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Mark 6,45-52 - Expecting Miracles

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Mark 6:45-52 – Expecting Miracles

Over the last few weeks we have looked

at Jesus miracles:

miracles of healing,

the raising of Jairus daugther,

and the feeding of the 5000…

And today we want ot look at the miracle of

       Jesus walking on the water.

Let me ask you,

Do you believe in miracles?

Do you believe that miracles still happen today?

Aside from what we see in the Media,

       “Miracle on the Hudson” – just a few weeks back…

       Do we really believe that they still happen today?

And if so,

       How do we experience miracles today?

What is a miracle anyway?

According to Wikipedia[1],

A miracle is a sensibly perceptible interruption

of the laws of nature,

such that can only be explained by divine intervention…

In casual usage,

"miracle" may also refer to any statistically unlikely

but beneficial event,

(such as the survival of a natural disaster)

or [something] "wonderful"…

such as [the] birth of a child.

Other miracles might be:

survival of a fatal illness,

escaping a life threatening situation or 'beating the odds.'”

According to some of these definitions

miracles are not even all that uncommon today.

Even in our own congregation

       There are many people who have experienced

       God’s miraculous intervention in their lives.

Arnold Toynbee says that

believing in miracles is a basic necessity of mankind:

“The fundamental need of our world today

is a rebirth of belief in the supernatural.

If this rebirth is not forthcoming

from the more progressive creators of our mechanical culture,

it may come from the “backward” peoples

like the natives of Africa and Asia,

to those who have not yet become victims

of the proud materialism of the Great Powers.”[2]

That is a pretty convicting commentary

on our scientifically progressive culture, isn’t it.

I have long felt already that people

from more “unenlightend continents”

like Asia, Africa, and Latin America

have a much easier time accepting that miracles are real,

than many of us in North America and Europe

who have bought into the concept

that there is an easy scientific explanation

for the unexplainable.

Today we want to look at a miracle story

       from the life of Jesus.

And I want to invite you to look at this story

in a fresh way.


Let us turn to Mark 6:45-52.

Jesus had just finished feeding the 5000 in a deserted place

       with nothing more than

       five dinner rolls and two…

       (what was it again?) Jackfish?

And Mark continues to relate what happened next:

 45Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat

and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida,

while he dismissed the crowd.

46After leaving them,

he went up on a mountainside to pray.

 47When evening came,

the boat was in the middle of the lake,

and he was alone on land.

48He saw the disciples straining at the oars,

because the wind was against them.

About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them,

walking on the lake.

He was about to pass by them,

49but when they saw him walking on the lake,

they thought he was a ghost.

They cried out, 50because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said,

"Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

51Then he climbed into the boat with them,

and the wind died down.

They were completely amazed,

52for they had not understood about the loaves;

their hearts were hardened.


This story is full of surprizing twists,

       And like the rest of the Gospel of Mark,

       There is much more here than meets the eye.

Timothy Geddert,

       in the Believers Church Bible Commentary on Mark

tells us about the Evening Plans (6:45–46)

that Jesus had after the miraculous feeding.

The crowds had listened to a very long sermon of Jesus

       before being fed by the Good Shepherd in the desert.

Jesus sends the disciples out onto the lake in the boat

While the crowds are sent back to their home.

The Good Shepherd has provided nourishment for their souls

and for their bodies.

Jesus himself heads up into the hills to pray.


The disciples’ boat leaves before darkness sets in,

and almost immediately a storm picks up.

Jesus sees the disciples straining at the oars

against an adverse wind (6:48).

Exhausted from all the activities of the day

they are now rowing with all their might

to make it to the other shore alive.

The last time they battled a storm,

Jesus was with them in the boat

and he had only spoken a word

and the storm calmed down (4:39).

Mark gives us a play-by-play of the events:

after sending them ahead by boat,

Jesus goes up on a mountain to pray.

In the twilight

he was watching the boat in the middle of the lake.

He could see who they were straining

and fighting with the waves.

Isn’t it odd,

       that Jesus is just standing there,

       watching their life and death struggle

       from a distance,

       and not doing anything?

A whole night passes

after Jesus has become aware that his disciples are struggling,

and before he comes out to them.

In the evening (probably between 6:00–9:00 p.m.)

Jesus sees his disciples struggling on the lake.

Early in the morning

(literally, about the fourth watch, 3:00–6:00 a.m.),

Jesus comes walking on the water.

Jesus can’t be bothered from his prayer time,

even though he knows that the disciples

aren’t getting anywhere fast.

He doesn’t immediately come out to help them…

Instead, he deliberately waits an entire night

before making a move to help them.

The disciples struggle to survive the storm…

Jesus spends his time in prayer.

When Jesus finally does come out,

       we encounter another puzzling turn of events.

The story gives us the impression

       That he had no intention

of joining his struggling disciples in the boat

and calm the storm

(even though in the end he does that).

His purpose is to walk right past them (6:48).

Mark says Jesus intended to pass them by.

Isn’t that how we also feel sometimes

       When we are in a really desperately need for a miracle?

We struggle and fight against the storm…

       We call on God to rescue us…

       And when He finally shows up,

       He just appears to walk right past us…

Jesus wants to walk past,

and the disciples don’t recognize him.

They are terrified.

They think he is a ghost.

Then he identifies himself to them It is I.

He enters their boat and calms the storm.

Jesus original intention is to pass by.

We find this strange,

       Because we know the outcome of the story…

       Jesus walks on the water,

       And he calms the storm.

But, if we are puzzled,

       Think about the disciples:

They were utterly astounded,

 for they did not understand about the loaves (6:51b–52a).

Are they amazed that Jesus can do amazing things,

like multiplying loaves,

walking on water,

and calming a storm?

Is Jesus trying to raise their hopes

for his miraculous intervention?

The disciples are probably not amazed

that Jesus can do mighty deeds.

They already know that.


they are amazed

that he would wait so long before coming,

and then when he finally comes,

he intends to walk right past.

But, there’s more…

And we thought this was just a story about Jesus

       defying the laws of nature

       and walking on water.

What is the meaning that Mark wants us to understand?

The clues are right in our text:

The word Passing by (parerchomai)

is an important Old Testament theme.  

When God “passes by,”

it is not a sign that God doesn’t care about us,

or that He doesn’t want to get involved.

Rather, it is a sign of God’s caring presence (Guelich: 350).


Remember the story in Exodus 33:15–23?

While Moses was up on Mount Sinai,

       The people of Israel had made

       and worshipped a Golden Calf.

Moses is discouraged with his people

and is ready to give up.

Listen to the dialogue between Moses and God:

15 Then Moses said to him,

"If your Presence does not go with us,

do not send us up from here.

16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me

and with your people unless you go with us?

What else will distinguish me and your people

from all the other people on the face of the earth?"

17 And the LORD said to Moses,

"I will do what you have asked,

because I am pleased with you and I know you by name."

18 Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory."

(Give me a sign – do a miracle).

19 And the LORD said,

"I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you,

[I will pass by]

God does not change Moses’ difficult circumstances.

But God passes by,

And reveals His divine goodness and glory.

Moses receives the assurance that God will be with him

       on the hard road ahead.

Jesus also knows that his disciples need this assurance

more than they need another storm-stilling miracle.

This is the real miracle!

Mark tells us that Jesus identifies himself to his disciples

with egō eimi.

In the Greek translation of the OT

that is how God’s name, Yahweh (I AM), is translated.

Lets turn back to the dialogue between God & Moses

in Exodus 33.

19 the LORD said,

"I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you,

and I will proclaim my name, the LORD,

in your presence.

I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,

and I will have compassion

on whom I will have compassion.

The name LORD/Yahweh

is I AM (in Greek, egō eimi).

It is a name that promises,

“I am with you;

I will accompany you into an unknown future

and I will reveal myself to you along the way” (cf. Janzen).


Here is the Meaning the Disciples Missed:

Jesus wanted to pass by,

to assure his disciples that God,

in the person of Jesus,

is with them in the storm.

Sometimes God doesn’t “miraculously” solve our problems,

       and instead God “passes by”.

We tend to interpret that as God ignoring our storms.

When God doesn’t immediately intervene

       we feel that God doesn’t give a care.

Mark, however, wants us to be open to experience

God’s presence even in difficult times.

God will go with us on the difficult journey ahead,

even when we do not experience

the miracles that we expect.


Mark’s Gospel shows us

that Jesus at times performs miracles.

And it also shows us that

that God’s presence is with them

even if they must battle the waves all night.

God is present with us in the midst of life’s storms.

Even when Jesus appears to be oblivious

to what’s going on in our lives

(when He’s somewhere up in the mountains praying)

or passing by…

When we wish that he would enter our boat

and calm our storm,

or even call us to step out of the comfort of the boat

and walk on water…

When we get impatient for God to “do something”

       God is present!

       God is compassionate and mercyful!


Some of you here today,

       may be in the storm of a lifetime…

Whether you are dealing with the loss of a love one,

       the loss of your health, your job…

       problems with relationships…

       decisions about what you’re going to do

with the rest of your life…

       or whatever it may be…

Maybe you are here today

       because you desperately need a miracle.

Then I want to encourage you

       to not give up hope…

Jesus, who calmed the storms on the sea of Galilee,

can still the storms in your life,

and He will be with you!




[2]Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers (Garland TX: Bible Communications, 1996, c1979).

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