Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” – Mark 7:1-13

Grasshopper Sparrow # 6 | Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR | November 2020

Are you a traditionalist? Do you relish the old, the tried and true? Or are you an innovator? Do you like new? I love both the old and new. In fact Jesus says that those who have been trained for the kingdom of God are like householders who bring from their treasury things old and new (cf. Matthew 13:52). Maybe you’ve heard the song, “Make new friends, and keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” Old and new. Tradition and innovation. Both have their place in the Kingdom of God.

A former member of a church I served many years ago has joined a Roman Catholic Church that uses (once again) the Latin Mass. That group believes the Latin Mass to be the ultimate expression of the true faith and proper worship. That is not what Jesus calls for. Jesus speaks of worshiping in spirit and truth. The New Testament was written in common (koiné) Greek; the language of the common people of his day. 

There is one occasion when a traditionalistic approach to religion proved to be an opportunity to witness to the Christian faith. Diane and I were in Beijing with another pastor and his wife. We had visited a Roman Catholic church that Sunday morning, together with our guide. They chose that morning to recite the Nicene creed in Latin.

So that the Chinese people in attendance could join in that act, they transposed the sounds of the Latin words into Chinese characters! Our guide turned to me and said, “This makes no sense to me.” Indeed it did not. 

As we headed from the church to the airport my friend and I translated the Latin Creed into English, using normal English words and the English alphabet. He understood English, so we were confident that we would be able to provide a fairly clear expression of the Christian faith for him to ponder. 

And so we did. But how silly! Using the sounds of the Chinese characters to make the sounds of Latin phrases! Gibberish. Jesus is not about gibberish. Jesus is about truth, clarity, life, and grace. Let’s make that perfectly clear and never allow our traditions to get in the way of sharing that grace and truth clearly. 

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” – Mark 7:1-13

Grasshopper Sparrow – #5 | Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR | November 2020

I don’t like being judged…at least if I’m being judged and condemned in the judgment. You probably don’t either. A group within our photo club, do want to be judged; possibly more harshly than I would wish. They have expressed a desire for some more robust feedback on the photos that are being offered at our club competitions. They don’t feel that an overabundance of generalities and niceties is really very helpful for those who wish to advance their photographic skills and artistic endeavors. Thankfully, they do not want to condemn anyone, but they do wish for a more robust conversation that will bring constructive criticism to bear on club members who enter photos in the competitions.

The Pharisees had no desire for constructive criticism. Neither is there any danger on their part of providing Jesus with an overabundance of generalities and niceties! They want to discredit Jesus. They want to demean his disciples. They had no good will toward Jesus and his followers. They were threatened by Jesus, afraid of the implications of his teachings (a different way of saying they were threatened), or just plain opposed to God and his ways.

In any case they found a reason to criticize and discredit in their eyes because the disciples did not follow the strict ceremonial washing rubric they championed. They were uber-religious afterall. They did all they could do to show how righteous they were. They did all they could to upstage others in their superior brand of religion. And because Jesus was gaining a following and upstaging them, they pounced on this hand washing faux pas.

We’re not talking about disease prevention here. We’re talking about keeping up appearances. We’re talking about outward obedience. But you can hate your neighbor in your heart and still smile at him when you leave for work on Monday morning. You can harbor resentment against your husband while you make him pancakes at breakfast. 

Jesus never wants to pit the two against one another. He desires truth in the inward being, and kindness in outward behavior. He wants humility of spirit and love in action. 

So when the Pharisees try to take Jesus to task about his disciples lax approach to their unclean practices, he turns the tables on them. He points out that they’ve got it all wrong. They’ve substituted the rules of man for the Law of God. Never a good idea. He tells them that they had nullified the word of God which they so valued. I wonder if he would ever need to say that to me? Or you? Or your best friend? 

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” – Mark 7:1-13

Grasshopper Sparrow #4 | Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR | November 2020

I recall my baptism vividly. That makes me different from my wife and children. They rely on the witness of their parents and any photos they may see from that special day. But baptized we all were. And what a blessing that confers! Forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit, connecting with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and salvation (cf. Acts 2:38-39; Romans 6:3-5; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21).

The Pharisees had no such view of baptism. That’s the word (βαπτίζω) that Mark uses here to describe the ceremonial/religious practice of the Pharisees coming from the marketplace. They would “baptize” (wash) themselves, along with pots, and copper vessels, and dining couches. They were dedicated to a religious performance that was all about purity that was divorced from their hearts. It was a baptism outwardly, but not one that touched their hearts. 

Christian baptism – in the case of infants – is the beginning of a eternal relationship with God. God puts his name on the child and claims the child as his own. In the case of adults, the same blessings come, but the adult is able to express outwardly his desire to be baptized and to receive these blessings.

It’s also a one-time event. We don’t baptize ourselves again and again. And if we see someone coming into the worship center who stops and dips his finger in the water of the baptismal font – as many at St. John do – they are remembering their baptism. If someone does not do that, we do not accuse them of not being baptized, or not being worthy to worship God properly. 

When did you last remember your baptism? Did you call to mind the blessings God poured out on you? Even if you didn’t realize the fullness of those blessings at the time, they were still there. It is not too late to claim or reclaim them today. God made you his daughter. He made you his son. He put his name on you. You belong to him. Your sins are washed away. You are connected with Jesus’ death and resurrection. You are called to a new way of living. 

That’s much more than a ritual exercise. That’s much more than a mere ritual. That is a precious gift. Rejoice in those blessings and draw near to God with all your heart.

These verses today from Psalms 15; 45; 75; 105; and 135 are offered for your prayerful meditation and encouragement.

Grasshopper Sparrow | Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR | November 2020

Psalm 15:1-2
Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
speaking the truth from sincere hearts.

Psalm 45:6-7
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.

Psalm 75:1
We thank you, O God!
We give thanks because you are near.
People everywhere tell of your wonderful deeds.

Psalm 105:1-4
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
4 Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!

Psalm 135:1-3
Praise the Lord!
Praise the name of the Lord,
give praise, O servants of the Lord,
2 who stand in the house of the Lord,
in the courts of the house of our God!
3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
sing to his name, for it is pleasant!

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 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, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out,  50 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.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. – Mark 6:45-56

Grasshopper Sparrow – 3 | Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR | November 2020

I got up this morning, made coffee, ate breakfast, gathered my wits about me, and sat down for an all-day ZOOM meeting. Diane and I are team members for the PLI Nashville Cohort of Leadership Essentials. As in many endeavors, there is much unremarkable things that go into these events. Connecting the computer, finding your teaching notes. One last look at the PowerPoint slides in preparation for our time together. 

But then the people arrive. The appear on screen as if by magic. One right after the other. Smiles ensue. Greetings are shared. Did I mention that prior to our meeting the team met and prayed for each participant by name? Did I mention that we have a very clear path that has been laid out for us? Did I mention that we are teaching people how to lead others in the mission of God? Did I mention that amidst all the tedium (I hesitate to call it that though), there are profound things at play? 

The day went really well. Those charged with teaching segments provided insights and offered participants opportunities to reflect personally and to process those insights together in ZOOM breakout rooms. And once in a while we could see the light bulbs go on. People’s faces would light up. A comment in the breakout room would indicate that God had worked in their minds and hearts. Courage was born. Clarity poked through the fog. Confidence grew. Capabilities showed up. Things became anything but mundane or tedious!

After the wild encounter with Jesus on the sea, the boat is brought to shore and moored. The disciples and Jesus head off for villages, cities, and the countryside. And the people begin to show up. It seems clear that this is not a trickle of people. This is not a managed ZOOM meeting.

This isn’t just a one or two day conference. This seems to be the case for a period of time. “Wherever,” Mark tells us, Jesus went there were people. They clamored for his attention. They sought his healing touch. They elbowed their way to touch even the fringe of Jesus’ garment. And they were healed. 

Who knows what mundane thing will give way to the touch of Jesus’ grace? When and where will we see him changing people’s lives? Where will people posture to see Jesus and experience his healing? Sadly, we don’t see that happening too often today. We’re a falsely-sated lot. We don’t see the need. 

But there are those who are seeking to find people who need Jesus and are open to his message and favor. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to connect with them today (Thursday). As I write this (Thursday evening) I look forward to doing so again tomorrow. Can’t wait to see what Jesus does next! 

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 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, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out,  50 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.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. – Mark 6:45-56

Grasshopper Sparrow-2 | Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR | November 2020

Boy Scout Camp Lewallen is about 60 miles west of Cape Girardeau, Missouri – the town I grew up in. After receiving my first class badge as a Boy Scout, I was able to work on merit badges at that camp. For the canoeing badge I had to dump over the canoe, make a flotation device out of my shirt, right the canoe and regain entry to the canoe. All went well for the first part. The canoe dumped over easily enough.

When the time came for me to take off my shirt while in the water I experienced a moment of terror. My shirt got stuck over my face, and for a moment I could not breathe! I was a strong swimmer. That was not the problem. I could keep my head above water easily enough. But I panicked when I couldn’t get my shirt off for a few seconds. I was desperate. Thankfully adrenaline kicked in and I was able to get my shirt off. I was happy to fill my shirt with air and rest on it in the lake. I earned the badge.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And although the people who came to Jesus on the other side of the lake were desperate their resort to desperate measures was less dramatic than my adrenaline-fueled terror. The scene here is nonetheless one of desperation.

People were deeply aware of their need and Jesus’ power and grace to help. So they came. Pallets, stretchers, crutches, canes, and friends no doubt brought them to Jesus whenever they learned he was near. 

Our need for Jesus is no less real or desperate today than at that time. We have simply become more sophisticated. We have factored God out of the equation. We have numbed ourselves to our true need for God. 

But these people recognize Jesus’ power and their need. And their desperation is a reminder of our need for God and his salvation. If we would but recognize it. Jesus’ mission is to bring people into God’s kingdom. And that kingdom is  now on earth because Jesus is present. He heals diseases. He opens the eyes of the blind. He makes the lame to walk. All this to show the glorious blessings of God’s rule and reign over all things. 

I’m not sure God wants us to live in a state of anxious desperation because of our need for him. But I am certain that he is close to those who are desperate for his help. 

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 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, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 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.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. – Mark 6:45-56

Grasshopper Sparrow – 1 | Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR | November 2020

A particularly poignant song lyric is found in Phillips, Craig, and Dean’s Favorite Song of All.

He loves to hear the angels as they sing
“Holy, holy is the Lamb”
(Holy, holy, holy is the Lamb)
Heaven’s sing in harmony
Lift up praises to the great “I Am”
(Hallelujah, Hallelujah)
But He lifts His hands for silence
When the weakest saved by grace begins to sing
And a million angels listen as a newborn soul sings
“I have been redeemed”

The image of the Great “I Am” receiving honor and yet calling for silence to hear the weakest saved by grace begin to sing touches my heart deeply. That God whose name YHWH means “I Am” would care to listen to weak and lowly people sing his praise is a stunning thought. 

But that’s just what God does. Once he hid Moses in the cleft of the rock so he could pass by and reveal a glimpse of the backside of his glory, now hides himself in human form. Behold the glimpse of his glory. He strides upon the sea. He walks on water. And on this occasion he doesn’t even have to raise his hand for silence. It seems he simply wills the storm to cease once he joins the disciples in the boat. 

Jesus’ presence ushers in peace. But what of those times when even with Jesus’ presence there is turmoil, strife, storm, and trauma? Jesus’ command rings out: “Take courage.” He goes on to say, “It is I,” in our translations. But in the Greek it is ἐγώ εἰμι, which is literally translated, “I am.” The Great I Am comes to the disciples, clothed in humility but making it clear who he is – by action and by word. 

Jesus’ presence ushers in courage. If we take that seriously, we will not look for quick fixes to our personal troubles, our church’s challenges, or our nation’s woes. We will look beyond the momentary urgencies that call out to us. We will remember Jesus’ promise: “In this world you will have trouble. But rejoice! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

Courage would not be displayed by foolish irreverence in the presence of God. It would not be shown by an unwise rush into the teeth of the enemy. Courage is not shown in bravado, intimidation, or self-righteousness. Courage is shown in following Jesus wherever he leads. Courage is shown in gentle words of correction and humble confessions of faith. That’s the courage of God’s word and power, righteousness, and reckoning.

Courage is more often shown in restraint than in confrontation. I’m not sure Peter was being courageous when he asked Jesus to call him out of the boat onto the water (Matthew 14:22-33). Courage was showing up the next day and the day after, and learning more and more along the way. Courage is long-haul faithfulness. Courage is forgiving a sister or brother who sins against you. Courage is loving your enemies. Courage is facing each day with the awareness of God’s call and claim on your life. And the better we know Jesus, the more courageous we will be.

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 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, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 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.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. – Mark 6:45-56

Eastern Meadowlark -2| Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR | November 2020

Maybe you’ve discovered too late that your courage outran your own strength. You ran too far out over the edge of the pier. You made a claim you could not keep. You bragged about something that proved not to be true. 

It might be as simple as bragging on your alma mater’s football team, or as dire as outrunning your ability to survive a hurricane. The results can run from deadly to embarrassment. From “Oops!” to “Ugh.” 

A sudden encounter with your own incompetence is bad enough. Add to that an appearance of an unexplainable nature, and what do you do then? The disciples were likely at the edge of their maritime capabilities. It’s somewhere between 3 and 6 AM. The going has been difficult and arduous. They’ve been fighting the wind and the waves for six hours. Mark tells us that they were making headway painfully. 

Mark notes some things about Jesus that are worthy of our consideration. He reports that Jesus spends time in prayer. He sees that they were having difficulty. He also tells us that Jesus intended to pass them by (as he walked on the water).

This is an odd combination to me: Prayerful watching together with passing by. What am I to make of it? Even allowing that he intended this to be a revelation of his glory as he passed by them, why would he intend to do that and yet draw near to them when they cried out in fear? 

Joni Eareckson once said, “The why of a searching heart is different from the why of a clenched fist.” It must be – all their foibles notwithstanding – that the disciples’ fear was a godly fear. It must have been mixed with love and trust. 

In any case we do well to keep God in his proper place in our hearts. This we do as we fear, love, and trust in God above all things. That’s an odd combination these days, but it is so appropriate on the part of those to whom God has revealed himself in Jesus of Nazareth.

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 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, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 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.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. – Mark 6:45-56

Eastern Meadowlark – 1 | Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR | November 2020

One ought not saunter nonchalantly into the presence of God. That quote has stuck with me for two decades. It was a vital corrective to a very lax and overly insouciant attitude toward worship. It was meant to challenge people who simply want to sing Kumbaya, without really dealing with the issues that divide us from God and from one another. There is a place and time for Kumbaya, but not without Lord have mercy! or Holy! Holy! Holy! We need to appreciate the intimate love of the Father (“Abba”), as well as the mighty power of the God who is “a consuming fire” (cf. Hebrews 12:28-29).

Any doubt as to the awesome majesty of God must be dismissed if you find yourself in the boat with the disciples and see Jesus coming on the water in the middle of the stormy night. God “alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8). And here comes Jesus…walking on the water. No wonder the disciples are terrified! No wonder they thought they were seeing a ghost. People don’t just walk on water.

Jesus’ appearance here has all the markings of a theophany. God is showing up in a visible way. He who inhabits the invisible domain of the spiritual realm has now come to earth. Most of the time he appears as a humble man (cf. Isaiah 53:2). But once in a while his majestic glory leaks out. Once in a while it becomes clear that Jesus is not merely a mortal human man. 

Jesus is a mortal human man. His suffering and death will show that to be true. But he is also God. True God, begotten of the Father from eternity. And right now he is showing that to be the case. 

On another occasion – 1500 years prior to Jesus – God showed up dramatically, and expressed his action toward Moses in the term “pass by” (cf. Exodus 33:21-22). Now on this occasion, Jesus intended to “pass them by.” Same term. Same thought. He wanted them to experience only a portion of his majestic glory.

But the cry of fear and faith touches Jesus’ heart, and he will come to the disciples, and join them in the boat. Perhaps in those moments we recognize the Holy God for who he really is, we will remember to call out to him in faith. He will come to us. He will calm our hearts. For God is love. And Jesus is all about manifesting the infinite love of the Holy and glorious God. 

Here is a selection of verses from 5 psalms: Psalm 8; 38; 68; 98; 128

Psalm 8:1-4
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 38:21-22
Do not forsake me, O LORD!
O my God, be not far from me!
Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!

Psalm 68:4-6
Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the LORD;
exult before him!
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God settles the solitary in a home;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

Psalm 98
Oh sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
before the LORD, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 128
How joyful are those who fear the LORD—
all who follow his ways!
You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.
How joyful and prosperous you will be!
Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine,
flourishing within your home.
Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees
as they sit around your table.
That is the LORD’s blessing
for those who fear him.
May the LORD continually bless you from Zion.
May you see Jerusalem prosper as long as you live.
May you live to enjoy your grandchildren.
May Israel have peace!