A SAVIOR IN THE STORM
Have you ever gotten a pop quiz? It is the sudden, unexpected test which takes you by surprise. It isn't like the final exam for which you spend the previous night cramming. There is no warning. You walk into class and the professor says, "Take out a sheet of paper because you are going to be tested."
The disciples are about to get a pop quiz. They have just been through an incredible day. After sitting at the feet of Jesus and hearing Him teach the multitude, they watched Him feed over 5,000 people with five bagels and two sardines.
This wasn't done with mirrors. There was no trick photography involved. They felt the loaves of bread with their own hands as they passed them out to the multitude. And then they picked up twelve bags full of leftovers.
What next? What do you do after such an experience? Jesus followed this up by sending them away.
THE SAVIOR WHO SENDS
And immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the multitude away. 46 And after bidding them farewell, He departed to the mountain to pray. (Mark 6:45-46).
I want you to notice how this story starts. Jesus told His disciples to do something and they did it. They were doing what Jesus told them to do in the right place and at the right time and they still found themselves in the middle of a storm.
Are you in a storm right now? You may be thinking to yourself, “Lord, what did I do to deserve this?” It may be that you have done nothing wrong. It is possible to be completely obedient to the Lord and to still find yourself in the middle of a storm.
Bad things happen. And sometimes they happen even though you have done nothing wrong. Sometimes they happen simply so that God can draw near. The disciples had only just come from the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee that very morning. Now they are being sent back. No explanation is given. But as a result of their obedience, they will have an unexpected encounter with the Lord.
THE SAVIOR WHO COMES
And when it was evening, the boat was in the midst of the sea, and He was alone on the land.
And seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea (Mark 6:47-48a).
As we read this passage, it is familiar to us. The thing of which you ought to be aware is that it was familiar to the disciples, too. Back in Mark 4:37 they had been in the same boat on the same lake in a similar storm. They had come to this same spot on the lake and the boat had begun to sink. They woke up Jesus who had been sleeping in the back of the boat and He had stilled the storm.
Now they are here again. I imagine Peter saying, “I know what to do! We'll wake up Jesus and He can turn the storm off!” John answers, “Uhh Peter, we have a bit of trouble. We left Jesus back on the shore.” And to make matters worse, John's gospel tells us that they had taken the only boat.
What do you do when you are alone in the midst of the storm? You know that Jesus is aware of what you are going through. But look as you might, you can't see Him.
The passage seems to indicate that, although Jesus could see His disciples from His vantage point where He had gone to pray, they could not see Him. This situation continued until the fourth watch of the night.
I believe that there was something in the boat that should have comforted the disciples. There were 12 baskets of leftovers which bore mute testimony to the power and the compassion of God. When they looked at those 12 baskets, they should have realized that the God who provided for the needs of the multitudes would not fail to provide for them in the midst of this storm.
We are guilty of the same thing. We have been blessed by the Lord in an abundant way. But when the storm comes, we forget. That is why we are instructed to remind one another. The world says, “Drink and forget your troubles.” Jesus says, “Drink and remember.”
This storm was no accident. It started when the disciples got out into the middle of the Sea. It ended when Jesus got into the boat with the disciples. It had a script. It was there for a purpose and when that purpose was accomplished, the storm stopped.
Storms are not very pleasant. They can be frightening. They are loud and wet and uncomfortable. But your storm is not an accident of nature. God has ordained your storm. It is His storm. He has a reason for it, even if you do not know what that reason is. And when that reason has been fulfilled, then your storm will end.
Now I want to ask you a question. Why did Jesus come walking on the water? It is more than that He merely wanted to get to the other side. It is to teach the disciples something. But what is it?
It is not to teach the disciples how to walk on water. They never learn to walk on water after this and most people running around today claiming to be able to perform miracles have problems with this one.
Jesus walks on water to prove to the disciples that He can. He can always do the impossible. Why do they need to know this? Because He is going to send them out to do the impossible, too. He is going to commission these very ordinary men to go out and make disciples of all men in every land. Impossible! They are not natural born leaders. They are not even seminary graduates. But they will accomplish the impossible. With God, all things are possible.
Why do you need to know this? Because God has called you to do the impossible. He has called you to leave a clean life in a dirty world. He has called you to be a faithful witness of Him. He has called you to be Christ to the world. And He has shown you that this is possible because He is with you.
THE SAVIOR WHO IS RECOGNIZED
And seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.
But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were frightened. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.”
And He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were greatly astonished, 52 for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened. (Mark 6:48-52).
The Jews divided the night into three watches. The Romans divided it into four watches.
6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
9:00 p.m. to midnight
Midnight to 3:00 a.m.
3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.
The fact that Jesus came to them in the fourth watch means the disciples rowed against the storm all night. And right when it seemed as though things could get no worse, they did. Or at least, they seemed to.
At this point, I want you to notice something. The disciples had been straining at the oars all night. Evidently, they had been fighting the storm all night. But as bad as the storm was, the boat remained afloat in the storm throughout the entire night. There is a lesson here. It is that things are not always as bad as they seem.
A man was walking along a railroad track on a very dark night when he came to a bridge. He had gotten halfway across when he heard a train whistle up ahead. He quickened his pace, but soon could see the light of the oncoming locomotive approaching. With nowhere else to turn, he got down and lowered himself over the side, hanging onto the trestle as the train thundered past above him. However, after the train had passed, he found that he hadn’t the strength to pull himself back up. He called out for help, but there was no answer. He hung there all night, terrified that he might slip and fall into the yawning abyss below. As day broke, he looked down to see a drop of only six inches.
We are like that man. We look at our situation and it looks really bad. If we could only see it from God’s perspective, it would be nothing at all.
Jesus said that with faith we could move mountains. But the reverse is also true. Without faith, we tend to build our own mountains.
When the disciples finally did see Jesus, they did not recognize Him. I don't know what they were expecting. Angels to descend. The heavens to open. A divine proclamation to still the storm. Or perhaps just the boat to sink and for them to drown.
I don't know what they were expecting. But I do know that they were NOT expecting to see Jesus walking on the water. They knew that people cannot walk on water and they knew that Jesus was a person and they reasoned that this could not be Jesus. And since Jesus came in a way that they did not expect, they almost missed seeing the answer to their prayers. Unless we look and listen closely, we risk the same thing.
When I was about 12 years old, I had a paper route. The route took me along the back of one of the canals in South Miami and one rainy day, I spotted a baby duckling along the road. He was being stalked by a big old tomcat. I chased the cat away, but he didn’t go very far, figuring that as soon as I went my way he could come back and have some duckling stew. I decided that I would take the little duck home for his own safety. However, as I approached him, he scuttled across the way and tried to hide under some bushes. I wanted to tell him, “Little duckling, I’m not the problem; I’m the solution!”
Jesus must have felt the same way with the disciples. They saw Him in the middle of the storm and they called Him a ghost. They saw the glow but did not recognize God. They saw the light but missed the Lord. When we see small lights on the horizon of our storms, we often have the same reaction.
Because we look for the bonfire, we miss the candle. Because we expect the shout, we miss the whisper. But God often comes in the still, small voice. And the next time you are in the midst of your storm, stop and listen. He's closer than you think.