You may remember one of the most well-known miracles that Jesus performed in Mark, chapter 6: Thousands have gathered, it’s getting late, and most (if not all) are hungry. The natives are starting to get restless, and much like I get when I’m hungry, I’m sure that irritability was going up as patience was on the decline. So, Jesus tells the disciples to feed the masses of people who had followed them there, to which their first thought was to make a run to the local market and buy all the bread they had left (Mark 6:37). We know where the story goes from there — Jesus performs another miracle, turning close to nothing into a feast, satisfying all who were hungry.
I can imagine the disciples having this “a-ha!” moment together as they witnessed Jesus miraculous feeding — where fear and anxiety about how everyone was going to eat was turned into astonishment and trust in their teacher.
I’m convinced that what happened next is not a coincidence.
Mark tells us that Jesus “immediately” sent them out onto the waters in the boat. It’s after they’ve been out on the choppy waters that he appears to them, walking on the waves. But instead of feeling astonished again, scripture tells us they were terrified. Here was the same person who had just miraculously revealed once again who he was, and they “thought it was a ghost” (6:49). In fact, Mark also says that “they did not understand about the loaves” (6:52).
It must have been easy for Jesus’ followers to trust him as they were sitting fat and happy on the green grass. Everyone was fed. Jesus saved the day. Life was good. But what the disciples understood about him in theory on dry land was being put to the test out on the waters. Needless to say, they didn’t pass that test with flying colors.
In the past few years, I’ve had more “a-ha!” moments about Jesus, who he is, and his trustworthiness than ever before. I can recall several head-nodding moments in my seat or driving in my car as I soaked up teaching and podcasts. I’ve highlighted hundreds of passages where things just seemed to make sense, and been privileged enough to share many of those moments with others through the gift of teaching. It’s been easy for me to point out the truths of scripture and remind people of God’s promises over coffee.
But nothing has tested my trust in those things more than when God has put me in the boat and sent me out on the waters.
We may SAY that we trust that God is our provider, but what happens when we’re laid off and can’t find work?
We may SAY that we know our beauty is seen through God’s eyes, but how do we handle the days when we feel unattractive?
And we may SAY that God’s love is sufficient for us, but what do we do when he or she doesn’t love us anymore?
Our God is not a God who wants us to trust Him in theory — but with everything we have. He will not refrain from allowing situations in our lives to apply all that we’ve learned in theory, but haven’t yet practically applied. While we may have plenty of moments where we trust and acknowledge Him on the shady green grass, we are sure to be called out onto the waters from time to time.
• Colin Noonan is director of youth ministries at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee. Follow his own journey on Twitter @cnoonan3 or continue the conversation at firstname.lastname@example.org.