Skip to comments.Why Did Jesus “mean to pass by” his Disciples when He was walking on the water?
Posted on 01/10/2014 10:34:35 AM PST by NYer
In the Gospel for daily Mass on this past Wednesday we read from Mark Chapter 6. It is the familiar story of Jesus walking on the water after having multiplied the loaves and fishes earlier that day.
There is to our modern ears an odd turn of phrase that takes place about midway through the gospel. It says: About the fourth watch of the night, [Jesus] came toward them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them… (Mark 6:48)
This seems odd. Why would Jesus approach them walking on the water, (astounding miracle that it is), and simply mean to pass on by?
The problem is, we think that it means that he will not to stop, but will keep walking past them. But actually this is not what it means.
This expression of God “passing by” is common in the Theophanies of the Old Testament. For example, when Moses was up on the mountaintop, The text teaches us in Exodus, that he revealed himself to Moses by “passing by.” The text says:
Then Moses said, Now show me your glory. And the Lord said, I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But, he said, you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live. Then the Lord said, There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen. (Exodus 33: 18-23)
Another example of this is in the appearance he made to Elijah who was hiding in a cave after his flight from Jezebel. At one point, God called him out of the cave so that he could “pass by” The text says,
The Lord said, Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 kings 19:11-13)
Some other example of this “passing by are:
Hence, for Jesus to “pass by” is not for him to walk past us in hiding. Rather, it is just the opposite, it is for him to reveal himself to us and summon us to Faith. This is also the case in the Old Testament texts where God “passes by” not to hide, but reveal himself and summon us to faith.
Some may argue that these phrases should be translated differently so that we can better grasp their meaning. Why not just say “He came toward them to reveal himself to them” ??
Perhaps there is some merit in this. But I would counter that more mileage is sometimes gained by the text causing us to ponder, and pray. Consider that in “decoding” this text we have looked at four other passages. Further, we have deepened our appreciation of what it means for God to “pass by.”
What is easy, is not always what is best for us.
Mocking?? No...but I don't believe these stories and I see no purpose to them.
Great article, thanks. I just shared this with my oldest son too. We both remarked that we wondered about this at daily mass on Wednesday.
There is a great deal of the Bible that is difficult to
grasp as the translations have caused the original meanings
to drift. Very few translations from the original are
perfect as most languages have words and phrases that do not
translate directly or easily. Add in the fact that the Bible is the work of multiple people and was written over
the course of centuries in various dialects and languages and the issue is magnified.
Thank you for these!
Anything that deepens our understanding and appreciation of the Bible is blessed.
If you go digging after the meaning of these stories, you will be flabbergasted by what you find. Which is probably why some folks don't try...it is scary as h$ll.
It's a bit like mathematics in this way. Just because a blackboard full of formulas and equations may look like chicken scratch doesn't mean that there is nothing to it.
From you statement you do not believe in Christ. That is fine but you are using mockery with the “A good miracle day” line. “I don’t believe them etc. is sufficient to get the point across without the verbal jab.
Is there any part of the New Testament you do believe?
Jesus is the most powerful figure in all of human history, and so too were his abilities. BELIEVE.
I find the reference of Jesus ‘passing through’ them who were taking up stones to stone Him a more interesting passage. I take it to be sort of the same as when He passed from the tomb to some other where/when, without rolling away the stone.
- to loosely translate "it was his habit to walk by them"
but peripatounta means "walking about"
or Matt says he was walking toward them
could Jesus have been waling in a zig-zag?
but "pass by"
παρελθεῖν can also mean "to come to"
to pass away παρελθεῖν parelthein 3928 to pass by, to come to
from para and erchomai than ἢ ē 2228 or, than a prim. conjunction used disjunctively or cptv.
Depends upon the favor of the translator-
Thus: to loosely translate "it was his habit to walk about on the sea to come to them"
Thanks to Christ to Peter and His disciples that we have the Catholic Church to provide authoritative and authentic interpretation of Scripture for over 2000 years and until the end of time. The “rock” in a raging sea of conflicting interpretations.