Reflections on the Quest: Straining at the Oars

I have been fascinated with the historical account of Jesus walking on the water since my earliest days as a Christian.  After twenty years, it is humorous still to read of the disciples thinking Jesus was a ghost!  Something struck me this morning that I had not thought much about yet from this account (I am referring to Mark’s recounting of the event in Mark 6:45-52).  While Jesus was alone on the shore (Mk. 6:47), He saw the disciples “straining at the oars” (6:48).  And what does Jesus do?  Does He quickly, magically appear and calm the waves?  Does He rebuke the sea from His beach chair?  No; He calmly walks across the water,  and in perhaps a bit of play, acts like He is going to cruise right past the boat.  Don’t miss the two miracles in this situation.  Jesus actually walked on the water.  Jesus really did stop the wind and–consequently–the waves.  Don’t miss the purpose of the miracles.  Jesus was communicating His identity to His disciples–an important part they missed in an earlier faith lesson (the feeding of the 5,000 [see Mk. 6:52]).  But also do not miss the fact that Jesus allowed (yea, even planned for) His disciples to strain at the oars for a while.  The account reminds me of what Jesus did when He heard that His friend Lazarus was very sick.  Rather than run to His friend’s aid, our Lord and Savior delayed for two entire days (Jn. 11:6).  You probably know why Jesus did so.  It is the same reason He left His disciples straining at the oars.  Jesus was seeking to glorify God (Jn. 11:4)!  In the case of Lazarus, God was glorified in what was said at the tomb and in what transpired after the stone was rolled away.  A dead man came back to life and walked (Jn. 11:44)!  In the case of the tired disciples, God was glorified as the light began to flicker over their heads.  They responded with amazement (Mk. 6:51)!  Matthew tells us that he and others worshipped Jesus and called Him “God’s Son” (Mt. 14:33).  Good stuff!  I hope you love studying the Bible as much as I do!  Want a little application before you move on to another website?  Keep rowing.  Jesus told the disciples to go to the other side of the lake (Mt. 14:22), and they obeyed.  They were doing what they were supposed to be doing, and they were doing so amidst challenging conditions.  The wind picked up.  The waves grew.  The disciples strained.  I like that.  I like their radical obedience.  I like their faithfulness.  Things a bit tough for you?  Keep rowing.  Does Jesus appear to be on the shore while you are in the storm on the lake?  Keep rowing.  Do what you are supposed to do.  My guess is that Jesus is going to show up eventually and–on the authority of Scripture–I can promise you that God rewards faithfulness.  So–keep rowing.  Glorify God today and you will glorify God when He arrives.  And–just so you know, you are not alone on the water; that’s me in the boat on your left straining at the oars.

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