We join Jesus today as He dismisses the dinner crowd. Right after gathering the leftovers, He sends His disciples ahead of Him in the boat to Bethsaida and then sends the satisfied crowd away. Finally alone, Jesus goes up onto the mountain to pray.
Mark tells us that “when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and He was alone on the land” (verse 47). Checking this out with Google, I found that there were actually two “evening” in the Jewish reckoning of time. The first was the time when the sun began to decline in the sky and the second was when it finally set. We are not sure which evening Mark is referring to in this instance, so we are going to say that it was after 6:00 and before full darkness.
Mark also notes that Jesus could see His disciples out on the sea at that time and that they were having a hard time making progress towards their intended port. The wind was against them. But Jesus didn’t cut His time with God short, He continued to pray. He trusted God to take care of them while He was otherwise engaged. After Jesus finished praying, He came down off the mountain and headed out onto the sea. Mark says it was “the fourth watch of the night” (verse 48) which starts at 3:00 in the morning. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a long time to be fighting against the sea. I would have been exhausted!
Mark also tells us that Jesus “meant to pass by them” (verse 48), but when they cried out in fear He spoke to them and eventually joined them in the boat. Matthew gave us a fuller account of the time between discovery and entering the boat, including Peter joining Jesus OUT of the boat. If you want to refresh your memory on that exciting event pop back to the entry, “Jesus Walks on Water.”
Once Jesus enters the boat the winds ceased. They didn’t calm down, but stopped! Needless to say, His disciples were amazed again. Mark’s next statement is where I want to focus the rest of our time together. “For they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (verse 52).
Jesus’ disciples have just come back from their “mission trip” where they taught, and ministered healing and deliverance to all who came to them. They saw demons flee. They saw the blind recover their sight. They saw the lame walking. They saw all these things and more. Once they returned to Jesus’ side, they helped Him distribute food to over 5,000 people, when they only started with five loaves and two fish. Prior to leaving they saw Jesus raise the dead, heal EVERY kind of disease, and cast out at least a legion of demons. They were in the boat when He calmed the sea so violent that they knew they were about to drown.
All these things and more transpired right before their eyes every day, yet they didn’t really understand. They didn’t comprehend the full truth of who Jesus was. That truth was still ahead of them. They really wouldn’t understand it completely until after He rose from the dead.
Why not! we ask? I think it is because God made it that way. There are several places in the bible where God hardened hearts. Pharaoh’s is the most memorable instance. God sent ten plagues down on Egypt. Any one of them could have made a regular heart faint. But God had a plan to prove Himself and His power beyond any doubt, so Pharaoh’s resolve had to be iron clad to complete the process. Pharaoh already was hateful and cruel towards the people of Israel, so doing this didn’t put Pharaoh at odds with his own nature. To ensure success, God hardened his heart and gave him the determination necessary to drive Egypt right into God’s full measure of judgement and bring about Israel’s miraculous deliverance.
If the hardness of Jesus’ disciples hearts, pointed out by Mark, was from God, it wasn’t the same as what Pharaoh experienced. It was more on the lines of semi blindness or hiding part of the truth from them. When Peter finally puts two and two together to come up with his confession of Jesus being the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus says that the Spirit of God revealed it to him rather than any person on earth.
Can you imagine the difference, KNOWING with all their being that Jesus was FULLY the Son of God, would make in their daily lives? Would they be cowering in the corner afraid He was going to strike them dead at any moment? Would they be too ashamed of their own sins to even approach Him in the first place? Would they have an attitude of superiority, having been called by Him as His disciples? Would they have felt invincible? How would they have changed?
God, and Jesus, wanted them just as they were. Awed by every work of Jesus. Turning to Him for their very survival. Ready to follow wherever He led and willing to do whatever He commanded. And KNOWING He was the One they were searching for. They didn’t fully understand, but they fully trusted. The rest would come in its proper time.
Father God, thank You that I don’t always have to have all the answers. Most of the time You show me what I need to know for now and save the rest until the time is right to reveal it. Thank You that I can trust You to sustain me between those two times. Thank You that I know I can trust You with the future. Thank You that some things are hidden. If I knew before I started what the outcome would be, would I still have chosen to do some of the difficult things I have done? Many times the journey was worth more than the destination. I would have missed those lessons, if not for the unknown. Jesus disciples would have missed out on a lot of them too.
Thank You for protecting me during the struggles along the path. You don’t leave me alone to stagger from here to there, but You guide me and protect me every step of the way. Even when I think I am about to drown, You are still in control. Thank You that You hold the wind and waves as easily as You hold my hand. Nothing is out of Your reach. Even when things don’t turn out my way, when I lose the battles, when I finally succumb to the grave, YOU are still in control.