Blog / Book of the Month / He Meant to Pass by Them / Mark 6:45-56 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 25th 2021 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

He Meant to Pass by Them / Mark 6:45-56 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 25th 2021 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

He Meant to Pass by Them / Mark 6:45-56 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 25th 2021 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Sunday July 25th 2021 / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Mark 6:45-56 / He Meant to Pass by Them

Immediately [Jesus] made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. And after He had taken leave of them, He went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and He was alone on the land. And He saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. 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, for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized Him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard He was. And wherever He came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored Him that they might touch even the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. For many people in the last hundred years or so hearing our Gospel reading would get bogged down in the mechanics of just how Jesus walked across the water, the physicality of the miracle or the improbability of it. It would need to be emphasised that Jesus as the Son of God was more than able to walk on water but that is a small slice of the pie when it comes to just how miraculous and comforting this miracle truly is. Today let’s think about the big picture of what is going on with our Gospel reading and all the biblical connections Jesus is making for His disciples and for you.  

King David in Psalm 101 wrote, "The LORD says to My Lord: “Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool.”[1] Jesus referred to this, in the Gospel of Luke,[2] in reference to Himself being the Christ. In today's Gospel we see Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus treads on the waves, and His walking on them is an indication of His divinity. In the Old Testament Leviathan lay in the depths of the water and Leviathan kicked up the waves in spite and in fury.

The prophet Isaiah, looking forward to Jesus said, "In that day the LORD with His hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and He will slay the dragon that is in the sea."[3] This Leviathan, this dragon that is in the sea, are one and the same: In the book of Revelation, "the great dragon" is also called, "that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world,"[4] and this is the one that was set against the disciples, who made their headway a painful thing.

In the incarnation Jesus was sent to us to tread on our enemies and defeat them; to have them put under His feet like a footstool. Think of what was promised by God to the serpent in the Garden after the fall, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.”[5] The Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, came "[to] have compassion on us; [to] tread our iniquities underfoot, [to] cast all our sins into the depths of the sea."[6] The disciples in the boat, who were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them, harassing them, didn't understand who it was who was kicking up the waves against them, they likewise didn't understand at that time that Jesus - who was walking towards them upon the waters - was in fact God. That Jesus was fulfilling, in their seeing, promises made in the Old Testament, that before their eyes the grace of God was unfolding.

Consider also this rather small detail in our Gospel text today: As the disciples were struggling in the boat on the waters St. Mark says that Jesus meant to "pass by them" as He walked on the sea. There are two major event in the Old Testament where God “passed by” someone. The ones He passed by were the prophets Moses and Elijah.

First Moses, "Moses said, “Please show me Your glory.” And [God] said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you My name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” He said, “you cannot see My face, for man shall not see Me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me where you shall stand on the rock, and while My glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with My Hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away My Hand, and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”[7]

Now to Elijah, the second of these prophets that God passed by: "There [Elijah] came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, The Word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And [The Word of the LORD] said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”[8]

In the cleft of the rock, at the month the cave, Moses and Elijah both had God pass by them. For Moses this was at the same time of the giving of the 10 Commandments, for Elijah it came right after the breaking of the long drought and his victorious experience with the prophets of Baal, after God had defeated them, and Jezebel had threatened Elijah's life and Elijah had fled into the wilderness in fear and depression. While God spoke with them, nevertheless God passed them by, and they didn't see His Face.

Jesus meant to "pass by" His disciples as He walked on the sea, but He didn't, Jesus the incarnate second person of the Holy Trinity, God in the flesh who is at the same time both God and man. Who is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; And Who likewise is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age: Perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh,[9] this same one, Jesus, who meant to pass them by did not. He did not pass them by: He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. He said to them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” They were looking at God face to Face and yet, "their hearts were hardened," and they couldn't grasp what they were seeing. There He was standing right there before them, they could have wrestled with Him like Jacob had,[10] but they couldn't grasp what was unfolding. 

In the Old Testament Job asks, “how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with Him, one could not answer Him once in a thousand times. He is wise in heart and mighty in strength —who has hardened himself against Him, and succeeded?—

          He who removes mountains, and they know it not, ...

          who alone stretched out the heavens

                   and trampled the waves of the sea; ...

          Behold, He passes by me, and I see Him not;

                   He moves on, but I do not perceive Him.

          Behold, He snatches away; who can turn Him back?

                   Who will say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’"[11]

The disciples mistook Jesus passing by them on the waves for a ghost, and when Jesus climbed into the boat with them and they saw Him again face to Face they knew he was no ghost but they still couldn't see that Jesus was God. That is what is meant when St. Mark says, "they did not understand about the loaves."

The event that took place just before this one in the Gospel of Mark is the feeding of the five thousand, which pastor Albrecht preached about last week, it begins with Jesus looking at the crowd of people and when Jesus, "saw [the] great crowd, ... He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd,"[12] Jesus looking at His disciples in the boat, who were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them, looked upon them with compassion, like the five thousand in the desolate place He didn't pass them by. The whole incarnation is about God not passing you by, it's about God making good on His promises and saving His people, not from some faraway place with the swipe of a finger off in heaven, but by stooping down, by climbing into our boat in the midst of the storm, by joining us in our trouble and in our suffering - by joining you in the life you live.

Elsewhere in the book of Job, Job expresses his personal faith and hope that He will see this redeemer, this saviour face to Face, when Job prophetically says, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!"[13] Job is looking forward to The End of Time, to The Last Day when Job will see the Christ face to Face, what about Moses and Elijah - Did they see Jesus face to Face? In the Old Testament God had passed by each of them.

A little later on in the Gospel of Mark, in chapter 9, St. Mark tells us that, six days after St. Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, "Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And [Jesus] was transfigured before them, and His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For [Peter] did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, [Jesus] charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean."[14]

Listen, you've heard it said that hind sight is 20/20, but perhaps when Jesus says that the Son of Man would rise from the dead He meant that He, Jesus, would be risen from the dead; and that just like how the chaotic waters - that day on the sea of Galilee - were put under His feet as a foot stool, so too even death would be put there under Jesus' feet as a footstool in His resurrection on Easter and in His Ascension to the Father’s right hand side.[15]

Is Jesus in our midst today? Do people have hard hearts; are they blind to see Him? Has He climbed into our boat and yet remained unrecognized as God? Yes. The part of the building that you’re sitting in right now when you are at church, the part with the pews, has been called the Nave from the earliest of times in the church. From the word Nave we get words like Navy and Navel, they all refer back to the Latin word for ship. So built right into the building of the church is the idea that you as a Christian are one who sits in the belly of a ship, one sitting in the “boat” of the church building, while the waves and the winds of life are set against you, beating at the walls. And in Holy Communion here comes Jesus walking across the waves through the wind who says, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” With the bread and the wine, Jesus comes to you with His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sin, He climbs into the boat with us, and the wind ceases.

God is gracious and today more members are added to our congregation, the baptisms of the baptised are confirmed and the church is sustained, we look around and see that we are not alone in the boat, we are together and Christ Jesus is with us.[16] This is an encouragement. There are also times when there are people who are in the boat of the church, who like all Christians have Jesus with them and yet they, like the disciples in the Gospel reading today, live life with a hard heart, hearts that don't see or understand about the loaves, hearts that struggle or fail to see Jesus as God. Yet Jesus comes all the same to all of us and He gives Himself for heavenly food and He forgives you for the times when your heart is hard and calls you to repentance. Remember what Job said, "who has hardened himself against Him, and succeeded?" Jesus didn't leave the disciples with hard hearts, He had compassion on them, and all but Judas remained to see Jesus face to Face in His resurrection. And the week after that first Easter St. Thomas one of the men who had been in the boat in today's Gospel reading, speaking for all of the disciples makes his great confession: looking at the Face of Jesus, Jesus who had not passed them by, but had died as a man in their place and was buried as a man taking on the wages of their sin, Jesus who was risen from the dead with Sin, Death, the Devil, and the World under His nail stricken feet as a footstool; looking at this Jesus Thomas says of Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”[17] In the resurrection St. Thomas and the rest of the disciples see no ghost, as they imagined they had seen that day in the boat as they saw Jesus walking on the waves, no they saw Jesus in the flesh and more than that they truly recognized Him for who His is. They saw God face to Face, as Moses and Elijah had on the mount of transfiguration, and as you will on The Last Day, on the day of your resurrection.  

At first they could not see that Jesus was in fact God for all they saw was a man, an extraordinary man to be sure, but a man: Today there are many in the world who cannot see God as He comes to us in Holy Communion, they only see simple bread and wine, maybe they see a symbol of God but they do not see Him, yet here in Holy Communion Jesus stands with His enemies beneath His feet as a footstool, with your enemies beneath His feet, with your sin cast into the depths of the sea. In Christ Jesus God does not pass you by, He has compassion on you and joins you in the boat. Amen.  

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Psalm 110:1
[2] Luke 20:41-44
[3] Isaiah 27:1   
[4] Revelation 12:9
[5] Genesis 3:15
[6] Micah 7:19  
[7] Exodus 33:18-23           
[8] 1 Kings 19:9-13
[9] Athanasian Creed, Lutheran Service BookConcordia Publishing House 2006, Pg 320.
[10] Genesis 32:22-32, "The same night [Jacob] arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the Man saw that He did not prevail against Jacob, He touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as He wrestled with him. Then He said, “Let Me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” And He said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked Him, “Please tell me Your name.” But He said, “Why is it that you ask My name?” And there He blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh."
[11] Job 9:2-5, 8, 11-12
[12] Mark 6:34  
[13] Job 19:25-27   
[14] Mark 9:2-10
[15] During Holy week, on the night when Jesus was betrayed, after Jesus had told His disciples in the upper room that He was, and is, and ever shall be, “the way, and the truth, and the life," that, "No one comes to the Father except through [Him]." Jesus then says, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:6-7) At the beginning of St. John's Gospel, John writes that, "No one has ever seen God; [except] the only God, who is at the Father's side, He has made Him known." Jesus is the one who John calls "the only God," and Jesus the second person of the Holy Trinity is then the only one who has seen the Father, so on the night when Jesus was betrayed when He says to them, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” Philip interjects and says, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to [Philip], “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?" (John 14:8-10)
[16] July 25th 2021, Mount Olive Welcome new members, including five Adult Confirmation of Baptisms.
[17] John 20:28

Photo Credit: Boat on the water by Johannes Plenio from unsplash.