Over the course of my life I’ve been fortunate to visit the Canadian Maritimes a few times. This area consists of the Provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia, with all three of these Provinces bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It is the region of the world where both my mother and my father grew up. Like so many settlers in that Maritime area of Canada, my father’s side of the family originally settled in the American Colonies way back in the 1700’s. However, during the American Revolution, these ancestors of mine were loyal to the British Crown, so they fled from what would become the United States of America and settled in Nova Scotia.
Most of my visits centered around the Province of Nova Scotia, in which my father spent a good part of his young life. Nova Scotia is also the Provence in which my mother grew up. The last time I visited Nova Scotia was to return my father’s ashes to those places that were significant to him in his younger days. It was heartwarming to meet so many of my father’s and my grandfather’s relatives, and to spread his ashes in significant areas along the way. There was the land where my Grandparent’s farm was located, the little church that was built on land donated by my grandparents, the family cemetery from my grandmother’s side of the family, the family cemetery on my father’s side of the family, and most of all at the little brook that my father loved as a child. It is there on that little brook that ran behind my great grandmother’s home that he spent so many carefree days fishing in the brook with his cousin Raymond. And when I was small and we traveled to Nova Scotia, my father would always take my two brothers fishing there in the brook.
The coastline of Nova Scotia, is as varied as you can can get. You can move from beaches and marshes, to the low mountains which make up the close to the northern-most part of the Appalachian Mountain chain. In my opinion, a trip around Nova Scotia is best experienced by car, so that you can stop along the way to see many interesting sites (gee, I sound like a travelogue here). You can experience the Bay of Fundy where it is said to have the highest tides in the world. And indeed I’ve been in Parrsboro when the tide was out. We walked out at least one mile on the ocean bed, picked up rock samples and marveled at the magnitude and majesty of the ocean, but the scene that marveled me the most was taking pictures of the boats tied to the dock hanging in midair while the tide was out. Be sure to know the tidal time table for high tide, so that you can prepare to be safely back on land when the tide comes back in. But, even more beautiful than spending time at the farm of my Great Grandmother’s homestead, with the rolling hills covered in blueberries, are those times I’ve spent on Cape Breton Island. A trip around the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, is an unforgettable experience. We traversed the island along a road right down at sea level to way up along the edge of magnificent cliffs. We even got to spot a few whales out in the ocean when we stopped for a whale watching excursion in Chetticamp.
Most of my young memories of trips to Nova Scotia center around time that we spent at my Uncle Mack’s cottage, East Bay, Nova Scotia, on a tip of Bras D’Or Lake (a huge lake of mixed fresh and saltwater, that is 62 miles long and 31 miles wide, and is located at the center of Cape Breton Island). Usually once each visit we would jump off of his dock into the icy waters of Lake Bras D’Or, and only once per visit, as it was way to chilly to stay in the water. It was there that we would gather around the large table, covered in layers of newspaper, and dig into a feast of fresh boiled lobster, that was specially prepared by my Uncle (a side note here: Uncle Mack’s lobster was so significantly better than any restaurant lobster, that to this day it’s still difficult for me to order a lobster in a restaurant).
It was also there on Lake Bras D’Or that I took my one and only sailboat ride of my life. It was a sunny, but windy day there on the lake. I remember my Uncle and my cousin Stephen wrestling with the sails, and fighting the boat to get it to the course that they wanted it to go. No motor was used at all during that trip onto the windy lake. And although the temperatures on the land were nice and temperate, it sure was chilly out on the water. At times the sailboat bobbed, weaved, pitched and rolled about in the choppy water. It seemed to me like we were never going to experience smooth sailing at all during that trip. I remember fretting away wondering how we were ever going to get back to Uncle Mack’s dock and unto firm steady ground. However there was a breakthrough in the weather, the water settled down, and the sails caught the wind just right. We quickly moved across the water which by then was smooth. This my Uncle explained, made all the hassles of wrestling with the sails worthwhile. Honestly I enjoyed the smooth sailing immensely, but even to this day, I remember thinking, that in my opinion, those few moments of smooth sailing wasn’t worth all the effort it took to get to that point!
So today, when I read Mark’s Gospel account in chapter 6, verses 45-51 (see also the parallel accounts in Matthew 14:22-33 and John 6:16-21) it is back to that one, and only sailboat ride, that my mind goes. In Mark’s account, Jesus tells the Disciples to go ahead of Him to Bethsaida across the Sea of Galilee. Only I know that the Disciples were having an even rougher time with their boat ride than I did. One source I read indicated that perhaps Jesus’ Disciples were rowing across the rough waves, struggling for hours upon hours to get the little boat to the shore, perhaps as long as six to nine hours, for a trip across the lake that should have taken just a few hours. Keep in mind that at least four of the Disciples were fishermen, so they would have been accustomed to being out on the water during varied weather conditions. Yet, even the most seasoned of them seemed to be frantic when Jesus walked on the water, across the lake, and came alongside the boat. It is in that panic that they mistake Jesus for an apparition or imaginary creature. Can you image what you would have thought if you saw someone walking upon the water in a very stormy sea?
The text tells us another detail that I’ve missed many a time before, and if it wasn’t for one member in my Bible Study group, I probably would have glossed by it again. It is noted at the very end of verse 48, that Jesus meant to pass them by on the water. What? Jesus meant to walk across the water right by His tired and frantic Disciples who were literally fighting for their lives? Say it isn’t so! So a researching I went. The differences of opinions by Bible scholars is all over the place. And, I’ve settled onto two of the possible explanations for the reasoning behind this very small section of the verse. One came from my John MacArthur Study Bible: “meant to pass by them. The more literal rendering, “desired to come alongside of,” indicates Jesus’ intention here. He wanted to test the disciples’ faith, so he deliberately changed course and came parallel to the boat to see if they would recognize him and his supernatural powers and invite him aboard.” And, the other explanation came from Shari in my Bible Study group, based upon notes in her Bible and something that Lysa TerKeurst wrote on the First 5 Bible study: “I didn’t understand why He intended to pass them by. Then I re-read Lysa’s teaching and found this…”The same God who willingly revealed Himself to Moses (Exodus 33:19, Exodus 33:22, Exodus 34:6) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:11) as He passed by them to reveal the fullness of His peace and the power of His presence.” Additionally, the scripture footnotes read…”We read that Jesus walked on the water, and yet we often marvel that He is able to work in our lives. We must not only believe these miracles really occurred; we must also transfer the truth to our own life situations.” Ah, now there’s two different interpretations that I can take and ponder. They both make sense to me.
But, here’s the greater point in all of this, in the midst of all of the turmoil without the presence of Jesus, we note that the wind ceased when Jesus joined His Disciples in the boat. That’s something that I can strive to remember. While the wind may bluster and blow, and toss me all around, as long as Jesus is with me, I don’t have to fear. I just have to invite Him into the boat.
How about you?
Which possible explanation of the account of Jesus passing the boat by do you like? Or, perhaps you have a different idea about this passage?
And, when you face stormy weather, when do you invite Jesus into your boat?
45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.
46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.
48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them,
49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out,
50 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.”
51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, (Mark 6:45-51, ESV)