Title: The training through the storm
Scriptures to Read: Mark 6:47–52; Matthew 14:24–33; John 6:16–21
In this section we have the fifth of John’s seven signs. And as we will see, this is a lesson for the disciples about dependence on the Messiah.
The situation of the disciples [John 6:16-18; Mark 6:47-48; Matthew 14:24]
1. They started to cross the sea when evening came, that is at about sunset.
2. John notes that it was already dark. And Matthew says they were a long distance from land.
3. Then a storm suddenly blew up, as is typical of this sea. And the boat is being battered by the waves.
4. Mark and Matthew both record that it was now the fourth watch of the night. That would be between 3 and 6 in the morning. They set out in the first watch. And a watch is 3 hours long. So, if they are now in the fourth watch they have been on the sea for about 9 hours.
5. Mark says that Jesus saw them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them.
Jesus comes, walking on the water
Now Mark (v.48), says that seeing them in this situation, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass them by. Notice that this is His response to their impossible situation and urgent need of help. He intends to come to them, walking on the sea, and to pass them by. Why, do you suppose, He intended to pass them by? Surely He meant to be an encouragement and a help to them. Remember, He is teaching them and training them for the ministry that lies ahead for them after Pentecost. He has already shown them, in an earlier storm, that He has power over the winds and the waves. And they have just come from the feeding of the five thousand, where He demonstrated to them that He will provide for them, and He taught them that they will have a future ministry where they are responsible to feed the people what He provides for them. The lesson He is teaching them here is to depend on the Messiah in the face of impossible circumstances.
The Disciples’ response [Mark 6:49-50; Matt. 14:28-31]
They didn’t recognize Him and they thought they were seeing a ghost and they were terrified. So Jesus tells them, “take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, in faith he asked permission to duplicate the miracle. And Jesus said to him, “Come!” And he was able to get out of the boat and he was walking on the water. But, when he took his eyes off the Lord and looked at the wind and the waves he began to sink. He cried out to the Lord, “Lord, save me!” And Jesus did.
What is the lesson here for Peter? Jesus’ question, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” gives us a clue. As long as Peter was believing Jesus, he was able to obey Him and walk on the water. But when he began to focus on the wind and the waves he began to doubt he began to sink. It was his believing Jesus that enabled him to do the impossible. So one aspect of the lesson, then, is that he must not only start out in faith, he must also continue in faith and dependence on Him. Now Jesus commanded Peter to come to Him, but He did not remove the wind and the waves. Not only was Peter going to do what was ordinarily impossible, but the fearsome wind and waves remained a constant distraction to his faith. The lesson here, both for Peter and for us today, is that we can depend on Him to enable us to obey His command regardless of the circumstances as they appear from our perspective. Our focus needs to be on the Lord and not on the circumstances.
Good theology but poor application
Matthew records that when Jesus got into the boat and the wind stopped they worshiped him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Notice that they have good theology. They recognize that Jesus is the Messianic Son of God. However, they have not yet learned to apply that theology in their daily living.