Sunday, June 18, 2023

Jesus walks on the Lake

Growing up in Wisconsin we would go “up north” twice a year at least, to a town called Minocqua. And we would spend hours boating, we would travel something they called up there the “chain of lakes.” We’d take my dads boat from lake Minocqua down through these thin passages, to lake Tomahawk, and we’d go to restaurants along the lakes, and then watch the fireworks from the boat. I loved it when I was a kid, but as I got older I started to dislike it and stopped wanting to go.

Jesus and the disciples have been very busy serving people. In fact, they’ve just served about 5,000 men, along with women and children, in the feeding of the five thousand.

Here at the salvation army, we serve about 350-500 meals a month. And we provide about 4 to 6 thousand lbs of produce and baked goods. So, it takes us about a year to serve 5000 people food. All this happens in a few hours.

I’m sure the disciples are all exhausted from this ministry work. They’re sweaty, they’re tired, and they need some rest.

So Jesus tells them to head across the lake.

It says in Mark 6:45-46, “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.”

First thing to notice here, is Jesus went up on a mountainside to pray. Notice, that Jesus is cited as praying many times in the scriptures. If the Son of God needs desperately to pray to God the Father, how much more do we need to pray?

Many of you don’t pray like you should. You think no one will notice. But God notices. Let’s pray right now, pray with me: “God, help us to pray even when we don’t realize how important it is. In Jesus name, amen.”

Jesus is up on this mountain nearby, talking to God. But he’s also observing the disciples. He can see them from far off. They are struggling to cross the lake.

It says in verses 47-48: “Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.”

They’ve been rowing on the lake for hours. And they aren’t making any progress. The sea of galilee isn’t that large. It’s 13 miles from north to south, and 7 miles from east to west, shaped like a pear.

But the wind is against them.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the wind was against you? I remember at one point in my life I had racked up some financial debt. I kept trying to pay off the bills, but the costs of daily items kept disrupting. It felt like taking two steps forward and one step back. They say pay the smallest bills or credit cards first, then move on to the bigger ones. But it seemed like I wasn’t making any progress.

Have you been in a situation where you felt stuck? A job where you felt you couldn’t make any progress? Or maybe you’ve got a mental health problem or physical health issue that you’ve been battling, and you feel like the disciples rowing on the lake, and not getting anywhere.

It affects you every day. You’ve prayed a hundred times about it. But the Lord hasn’t healed you.

These situations are not unique for us as Christians. They are the norm.

Remember, the disciples at this point were already tired. They had been working and serving and following Jesus. Often when we’re weakest, we take the hit. Something happens. Life happens. And we get upset.

But, we just keep rowing. Like the disciples. They keep rowing. And this goes on all night. Now, finally, it’s dawn. Jesus is praying, and watching, and now, Jesus takes action.

It says this verses 48b-50: “Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.”

A terrible storm is raging, we’re told in other gospels, though it’s not specifically mentioned in Mark. It’s starting to not look good. It’s starting to look dangerous. At it’s maximum depths the sea of galilee is 150 feet deep, though it’s average is 85 feet deep.

You know in all my years of boating the chain of lakes in Minocqua, or on lake Wausau, or our family trips to Canada to thunder bay, never have I ever seen someone walking on the lake. Unless it was during winter and frozen over.

No one has ever done that. Buddha never did that. Muhammad never did that. Moses never did that. No one has ever walked on the top of the waves. No one except Jesus.

The waves are crashing, the storm clouds brewing, the wind is blowing, and there comes Jesus the messiah, walking on the water toward his disciples.

They were so shocked they didn’t believe it was really Jesus. They thought it was a ghost. Their minds couldn’t comprehend what was happening in front of them. They’d been rowing all night, now it’s dawn, the sun is rising, and here comes Jesus, walking atop the waters.

What would you think in a moment like that? I might wonder if I was dreaming. I might wonder if I’d gone insane. I might wonder if everything I had ever believed was wrong. I might blink my eyes and say am I really seeing what I’m seeing. But it was plain and clear as day, there He is.

Next, in verses 50-52: “Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”

Three things to notice: One, take courage. Be courageous. Two, Jesus says it’s me. I’m the one. Three, don’t be afraid.

Good rule for life: Be courageous. Jesus is with you. Don’t be afraid.

Jesus enters the boat, and the storm subsides. Everything is OK. And they are able to get to land.

The disciples were decidedly amazed. Shocked. In awe. Completely astonished. They’ve been with this teacher, seen him do many great things, even to feed thousands with a few loaves of bread. But to see him walk on water, they are shocked to their core.

It says their hearts were hardened. Even after seeing Jesus feed five thousand people, they still didn’t really believe. They were hard hearted.

Could it be true of us today? Are we hard hearted? We’ve been changed by Jesus. We’re different than we used to be. But sometimes over the years, as life doesn’t change, it gets tough. We start to doubt. We start to lose faith. We start to want to give up. It’s tough to sit in struggles and difficulties for many years. It’s very tough. It hurts. After years we start to wonder, can God really help me? Will anything ever really change?

I’ve felt that way. When oh when Lord will anything change? When will my health improve? When will I find my destiny? When will I see my loved ones get saved? It’s tough. We’ve got to stay focused on Jesus in the struggles. And recognize that even now it’s not too late for Jesus to come walking on the waters of our struggle, and climb into our boat, and calm the storm around us, and give us hope and renewed faith.

Our scripture today concludes this way: verses 53-56: When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

They land at Gennesaret, and they went to bed, because they hadn’t slept all night. No, it doesn’t say that. They must be exhausted, they haven’t slept all night, but, they immediately encounter people who need Jesus. And Jesus immediately got to work again, healing people, healing the sick, and we even have mention of the woman with the bleeding issue, who touched the edge of Jesus cloak, and was healed. The mission continues, in a new area. They go from one side of the lake, doing ministry, teaching and feeding people then they go the other side of the lake, and continue ministry in the new region.

So we see on the surface what is happening here, Jesus rescues them from the storm, shows them that he is the messiah, he is the savior they need, he shows them that they can’t do it themselves, they can’t row hard enough, they can’t follow enough laws to make themselves right with God, they need Jesus to enter the boat, then the impossible becomes possible.

What’s the deeper message here for us today? It’s the gospel hidden in plain sight. I’ve noticed in the events of Jesus ministry we find the gospel again and again hidden in symbolic images.

The disciples rowing on the waters is us trying to live our lives. But we can’t live the way we’re supposed to, we’re sinners, we keep sinning, and the rowing is us trying to save ourselves by our own works.

So many people if you ask them if they’re going to heaven they say, “well I’m a pretty good person.” We try so hard to be good. But we can’t. We need a savior.

The storm is sin, and the demonic powers and authorities of the spiritual realm, seeking to harm us, the waters below is death, threatening to take us away. We keep rowing, but we can’t reach safety. So what happens? Do we row harder? Try harder? No, Jesus comes to us, and we cry out to Him, like the disciples cry out, and Jesus enters our boat. Jesus comes into our heart and becomes our savior. Our heart goes from hard to soft. He forgives us our sins, and changes us from within. So we are now able by His power, with Him within us, to reach the shore safely. And he calms the storm around us, he remove the sin, and defeats the demonic powers and authorities of the world system. And we find safety in them. Then we serve Him. Doing His will. Sharing his gospel. Jesus walking on the waters is the gospel.

Now let’s look at applications. How can we live what we just learned? How can we live differently? A few points.

1. First, There will be difficulties/trials in life (like the winds and storm on the sea)

2. Be ready to stand even when you feel drained

3. In the trials: a. Take courage

b. Jesus is with you

c. Don’t be afraid

4. Jesus can soften our hard heart (after long difficulties)

5. Jesus can still amaze you (don’t give up)

In conclusion, have a mindset that trials will occur in your life. Sometimes I stop and think to myself, “this is a trial.” This is God at work, purifying me as gold. God is doing something in this. Recognize that, and you’ll find peace in the trial and realize it’s God at work doing something wonderful in you.

But in those trials don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. .Even over years. I know that’s hard. Because you never know when Jesus might come walking on the water, get in the boat, and calm the storm in your life, and bring you safely to the shore. Don’t give up hope. Jesus walks on water, even today.