Afraid of Jesus?
Why would anyone be afraid of Jesus? Under the opening of the sixth seal in Revelation 6, we read that the ungodly call upon the mountains and rocks to fall upon them, to hide them from “the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (NIV). Here a judgment scene is portrayed, and it is clearly a time of fear and trembling for those who have openly defied God and rejected His gracious offer of friendship and salvation.
Could it be, however, that we too could experience fear when encountering Jesus? Mark 6:50 says, the disciples “were all terrified when they saw him” (NLT). Are we not admonished to “Behold the Lamb”? (John 1:29). How then is it possible for us to become terrified? The Greek word translated “terrified” means “to stir up, to trouble, to agitate.” In one sense, it is used to mean, “to cause movement by shaking or stirring, shake together, stir up of water.” 1 This is like a physical stirring up of water, like at the Pool of Bethesda (Matthew 5:7). In another sense, it can be used to mean “to cause inward turmoil, stir up, disturb, unsettle, throw into confusion”, like in Acts 15:24, “We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said” (NIV).
When Jesus came walking on the water in the dark of the night, the disciples thought He was a ghost. Fishermen are superstitious by nature, and it was no different for Peter and his colleagues of the same trade. They were terrified, filled with inner turmoil. Can looking to Jesus cause this much anxiety? Immediately after they have established that the phantom-like person was indeed Jesus, Peter asks to walk to Jesus on water. When he takes his eyes off Jesus, he sinks into the water, and becomes terrified again!
Then when Jesus and Peter get into the boat, the wind stops, the disciples are amazed. Why? Scripture says, “for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in” (Mark 6:52 NLT). The Greek word “to harden” means “to cause someone to be completely unwilling to learn and to accept new information From the Pastor’s Desk...to cause the mind to be closed,” as in “he closed their minds” (John 12:40)2.
The disciples, like the Jews of the time, couldn’t look further than the loaves and fishes to the true identity and mission of the Man behind the miracles. In Matthew 16 and Mark 8 we find Jesus’ identity and authority challenged. The Pharisees ask for a sign or miracle. The disciples begin arguing about bread, because they had forgotten to bring some (Mark 8:17f). Jesus reminds them that He had fed 5,000 and 4,000, and asks “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?” Are you so close-minded? Like the woman at the well (John 4), Jesus wanted people to look further than the water in the well to the Giver of the water of life. He wanted them to see not only the loaves and fishes that could still their hunger temporarily, but to the One who is the Bread of life.
After this Jesus heals a blind man in Bethsaida (Mark 8:22f), another physical “opening of the eyes” experience, hoping that it will help open the people’s minds to see the true identity of the Miracle Worker. Jesus then asks his disciples straight out, “Who do people say I am,” to which Peter responds with His famous confession, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29).
Ellen White’s comments gives us the clear take-home message as it applies to each of us. She writes, “Those who fail to realize their constant dependence upon God will be overcome by temptation. We may now suppose that our feet stand secure, and that we shall never be moved. We may say with confidence, “I know in whom I have believed; nothing can shake my faith in God and in His word.” But Satan is planning to take advantage of our hereditary and cultivated traits of character, and to blind our eyes to our own necessities and defects. Only through realizing our own weakness and looking steadfastly unto Jesus can we walk securely.
No sooner had Jesus taken His place in the boat than the wind ceased, “and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.” The night of horror was succeeded by the light of dawn. The disciples, and others who also were on board, bowed at the feet of Jesus with thankful hearts, saying, ‘Of a truth Thou art the Son of God!’” (The Desire of Ages, 382, my emphasis).