************ Sermon on Mark 6:50b ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 9, 2005
"Take Courage! It is I"
I The Storms of Life
A Jesus had just finished feeding the crowd of five thousand men with five loaves and two fish. Immediately after this, according to Mark, Jesus rather abruptly told the disciples to get into a boat and go ahead of Him to Bethsaida. So that is exactly what they did. According to John's Gospel this is what happened:
(Jn 6:16-18) When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, (17) where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. (18) A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.The disciples ended up spending a night on a storm-tossed sea with their Master somewhere on the shore. The wind was blowing. The waves were getting bigger and bigger. The boat was bouncing. Everyone of them was "straining at the oars" to keep the boat headed into the waves and across the lake. John tells us they rowed three or three and a half miles (Jn 6:19). For nine long hours they were rowing for all they were worth. That's a long night. That is a long time to be at the mercy of the wind and the waves, isn't it?!
I am sure the disciples were wondering, "Are we going to survive this storm? Where is Jesus? What are we doing here on the water during such a wind? Why did Jesus tell us to go to the other side while He stayed behind?"
B When I look over the congregation I like to look at the faces of the people in the pews. It always strikes me how in every pew I see a concern, a problem, a worry, a heart-ache, an illness. In every pew someone is struggling with what is going on in their life or in the life of a loved one. I am thinking of such things as:
an unfaithful spouse
a family fight
an empty crib
a stubborn or wayward child
addiction or alcoholism
an unwanted pregnancy
a struggle with pornography
a deep-rooted hatred
a broken relationship
a family member who has not confessed Christ
Why do I mention this? Because we are like the disciples in our Scripture reading. We face the winds and the waves and the storms of life just as they faced them out on the Sea of Galilee.
And many times, like the disciples, we wonder why we have to struggle. We question where Jesus is through all of this. We sometimes ask ourselves whether we are even going to survive.
C In our Scripture reading we are told how to respond to the storms of life. More specifically, we are told what the Lord does – as we face life's troubles and trials – that gives us the courage and the strength to keep on going.
As I said before, every pew has a problem. When I pray my way through our church directory there is hardly a home without some concern or another. Everyone of us, at some time or another, has to face the storms of life.
II The Great I Am is With Us
A By the end of the story the disciples are full of courage. They are no longer afraid.
Why? What happened?
Mark makes a point of telling us the obvious. In fact, he seems to belabor the point. He tells us that the boat "was in the middle of the lake, and he [that is, Jesus] was alone on the land." This is part of a pattern in the Gospel of Mark. Whenever the Master was absent from the disciples, they found themselves in distress. That was certainly the case here. And that is certainly the case with us too, isn't it?!
B Jesus saw the disciples straining at the oars. He knew their predicament. He knew all about the wind and the waves. He knew how long they had been out there. And, He knows everything each of us faces too. He knows your concerns, your trials, your heart-aches, your tears, your pains, your sorrows.
So He "went out to them, walking on the lake." He passed by them even as God passed by Moses at Mt. Sinai. He passed by them even as God passed by Elijah at Mt. Horeb. In both instances, if you remember, God revealed Himself. He revealed Himself as He really was. He revealed His glory, His power, His might, His transcendence. In passing by the disciples Jesus was also revealing Himself. And, He was assuring the disciples of His presence with them and by them in the storm that they were facing.
C Did you catch what Jesus said to the disciples? He said, "It is I." In these words we hear echoes of the great "I AM WHO I AM" of God to Moses.
This helps us to understand why Jesus was so quick to send the disciples across the lake while He dismissed the crowd. Every time Jesus did something spectacular the people wanted to proclaim Him as king. Jesus wanted nothing to do with this. That is why He sent both the disciples and the people away. He had just finished multiplying five loaves and two fish so that they fed five thousand men. The Gospel of John tells us that in response to this great miracle the crowds wanted to make Jesus king by force (Jn 6:14). But His was not to be an earthly throne in an earthly kingdom. His was not to be earthly power and might. His was not to be an earthly crown received by earthly means. Rather, His was to be a heavenly throne in the heavenly kingdom received by way of the cross and the grave. He is the King of the universe Who sits on the throne of God and NOT of man. He is the great I AM.
D Every time God, the great "I AM," appeared to man in the Old Testament He had to assure them that everything was okay, that they had nothing to fear. "Do not be afraid," He says over and over again. We see this when God appeared to Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, Gideon, and Isaiah (Gen 15:1; 21:17; 26:24; 28:17; Judges 6:23; Isaiah 6). This happened in the New Testament too with Zechariah (Lk 1:13) and Mary (Lk 1:30). The presence of the Lord awakes fear. And, the same thing happened when Jesus appeared before the disciples on the lake. They were full of fear. So Jesus said, "Take courage. Don't be afraid."
E Notice what happened after Jesus climbed into the boat. "The wind died down," writes Mark. Just like that, no more wind, no more waves, no more straining and fighting to keep the boat straight. Just like that, no more fear, no more danger, nothing to be afraid of.
I am sure you see the point. When the mighty God is with us, the I AM WHO I AM, the Lord and King of the universe, then there is nothing to fear. In the presence of He Who has power over seas and rivers, storms and winds, there is nothing to fear. He Who is able to multiply the loaves and the fish is more than able to provide security, safety, and comfort to His own so there is nothing for them to be afraid of. I think here of what the psalmist says:
(Ps 23:4) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.Do you see what the presence of the Lord, of the great I AM, does and means?
(Ps 27:1) The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?
(Ps 56:3-4) When I am afraid, I will trust in you. (4) In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
(Ps 118:6) The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
Topic: TrustAnd, as we face life's storms we too should not be disturbed because the I AM WHO I AM cares for us.
Subtopic: In God
Years ago a military officer and his wife were aboard a ship that was caught in a raging ocean storm. Seeing the frantic look in her eyes, the man tried unsuccessfully to remove her fears. Suddenly she grasped his sleeve and cried, "How can you be so calm?" He stepped back a few feet and drew his sword. Pointing it at her heart, he said, "Are you afraid of this?" Without hesitation she answered, "Of course not!" "Why not?" he inquired. "Because it's in your hand, and you love me too much to hurt me." To this he replied, "I know the One who holds the winds and the waters in the hollow of His hand, and He will surely care for us!" The officer was not disturbed because he had put his trust in the Lord.
III Jesus Prays
A I already indicated that the disciples spent nine hours on the Sea before Jesus came to them. For nine long hours they were enduring the strength of the wind and the waves. That's a long time.
What was Jesus doing during those nine hours? And, what does He do while we too endure the storms of life? When we read our Scripture passage carefully we notice that He was praying. Jesus was not with the disciples upon the sea because He had gone into the mountains in order to pray.
B Whenever Jesus faced a crisis of some sort in His ministry He spent time in prayer. He did this after the excitement of healing on the Sabbath in Capernaum (Mk 1:35-39). He did this after the miracle of the loaves and fish (Mk 6:45f). He did this after the Last Supper as He awaited His betrayal by Judas (Mk 14:26-42).
C What did and what does Jesus pray about? When we study Jesus' prayer as recorded by the Gospel of John (Jn 17) we see that Jesus prayed for Himself – that He would not fall into temptation. We see that He prayed for His disciples – that they would remain faithful during trials and storms. We see that He prayed for all believers – that they would be one and see His glory.
D The crowds were dismissed and the disciples were sent away and Jesus began to pray. And, when the disciples were fighting for their very lives Jesus kept right on praying. He heard their cries. He knew the danger they were in. And, He kept on praying.
Does this mean He was cold and indifferent to their situation? Does this mean He did not care for them?
Of course not! Prayer was and is part of the ministry of Christ on behalf of His own as they face the storms of life. Jesus prays for us right now, this very moment. I think here of what the book of Hebrews says:
(Heb 7:24-25) but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. (25) Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Do you realize what this tells us? This tells us that Jesus is praying for us while we are in the storms of life. And, we know that the Father always listen to the perfect prayers of the Son He loves.
IV In His Time
A One last point. Why do you think Jesus waited nine hours to go to the disciples? Why didn't He go, for instance, after the second or third hour? The Bible doesn't tell us specifically. But we do know that God only does what is best for His children.
B Sometimes He waits with us too. Why does He wait until all the money is gone? Why does He wait until there is no hope for a cure? Why does He wait until the other side of death? Why does He wait until after the divorce or miscarriage? We don't know. The Bible doesn't tell us. But we do know that God is a God of perfect timing. He waits until just the right time so that we can learn and grow and come closer to Him.
C We see this with the Israelites in Egypt. Why did God wait for 300 years before taking His people out of Egypt? He waited until they cried long enough and loud enough. He waited until they realized their only hope was the Lord. He waited until just the right moment.
We also see this with the Israelites in the wilderness. I read somewhere that the direct route from Egypt to Palestine would take only eleven days by foot. But God took the Israelites the long way around, a way which took over 40 years. Why did He do that? We are given a partial answer in Deuteronomy:
(Deut 8:2-5) Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. (3) He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (4) Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. (5) Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.God waits until just the right moment because God is disciplining us. He is improving us. He is making us more and more into His image and likeness. God waits because He knows it is best for us that he does.
There are so many storms in life. But we have this comfort: the great I AM is with us; He prays for us; and He always comes to us at the time that is best for us.
Knowing this, you and I should be able to face any and every storm of life.
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