What does Mark 6 tell us about the person of Jesus and how he relates to us in moments of great distress? My verdict: it’s complicated…But the tension and mystery of Jesus’ actions offer a deeper, picture of his compassionate love. I don’t know about you but after reading how Jesus sent his disciples ahead without him into extreme nautical conditions, rowing themselves into circles until he eventually walks on water so he could pass by them—yes, you read that right, his original plan was to keep power-walking past—left me with a few questions. For me, Jesus defying the laws of physics might actually be the least mystifying part of this story. For starters, didn’t he know a major storm was brewing? Why did this go on for hours before he rescued them? What was so urgent that he was planning to buzz-by the disciples’ boat instead of stopping? What was in Jesus mind? “Those silly disciples…they’ll be fine.”
Honestly, I didn’t like this story at first. The questions it raised felt too close to home and uncomfortably similar to those I have been asking God this past year. Why does this storm have to be so intense? Why won’t he end it? Can’t he see I’m exhausted and in distress? It also reminded me of the two primary explanations I had been oscillating between to make sense of these questions: either God is letting this isolation and compounding difficulty happen because he is growing my faith, and I should be rejoicing; or relief and blessing are just around the corner, and I just need to have greater faith in his provision. Honestly, blowing between these two winds – while still trying to row through the storm – left me feeling that God was testing me at best, or worse, that he was apathetic toward my pain and suffering.
What I have come to realize through this passage, and while weathering a seemingly endless storm, is that it’s hard to recognize Jesus in the midst of adversity and uncertainty. Even his close friends mistook him for a sea demon! Second, he responds to our cries for help. I don’t know why coming into the disciples’ boat wasn’t his original plan, but it’s pretty remarkable that our all-knowing and all-powerful Savior changed his plan and drew close to them when he saw how scared they were. He chose to come into the boat to comfort them, despite knowing the sea conditions were temporary, because he cared about the current state of their hearts.
It’s tempting to explain this story—and more broadly— how Christians should view suffering through simple conclusions. Isn’t it obvious? Jesus was growing their faith through adversity. It’s simple; he was teaching them to rely on him for their earthly needs. For me, the more comforting truth that is capable of holding the weight of my deepest pain and questioning is that Jesus does not dismiss our distress as a lack of perspective or faith. Rather, he is willing to get in the boat and weather the storm with me and comfort me with his presence and compassion, saying: Take courage. I am here.
Lexi Wolfe is a Conflict Resolution practitioner (a.k.a a Resolutionist) for the federal government and lives in the Shlogan-Town neighborhood (Where Shaw-Meets Logan-Meets Downton). When she’s not resolving conflict or inventing words, she enjoys exploring Virginia wineries and watching an embarrassing number of British TV shows.