“…they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out” (Mark 6:49)
The boat was rocking, sheets of rain were falling, and the flashing lightning certainly distorted the approaching object, but it wasn’t their eyes that played tricks on them, it was their fear. When Jesus came walking on the water to rescue the helpless disciples there should have been celebration on board, instead there was panic. They “supposed” it was a spirit. The panic-state presumed the worst. Jesus had commissioned them to “go to the other side” (vs 45). It was their superstition and imagination that turned a simple “go to the other side” command into frenzied “tales from the dark side”. Blind to what is on the other side we tend to sensationalize, hyper-invent and hyperventilate. No, it was not a spirit, it was a Savior. No, it was not a devil, it was a Deliverer. No, it was not a ghost, it was God. Faith looks across the bow into the blackness and expects a sovereign surprise; doubt covers its eyes afraid to look. It might be a ghost!
Notice, they supposed the figure, lit up by the lightning flashes, was a “spirit”. The Greek word is phantasmo. What they saw was fantastic, only in the negative sense. Startled, they “cried out”. I can’t say I wouldn’t have joined the chorus. Amid storms, the very environment where Jesus works miracles best, we often look for the worst and see phantasms in every shadow. Sleep deprivation compounds the problem. It was the “fourth watch of the night” (vs 48) when the Water-Walker showed up. That is 3:00 AM our time. Lying awake worrying amplifies the creaking sounds in the walls and floors. In Matthew’s account the walking on the water miracle is recorded in chapter fourteen. Three chapters earlier Jesus had invited, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. They hadn’t learned the lesson. Rest comes from trust. Panic is an elevated heart-rate and dilated pupils which make sleep impossible. Then as you lay there with a heightened awareness in every nerve end, the Adrenalin quickens the mind to do even more supposing. They “supposed it had been a spirit”.
That they “supposed” implies that they were operating totally by logic. “Jesus, we left on the shore, so who is this walking on the sea?” Verse 26 says, “For they all saw him, and were troubled…” If one disciple saw Him. we could call it delusion. When all twelve saw Him, it spread into hysteria. Real faith is never shocked by the interventions of God. Restoring withered hands, turning water into wine, Lazarus stepping out of his tomb bound in grave-clothes, those are the things Jesus does. Don’t suppose it has to be a phantasm just because something is fantastic. Things will change when we start looking for the best in all situations, expecting Christ to show up “on top” the waves, because faith is “above only, and never beneath”. Rid your mind of fantasy and phantasm and discover that some things that seem so frightening right now are not fearful at all. They are miracles in disguise.
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