The Gospel and Innovative Delivery Systems

In the mid nineties two students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, sat in their dorm room at Stanford University and pledged themselves, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”  The result was Google, the most powerful and widely used search engine in the world.  The word Google is a term coined by Milton Sirotta for the number one followed by 100 zeros.  It was used by Page and Brin to symbolize the vast amount of information in the world.  Google has become an integral part of our daily lives.  In light of this, I saw a funny cartoon a few days ago.  A pastor was standing in front of a confirmation class and was saying to his class, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…and after that Google pretty much took over!”  The cartoon seems to be making the point that even our basic Christian doctrines and teachings cannot ignore the larger context of the world we live in.  We live in a world which is awash with almost universal access to information.  Our period of history has been called the “information age” or the “digital revolution.”  What implications does this have for Asbury Theological Seminary?

Asbury was the leading pioneer in North America in extending the accessibility of an accredited theological degree through what we called Extended Learning (ExL) and the “virtual campus.”  Today our virtual campus is the second largest campus of the seminary with nearly five hundred students taking courses over the internet.  We have the capability of delivering a class to any location in the world.  Asbury even has its own IPhone app called Asbury Moblie allowing us to reach pepole wherever they may be!  Today you can listen to one of our chapel messages, read my Presidential blog called Global Talk, or watch the video of Bob Muholland’s lectures on the Book of Revelation while you commute to work on a train.  Many of our faculty’s books are now available on Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s new IPad.  Like many of our students, I twitter almost every day.  Twitter is a brief message which cannot exceed 140 characters which is instantly sent out to hundreds who “follow” your twitter.  This is now the world we inhabit.  Asbury must continue to understand how information is accessed, how it is passed on, and how we can utilize this for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our used of the internet “super highway” is similar to Paul’s own used of the Roman road system in his mission strategy in the first century.

However, like all cultural shifts these new realities do not come without real and serious dangers.  The gospel has never been about merely delivering information; it is about spiritual formation.  The gospel is more about transformation than information.  Information is, of course, an important part of our proclamation of the gospel.  But we must never forget that we utilize the explosion of information in order to call people into communities of faith and lives of transformation.  For, indeed, after God created the world, something infinitely more important happened before Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google.  God became man in Jesus Christ.  God did not just send us an e-mail.  He became incarnate, i.e. he became flesh.  He walked among us in relationship and declared, “I will build my church.”  Information only has value in so far as the church of Jesus Christ is built and strengthened to embody all of the glorious realities of the New Creation in the present age.  This is ultimately what drives Asbury Theological Seminary.  This is what wakes me up every morning.  We will use delivery tool we can to do this work.  However, in the end, we will be judged not on how widely we disseminated information, but how deeply we strengthened and equipped the church of Jesus Christ.

God’s Dirty Hands (Mark 7:31-37)

It’s fascinating to think about how much time Mark spends demonstrating Jesus’ encounters with human pain and suffering.  According to one early church tradition, Mark himself had deformed hands.  This may explain his special interest in Peter’s eye witness accounts of Jesus’ healings.  Throughout the gospel, we regularly see Jesus encountering the blind, the lame, the hungry, the leper, and here in this particular text, a deaf-mute man.  The very drama of the Creator of the universe walking in the midst of His creation is a staggering thought.  We spend our whole lives running from sickness and disease and death, and yet here we find Jesus meeting it face to face; and in the life of Jesus, contagion is overturned, and death and sickness flee.

This particular story of Christ’s encounter with the deaf-mute man is an intimate account filled with eye-witness details.  In verse 32, Mark records that the mute man “could speak a little.”  This is an interesting detail that lets us know that the person telling the story was actually there and saw the whole thing.  The man was completely deaf and functionally mute, but he could mumble some words.  In verse 33, Mark records that Jesus took the man aside, away from the crowd.  This is a very specific detail that demonstrates to us the intimacy of the scene.  We as readers should feel as though we are being drawn into an intimate encounter between Jesus and a deaf-mute man, rather than just gaping at the whole event from the midst of a great throng of people.

The next fascinating detail of this story is that Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears, took spittle from His mouth, and used it to touch the man’s tongue.  He then looked up to heaven, sighed deeply, and cried out, “Ephphatha!” (Be opened!)  The natural question we might ask is: Why did Jesus stick His fingers into the man’s ears?  Why did Jesus put spittle on His finger and touch the man’s tongue?  After all, Jesus did not need to touch this man at all.  He could have just spoken the word, and the man would have been healed.  Why did Jesus do something like this?  We probably won’t know for sure until we get to heaven why Jesus healed people in such different ways during His ministry, but I am convinced that this account has something to do with the very nature of the incarnation.  If you ask the question, “Why did Jesus stick His fingers into the man’s ears?” then, if you think about it, you are almost forced to ask the larger question:  “Why did Jesus come to earth in the first place?”  The little question inevitably leads to the big question, because if you ask why Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears, the larger question looms directly in your path.  Why did Jesus come to earth?  Why was Jesus born into a despised race of an occupied people who were discriminated against and dominated by the Romans?  Could He not have found some easier way to save us from a distance?  In the Middle Ages, Anselm wrote a famous little book, Cur Deus Homo? – Why did God become a man?  You could ask the question a thousand ways: Why was God born in a stable?  Why did God touch the leper?  Why did God talk to the woman at the well?  Why did God put His fingers in the deaf man’s ears and put spittle on his tongue?

The answer has to do with the very nature of the Trinitarian God of Christian faith.  The great distinctiveness of the Christian faith is that God has drawn near to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  The gospel is about intimacy and relationship with God.  It is about the nature of God as a relational God.  Christianity alone of all the religions in the world proclaims the mysterious doctrine of the Trinity, or Tri-unity.  One God – one divine essence – but known to us in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  That means that God is a relational God – it is integral to who He is!  There are intimacies even within the Godhead.  As the Puritans said of the Trinity, “God in Himself is a sweet society.”

Mark’s gospel doesn’t point us to the abstract god of the philosophers.  We are not peeking in on Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover.  This is the God-Man, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.  This is God like we have never seen Him, and man like we have never known – fully God and fully man, without confusion, without compromise.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John declares.  Literally, the Greek in John 1:14 says, the Word became flesh and tabernacled – or set His tent up – among us.  It is a picture of God coming into the desert of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, into our barrenness and the ragged edges of our parched existence.  This is one of the great themes of Mark’s gospel: Christ coming to where we are.  God comes out to us, even though we live in the exile of sin and condemnation.  Since the time of the Fall, we have lived in exile, away from God’s immediate presence and His divine favor. But now, in Jesus Christ, God comes to us and touches our broken humanity.  When we see Jesus touching a leper, or putting his fingers into a deaf man’s ears, we should not merely see God’s compassion on those special few with extraordinary maladies.  Rather, we should see ourselves in each of these pictures because, in our own way, we all bear the marks and signs of the crippling effects of the Fall.

In the touching of the deaf and mute man, then, we are learning something about what God is like in His very inner nature.  In the process, we should be challenged to the core about what it means to be called a Christian.  In the miracle of Jesus putting His fingers in the deaf man’s ears and touching his stammering tongue with spittle, the whole of the Christian gospel is present in seed form.  While we live in an increasingly remote world, one in which nobody wants to be bothered getting their hands dirty with other people’s problems.  We serve a God who sinks His hands deep into the filth of our world in order to heal us.

What has become more ubiquitous in our society than the many remote control devices which fill our lives?  We have remotes for our garage doors, our televisions, our stereos, and so forth.  These devices save us from getting up off the sofa or getting out of our car into the rain.  By extension, couldn’t God have thought of a way to save us while remaining in the remote safety and bliss of heaven?  To do this, however, would have been a denial of Himself.  In Jesus Christ, we are learning that there is nothing remote about God.  God has always been about drawing near, rolling up his sleeves and getting His hands dirty in our world, touching us in our brokenness.

Ultimately, the ministry of the church must be lived out in this context.  We often want to carry on ministry from a distance.  We  think, Why set up a food kitchen to feed the hungry when we can just write a check for it?  Or, Why send one of our own children onto the mission field when we can just stay back and send a check to someone else who is willing to go?  This kind of reasoning falls short of the full dignity of our Christian work in the world.  The reason is because we serve a God who became a part of our world, touching our brokenness and putting His fingers in our ears.  We serve a God who was willing to get his hands dirty in this world.  Jesus did not love us remotely.  Jesus, the Great Physician, has made a “house call” on the human race!  Our condition required a house call.   There are people all over the world who will not be healed unless you pay them a house call.  Christ calls us to get our hands dirty in the world because that is what He did.  We are to bring the life and light of Jesus to places of darkness and pain.

When Jesus healed the deaf-mute man, Mark records that Jesus sighed deeply, and cried out in Aramaic, “Ephphatha!”  This is an Aramaic word which means “be opened.”  In  this intimate moment, Mark does not want to mediate the words of Jesus by giving it to his readers in translation.  Instead, we are hearing the very word Jesus spoke – Ephphatha!  It is one more attempt by Mark to draw us into the intimacy of this encounter.

When those gathered saw the deaf-mute man speaking clearly and able to hear, the text tells us that they were “overwhelmed with amazement.”  Then they declared, “He has done everything well!”  Why did they say this?  He had healed one man.  It is, of course, remarkable, but is it grounds for declaring that He does everything well?  Why did they say this?  The reason flows directly from the passage.  Any God who would come down from heaven, become incarnate in human flesh, be born into a despised race, and stick his fingers into a deaf-mute man’s ears, will do everything well.  In the healing of the deaf-mute man, the entire incarnation, and indeed the whole nature of God, is present in seed form.  In the same way, every act of compassion, every act of grace, every deed which we do in the name of Christ is a re-enactment on a tiny scale of the incarnation; for in every authentically Christian act, the incarnation is again proclaimed: God is still coming near through His Spirit in the people of God.  This ennobles all Christian activity in the world.  When the world sees our lives and we let His light shine through us, they will declare afresh in our own day, “He does everything well.”

Seeing Only Jesus (Mark 9:1-7)

The following is the my Sermon I preached in chapel on the Orlando Dunnam campus on February 9, 2010 and in Estes Chapel in Wilmore, Kentucky, on February 11, 2010.  You can listen to the address on iTunes by clicking here.

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This Sunday is the Sunday when the church around the world remembers the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ.  It marks the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany.  Epiphany is the more neglected of the seasons of the church year.  Everyone seems to know about Advent, Lent, Pentecost, but poor Epiphany seems to draw empty stares.  But, not at Asbury – we believe in joining Jesus each year as we circumambulate around the year, remembering the life of Jesus from prophetic promise (Advent) to birth (Christmas) to manifestation (Epiphany) to ministry leading to passion (Lent) and Resurrection (Easter) and the coming of the Spirit (Pentecost).

Epiphany means the great manifestation or appearing, referring to the magnitude of God’s revelation to the world in the coming of Jesus… for God so loved the world that He gave…  Even the early church was in awe that Gentile kings – magi from the East – came and laid gifts at the feet of Jesus.  Unlike our modern celebration which telescopes the coming of the Magi into the Christmas narrative, the biblical text in Matthew (which, by the way, is the only gospel that records the visit of the Magi), makes it clear that the Magi did not come to the manger.  The saw the star at the birth, but by the time the magi make the long journey to Bethlehem Jesus is probably 1 or 2 years old, a small child living in a house (Matt. 2:11), not in the manger.  The early Christians understood this and wisely separated the celebration of the birth (Dec. 25) from the celebration of the Epiphany (Jan. 6).  That is the date we celebrate Jesus’ revelation to the Gentile world – the nations streaming to Jesus in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 60:3, “nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”  The season of Epiphany runs from the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentile world all the way to the Transfiguration, another one of the great manifestation moments in the NT and it is here that our text resides today.

On the eve of the passion, the gospels remind us in the Transfiguration that even in His humiliation, He is the exalted One.  The eternal Son of God, who came from the bosom of the father and walked among us in meekness and in humility, this Jesus Christ did not leave behind his deity when he walked among us, He only veiled it.  But here, in this text, the veil is dropped for a moment and we, along with the disciples, catch a glimpse not only of His own divine dignity, but even something of the inner life of the Trinity…. it was one of the unforgettable experiences of the disciples and something which makes us stand back in awe and reminds us why you as Trustees, faculty and staff have given yourselves to support the ministry of Asbury Theological Seminary and why you as students are here to be equipped to be his faithful ambassadors into the world.

The memory of the Transfiguration spills out into the entire New Testament.  The account is recorded in Mathew, Mark and Luke, but even John alludes to it in his gospel.  You may recall that it is the Apostle John who declares in those opening words to his gospel in an almost certain reference to the Transfiguration, he says, “we have seen His glory.” (John 1:14)… It is John’s way of saying, our forefathers in the wilderness saw the Shekinah glory – the cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night… it is what led them through the wilderness…they testified to that glory… we thought that glory would never return to guide the people of God through the wilderness of our own making… but now we see that even that Shekinah glory was a mere shadow compared to what we have seen… “we have seen His glory….”  This glory will lead us out of a much more profound wilderness… not just the desert, rocks and barrenness of the Sinai… but the wilderness of our sin – the barrenness of our lives without  God, as we are wandering about without God or without hope in the world – Christ comes to us and leads us to a far greater promised land than the Israelites could ever have imagined.

Peter alludes to the Transfiguration in his epistles.  This is what Peter is talking about in his 2nd epistle:

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.”  We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18).

Peter is saying, I know our proclamation about Jesus seems incredulous… Jesus – fully God and fully man -  but we are eyewitnesses… we have seen His majesty…. on the mountain, the veil was lifted for a moment… the curtain was drawn back and we saw His majesty – Even the mountain was made sacred by it… he calls the Mt. of Transfiguration the sacred mountain.  … They saw Moses and Elijah… and they heard the commendation from heaven… “This is my Son, whom I love…listen to Him.”

Let me try to put this account into its context in Mark’s gospel. We are at the turning point in Mark’s gospel where he records three times Jesus predicting that He must suffer.  It occurs in Mark 8:31, Mark 9:31 and Mark 10:33  – it occurs with almost identical wording in each of the times Jesus talks with his disciples:

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and then he must be killed and after three days rise again.”

He is preparing the disciples for His rejection, His passion and suffering and the horror of His crucifixion.  The declarations of His coming are alternately juxtaposed between manifestations of His glory:

Messianic Glory:

Peter’s confession of Christ.. thou art the Christ….  1st prediction of suffering (8:31)

Transfiguration                                      ….       2nd prediction of suffering (9:31)

His power and wisdom: Ministry of miracles and teaching  …  3rd prediction of suffering (10:33)

Even in His humiliation, He is the exalted One.

The inner circle of disciples, Peter, James and John accompany Jesus to a High Mountain.  Any good Jew hearing these words about Jesus going up a high mountain would have brought to mind images of Moses going up on the Mountain  – Mt. Sinai – He or she would be remember about the amazing Shekinah glory which Moses entered into on the Mountain.  That glory was so bright that Exodus 34 tells us that Moses’ faced glowed  when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the stone tablets… the Ten Commandments- his face was radiant.. (Exodus 34:30).  He had to cover it with a veil lest the people be afraid of Moses.

The Apostle Paul later uses this imagery to describe the glory which should appear in the face of every Christian – as you reflect Christ into the world… we with unveiled faces reflect the glory of Christ and – Paul even uses the word – as we spend time with Jesus we are ‘transformed’ or ‘transfigured’.

Like Moses, Jesus also goes up onto the mountain… But unlike Moses, Jesus does not reflect anyone else’s radiance…We are like the moon – we may reflect some light from the sun – but He is the source of light and life. He is not a mirror… He is the source of the glory.   He is the radiance of God… the true radiance of Jesus manifest itself on the mountain… the Shekinah Glory begins to spill out.

“He was transfigured before them.”   Peter, James and John were eyewitnesses of this.  Jesus became so bright, they grasped for some analogy that people would understand.  They said it was whiter and brighter than when you bleach your clothes… it is such a crude analogy, it is another one of the great signs that it is based on an eye witness account.  These are real people trying to describe something for which there are no categories….  bleaching your clothes was the whitest thing they knew in the ancient world

The disciples are overwhelmed and the text keeps building, because if it was just the transfiguration that would have been enough to talk about for the rest of your life, but there are actually three parts to the transfiguration… first the manifestation of the shekinah glory… but right on the heels of that comes the second wave of the Transfiguration… the appearance of Moses and Elijah.

This is, indeed, a remarkable event…why Elijah and Moses?  Why not Abraham?  Why not Isaiah?  Why not two angels as with the resurrection?  Why Elijah and Moses?  This is not some haphazard choice… the Lord didn’t look around heaven and say, ‘who is available today’ – no, these two and no other were chosen…  why?

Moses, was the one who ascended that other mountain, Mt. Sinai – Moses is the one who first saw a glimpse of the shekinah glory in the burning bush… Moses is the one who led the Israelites out of their Egyptian bondage and to the promised land…. but most importantly, Moses was the one who gave them the Law – the Ten commandments which summarized the Law and the expansion and application of those ten in the entire structure of the Jewish law.  Every Jew worth their salt would know that Moses represents the Law…. In Moses, the entire Jewish Law is embodied and in Moses the Law is coming to pay homage to Jesus who finally fulfills and completes the Law.

Elijah you will recall from the OT did not have an ordinary death.  At the end of his incredible ministry he was caught up in a whirlwind… chariot of fire and horses of fire (2 Kings 2:11, 12) – It is the Shekinah glory again… the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night…. Elijah was caught up in that glory and transported directly to heaven -  there is nothing quite like it – the closest thing would be Enoch… this was a dramatic departure.  Just as Moses stands at the head of the Law, Elijah, in Jewish reflection, came to symbolize and represent all the Prophets.  All the prophets who came after Elijah acknowledge his uniqueness and his importance –  – echoes in John the Baptist’s question, “are you Elijah?” the belief was that somehow Elijah would return and testify to the Messiah…and certify that the Messiah fulfilled all the Messianic expectations.

Do you remember how the entire Old Testament ends… everybody knows how the OT begins… “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” but do you remember how the OT ends?

“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord.  He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I strike the land with a curse.” – Malachi 4:5

This why they keeping asking John the Baptist when he begins his prophetic ministry after a 420 year gap of prophetic silence…. between Malachi and John the Baptist… they ask him repeatedly, “are you Elijah?”

Elijah represents the Prophets.  So in Elijah all the Prophets are symbolically on the mountain. So in Moses and Elijah we have the entire OT – the Law and the Prophets symbolically present to worship and acknowledge that Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets.

So we have now had two major experiences on the mountain…. the transfiguration of Jesus revealing His divine majesty through the Shekinah  Glory, the appearance of the two seminal figures of the OT…the third is yet to come…but the disciples are overwhelmed and they begin to talk nonsense.

They suggest that they erect three shelters – one for Jesus, one for Elijah and one for Moses…   they erected shelters in the wilderness… this is totally out of place…and the text acknowledges that they were speaking nonsense.  But to this day, we so much want to capture God’s presence in a building or a structure or a denomination or a bureaucracy – we want to manage God’s presence….  Jesus will have none of that… but before they have time to fully absorb the foolishness of their suggestion, the third and final part of this experience occurs… they are suddenly enveloped in the cloud of God’s glory.

They heard the divine voice:  This is My Son, whom I love.  Listen to Him!

It is one of only three times that the Father speaks audibly from heaven to Jesus during his earthly ministry… but this is the most dramatic.  It not only is a specific fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy that God would raise up a prophet like him from their own midst and “you must listen to Him”… the Father says, “listen to Him.”  Much can be made of that… but, more importantly, it reveals something of the inner life of the Triune God.  The love of the Father towards His eternal Son, Jesus Christ…  One of the fundamental truths which separates Christianity from all other religions is that we believe that God by nature is relational.  There is love and community and affection even within the Godhead.

Finally, the disciples look up and the text says, profoundly, that they see only Jesus.  This is our passion for our students here at Asbury… that they would graduate and look only unto Jesus.  We may assist you, we may plant some seeds, we may water, but God causes the growth… look only unto Jesus.  Jesus has fulfilled and taken over all of the cherished signs of the OT covenant.  All the “pearls of great price” which they leaned on, the law, the temple, the prophets, the messiahship, the kingship, the city of Jerusalem, the prophets, the covenant…all of those wonderful pearls must be traded in for the one pearl of great price, Jesus Christ.  He fulfills and completes all other signs… there is no need for any of the other.  You no longer need the temple, or a king, or a fiery cloud… we have Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The God Who Passes us By (Mark 6:45-56)

The title of this reflection is “The God Who Passes Us By.”  This is the kind of title which may cause a few readers to move quickly on to the next chapter.  However, this particular passage falls into a category of miracles in the New Testament of which there are very few examples.  Indeed, this is outside of everything we normally think of when we think about the function of miracles in the New Testament.

This is the account of Jesus walking on the water.  The question which I want to pose is this:  Why did Jesus walk on the water?  The disciples are out on the Sea of Galilee struggling and rowing against the wind.  Did He walk across the sea because He saw the disciples were in need and He was coming to help them?  If so, this miracle may be just another example of Jesus exercising His divine authority over creation on behalf of His children.  But is that why Jesus went out onto the water?   Why did Jesus go out to them on this particular occasion?   What was Jesus seeking to demonstrate by walking on the water?  If you carefully read this passage there is a little phrase in Mark’s account which might be easy to miss, but is extremely important.  Mark records the phrase, “He was about to pass by them… when the disciples saw him walking on the water…”   It is this phrase, “He was about to pass by them” which I want us to reflect on more deeply.  Peter, who was an eye-witness of this miracle, remembered that Jesus did not walk out on the water directly to them.  Rather, Jesus was actually walking past them when they spotted Him.  If Jesus was about to pass by them, then his primary purpose was not coming directly out to help the disciples in the midst of their crisis.

This, I think, is why this is a difficult miracle for modern readers to understand and appreciate.  We cannot imagine a miracle which is not in some way “for us.”  When Jesus touches lepers, restores sight to the blind, or heals the lame, we all understand that these are examples of divine miracles on our behalf.  All of these miracles are about God in Jesus Christ coming directly to us and ministering to us in our needs. Certainly we have seen over and over again in these reflections on Mark’s gospel how God in Jesus Christ has taken the initiative to come out to us.  After all, isn’t that what lies at the heart of the incarnation?  The incarnation is about God coming into our midst to live on our terms.  God in Jesus Christ becomes the greatest missionary of all time, bridging the great barrier between divinity and humanity to rescue us and save us and redeem us.

However, this passage brings out another point which we need to hear.  On either side of this passage Jesus is found feeding the 5,000 (6:30-42) and healing the sick at Gennesaret (6:53-56).  Yet, in the midst of these passages where God in Jesus Christ is healing us and meeting our needs, we catch a glimpse of the inner life of Jesus Christ apart from us.  We catch a glimpse into the mystery of God apart from us.  In the study of theology, this is known as the aseity of God.  It refers to God as He is in Himself, independent from us.  It was Job who declared, “He treads on the waves of the sea.”  Job, as much as any writer in the Old Testament, understood through his own trials and sufferings that God is unfolding purposes much bigger than us, and far grander than the limits of our imaginations.

The Jewish people identified the sea with the primordial chaos out of which the world was brought into order by the creative act of God.  The sea is a symbol of chaos.  This whole miracle is surrounded by the chaos of the Fall.   Before and after this passage we find people who are sick, ill and oppressed by demons.  Mark does not shy away from giving us a full glimpse into the horrible plight of the human race.  But Jesus is not consumed by these tragedies or by the enormity of the Fall.  He was about to pass by them because this miracle was not about them.  It was much grander than that.  Jesus was asserting His very reason for coming to earth at all.   He was asserting His divine prerogative over the weight of human sin, the Fall, and the chaos of our existence.  To walk on the water or, to use the words of Job, to “tread on the waves of the sea” is to demonstrate Jesus’ authority over the entire chaos of human existence.

Sometimes things happen in our lives which we do not understand.  Our prayers seem to go unanswered.  God does things which don’t seem to make sense.  Sometimes when we expect him to come directly to us, we find that He is treading on something else which we don’t understand.  Sometimes God appears to be passing by us.  However, in those times, we should remember that God is unfolding a plan which is greater than anything we can imagine.  In the end, Jesus did come to his disciples.  He did calm their fears.   He did speak his word to them.  However, the real lesson which Mark conveys to us is that God is much bigger than the disciples’ fears.  He is unfolding a plan much bigger than anything we can imagine.  So, learn to wait upon the Lord.  Be patient.  Know that God is unfolding His plan in His own time, and in His own way.  We can trust that when the canvas is fully pulled back and we see the full workings of God in our lives and in the world, we will see that even when God seemed to be absent, or silent, He was working powerfully on our behalf.