There’s a somewhat peculiar note in the story of Jesus walking on the water (Mark 6:45-52). Jesus saw that His disciples were “making headway painfully, for the wind was against them,” so He went to them “walking on the sea.” Then comes this rather curious note: “[Jesus] meant to pass by them” (v. 48). Why? Couldn’t He see the dire predicament they were in?
Have you ever felt like the disciples must have felt then? Have you ever thought Jesus was “about to pass by” you? Oh, maybe you weren’t “making headway painfully” in a weather-related storm—like a twisting tornado or a swirling hurricane. Perhaps it was a different type of storm:
- Say a health-related storm. You prayed and prayed for healing for yourself or a loved one, but no healing came. Nothing the doctors prescribed, no medicines administered, and no therapies undertaken did any good. Nothing worked! It seemed as though Jesus was “about to pass by.”
- Then again, maybe it was an interpersonal storm. Say there were stresses with your spouse or distances with your children or tensions in the workplace or unresolved conflicts with friends or fellow church members. Your prayers seemed to fall on deaf ears, and anything you tried just seemed to make matters worse. Nothing worked! It seemed as though Jesus was “about to pass by.”
- Perhaps it was a spiritual storm. Someone challenged your Christian faith and you didn’t know how to respond. In fact, the challenge made so much sense that it rocked your faith right down to its very core. You searched the Scriptures, you prayed for guidance, you consulted a pastor or a teacher, but nothing worked. It seemed as though Jesus was “about to pass by.”
- Or maybe it was one of those all-of-a-sudden, spur-of-the-moment, “I-didn’t-see-that-coming” types of storms. Someone blew through a stop sign, plowed into your vehicle, and inflicted serious injury. You went to the doctor for your annual physical, only to hear that skeptical “we’d better take a look at this!” You got that dreaded middle-of-the-night “come quickly because things are not good” phone call. Suddenly you felt all alone, as if Jesus was “about to pass by.”
So, back to those struggling disciples. When they saw Jesus walking on the lake, they thought He was a ghost. It might have seemed as though Jesus was “about to pass by,” but He didn’t. Immediately, Jesus stopped and ministered to those scared and frightened disciples in three ways: First, Jesus assured the disciples of His presence. “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (v. 50). Next, Jesus showed them His power. He climbed into their little vessel and the wind ceased immediately. And third, Jesus ministered to the disciples with His peace. Once Jesus climbed into their boat and stilled the storm, the disciples were able to cross peacefully over the rest of the lake and drop anchor safely in port.
So when those storms of life come swooping down upon you, leaving you struggling against the furious winds of adversity and crying out in sheer terror because it seems as though Jesus is “about to pass by,” Jesus comes to you. Jesus comes with His presence—in His Word, in the gentle, cleansing waters of your Baptism, and in the simple forms of bread and wine shared in the Eucharistic Meal, where He gives you the very body and blood He has already given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus also comes to you with His power. He might not stop the storm you are in, but He does give you the power to endure knowing that nothing in “all creation will be able to separate [you] from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38). Finally, Jesus gives you His peace—the peace of knowing that even if the worst should happen, you know your eternal future is secure because Jesus has already guaranteed your salvation through His own life, suffering, death, and resurrection.
One time Jesus shouted into the eerie darkness, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). It seemed as though the Father was “about to pass by” and leave Jesus to die alone on Calvary’s cruel cross. A little later, however, Jesus cried out again—not in terror but in triumph: “It is finished” (John 19:30); whereupon He prayed, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). And three days later Jesus rose triumphant from the dead, leaving His stale, sealed sepulcher empty.
Because Jesus lives, when you find yourself on your deathbed, and it seems as though God is “about to pass by,” you can shout in victory with Jesus: “It is finished!” And then you can commit your spirit into the everlasting arms of your sympathetic Savior and loving Good Shepherd, knowing for certain He will never pass you by.
(Special thanks to Rev. William Hessler for today’s guest post!)