“And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.” (Mark 6:45
Here the Gospel of Mark records another wonderful picture of Christ on the move. After recounting the miracle of feeding over 5,000 people (Mark 6:35-44), we come to another miracle which testifies to the Deity of Jesus Christ and His Power over the forces of Creation. This passage of Scripture also serves to highlight the Providential leading of God, as Christ “constrained his disciples” (verse 45) to enter into a hostile situation for the purpose of manifesting His care and concern for them.
Many people like to explain trials as those difficult or troublesome circumstances that God “allows” us to go through, in order to work out His plan in our lives. I believe this assumes a very shallow view of God’s Providence and a very narrow view of His Sovereignty. This view of God would have us to believe that God is just sitting back, letting things happen on their own, with no direct influence in the affairs of men, unless something goes against His Will. Friend, our God is completely Sovereign, all-knowing, and all-powerful. He cannot lose control; he must therefore always be actively in control – down to the last atom of His Creation.
What joy this should give us! How greatly this knowledge should comfort us – to know without question, that God is actively in control of every trial we face; that He will not “allow” us to be tempted above what we are able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). No, God does not sit back and allow things to happen to us; He ordains them; which means that with the trial comes the power to perform the purpose of God.
This is the Sovereign view of God that Mark gives us. Jesus, being the all-knowing God, commanded His disciples to get into a boat and set sail, knowing that they would get caught in a storm of His devising.
“And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.” (Mark 6:48)
Imagine this scene: the multitude (over 5,000) has been fed; the leftovers have been collected; Jesus tells His disciples to get in a boat and leave Him. They had just witnessed miracles that could only have been done by God Himself, and yet they are “constrained,” forced, urged, compelled, to leave Him alone. Now here they are in the middle of the sea, and a great storm arises. And to top it all off, here come Jesus walking on the water! If that weren’t enough, take note that He is passing them by!
What we learn from this passage of Scripture is of great importance. When we consider that Jesus “constrained” His disciples to cross the sea without Him; that He knew the storm was coming (or that He sent the storm); that He saw their troubles and toils; and that He was going to pass them by – it would be a very easy thing to question His loving care, if we don’t rightly understand His Sovereign purpose.
At no time were the disciples out of Christ’s sight. Neither were they not covered in His prayers (verse 46); neither was the situation out-of-control; for, when they cried out, Jesus immediately calmed the storm (verses 49-51). In fact, we see that the storm was a menace, but never posed a real threat, because the disciples were under the careful watch of the Good Shepherd.
In all these elements, we are brought to see that Christ’s intent was NOT to pass His disciples by; although His movements indicated that this may have been His intent. His disciples thought He was a spirit, and cried out because they were troubled (verses 49-50). The situation presented an opportunity for the glory of Christ to be made manifest to His disciples, who were amazed because their hearts were still hard (verses 51-52).
The truth of this scenario is seen in the effect it had on the disciples. As they toiled in their rowing, the winds being contrary to them, tossed about on the waves of the sea, and in an apparently disastrous situation – the disciples’ response was to cry out. “…And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid” (Mark 6:50).
In the midst of their toil, the disciples cried out, and Jesus turned to them with words of comfort and strength.