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. Mark 6:48
Jesus would have passed them by.
This statement always jarred me. Was Mark saying Jesus intended to leave the disciples struggling and straining, oblivious and unconcerned? I don’t think so.
Did he mean that Jesus had other plans, like going on across the lake, but He had to stop and bail the disciples out again? Like they were a bother or a hindrance? That doesn’t sound like Jesus.
But the Old Testament, I think, sheds some light on Jesus passing by. In Exodus 33 and 34, Moses asks for reassurance and reaffirmation from God and God graciously obliges. Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Exodus 33:19
Then again, for Elijah. Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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. 1 Kings 19:11
In both cases, the Lord passing by included a glimpse of His glory and power, designed to encourage and empower His people.
What if … with the disciples frustrated, exhausted and at the end of themselves … Jesus intended to pass by, meaning to show them His glory just like Jehovah had done for Moses and Elijah? What if, in the same way Israel was not ready to recognize Jesus as Messiah, the disciples were not ready to see Him as He truly is? So He didn’t pass by.
The disciples had just watched Jesus create food. The bread and fish from feeding the crowd of five thousand plus hadn’t even digested yet. But as amazing as that miracle was, they didn’t get it. Mark says in verse 52 that their hearts were hard. Too hard to take it in. Their minds were closed. Why?
They were afraid.
They were distracted.
They were unbelieving.
Have there been times when Jesus “would have passed by” but I was too afraid of what was happening around me to take it in? Or too distracted by whatever crisis I was trying to manage on my own? Or too unwilling to believe that He is the great I AM?
I’m not sure I want to know.
Actually, I’m pretty sure I already do.