My apologies, but the camera angle in lesson was framed without much of my head showing. In some ways this made the presentation less scary – but it can be distracting. Please listen in anyway – this is an important lesson I would hate to have you miss!
It’s too much to bear
Man, can life get overwhelming or what? Do you find yourself fatigued by the demands others place on you? Are you storm-tossed and haggard from a constant barrage of disappointments? Not to mention the relentless pull of responsibility; or of dealing with defeat and even self-loathing.
The story we will apply today is a familiar one; when Jesus walks on the water. But as always when working your way through the Bible – don’t confuse something that’s familiar with something that fails to instruct. The Word is like that. Remember, it is alive. By nature living things are not inert; are not blocks of stone. So leave off like you know what you’re getting yourself into; engage with what you read (and hear) as if it were new to you. The occasion is recorded in Mark chapter 6, John chapter 6, and Matthew chapter 14. Best to start with some background and context for the story.
Background and context
There are some important truths for us to collect when we consider the account of Christ walking on water – things that preface and prepare us. It is always so critical to enter into a Bible passage with a sense of its context. In summary form, here are some factors I would ask you to keep in mind.
- The 70 Sent Out – Mark 6:7-13
- On this occasion, Jesus sends out His “Advance Team” – as recorded in Luke 10:1:
- Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come
- Note Mark 6:7 tells us He confers beforehand unknown capacity to deal with the creatures of the unseen world
- He gave them authority over the unclean spirits
- On this occasion, Jesus sends out His “Advance Team” – as recorded in Luke 10:1:
- John the Baptist is beheaded. Mark 6:14-29, Matthew 14:1-12
- In the midst of this, the gospels record the events which lead to the beheading of John the Baptist – It seems a sober and somehow out-of-context injection. But it is a critical turn of events which impacts the setting for what follows…
- The 70 return all fired up as recorded in Luke 10:17-18:
- The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. “
- In the midst of this joy, this celebration, this astounding turn of events, this critical juncture in the ministry of Jesus… He gets some bad news
- Christ is told about the beheading of John. – Matthew 14:12
- We must remember that John was a relative of Christ’s. Luke records that John’s mother (Elizabeth) and the earthly mother of Jesus (Mary) were relatives.
- This news must have cut Him deeply
- The disciples are called to rest – Mark 6:31-32
- And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.
- These folks are beat, they are tired and emotionally drained and yet…
- They are hounded by the multitudes as Mark 6:33 tells us
- But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.
- Ran from all the towns to get there ahead of them. They were on sabbatical remember? But God had a different thing in mind for these tired and worn out Servants.
- The 5,000 are fed. 5,000 men; many, many more when you consider women and children.
- More work, more effort, more taxing of nerve and patience.
And now for the story
So Mark 6:45 tells us He told His disciples to take off in a boat while He Himself dealt with crowd control and that is wasn’t until evening (after 6:00PM) that He was alone:
- Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away
Verse 48 tells us He saw them straining at the oars. Here are some interesting things about that
- He was on a mountain top, they were on the sea (Mark 6:46)
- It was already dark (John 6:17)
- They were miles away (John 6:19)
- They were in the midst of a violent storm (Matt 14:24)
All that and yet, He saw them. Do you ever feel out of sight – beyond the reach of God, alone and isolated. I don’t doubt you have because I have myself. But the feeling about a thing is not usually the truth of it. You are not alone. Jesus can see you. Remember Hagar, handmaid to Sarah, who was ousted and sent into the wilderness with her son Ismael. After the Angel of the Lord speaks with her, she emerges assured of God’s continuing love and guidance. She calls Him “Elroi” – the God who sees.
Verse 48 also says that He came to them during the fourth watch of the night (3:00-6:00AM). Remember now, they got into the boat some 9 hours before that. Ever feel like your prayers are not answered? That you wait and wait? Well I would suggest the disciples had offered up a few prayers by that time. We are dealing with professional fishermen here who were at their wits end with the rage and toss of the sea – they were praying alright. Jesus came 9 hours after He sent them off.
Verse 48 also tells us that Christ “intended to pass them by.” You ever feel this way? That you are being left alone in your faith, in your walk, in your daily efforts to get by in your struggles? But what does verse 49 tell us? “They cried out.” Just that. At those times when you feel most alone you must cry out – you must abandon your fixes, your timeframes, your expectations and cry out! You must forgo your intentions and embrace your helplessness and cry out!
Verse 49 tells us they thought He was a ghost. Let’s be reminded that people had been misunderstanding who He was throughout Chapter 6. Mark 6:3 they said He was only the carpenter’s son. Mark 6:14 they say He is John the Baptist. Mark 6:15 they call Him Elijah, or one of the Prophets of old. In the same account from John 6:15 they viewed Him as a King. This raises the point. Who do you think He is? Jesus will become Who you name Him to be. If your faith is small and you call Him a small Name – then He will become small to you. If you Name Him with doubt, then doubt will be His Name. Who is Jesus to you? What Name do you give Him? One thing I know is that Jesus is more than you or I think.
In verse 50 Jesus provides three instructions. He says first, take courage. For Him to say this means that courage is something that is available for us to pick up; that we can at our discretion, within the means of our grasp and willpower – appropriate courage. Secondly, He says, It is I. He asks us to rivet our attention to His identity. He is no phoney, like the indulgences we’ve place our trust in that have consistently let us down. It is Jesus speaking to you. It is Jesus offering the power and companionship of His identity to you. Thirdly He says do not be afraid. He gets our core needs. He understands the underlying disease within us while we founder about dealing with symptoms. Listen to these three things – He offers them to you, right now
At this juncture Matthew 14:28f records Christ’s interactions with Peter. There is some powerful instruction for us here. First, Jesus allows for Peter’s unbelief “Lord, if it is you.” There is no rebuff for that speech. But note too, after that note of question, Peter gets right down to it – he seeks submission. “Command me to come to You on the water.” Peter gets right to the point – his courage is not gained by the use of his willpower – not something he gins up from a self-help book. But his courage is rooted in understanding who Jesus is and that Peter is subordinate to Him, submissive to His authority. Peter’s reliance upon the power of God finds legs once he aligns himself as slave to the Master – Command Me. It all works fine as Peter “came toward Jesus” – but once he took his eyes off Christ and “saw the wind” he began to sink. Now when you think about it no one can see the wind – only its effects. The effects upon the Believer from unseen and malignant forces of evil are real and destructive. We are in a spiritual battle each day. We must then cry out as Peter did “Lord save me!”
Matthew 14:32 informs us that “when they got into the boat the wind stopped.” Here then is the capstone of this lesson. We must ask Jesus into the boat. We too often try to go it alone – or worse – not give Him a second thought as we struggle against wind and wave. We need to make Him real, to see Him coming towards us in the pitch and spray, in the agony of living. We need to listen to His instruction to take courage, to know it is He and not to be afraid. Love casts out fear. We need to invite Him into the boat. The waves will always come in their season – they will always be with us. It is not a question of their absence; but of our willingness to obey Jesus – to come into a tighter and more enduring relationship to Him. I trust this lesson was a value to you. The video is a good way to string these thoughts together. Lord Bless You as You Go.