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Shared Ministry with Jesus


In the classic advertisements for Calgon bath and beauty products, a woman surrounded by stressful scenes at home and work would cry out, “Calgon, take me away!” Immediately, the commercial would show the woman relaxing in a peaceful bath away from the chaos.

Jesus encouraged His disciples to find solace away from the stress of ministry. But the crowds followed, disrupting their retreat. Jesus looked on them with compassion, and when the disciples wanted to send the crowd away, Jesus not only provided food but also used the disciples in the miracle. He asked them to determine how much food was available, recruited them to get the crowd seated, used them to distribute the multiplied food, and had them gather up the abundance at the end. Jesus used them to accomplish this miracle even though they didn’t fully understand.

That theme of misunderstanding continued as Jesus walked on the water past the disciples in their boat. Notice the clear motifs of divinity in this episode. Just as God alone “treads on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8), so Jesus walked on the water. Just as God’s presence was often described as “passing by” figures in the Old Testament (Moses in Ex. 33:19 and Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11), so now Jesus intended to “pass by” (v. 48) the disciples in the boat.

Finally, when Jesus spoke to the terrified disciples, He said to them, “it is I” (v. 50). This phrase could be translated literally as “I AM,” and it clearly evokes God’s divine name in Exodus 3:14.

In this one scene, Jesus’ full divinity is revealed—but Scripture tells us that the disciples did not understand, for “their hearts were hardened” (v. 52). Nevertheless, despite the disciples’ failure to fully comprehend who Jesus was, Jesus desired to be with them and to share His ministry alongside them.

Apply the Word

Today’s reading should encourage us, no matter how much spiritual misunderstanding or lack of faith we have. Jesus chooses to use us for His ministry in the world! How will you act on that today? Speak to a co-worker, offer a hand to a neighbor, or give generously of your resources. God can bless those efforts, despite our feelings of inadequacy!

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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