Friday, June 27, 2008

He Would Have Passed Them By?

Mark 6: 45-52.
"Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side...Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by."

This story is full of spiritual implications, but I will point out only a few.
[Please feel free to post any comments or questions that merit further discussion].

“He made His disciples get into a boat.”
The “boat” is significant because it represents a context from which we can not easily escape. The disciples, on that small boat in the middle of the sea, could not simply change their minds and walk away from the problems and issues at hand. They could not escape the process; they had to ride it out. The Lord desires to work deeply and significantly in our lives, but He knows that human nature wants to run from the fire and will attempt to escape if it has the option to do so. We would rather than sin than suffer, and in the crunch we seek relief rather than the purpose and glory of God. We tend to be like the Psalmist who cried out, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.” It is interesting to note that a "successful" escape leads only to “wandering” and to “the wilderness.” Wandering gives the illusion of freedom, and the wilderness gives the temporary illusion of comfort, only because it is less intense than the crucible God designed for our change and growth.

This explains the boat. He places us in a class room (boot camp?) from which we can not escape, by-pass, or take the easy way out, at least not with integrity and righteousness. This is a good thing. It shows that God loves us enough to work with us in spite of ourselves.

“He made …His disciples go before Him.”
Jesus promised to go "before His sheep" when He sends them forth, but here He commands His disciples to go “before Him.” This seems to be in contrast to the promise, and when it happens to us we are tempted to feel alone and left to ourselves.

But the reality is the opposite. The psalmist, in his dark hour, feeling forgotten and forsaken, and crying out daily with sorrow in his heart, came to understand that God was actually dealing bountifully with him. Sometimes our darkest moments indicate God’s most intense presence rather than His absence. We must remember that the disciples, although in the middle of the sea in a storm at night, were not really alone. Miles away and through the darkness “Jesus saw them.” With Him there is no darkness nor distance. God may be out of our sight, but we are never out of His sight. He saw them and went straight to them. They were not ignored by God. To the contrary, the whole experience had been designed especially for them. They were getting special attention. As one story goes, we see only one set of footprints not because He is not walking with us, but because He is carrying us.

“He…would have passed them by.”
This sentence requires more discussion than can be done in this short space. It represents a principle that Christians often miss. While there is such a thing as Divine resistance which is accompanied by the absence of grace, there is also an area in our training where we encounter what appears to be Divine resistance but which is actually the Lord’s desire to stimulate us to aggressive faith and prayer, to provoke us out of passivity and apathy, and to move us to the assertive and determined action of obedient children passionate to do His will. It is a place where we work together with Him through intercession and patient endurance. How often do we let the Lord pass on by because we think that is what He wants to do? How often do we interpret His apparent reluctance as a genuine lack of interest? We think He does not want to engage us and so we back away, drop the subject, and let Him pass on by. It is clear that Jesus never intended to pass by that boat. His heart was with those men. They were the object of His special care and focus at that moment. We should take note and learn from this example.

There are other Biblical examples of God’s children pressing into Him when on the surface it appeared they were encountering resistance. The two men on the road to Damascus constrained Jesus to stay with them when He made as though He would have left them behind and gone on further. The Canaanite woman cried out to Jesus and obtained healing for her daughter after Jesus had given her three negative (almost offensive) responses (that would have caused most of us to turn and walk away). In wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless bless me!”

I don’t fully understand this principle, but I do know that God wants us to “trouble” Him with things. Our quickness to let Him pass on by is not courtesy, but rather complacency, passivity, and spiritual laziness. Sometimes it reflects our low self-esteem. We think we are not worthy of His attention and help. But ultimately it reflects our lack of understanding of God’s love and desire to be involved in our lives.

“He made His disciples…go…to the other side”
Our destiny is the “other side,” which means we will make it through. We must not be afraid of the storm that comes on the way. Jesus will silence and still it as soon as its purpose is completed. The experience in the boat was to make them grow and to cause them to know Him at a deeper level. Peter even had the opportunity to walk on the water with Jesus at this time. So maybe our goal should be not simply to get to the other side, but to be at His side. Let’s not jump to the conclusion that the Lord does not want to be bothered, that He has better things to do. Let’s touch the hem of His garment and cry out to Him to abide with us. Let’s also cry out to Him as Peter did, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” We will find that He is not only present, but very present, "a very present help in time of trouble."

Biblical references for further study:
Mark 6: 45-52; John 10: 3-5; Luke 24: 28; Mat.15: 21-28; Gen 32: 22-32; Luke 11: 5-8; Lu 18: 1-5; Psalm 13; Matthew 14:22-32; Hebrews 10:19-23; Psalm 46:1.

Please click "comment" below if you would like to make a comment or share an insight.


Anonymous said...

Hello, Brother Billy. I have not had a chance to read your blogs yet, but I ran into Eva, who is working in the same bldg as I in Raleigh and wanted to bookmark your site so that I would not forget it.

I hope all is well with you and Laurel and hope to respond in more detail soon.

God Bless,
Joe Sullivan

Billy Long said...

It sure is great to hear from you. It has been a long time. Please send me your email address. Mine is on the front page of this blog.

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March E. Andrews said...

I am writing a novel inspired by this episode. I find it fascinating, these little-discussed facets of scripture. Writing the book will take a couple years for me to complete. My viewpoint is from a coherent narrative of Jesus himself. He did become selfless, but people forget, he was born with a self, as we all are. So instead of the spiritual implications of events, my approach is how it might have felt to Jesus as an individual.

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