40-Day Challenge: 4 Gospels in 40 Days: Day 3 (Mark 6-7) – Examining My Heart

heart of stone
“When they saw him walking on the water they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them: ‘Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.’ Then he went up with them into the boat, and the wind ceased. They were completely astonished, because they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” Mark 6:49-52 (NET)

Mark’s explanation about WHY the disciples were “completely astonished” by this awesome display of Jesus’ power is disturbing to me.  He states that the disciples’ “hearts were hardened.”  I immediately thought of Pharaoh in ancient Egypt who refused to free the Hebrew slaves because he too was hard-hearted.  Despite witnessing devastating supernatural events, he would not believe in the greater power of Moses’ God.  Were the disciples similar to Pharaoh in their refusal to believe that Jesus was God? I think, yes.  Although Pharaoh and the disciples differed in their reasons for being hard-hearted, the reality is that both Pharaoh and the disciples chose unbelief in the face of convincing evidence to the contrary.

This reading in Mark suggests to me that if the disciples had understood the full implications of the miraculous feeding witnessed earlier that day, they would not have been so completely and insanely blown away by seeing Jesus walk on the water and still the storm.  After all, they had not only witnessed but had actually participated in the feeding miracle!  They were the ones who distributed the food to the crowd of more than 5000 hungry people.  They had actually watched five loaves of bread and two small fish miraculously multiply until each person in the crowd had eaten as much as he/she wanted.  Furthermore, they had personally gathered up 12 baskets of leftover food.  The magnitude of this miracle was unprecedented and undeniable!  Yet —

—Yet they did not understand the significance of the miracle. They could not understand because they were spiritually dull…spiritually blind.   Although they followed Jesus and had witnessed him heal multitudes and although he had given them authority to preach, heal, and cast out demons, they undoubtedly thought, as many did, that Jesus was only a great prophet like Elijah who also performed miracles and who also conferred power upon his protégé, Elisha.  These Jesus-followers were slow to comprehend that someone greater than Elijah or Moses or any of the prophets walked among them.

Jesus actions clearly demonstrated his divinity to anyone who had spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear.  He forgave sins.  He taught with authority.  He cast out demons.  He even ruled nature.  No prophet had ever done these things!  However, the disciples were so blinded by their preconceived notions and expectations of a powerful Messiah who would set up an earthly kingdom, vanquish Israel’s enemies, and restore the nation to its former glory, they were unable to accept the idea of a Messiah who was both Lord and Lamb of God, both Sovereign King and Suffering Servant.

But Jesus continued to teach them anyway, to warn them anyway, to let them serve alongside him anyway, to give them authority anyway.  On the other hand, the writers of the gospels make it clear that Jesus was often astonished — even frustrated — by his disciples’ inability to understand spiritual truths and by their unbelieving hearts.

Lord, it disturbs me that I could be your disciple and yet be spiritually blind.  I open my heart today and ask that you fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I can discern your will and your word.  I thank you that even when I don’t fully understand you or your ways, you let me serve you anyway.  You do not abandon me to my ignorance and narrow expectations of who you are and how the world works but you patiently continue to teach me until I get it — until I get your truth.  Thank you for giving me your Spirit and replacing my hard heart with a heart that believes and understands that you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

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