They saw Jesus and they were terrified. Beheld the Lord and were troubled.
They weren’t demons who, when confronted by the Man from Nazareth, recognized Him as the Son of God and cried out in fear (Matt. 8:29, Mk. 5:7). No, these were His disciples who, when they saw their Master walking on the water next to their boat, didn’t recognize Him and so cried out in unbelief. They were those who had just been with Jesus feeding a crowd of 5,000 with a five loaves and two fish, but when they saw Him walking on the water they were beside themselves, out of their minds.
How come? Because their hearts were hardened.
And about the fourth watch of the night [Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
(Mark 6:48b-52 ESV)
Hardened hearts. I read that and immediately think of Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. His heart was hardened. And it led Him to stand in arrogant rebellion before the living God. To defy heaven becauses he believed he was the most powerful force on earth. That’s what I think of when I think of a hardened heart.
But that can’t be what we’re talking about here. These were Jesus’ disciples. Those who had left all to follow Him. Those who had been taught of the Master. Had bought into His teaching and were, in fact, transformed by His teaching. Had even gone out from the Master calling others to repent for the kingdom of God was at hand (Mk. 6:7-12). These guys weren’t determined to walk in defiance. They weren’t resolved to reject. They were on board. Yet, their hearts were hardened.
It’s not that they were defiant. But that they were dull. Not that they sought to usurp. But that they were slow to understand. Not that they didn’t believe. But that they needed help with their unbelief.
They had just participated in feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves and a couple of fish. Had just seen the power of Jesus to take little and make of it much. Had witnessed the Son of Man take a few scraps and satisfy the hunger of a few thousand. So why were they so utterly astounded, why were they literally “thrown out of position” and “deeply displaced” when they saw Jesus walk on the water? Because they still weren’t getting it. Weren’t picking up all that Jesus was laying down. Their hearts were hardened.
And I say to myself, “Self, what do I do with this?”
Do I think myself better then the disciples, that I am somehow more attuned, and pat myself on the back? Don’t think so. Or, seeing myself in these followers of Jesus, do I grit my teeth with renewed resolve to un-harden my heart, to lean in more, to work harder at not being unduly shocked at encounters of the divine kind? Mmm . . . not thinking that’s it either.
Instead, I wonder if our hearts just become softer as we continue to walk with the Savior. That unfounded awe will become tempered by faithful abiding. That some of the fruit of sanctification is developing a heart that is continually becoming more supple.
I’ve been given a heart of flesh to replace my heart of stone (Ez. 36:26). But, as with any heart transplant, it’s gonna take some time to fully integrate its operation. I’m thinking my “to do” is to be aware of the hardened heart. And to continue to walk closely with the One who is the heart softener.
By His grace. For His glory.