MESSAGE DELIVERED: FEBRUARY 19, 2017
The passage we are looking at this morning contains some of the richest verses in the New Testament. There is so much we can learn from this event and the events that surround them.
Last week, we looked at Jesus performing the incredible miracle of the ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’, where He had used just two smoked fish and five little biscuits to feed that multitude. And I told you that it was from the Gospel of JOHN that we get the bit of information that tells us that food was just one small boy’s lunch, so we aren’t talking about large loaves of bread, just small things that a boy could tuck into his garment so he could take it with him.
I also find it extremely interesting that this was one of only two miracles that were recorded by all four Gospel writers. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all recorded many of the amazing miracles that Jesus performed, but only twice did they all record the same miracle. And those two times were HERE, at the feeding of the five thousand, and later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, where just before being arrested and hauled off to die, Jesus healed the ear of one of His captors.
And even that event needed some interpretation. All four writers tell of that ear being chopped off, but only Luke tells of Jesus HEALING it, of REATTACHING that ear. But we need to remember that Luke was a physician, and that reattachment…something that present-day doctors are still learning how to do successfully…that would have been tremendously interesting to Luke. And he probably learned of that healing from Peter, the man who chopped the ear OFF in the first place. Luke wasn’t there.
But, getting back to the point I’m making…while the feeding of the 5000 was an incredible event, we often miss the deeper meaning of that miracle. And that would be the part about Jesus on the MOUNTAIN. Remember, I told you that Jesus had gone, alone, to this place, after hearing that John the Baptist, His cousin and His herald, had been cruelly murdered by Herod. So He left the twelve, and went by Himself, in a boat, to a deserted place that Luke tells us was near Bethsaida.
If, after His rejection at Nazareth, He had gone to Capernaum, which would be likely since THERE was where He had established His ‘home-base’ you could say, then when He heard that John had been killed and got in a boat by Himself to go off to grieve for John…then across the top of the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida was a short ride…just a couple miles.
And the place He went to was probably well known to the disciples, so when the crowds came looking for Jesus, the disciples just said, “Well, follow us and we’ll take you to Him”. By land, that distance was less than 5 miles, and it’s possible the disciples didn’t know why Jesus had gone off like this.
But Jesus, even knowing all along that John would have to die, was still upset that he had to suffer such brutality at the hands of Herod, and he grieved because He also knew that it was for His own sake that John would have to be removed from the scene.
So even though He went to great lengths to be alone, the crowds still found Him. And they called out to Him for healing, until Jesus, again being moved with compassion, had put aside His own needs, and came back down from the mountain to minister to them.
And in that is an important lesson for ME, as a pastor. The needs of those I minister to must always take precedence over my own needs. Let me read you a quote that I think all pastors should remind themselves of, often. Pastor Jerry Lovegrove wrote this…
“As we shepherd the flock that God has entrusted us with, we are also fellowshipping with our Savior, the Chief Shepherd. This is our privilege, to try to follow in the footsteps of the Perfect Shepherd. It is our delight to lay down our lives for others, as Jesus laid down His life for the sheep.”
As we continue to look at this story, we need to remember that it because people refused to allow Jesus the time to deal with His own grief over His cousin, John the Baptist, who had been cruelly murdered by Herod, and instead they demanded that He deal with THEIR problems first.
So He did, because that’s the kind of Savior He is, always putting others first. So He went down to the crowds, and He taught them, and He healed them, and he FED them! And then, and only then, when ALL of their needs had been taken care of, did He consider His own.
So He sent the disciples ahead in the boat, (that’s verse 22) and he went back UP on the mountain to be close to His Father, and to grieve that John had had to suffer like that.
And it is then that what is easily the MOST famous of Jesus’ many miracles takes place…even more well-known than the feeding of the 5000. And I call this portion of the event we’ve been looking at; “The Waves”.
People who know nothing about Jesus Christ, the son of God…people who only know His name as a curse word…still know about the “Walking on the Water”!…and just as with the feeding of the 5000, people have been trying to DIScredit this one, ever since it happened!
Usually they will say something like “He wasn’t really walking ON the water, but He was near the shore, and was WADING in very SHALLOW water”. Of course, in order to claim He was wading, they have to ignore verse 24, which says the disciples were in the middle of the Sea, or, as the Greek New Testament puts it; “they were MANY FURLONGS away from land”. A ‘furlong’ is 1/8 of a mile.
You know, folks, it never ceases to amaze me, how HARD some people are willing to work, to try to discredit the miracles of Jesus! There’s even this new version of the New Testament floating around that was put out by a group that calls themselves “The Jesus Seminar”. I’ve mentioned this before, but just want to remind you of what they have done, in the name of IMPROVING the Gospel message.
IN this ‘new and improved’ version of the Scriptures, YOU will find that ALL of the MIRACLES said to have been performed by Jesus, have been REMOVED, as well as two thirds of the SAYINGS of the Lord. And do you recall how they arrived AT this improvement? Did they dig into ancient texts, or compare word usages, Or WHAT?
Nope, they didn’t do any of that. Instead, they sat around a table, with a bunch of colored marbles. Red ones, pink ones, black ones and gray ones. Then they open a book of the Gospels, and they would VOTE!
Sorta like this. The leader would read an account, like the Feeding of the 5000, which we just looked at. He’d read it, then ask “Do you think that really happened”? And if they DID believe it, they’d put in a RED marble or if they SORTA believed it, they’d put in a PINK one. If they DIDN’T believe it they’d put in the BLACK marble, or if they SORTA didn’t believe it they vote with the GRAY one.
Then they’d count the marbles, and the leader would announce “Ok, there are 3 ‘yeses’, 2 ‘maybes’, and 10 ‘nos’. It never happened. And they would move on to the next miracle.
And that’s how it went. Nothing more scientific than just their OPINIONS! If this group of self-proclaimed ‘experts’ voted ‘no’, then that portion of Scripture was eliminated. And finally, with the very little bit that was left, they published as “TRUTH”. And I will guarantee you that there are gullible people out there that will FIND this “Jesus Seminar Version”, and BELIEVE it!
So let me warn you in advance, if you ever get the chance to READ a copy of this, “DON’T”! It will only make you mad! There is no Virgin Birth…no RESURRECTION…and very LITTLE in between!
Personally, I prefer to believe the Apostle John, who told us that Jesus not only did all the things that were written about Him, but so much MORE, that if they were ALL written down, the world itself wouldn’t be able to contain all the books.
But, THIS one in particular, this “walking on the water”, is one that is really FUN to talk about, because not only did JESUS walk on the water, but good ol’ PETER did it, too!
So, here’s the portion of the story that I’ll call “The WIND”. And the ONE thing I want you to see from this is…the disciples were DOING exactly WHAT the Lord had TOLD them to do, when this big STORM came up.
Jesus told them to get in the boat, and go over to the other side, and that is what they were trying TO do, but because of that storm, and in spite of their best efforts…and in spite of how HARD they were working, they were making NO head-way.
And it wasn’t because they didn’t know what they were doing. Most of these men were experienced sailors. They were fishermen, they had made their living from this Sea. They knew how to handle a boat. They were doing what they were told to do, and they knew HOW to do it. But they were still being battered by the storm and making no progress.
We have a habit of assuming…as a church, or as individuals, that IF we are suffering, or IF we have problems, then we MUST be doing something WRONG! Or, we’re NOT doing what the Lord really wants us to do.
But that is not necessarily true. Being obedient to Christ, does NOT exempt you from suffering, or trials, or problems! We may WANT to believe that it does, but LOOK at those disciples. They were doing EVERYthing RIGHT and they were STILL in ANGER from that storm.
But, here comes the part that I love…verse 25 says “In the 4th watch of the night”…that would be between 3 am and 6 am…, after rowing and struggling ALL NIGHT, when the disciples were EXHAUSTED and things looked their WORST…here comes Jesus!
The WAVES are ROARING! The WIND is RAGING. The WHITE-CAPS are breaking over the bow and the BOAT is bouncing around like a CORK…here comes Jesus.
His ROBE isn’t even wet. The wind doesn’t touch Him. He’s just strolling along. And I don’t picture Him climbing UP one side of a wave and maybe sliding down the other, I see Him walking along in this little CALM spot. The waves are laying down before Him, and walking on this SMOOTH PATH through the middle of the storm that is raging all around Him, but not touching Him.
So even though He wasn’t physically IN the boat with them, when the 12 needed Him the most…when their strength was almost gone…when they couldn’t row another foot…Jesus came to them!
And beloved, WE have that SAME promise. Even though Jesus isn’t PHYSICALLY with us right now, we KNOW that He is interceding FOR us, before God the Father, and we HAVE He, the Holy Spirit WITH us, to comfort us, strengthen us, and sustain us.
Some commentaries say that when the disciples saw Jesus, they didn’t recognize Him. I think they DID, but given the IMPOSSIBILITY of what they were seeing, they thought He must be a GHOST!…that those CROWDS they had left Him with must surely have KILLED Him! I mean NO ‘MAN’ could DO, what they were seeing JESUS doing!
But, Jesus called out to them…”It’s Me, Don’t be afraid”. Are you aware that is one of the most often repeated phrases in the New Testament? It’s repeated 26 times, in one form or another…”Don’t be afraid”…”Fear not”…”Let not your hearts be troubled”.
Over and over Jesus tells us “Don’t be afraid”, but even knowing the promise that He will never leave us or forsake us…even knowing that He is sufficient for all our needs and burdens; as soon as trouble arises, when problems show up, what’s the first thing we do? We start to worry. We give in to anxiety. We feel FEAR!
Well, Jesus told those in the boat “Don’t be afraid”, and PETER, good ol’ Peter, never at a loss for words, even when keeping quiet would have been best”…Peter said “Lord, IF that is really You, then let ME come out there with You”. And Jesus said “Come”!
What a simple command; “Come”. Jesus has now been saying that for almost 2000 years. “Here I am, come to Me.” But so few actually do. Remember, there were 12 men in that boat, and only PETER got out to take Jesus at his word.
But Peter did. He climbed over the side of the boat, and put his foot down on the surface of the water, and it felt as firm as the sands of the shore, so he put his other foot down, and he stood on the water! And he WALKED on the water! At least, for a little while.
You can almost see him, standing there on top of the water, and looking at Jesus and thinking, “Lord, this is so cool”! And he begins to walk towards the Lord, and he’s thinking “my TOES aren’t even getting wet”, but when he looks down to check, maybe a big old FISH swims right under him, and he thinks “WHAT am I DOING? I can’t walk on water!” And down he goes.
He’d have been alright, if he had just KEPT his eyes ON the Lord. But instead he looked at the water, and at the storm still raging all around him, and he starts to sink.
But as soon as that happened, he did the ONE thing that should be an example to ALL of us. In his fear, he cried out to Jesus! In his fear, he made the shortest prayer in the Bible, “Lord, save me”!
Have you really thought about that? I know you’ve read this story, probably many times, but have you really thought about it? Peter has been wet before. We know he knows how to swim. So, did he cry out because he was afraid of the storm?…or because he saw himself sinking away from the Lord?
Whichever it was, he made that SHORT prayer, and Jesus reached out His Hand, and PLUCKED him OUT of the water, and sat him back on top of it. And He will do the same thing for ANYone who ASKS! For what the Bible calls “Whosoever”!
When you see yourself sinking under the muck and mire of sin, call out to Jesus “Lord, SAVE me”, and he will! You HAVE to BELIEVE that! I can SEE, in my mind, Jesus grabbing Peter by the hand, and Peter rising back out of the water like a cork, floating to the top, and Jesus saying to him “You were doing so good, why did you doubt”?
Now, before you go being too hard on Peter because he let those doubts come in, I want YOU to remember that HE was the ONLY one OF the twelve to even get OUT of the boat in the first place!
So let’s kinda recap what we saw today, and it’s almost like a road map. Go to the mountains to be alone with God, and to learn what He wants you to do. Then, get in the boat and go!
And IF the storm comes up, and the winds and the waves are about to overrun you, just keep striving for the other side. God has given us His Spirit as our guide, and we can REST on that! We have the promise that when the night is the darkest, and the storm is at its worst, Jesus WILL come to you, and He will get IN the boat with you! And He will GIVE you His PEACE!
Now I want you to think about the promise we have, and then look at your own life. Are you IN the midst of a storm? First of all, don’t feel like something STRANGE has happened to you. I would almost guarantee you that everyone HERE is battling SOME kind of storm.
To be a believer in this sin-sick world almost guarantees that the ENEMY will be attacking you at some level…and if he’s not, he soon WILL, unless you are on HIS side!
So if you are facing a storm, and maybe fearing that you’re about to go down for good…and the waves of troubles are washing over you, then it’s time for you to cry out “Lord, SAVE me”!
We need to have a brief time of invitation right now, and that has to BE your invitation…to come to the Lord for the FIRST time. If you’ve never done so before, let him RESCUE you from sin, WASH you clean, and set you on the road that leads to Glory.
He has done EVERYTHING that is NECESSARY for you to be saved, all you have to do, is accept that precious gift that is right now being offered to you. Be Saved, Redeemed and Forgiven. All you have to do is ask.
But for the rest of us, we believers, and the storm that is in YOUR life…Jesus may come to you, and calm the waves, and cause the winds to cease…or maybe that storm is for a reason, and there is something you need to learn from it…you can STILL call out to the Lord, and He will come to you, get in the boat with you, and help you to WEATHER the storm.
Remember His commandment…”Fear not, I am with you, and I will NEVER leave you”!
There is NOTHING that you can’t endure, if you will just cry “Lord, save me”! And then FROM the storm, or THROUGH the storm, He will be with you.