Every time you read a passage, Biblical or otherwise you have the opportunity to see something new. Why didn’t I see this before? It’s huge!, you say.
This happened to me with the story of Jesus walking on the water. Here’s the passage for you to read again, to see if you see what I saw (say that five times fast):
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. – Mark 6:45-52
I saw, “He meant to pass by them” in verse 48.
Why did he do that? Why did he set out, walking on the water, intending not to encounter anyone at all?
Here’s how my mind sees it*: Jesus is standing on the shore thinking something like, “I need to cross the lake tonight to meet the disciples on the other side. Hmm… should I borrow a boat? Swim? No, I know! I’ll walk on the surface of the lake! That sounds quite fun! I’ll just pass on by their boat – no one has to know.”
G.K. Chesterton writes, “…There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth” (from Orthodoxy).
I really like this image of God: Jesus, in a child-like state of delight, deciding to walk across the water just because He can. Wouldn’t you?
*Here, I’m focusing on Christ’s humanity ignoring His deity, because His deity is not bound by time. He knew when he set out that he would not pass by the disciples, and that the resulting encounter would give instruction, encouragement, and awe to the disciples and countless people who came after. I’m also not accounting for the statement, “He saw that they were making headway painfully.” I’m instead using this instance as a springboard to ponder Christ’s joy.