sleeping, you’re drenched, your hands are pruny, sore, and cut from pulling rough ropes. Then, when you finally see Jesus, He’s about to pass you by. What would you do?
Jesus put the disciples on a boat (Mark 6:45) in the chaos of the sea and then went to pray. Do you wonder about what, or whom, He was praying?
Maybe Jesus was praying for the storm to help the scales drop from the eyes of the disciples.
Maybe He prayed that the disciples would not merely see Him, but they would know who He was. Jesus said, “It is I; do not be afraid,” a proclamation that, throughout the Bible, preceded intervention—supernatural good news (6:50).
Jesus had to announce Himself to His disciples because they still didn’t see who He was. He had just turned meager loaves and fish into an impossible feast, but His provision in that crisis wasn’t sufficient for them to recognize His power, or His love.
So, when the storm hit, the disciples didn’t call on Him. They strained and pulled all night, and would have continued to do so if Jesus didn’t make His way to them. He got in the boat with them, while they were too terrified to recognize Him.
Can you relate? What’s your knee-jerk response to a crisis? Do you get spiritual amnesia, forgetting all the times that the Lord rescued you in the past? Do you believe Him for your crisis now? Or do you strain to steer your life through the storm on your own?
Please don’t miss the huge irony in this passage. The disciples didn’t think to call on Jesus, but the people on the shores of Gennesaret certainly did. “Immediately,” Mark wrote. Mark 6:54–55 says, “when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized [Jesus] and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was” (emphasis added).
They recognized and ran. Immediately. And they received healing.
Oh, that this would be our response in a storm. Maybe we’re straining when we ought to be still and cry out for God’s help.
What’s your first instinct in a crisis? Do you “strain at the oars” or call on the Lord? How can you remember to call on the Lord in the chaos, in your own storms?
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