Two incidents in this story bother me.
First, Jesus walked on water. This is the hardest miracle for me to believe. I believe Jesus healed people (6:53-58). I believe he resuscitated people who were in the ‘sleep’ of death (5:35-43). I can even believe he multiplied bread and fish to feed 10,000 people (6:30-44). I believe he can calm storms (6:51). But walk on water!? Nobody does that. Nobody does that unless he controls the laws of nature. He can only control the laws of nature if he created the laws of nature and they obey his command. If Jesus swam out to them, then the story would not bother me. But why swim when he can walk on water?
Second, Mark wrote “He meant to pass by them.” Jesus saw them in the boat struggling against the headwinds. He walked out to them on the water and walked right past them. Why would he pass by them when he knows they are struggling against the wind? Maybe he wanted to beat them to the other side of the lake: “I’ll race you to the other side!” Jesus let the disciples see him walking past them. They thought he was a ghost because ghosts are lighter than water. They were terrified. I think Jesus wanted to see what the disciples would do. Maybe it was a test. How would they react? Would they keep struggling on their own against the wind or would they cry out to him for help? Mark wrote, “They thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they saw him and were terrified.” They cried out in terror. They did not cry out to Jesus. But Jesus did not walk on by and saved them anyway.
Maybe Jesus will pass by us when we are in trouble, unless we cry out to him for help. Jesus waits to see whether we will react in fear or faith. When we react in faith then he comes to our aid and says, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”