Mark 6:52 says the apostles did not understand the miracle of dividing five loaves and two fish among more than five thousand, for ’their heart was hardened’. I keep asking why. Was it because Jesus catered to the crowd? Was it disbelief that Jesus could do what He just did? Again, in Mark 16:14 the eleven are said to be in “unbelief and hardness of heart”. His own! Did they feed off each others’ cynicism? As for our own attitudes toward those in the boat, do we as followers of Jesus empathize, or criticize?
“Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 51 Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened. (Mark 6:50b-52)
Were the disciples distraught because they’d done his bidding, distributed endless bread and fish, only to be told to go on to Bethsaida, in a boat amid strong winds, without Him? Were they thinking, “Hmph! We are with him daily, doing everything he says, leaving all to follow, and He stays behind with a group of people who didn’t even think far enough to bring their own lunch! Here we are, about to sink and drown! Where is He now?” Could it be a little of that ‘older brother’ syndrome, that the prodigal son met? Likewise, are our hearts hardened toward the help and answers that throngs of people receive, while we sit and wait for answers?
Another question, were their hearts hardened because it was not God’s will yet for them to fully understand His plan for Jesus. Are we humans so predictably weak that God knew the disciples and apostles would desert and depart if they knew the heartache that awaited them at the crucifixion of the Lord; the Lord they would grow to love more each day? There is a very good reason why God doesn’t show us our future! We seem to take the hot water better, a degree at a time. I think maybe both scenarios, lack of humility and lack of understanding of God’s will can be heart hardening agents.
The ‘me-me-me’ mindset of today squeezes out of the picture a true desire for the good of others. I’ve been awfully guilty of it, and hard as it is to look the ugly us in the mirror, you know it’s true of many. Not because we are awful terrible people; but because we are human. And yes, God knows that. Just as He knew Peter, Andrew, James, and John, and all the others who were there. He knew they were tired and had looked forward to that quiet rest Jesus suggested in verse 31. Perhaps they didn’t feel like sharing the end of that day with throngs of needy people. So, too, is my heart hardened when I selfishly think, “enough is enough” or “I’ve dealt with this problem causer enough”, etc. Really? Have I not studied God’s word enough to keep “70 times seven” and “long suffering” foremost in my mind? In some cases, it really is time to turn; but I am speaking to me, for I am an impatient person, which makes for short suffering instead.
If the twelve apostles fully understood the total sacrifice that their leader was about to make; the humility, the service and pain that would be His future, would they have stayed for the long haul? Only God knows. But, they were human.… When the sea is calm, with blue skies and a pleasant breeze, boating may seem like a job I’m all in for. But let the tempest rage, and I may abandon ship, or at least criticize the captain. Are you hearing something real here? The invitation of Jesus to “give you rest” sounds welcome, but if the cost isn’t counted before hand, patience will run thin when there’s work to do. If the answers aren’t what I expected; the results are running amok; if fair weather friends forsake me, do I throw up my hands and quit? “Unbelief and hardness of heart” please leave me.
I am not sure their hearts were ready to accept all that their eyes beheld. My eyes read over and over the accounts of Jesus’ acts, but has my heart encased all the belief I am capable of? “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) may be my motto.
There are different levels of hardened heart throughout scripture, and when I asked, our pulpit minister said that this was likely a simple case of unbelief. I agree; but I can’t believe it is the same hardened hearts of the Pharisees who were often trying to trip Jesus up with questions like, to heal or not to heal on a Sabbath. What a tremendous miracle the apostles had just witnessed! Yet, in the middle of a wind-blown sea, proving their own efforts futile, their fear and doubt rose above what they’d just seen. BUT – but, when Jesus walked on the water, stepped into the boat, and spoke the waves still, they marveled, and perhaps that hardness of heart in verse 52 was in past tense! When our seas are raging, aren’t we tempted to doubt? It is SO hard to stay focused on what we know about our Lord, and to not think that He must have missed the real answers to our dire straits. Lacking full belief underlies all of the above thoughts on the hardened heart. Faith is how we know OUR very own Jesus is that Jesus who walked on water and stilled the storms. Faith is why we can follow Jesus’ lead in putting others first; fighting the me-me-me mindset. Faith is how we wade through the atrocities of this life knowing the perfect rest awaits. Believing Jesus is our always answer and our excellent example will soften our hearts into a workable faith. Let Him into the boat. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17