Monday, December 3, 2012

What Did They Not Understand?

Two stories about Him are closely connected in three gospels.
I was only reading the second, a story that has always puzzled me.
Mark gives us the briefest account of most things it relates about Him.
A mere sixteen chapters to summarize Immanuel; God with us.
What a remarkable thrift of words.

He made them get in a boat and go without Him.
He saw them straining to obey, because the wind was against them.
He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.
They thought He was a ghost, were troubled, and screamed.
To which He replied, "Be of good cheer! It is I: do not be afraid."
He got into the boat: the wind ceased.
They were were stunned, shocked, amazed --
because they hadn't understood the loaves,
because their hearts were hardened.

Apparently I hadn't understood the loaves, either,
because I sat there not understanding as I read it.
I mean, I know about the loaves.
I know He fed those five thousand people with a pittance of food,
and that His disciples passed it out to everyone,
and then they gathered up the leftovers in baskets and were sent off in a boat.
But how are the two related?
How does bread have anything to do
with this odd miracle that seems to have no purpose?
Why is it recorded so many times
like there's something He wants me to know from it?
What, Lord? How come I don't get it either?

I turned to the passage in Matthew 14:22-33 and read it there.
I read about the bread before it, and made note of a few additional details.
In the margin of my Bible, it says that He said literally, "I am."
Not that strangely awkward, "It is I."
Hmm. A clue.
Matthew tells me this is when Peter walked on the water, in that wild wind.
And that when He got into the boat and the wind ceased,
they came and worshiped Him.
"Truly You are the Son of God!" they noticed.

The John passage tells me another notable fact:
the response to the multiplied bread was,
"This is truly the Prophet."

Their hardened hearts had hidden His divinity from them,
even in the multiplication of the bread.
There is no record of their worship or marveling at Him
when He fed the five thousand.
It seems they just passed out the bread, gathered up the leftovers,
and got into the boat to leave.

They handled the bread He had multiplied;
they served Him in passing it out;
and they failed to worship, even as they gathered up the excess.

As my children's teacher,
I sometimes leave them with longer exposure to a problem
to let their minds work it over, in hope of their understanding.
One of these passages says He told them to gather up the leftovers,
so that none of it would be lost.
Why would Someone who could do this miracle
care about saving every scrap?
What good is a leftover miracle?
I think He had hoped that in handling it again, they might notice Him.
The indicator of their hardened hearts
was that they did not recognize Him, and they did not worship Him.

So He sent them into a wild wind,
where their God-blind eyes terrified them at the sight of Him.
Where the presence of their salvation prompted screaming.
And where their fear pushed Him to communicate to them.
Take courage! I am. Don't be afraid.
When He joined them and the wind ceased, they saw Him.

Truly, You are the Son of God: Immanuel: God with us.
And we do not recognize it.
We do not understand with our hardened hearts.
We handle Your work with dull hearts and stupid hands,
passing out manna, and gathering back miracles without any worship.
Please forgive me for my silent tongue.
For the fear that panics and does not praise.

No comments: