Familiarity leads to doubt. Others cannot accept you if they think they know you. Knowledge stunts faith in that faith must move beyond what one knows to a new understanding. Jesus amazes his hometown and yet they cannot move in faith to accept him.
Jesus sends out the Twelve, and yet they hardly have faith and understanding in Jesus. As they are sent they are told to have total faith in God’s ability to provide. Which is funny because when they return they do not have faith in God’s ability to feed 5,000. In the midst of the story of Disciples’ faith we find John and Herod. Jesus, in fame, has surpassed John and Herod takes note. There must be more to the John/Herod story but we do not hear it. With the downfall of John and with Jesus’ rise in fame we get a hint that a conflict will happen.
A timeline of events will help to make clear a number of themes that are happening concerning faith in this chapter.
1. Jesus sends out the Twelve
2. They return thrilled at their experiences but exhausted.
3. Immediately they go with Jesus to rest in a quiet place, but crowds follow.
4. Jesus orders the Disciples to feed the 5,000
5. Jesus orders the Disciples to shepherd the 5,000 into manageable sized groups.
6. The crowd eats with abundance.
7. Immediately Jesus sends the 12 away in a boat, while he goes to pray.
8. The 12 struggle against the wind all night, Jesus appears walking on water.
What happened to the Disciples’ thrill about the power when they were sent out? Did exhaustion overtake them? Why did Jesus push them so hard when he knew they were on the edge?
Faith is hard to hold on to when exhausted. Grudging obedience creates hard hearts that are not open to the thrill of faith and the power one has in faith. Rest is important to faith, but rest often does not come when it is needed. The thrill of faith in one moment can turn to bitter griping the next when life throws wind and demanding crowds into your way. Were the Disciples expecting a pat on the back for their service in the field? They certainly wanted time alone with Jesus but instead they got another day of heavy service followed by a night of hard work. Often the work seems to have no end and one feels obligated to trudge on in obedience. That mindset only gets you to a point of pulling against the wind all night long, instead of walking on water in faith. Spend time in prayer, even in the midst of work. Faith is work expressed in true power. But that faith only comes through trusting in God to provide, for the journey, for the meal, for the crowds, for the way across the lake at night.