"And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out."~Mark 45:48-49
But at night the torment begins. I often fight my way through sleepless nights as anxiety about work to be done, problems left unsolved and my own sinfulness play havoc in my heart. I lay awake and ask God, "Where are you? Why can't I feel your comforting touch, your loving presence? Why do I feel so alone, so unloved, so miserable?" And the silence of a household peacefully asleep echoes depressingly in my heart.
I was recently struck by the Gospel passage from Mark 6:45-52 about the disciples struggling through a storm while out on the water. There they were, doing what Jesus had told them to do, that is, get into the boat and head toward Bethsaida, and they end up caught in a big storm. They feared for their very lives and rightly so for they were in grave danger. And suddenly they see Jesus, who, we are told, meant to pass by them. When I first considered that, it really bothered me. Why would Jesus mean to pass them by? Why wouldn't he go to them and help them immediately? When I am feeling the storms of life and agonize over it during many slumberless nights, is Jesus simply passing by without stopping to help and is that why I suffer so much distress, I wondered? But then I read this awesome explanation by Geoff Thomas at St. Alfred's Baptist Church in the UK and this passage made so much sense to me:
"We are told, "He was about to pass by them" (v.48). You might think that that meant Jesus was going to continue with his stroll across the lake passing by the boat, but that phrase in the Old Testament is charged with meaning. It is found where God makes himself known in an awesome appearance to his people. The men who led his work were fearful and uncertain about the future, and then God comes and he passes by them. There was an occasion at Mount Horeb the Lord "passed by" the prophet Elijah in the wind and the earthquake and the fire, and then in a still small voice spoke to him (I Kings 19:11). It lifted Elijah out of his suicidal frame. Again, before that, at Mount Sinai the same Lord in his glory passed by Moses at a time of perplexity in his life (Ex. 33:22), in order to reassure and reveal God's name. We are told, "He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin'" (Ex. 6&7). This same God is here passing by his troubled servants on the lake. That is why the Lord Jesus came walking on the water.
Our Creator, so majestic and awesome, there revealed himself to John and James and Peter and Andrew and the rest. Jehovah Jesus went passing by the towns of Galilee, and it was sight to the blind. "Jehovah Jesus is passing by!" and it was cleansing for the leper. "Jehovah Jesus is passing by!" and the deaf could hear. "Jehovah Jesus is passing by!" and the dead were raised. And to the men in the boat Jehovah Jesus came passing by and it was courage for fear, and peace for terror. His walking on the water was a revelation of that glory of God which he shared with the Father and with the Spirit. Mark is showing us that Jesus Christ who planted his footsteps in the sea is the incarnate Lord." (source:read it all-it's fantastic!)
And as I lay awake fretting and worrying and wondering where God was in my anxiety, I realized that although I couldn't see Him or feel Him, He was most definitely passing by and I was not alone. And I settled down and listened to my husband breathing deeply as he slept beside me and I realized, here was God, nestled within the heart of my husband, quietly showing me that peace was possible, that I had only to reach over and embrace Paul as he slept and I would be feeling the heart of God within him. I had only to quiet my mind and allow the rhythms of my breath to fall in line with Paul's and I would soon discover the peace of a quiet sleep and my anxiety would be calmed.
Yes, Jesus had passed by me in my storm and, hearing my cries of distress, reached out to me in my need and I could almost hear him say, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." (Mark 45:50) as He got into my boat with me and calmed my troubled soul.
"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10