He Intends to Pass you By

It only comes up once in the 3 gospels the story is mentioned. Only in Mark. Matthew is concerned about Peter also walking on water and the implications of where Peter lacked faith. John focuses on the immediacy of arriving at a destination when Jesus shows up.

And Mark like John doesn’t talk about Peter but he adds the words “He intended (or meant) to pass them by”. It is so strange to think that about Jesus. He adds the Greek word Thelo, to wish, to want what’s best, to empower. The Greek Word that follows is Parerchomai which could be translated to pass by or come to. Most translators go with pass by instead of come to. It’s a combination of words that means to be closely beside and either to come or to go.

But the account is also at night, the 4th watch between 3-6AM. So he could be creeping up on them or not, but if it is dark (it’s before dawn) Jesus is close enough to be seen but not close enough that He intends to be stopped. He also can see them from the shore so they didn’t get very far. Or He intends to be seen but not to be stopped. Or He intends to be seen and stopped and see what they will ask Him to do. Either way Thelo gives the impression that He wants what’s best for them, to empower them whether he passes them by or comes to them.

I think I relate to the dilemma of whether or not God intends to come close or to walk by me seen or unseen. All sorts of Scriptural imagery is conjured up in this idea that He intends to pass them by. God manifesting his glory to Moses passed by while Moses was in the cleft of a rock. God intended to pass Moses by. I think about other situations where Jesus is walking along with no apparent intention to do much, the woman with the issue of blood, the blind beggar on the side of the road who calls out to Jesus and is rebuked by the disciples but that blind man heard someone say “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

I think Jesus intends to pass us by, not in the way of ignorance, but in the way of notice. I think He is aware of those around. I think the Father knows his children, knows their desires, their needs, their struggles, and I think He stays close enough to be seen to hear our cry and is willing and able to do something about it.

The account of Jesus walking on water encountering the struggling disciples gives no indication of imminent threat to their life only the painful struggle of making it across to the other side. Blind Bartimeus, blind beggars, the woman with the blood issue, they struggled with their lot for a long time, they weren’t dying but they were suffering and struggling and I don’t think Jesus didn’t not notice or know. In fact I know enough to know that God cannot possibly be unaware of our needs before we ask.

If Jesus wanted to He could have crossed the water by a route far enough away to not be seen under the cover of night. But I think it’s an insight into the nature of love. When the ones we love are struggling we want to be close enough to help but not so close that we are imposing ourselves on their will. I think there is an element of humor in what Jesus does. 2 chapters earlier he calms a storm. The disciples our familiar with that act, probably annoyed that Jesus wasn’t there to make there attempt to cross the sea easier.

So the disciples cry out thinking he’s a ghost because it is impossible to walk on water. But it’s also not for Jesus and when He is noticed and shows up He makes an announcement in a way I imagine a band comes back on stage to do an encore. “Take heart, it is I, don’t be afraid.” The great and powerful Oz, Houdini, the main event, the headliner, the hero, Jesus, King of Kings, Lord of Lords hops in the boat and the sea is calmed again.

Jesus doesn’t intend to pass us by because He doesn’t see or know, his intention is to see what we will say and do. Did we take Him at His word for what He said about His character, or did we base His character based on our circumstance or how others including his church has treated us.

He lets them struggle and suffer and intends to pass them by, until He doesn’t.


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