This Week's Gospel Sermons
October - December 2011 Fall Series At Jackson Drive.
"MIRACLES OF JESUS"
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January 1, 2012
The Water As A Walkway
This fascinating miracletook place on the evening of that momentous day of the Lord feeding a multitude. Our Lord’s first act after the feeding of the 5,000 was to constrain His disciples to set out in their boat for the western shore of the Sea of Gennesaret. This miracle, like all of Christ’s miracles, served a purpose. It is easy to recall the details when we associate it with three aspects of the actions of the Miracle-worker: Jesus praying on the mountain, walking on the sea, and worshiped in the boat.
After the miracle of the loaves and fish Jesus made His disciples to go by boat to the other side of the lake. Why did He make them to go? Because of their love and growing admiration of Him, would they want to be separated from Him even for a moment? For them, perhaps no other day had been so illuminating and encouraging—now He sends them on their own to the other side of the Sea, and their buoyant day ended in a stormy night. They wanted to bask in the sun of the Master’s popularity, but He knew that there was more danger in the favor of the crowd than from the fury of the storm.
Praying on the Mountain
As for Jesus, after the frenzy of the people to make Him king, He resorted to the mountain for rest, solace, and communion with God. He perceived that the people were seeking to take Him by force and make Him king. He sought the solitude of prayer in the mountain for calmness of heart and to look at the clamor for His kingship in its right perspective. After those hours of prayer, He well knew that a path of earthly greatness would have led Him away from the cross, and in solitude on His knees the victory was won.
Going up to the mountain to pray also reminds us how deity and humanity were united in Jesus. On the afternoon of that day, we see Him as God, full of creative energy—at night we see Him a Man, standing in the need of prayer. No one can explain this blending of deity and humanity, but there it is. As the Creator, we adore Him, and as the Man at prayer—solitary, continuous, and special prayer—He is our example and we must emulate such an example.
Walking on the Sea
Out on the lake, the disciples were in a difficult situation because one of the sudden storms common to the area. Three hours after midnight they were still in the middle of the sea, about half way across, and, as Mark’s record says, “straining at the oars” (Mark 6:48). What made the conquest with the storms more distressing was the fact that Jesus was not with them, as on the other sea-storm occasion. The disciples were tossed and tormented by the waves, for the winds were “against them.” These types of winds are hard to face, but when accepted in the right spirit, go to develop character and add to the joy of reaching the harbor.
What those weary, frustrated rowers did not know was that Jesus, in His prayer retreat on the mountain slope, saw them in the darkest hour of their difficulty (Mark 6:48). Buffeted by those winds, the disciples were to learn of the Master’s divine sympathy and of His willingness to enter the struggle. Jesus came to the distressed rowers in an unexpected way—walking on the sea. He had seemed to neglect them, leaving them wrestling with the storm, until they were almost exhausted. Once He calmed a storm for them, why not now? But the One who had been praying for them and watching them was at hand—and they didn’t even recognize Him. Alarmed, they cried, “It is a ghost.” Because of the black night, the distressing storm, the somewhat frayed nerves, and the unexpectedness of Christ’s presence, they deemed the One they saw to be some apparition come to welcome them to the abode of death. Instead of a specter, it was the Savior. He sought to calm the cry of the fear of His own by the cheering call, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” How assuring such an inspiring voice must have been! Immediately their fears were dissipated.
Since the heart of the miracle was Jesus walking on the sea, we must give some consideration to such a direct act of control over natural law. How are we to explain this seeming contradiction of the known law of gravity? Actually, there was no contradiction nor suspension of the universal law of gravity, but the exercise of a stronger power. What happened that stormy night was the exercise of Christ’s omnipotence, as He, the Creator of seas and winds, exposed His authority over them. It was His will which allowed Him to walk above those waters. When the human mind contemplates the works and ways of God, the question arises, “How can these things be?” Such a question, however, is of unbelief, not of faith. With Him, all things are possible.
Convinced that the One who used the water as a walkway was indeed the Christ, impetuous Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, command me come to You on the water.” Jesus replied, “Come!” This was a permissive “Come,” containing an implicit pledge that Peter would not be swallowed up by the waters. Peter took to the waters and at first his faith sustained him as he “walked on the water.” He was a sharer with his Master in that act which overpowered nature.
Peter’s faith was deficient in depth—it was over-boldness—he began to sink. Jesus in His rebuke did not say, “Why did you come?” but, “Why did you doubt?” He was not questioned because he came out of the ship, but because he did not remain firm. Peter became afraid and cried out, “Lord, save me!” In the conflict between sight and faith, faith went out and fear came in. Although as a fisherman he was a strong swimmer, the waters began to overcome him. When he began to sink, Peter knew where to go. Jesus never leaves His own to sink. Poor Peter—after making a show of courage beyond the rest of the disciples, he must have been humbled. Christ’s rebuke was most tender, “Why did you doubt?”
Worshiped in the Boat
With Peter Jesus entered the boat and immediately the winds stopped and immediately the shore was reached. The astonishment of the disciples is indicated by Mark—“They were utterly astonished.” There was no need for their amazement, even though Jesus, after coming to them when it was dark, walked on the sea to their aid. They should have remembered the great miracle of the loaves and fish witnessed earlier in the day.
Once Jesus was settled in the boat and all was calm, the disciples had an even greater understanding of His greatness. They worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” This should always be the attitude of all delivered by Christ’s power. He accepted their confession of His deity as the Son of God and permitted their worship of Him.
The lesson of the miracle is instructive as well as comforting. Faith is tested by the storms of life, but struggling against whatever winds we can know He is always near. Tossed to and fro on the waves of a troublesome world, it may seem as though He has forgotten, but His eye is always on us.
Peter began to sink even though the waters were familiar waters and even though he was on a path permitted by Jesus. His Savior was not far away. Likewise, He is near us. If the darkness of the night and the fury of the storms are upon us and we are beginning to sink into despair and doubt, let our cry be, “Lord, save me!” (Psalm 46:1-3).
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.