Passing By: A Letter to West Franklin

“He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them.” (Mark 6:48, italics, mine)
West Franklin Family,
Has it ever bothered you that Mark adds the phrase, “(Jesus) was about to pass by them”? I mean, think about it. There’s a storm. It’s night. A man is walking on water (!). The disciples are, not only straining to keep a ship from tipping over, but are obviously panicked because, well, a man is walking on water.
Did Jesus really intend to actually pass by them? I mean. . .
  • Was He going to wave and say, “hello”?
  • Was He planning to show off His mad water-walking skills?
  • Did Jesus intend to – like every other man I have ever known – race them to the other side?
  • Did He plan to reveal Himself to them as He passed by, or just let them continue thinking He was a ghost?
It seems a bit harsh that Jesus intended to pass by them.
Mark’s phrase here has, if I’m being honest, always bothered me. As a Bible student and preacher I have always passed over it (pun completely intended), thinking there wasn’t much there.
But what if there was much to it? What if, like every other word and phrase in Scripture, it wasn’t a “throw away” thought?
I read something this week that blew my “I-thought-I-knew-the-Bible” mind. No really. It did. Blew. My. Mind. In Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly (HIGHLY-HIGHLY-HIGHLY recommend), he makes the connection between God, Moses, and the Israelites in Exodus; and Jesus, His disciples, and His work in Mark’s Gospel. In so doing, Ortlund discusses how God revealed Himself to Moses by “passing by” him (see chapter 16).
Consider what Ortlund writes (you might want to sit down if you aren’t already):
(Jesus’) passing by is far more significant and only understood against its Old Testament background. Four times in Exodus 33–34 the Lord says he will ‘pass by’ Moses. . . (the Old Testament uses the same word that Mark uses). The Lord passed by Moses and revealed that his deepest glory is seen in his mercy and grace. Jesus came to do in flesh and blood what God had done only in wind and voice in the Old Testament.” (p. 154)
In the Old Testament, when God “passed by” Moses, He revealed Himself (His glory) as merciful and gracious. When Mark records the same words (“pass by”) in Mark 6:48, he is reaching back to that account. It is Mark’s way of saying that Jesus is God’s ultimate revelation of who He is – merciful and gracious!!! Did you catch that? Mark is telling us that Jesus is God, “passing by,” revealing who God is – a God full and overflowing with grace and mercy!!
Mind. Blown.
Now think about this. It gets better. Mark said Jesus was about to pass by the disciples. He didn’t. He stopped His march to the other side and helped them. Why? Because that is what a merciful and gracious God does! He doesn’t just pass us by when we need Him. He always acts in accordance with who He is. He is merciful and gracious. If you are God (and Jesus was and is, indeed, God), then you cannot help but be merciful and gracious.
I am guessing someone reading this right now (maybe you?) is in some sort of trouble. Some sort of strain and stress. Some sort of “If-something-doesn’t-happen-I-am-going-to-die” moment. Maybe you’ve read the phrase about Jesus intending to pass by His agonizing disciples and think, “Yep. I get it. That’s me. Like the disciples in the boat, I’m in trouble and Jesus is going to pass me while He heads on over to something more important.”
A correct reading of this passage, and a right understanding of Jesus, does not allow you to go there. Jesus doesn’t pass by His hurting and frustrated and anxious people like a car passing you on the Interstate. If you will look, Jesus is in process of revealing more of Himself to you. If you will take a deep breath and patiently search, Jesus will say, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” When He passes, He will reveal His mercy and grace. His love and compassion. His power and His supremacy. So whatever this moment is for you, don’t let it pass you by without seeing the glory of Jesus.
Longing to Know More of Jesus With You,
Pastor Matt

Housekeeping:

a. Lord’s Supper AND Baptism Tomorrow!!! If you are watching from home, be sure to have your elements ready ahead of time.
b. Sermon Series Continues Tomorrow – “Disciples Multiplying Disciples” – An 8-Week Journey Through 2 Timothy. (4:1-5)
c. Our livestream will air at 9:00 am and 11:00 am tomorrow. Go here to watch on FacebookHere to watch on YouTube.
d. Our updated plan for Fall 2020 can be found here. A podcast about the plan can be heard here.
e. Registration for Sunday Worship is NO LONGER REQUIRED! However if childcare is needed (Birth – 4 years), you must register by Wednesday at midnight.
f. Don’t forget! Every Monday & Thursday, Dave Kruse and I discuss all things West Franklin on West Franklin Talks.
g. Want to get the weekly ebulletin delivered to your phone? Text the word “eBulletin” to 623623.