What is it with storms? Just a few chapters back in Mark Jesus' disciples were in the middle of another big storm on the lake. That time Jesus was asleep in the boat, but awoke to calm the wind and the waves. This time the disciples have been sent ahead of Jesus and are struggling at the face of the wind, but Jesus (walking out on the lake) again calms the storm. Like most "miracle" stories, often times our attention is immediately drawn to the miracle… in this case to the walking on the water and the calming of the wind. But there is a curious little point that I think is worth mentioning. In verse 48, Jesus observes his disciples struggling on the lake… he walked out to them, but he didn't immediately jump in the boat and calm the storm. The text says, "He was about to pass by them…" What is that about?
Central to the story of faith for the disciples (and all Jews) is the story of the Exodus. Without going into great detail, a key event in that story is when God reveals himself to Moses before giving him the 10 Commandments. God's goodness (or his glory) passes in front of him, and Moses is allowed to see his backside… distinguishing Moses and the Hebrew people as God's people by his assured presence with them.
In this storm story, the "passing by" is not intended to be a statement of indifference… it is meant to be a statement of assurance. God's people could have never faced what they faced or accomplished what they accomplished apart from the presence of God. Jesus' disciples were being prepared to continue Jesus' work after he was gone. To do so, they needed this same kind of assurance about who Jesus was… and about his ongoing presence with them. In this story, maybe they weren't quite ready to follow with that kind of faith… so Jesus hopped back in the boat and calmed the wind (a familiar experience from Mark 4).
God, thank you for revealing yourself to us through Jesus. Help me to trust today and follow… even through the storms.