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How is it that we don’t hear from God, or glimpse the Spirit’s moving in our lives and world more often? Is God not really active and alive in our cosmos? Or are we just blind and deaf to the divine? Today’s scripture wrestle with that question of divine epiphany (the self-revelation of God, the experience of the divine) in life.
Punctuated with sudden, seemingly spontaneous interruptions and choices, the apostles are exhausted from their recent mission to tell the story [memory] of Jesus in Mark 6:6-13. They return to Jesus from their short-term service project, work and discovery, in need of quiet, rest and renewal. Jesus promises to take them off to the wilderness, a “deserted place” (as most translations call it in modern English). It’s where the prophets repeatedly go to escape the distractions of urban noise, city life, and the brouhaha of human busyness. It’s where God seems to most clearly speak to the prophets and people in the past. But when they get there, Jesus and his entourage are doggedly pursued and surrounded by a faceless crowd, clamoring for teachings, help, Jesus. The teacher, moved by compassion, pity and empathy, cares for them…teaching them and miraculously providing more than enough food for the crowd. When people draw near to Jesus they are nourished physically and spiritually. No cost – we’re told that amount of bread would cost more than half a year’s wages – is insurmountable for Jesus in responding to the needs of the people. They are without leadership, like a sheep without a shepherd (as seen in Psalm 78:70-72; Numbers 27:17 and 2 Kings 4:42-33). Where there seems to be no way, Jesus is the way.
Overwhelmed, exhausted and burnt-out the disciples still have not gotten the weekend retreat away that Jesus promised. So he sends them on ahead, while he wraps up. A storm comes up quickly, as can often happen on the Sea of Galilee. Not just averse, but life-threatening, the stormy sea seems to invoke their potential death (compare it to 2 Samuel 22:5-6; Song of Songs 8:6-7; Psalm 69:2-3 and Jonah 2). Then Jesus mysteriously comes to them on the water, not by boat or speed jet, but on foot. Seemingly unrecognizable, they esteem him to be a ghost. The text says “he intended to pass them by, but when they saw him…” harkening back to many former scriptures in which the euphemism “God passes by the people” is almost code for a divine epiphany, God revealing himself. [Compare it to Exodus 33:17-34:8; 1 Kings 19:11-13]. In their exhaustion and desperate desire for rest, the disciples discover and rediscover that the God they worship and experience in Jesus makes a way when there is no way, even though the middle of exhaustion, complacency and the threat of death [Psalm 77:20; Exodus 14:24]
The text is littered with statements of people seeing Jesus, or Jesus seeing people….and yet we’re told in the end that although seen, he goes unrecognized, misunderstood because of the hardness of hearts. Could it be that this heart hardness comes in part from a need for quiet, sabbath rest and renewal? How are we possibly starving ourselves spiritually by not resting in God, reflecting in quiet upon what we’ve seen and maybe not recognized?
How do you rest in order to see? How do you practice reflection and renewal in the hope of not just recovering from fatigue, or being sustained, but thriving and being fully alive?
Questions for Going Deeper: