…and they were astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened. – Vs 52
They had not gained any insight. Basically, they had not put two and two together. They had witnessed an incredible miracle when Jesus fed the 5,000 with the loaves and fishes. But the disciples failed to make the connection between what they had seen and the one who had performed the miracle. Instead, Mark says "their heart was hardened." In the Greek the word translated "hardened" means "to cover with a thick skin, as a callous." Their hearts were unable to be penetrated by the significance of the events surrounding them. They could not see Him for who He was. Sure, they were astonished with the things they were seeing, but they could not connect the dots in their hearts, and realize the significance of the one they were following. Then they found themselves on a fishing boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, straining to get to the other side because of the winds. The next thing they know, Jesus is walking by on the water, intent on getting to the other side before they do. Rather than recognize Him, remember the events of the day, and marvel once again at the power of Jesus, they panic, jumping to the conclusion that they are seeing a ghost or some kind of sinister apparition. They were terrified.
Jesus gets in the boat with them, the wind stops, and they're astonished. They were blown away by what they had seen – Jesus walking on the water. But these are the same guys who had just watched Jesus feed thousands of people with just a handful of loaves and fishes. And they had each picked up a basket full of leftovers – 12 total! These are the same 12 that Jesus sent out and "gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases" (Luke 9:1). Mark says "they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them" (Mark 6:13). But when it came to Jesus walking on the water, they were astonished. Because they had not gained any insight from the incident with the loaves. Their hearts were calloused and their understanding was dull.
But what had they missed? What was the message of the loaves and fishes that failed to connect with them? I see a number of them. First, that Jesus has the power to provide. He can meet any need – no matter how large or small. Whether it is physical hunger or spiritual thirst. Secondly, Jesus cares. His action was motivated by compassion. Mark records, "He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd" (Mark 6:34). He cared about their spiritual as well as their physical hunger. Thirdly, Jesus has power that is greater than the elements. He could multiply loaves and fishes. He could take a little and accomplish a lot. His power was limitless.
Yet the disciples kept trying to limit Jesus. They kept trying to put Him back into the box they had created for Him. They were comfortable with a Messiah of their own making. They wanted a revolutionary. They wanted a savior, but one of their own definition. They wanted salvation from Roman tyranny, not deliverance from sin. They wanted a warrior Messiah, not a suffering servant. They wanted a kingdom of this earth, not of heaven. So as they struggled with the oars, pulling against the wind and the waves of life, Jesus appears walking on the water. Their minds were occupied with the cares and concerns of this life. Like many of us, they were straining at the oars, trying to keep ahead of the waves and wind pushing against them. But Jesus walks on the water, unaffected by the elements, intent on His mission.
So how about us? Are our hearts calloused over from years of use loving the wrong things? Are our minds dulled by a steady diet of wrong expectations and faulty conclusions about God and His role in our lives? Are we easily astonished when we get a glimpse of Jesus in our lives that does not fit our preconceived notions of who He is? If so, then we are missing the point. We're not putting two and two together. You see, Jesus outside of our boat walking on the water is a reminder to us that He is who He says He is: The Son of God. But we want Jesus in our boat. We want Him doing things our way. We want Him concerned with our problems and helping us out of our jams. But Jesus is a man on a mission. He has a goal and an objective – as much today as He did then. Yet we want to limit His work to our own little world. For Jesus, walking on the water was an expeditious way of getting where He needed to go, so He could do what He needed to do. It was not done for show or effect. Jesus fed the 5,000, not as some kind of mind-blowing miracle, but to give the disciples a glimpse into who He was. Everything Jesus did was for a reason. He had a purpose behind it. To teach, instruct, encourage, reveal, motivate, and prepare those whom He had called. The same is true today. But we run the risk of having hardened hearts and dulled minds. Look around you. Where is Jesus? Is He out of the boat or in it? Is He walking on the water, revealing His power and proving His deity? Do you see Him feeding the spiritually hungry by using "the least of these?" He is at work. He is still walking on the water. He is still making the most out of the least. He is still showing compassion on the many. He is still revealing who He is to those whom He has called.
Father, thank You for sending Your Son. But forgive me for having a hardened, callous heart sometimes that prevents me from seeing Him at work around me. Forgive me for failing to learn the lessons you are teaching me about Your Son. Soften my heart, open my eyes, help me to see who it is that I serve. Let me not be surprised by those walking-on-water moments that take place around me. May I grow in my understanding of who Jesus is and what He is doing in the world today. Amen