This passage covers the aftermath of Jesus' miraculous feeding of the five thousand. It brings up several questions: Why, when He had just given one more proof of His deity, did Jesus seek prayerful solitude? Why did He not only pull the disciples away from the scene but direct them into a fierce storm? And why, when Jesus walked to them on the water, did it appear that He was going to pass them by?
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If you have not been with us, the gospel of John has been something we've been looking at. John is being very, very intentional about introducing us to specific discourses, specific claims and specific actions that Jesus himself was a part of so you might believe he is the Son of God, and in believing, have all the life he intends for you.
I want to say this. Belief in the gospel of John is never just mere intellectual ascent. There are way too many of us who have this idea that belief in God is this. "Well, I'm not an atheist, so I believe in God. I'm not a Muslim, so I'm a Christian. I'm not a Buddhist. I'm a Christian." There are many Americans (I'm going to show you in just a second) who have a belief that they are Christian. In other words, they are self-proclaimed Christians who have not come to believe, apparently, the way the Bible talks about belief.
In the gospel of John, almost 100 times the word believe is used, and every time it's used, it's not talking about mere intellectual ascent. It's not about an answer you would circle on a multiple-choice test. It is about entrusting, committing, following, and submitting to Jesus as the visible image of the invisible God. In other words, it's not enough to just say, "I'm familiar with this story, and I'm okay with it," or "I believe in it." That's not biblical belief.
Belief in John, belief in the Scriptures, is giving yourself to Christ in such a way that being reunited to God through his provision for you, you no longer lean on your own understanding, but in all your ways, you begin to acknowledge him. You become his disciple. You learn of him. You want to be conformed into his image.
John is using seven very specific signs. We're going to look at the fifth sign, the fifth miracle that Jesus gave that he is not just a mere man, he's not just a great prophet. He is the visible image of God. All the fullness of deity dwells in him in bodily form. He was with God in the beginning. He was God. He is part of the triune nature of God that we've already sung about this morning. That's what the gospel of John is trying to get across. Don't just be okay with the story of Jesus. Know who Jesus is.
We pick John back up in chapter 6 here at a very strategic place. We just got through looking at the feeding of the 5,000. It is a significant miracle. It's such a significant miracle that apart from the resurrection event itself, it's the only sign that is recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It's the first miracle that Jesus does through his disciples, that they participate with him, and it creates quite a buzz.
What you're going to find out is that this miracle, and then in three of the four gospels, the story that follows right after it, the story of Jesus walking on the water to them as they toil in a storm, are absolutely essential stories for those of us who have come to believe in Jesus through the gospel of John and other Scripture that God has preserved for us.
These specific miracles are huge to our understand of what is going on and what God wants us to do. The feeding of the 5,000. The basic message we studied when we were together here is that what you need for the multitudes, those who are scattered like sheep without a shepherd, those who are hungry and in need of provision, is that you care for them. Don't send them away to somebody else.
"Church, you are the means through which provision from me will come to them. What you need from them," Jesus says, "you get from me." He beat that lesson into the disciples' hearts. He had compassion on people who did not know him, and he used those who knew him to bring life to them, sustenance to them.
The people responded to that sustenance in an interesting way. It says in verse 15 of John 6 that they were so smitten by this thing that Christ had just done that they came to make him king by forcing him to be the deliverer that they'd always looked for. What's going on here in John is simply this.
In fact, if you go back up earlier in John 6, you'll see that the multitudes came to him in the wilderness. Why? They had seen his miraculous signs that he'd already done. The legend of who Christ was and the way he confronted the establishment of the day and did not bow to anybody, and the power that was on this man was very attractive to them.
It says they came to him in the wilderness, and they were trying to perceive, "Is this the guy? Is this the prophet that was to come? The one Moses said we should listen to, the one who is the Messiah, the one who would deliver us?" So what does Jesus do with them in the wilderness? He gives them bread that did not exist (just like Moses).
So they're saying, "Oh my goodness. We thought you were this guy. Now you've given us bread and fed us just like Moses did. Moses was the one who was going to lead us to the place of promise, Moses was the one who delivered us from all the oppression," and at the end of Jesus and the disciples doing this, they were ready to make him king. But watch what Jesus does.
He says, "I'm not going to be that kind of king for you. I did not come to be a baker who satisfies the cravings of your belly." In fact, what you're going to find out is next week when I pick this back up, Jesus goes into a long explanation about what the feeding of 5,000 really was. He did not come to give them bread for their belly. He came because he is the Bread of Life who will satisfy their souls.
Most folks just want a god who is going to bring them temporary blessing. Maybe some assurance at the grave, but American Christianity is this idea. "Hey, follow God, and he'll make your life better. You'll wife will get better looking, you'll lose 10 pounds, and your kids will obey you. Come follow Jesus." What wouldn't you? That's kind of the way he's advertised.
This miracle and the one we're going to study today is so essential to us because the truth is God expects you to do that which you cannot do unless you know Christ and depend on him, which is care for others. Secondly, you need to know in your effort to care for others, until that day when Christ comes and eradicates all sin and brings all judgment and does away with all darkness and death and every wind and every storm, you are going to have trouble.
Let me just share with you an interesting study I came across this week. Last week was 9/11, so a lot of Americans were asking themselves the question, "What's it mean to be an American? What's the responsibility of an American?" So a guy did a study, and he said, "What's it mean to be a Christian, and what's the responsibility of being a Christian?" He came across some rather interesting stuff. I going to share with you because it's very relevant to this text where these people wanted to make him king because they perceived that this guy was the prophet who was to come.
George Barna. The title of his survey was, "Self-Described Christians Dominate America but Wrestle with Four Aspects of Spiritual Depth." In other words, a large part of America (as much as 80 percent) describe themselves as Christian, as Christ-followers. "He's my King." But they have no real understanding of biblical belief.
It explains why the church is in the condition that it is. I want to warn you today that Jesus is not here to be, as one person said, a bellhop for your belly, to make your circumstances all you want them to be, but he is here to satisfy your soul, and to give you what is that you are looking for, which is a reconciliation to the God who created you, who separates you from him, has brought death and despair and confusion into your life.
The four areas where Barna observes that they wrestle with spiritual depth… Guess what they are. Commitment, repentance, appropriate activity and what it means, and community. He said 80 percent of self-professed (that's a very important caveat) believers say that a personal relationship to Christ is important to them, but less than 1 out of 5 of them say, "I am completely dependent upon God." The whole purpose of that John 6 miracle is to show the disciples, "You have to be dependent upon me."
Less than 1 out of 5 is committed to increasing their own spiritual development. Yet, they say, "He's my King." Repentance. This is really interesting. While 60 percent of self-professed Christians have confessed some sin to God recently, less than 3 percent (3 out of 100) of folks who say they're believers have lived what is a biblically repentant life, which means they've surrendered control of their life to God, they submit to his will, and they devote themselves to loving and serving God and other people.
This is biblical repentance. Repentance is a change of understanding that leads to a change of action. It's a military term. I'm going this way focused on self, understanding, and pleasure, and I go, "No, it's not about me." There's an about-face where I go, "I'm going to learn to love God and love others. I'm not going to do what seems right to me.
I'm now going to ask myself, "What does God want for me? What does he say I should do? How does he say I should work through conflict? How does he say I should invest the money God has given me? How does he say I should spend my time? What's he say I should do with my heart? How does he say I should take this thought captive to obedience to him?" Only 3 out of 100 believers live with a repentant mindset.
Activity. About 60 percent of believers have done religious things in the last month, like go to church or pray at some point or have looked at their Bible. But again, an incredibly small minority. Less than 1 out of 10 have actively shared their faith with another. Jesus said, "If you want to follow me, I will make you fishers of men." Jesus said, "Go and make disciples."
In other words, if you're not actively telling other people about who Christ is, saying what all the disciples did in Scripture, which is, "Come and see. Come and see." You must not have gotten a full glimpse of who he is. You think that Christian activity is attendance and fleeting prayers and maybe just cursory Bible reading but not meditation in Scripture, solitude, repentant acts.
Lastly, biblical community. What's really amazing is that 1 out of 5 self-professed believers believe that being committed to Christ and being committed to spiritual maturity requires a vital connection to any kind of community. They think, "It's just me and Jesus all alone." Jesus says, "No, no, no. Don't forsake your own assembling together as is the habit of some. I'm calling you to be a part of a body."
What's even more amazing is of those who do want to be in community, about a third of them are the only ones who in the last three months have shared with another believer where they are struggling in their following after Christ. What's that tell you? It explains a lot about why the church is the way that it is. There are a lot of people who are trying to make Jesus king by force. In other words, we are forcing him to be something he never said he was going to be. He is not here for our benefit and for us to modify him into the kind of savior that we want. He is sovereign.
What you're going to find out is he's very wary of people who come to him and approve him on a popular level. In fact, he goes so far as to say, "Be aware, people who are comfortable professing my name, that if you don't really know who I am, I will say one day to you, 'Depart from me. You never knew me.'"
There are a bunch of folks, thousands of them, who like what Jesus just did for them circumstantially. They said, "I'm in, and I'm going to make you my king. Jesus says, "No, you're not. Not on these terms." Next week, I'm going to walk you through the reason Jesus fed them. It was to reveal this is no ordinary man. "I'm not just a good rabbi. I am very God of very God. I am greater than Moses, and I'm, therefore, not going to let you make me king and run an insurrection against Herod and Caesar.
There is another person who keeps you captive. It is sin and death, and I will come to set you free from that." It's interesting too what Jesus did when he was being told that he could be great in the eyes of people. When that happened to him, and he was tempted in the wilderness, he went to Scripture and meditated on Scripture. He said, "No, I'm not going to get the crown without the cross. I came here to another part of my Father's work. This is another temptation."
What's Christ do? He withdraws to a lonely place to meditate. When you are having blessing coming your way and when you have people who are speaking well of you, beware. If you don't respond the way Christ did with meditation on Scripture and getting alone to get your mind right with God, you will be caught up in the praise of men.
In fact, you might want to write down right here in your Bible, Proverbs 27:21. I'm going to read you this text in just a minute, but you're going to find out that Jesus would not let his disciples be around that buzz. When he saw that they wanted him to be king, he told his disciples, "You get in that boat, and you get out of here." They were not ready for that test. Secondly, he wanted to prepare them for a test that was still to come.
Proverbs 27:21 says this. "The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold, And a man is tested by the praise accorded him." Jesus is being called king. "Jesus, we'll make you our leader right now." He said, "No because I'm your leader, I have to set you free from sin and death. That's going to involve a cross. I will go to that cross I'm not here to get you out of the oppression of Rome. I am here to set you free from the oppression of sin and self. So he withdrew because they did not recognize him for who he was.
What's interesting is these disciples who participated in this miracle, he now sends out onto the Sea of Galilee, and he tells them to go, and then he throws them into a storm. This is an amazing Sunday for me to be doing this because I, during the first service, got a message that one of my dear friends who has had storms thrown her way one after another, had one of the most violent storms that could possibly happen to you happen just this morning.
I'm going to give you information on my dear friend, Ann Piper, who's part of our staff here, and share with you her story, and say, "This is the perfect text for Ann." If you're somebody who's a member of the church and wants to be used by God to minister to the world, you need to know something. Sometimes, things are going to be going well, the wind is going to be at your back, and all of a sudden, the wind will turn.
It will be in your face, and you will be straining at the oars in the middle of darkness, and you'll wonder, "This God who I now, as a follower and disciple of his, who seeks to walk faithfully as he commanded me, when it is an overwhelming scenario and I think death is all around me, is he good, is he aware, and what should I make of it?" Well, stay tuned. Let's read John 6:15-21 real quick. This is what it says.
"So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum.
It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. But He said to them, 'It is I; do not be afraid.' So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going." Let me pray again.
Father, we don't want to be people who just believe in a way that is just convenient. We don't want to be people who believe you are here just to satisfy our stomachs. We want to see you in all the fullness of who you are, that you are the Bread of Life who has come to satisfy our souls. We want to see you not as baker and distributor but as Lord and Savior.
I pray, Father, that we would catch the fullness of what you intend for us in this text today, that we, as a church that understands that you have called down to care for the multitudes, disciples of yours, that in caring for others and in serving you until such a day when you come and deal with all the darkness and rogue winds around us, that we may have storms, but we should not give in, be wary, or worst of all, think that you have forgotten us. May we not be dismayed but continue to labor all the more, until that day comes when we can see you in all your glory. Teach us from this text. In Christ's name, amen.
I mentioned to you that the masses wanted to make Jesus king. He got rid of his disciples right away. They were not ready for the test of popularity. I mentioned to you when things are going well, beware, because you can start to go, "I want to do whatever I have to do to keep things going this direction." That should never be your mindset.
We've said already in here. We're not going to change the message of the gospel in order to keep people excited about Watermark and filling up our facility. We're going to preach the gospel of Christ. We're going to teach all the Scripture. We're going to teach it in a loving and gentle way, but we're going to teach the full counsel of God, and if that becomes so culturally irresponsible and unpopular that we cannot sustain a facility of this size to gather and equip and train and encourage and remind people, then we will let go of this building.
We don't care about this building. We care about our King, and we want to serve him. We are grateful that right now this building is being used by many to bring others that they might find who the Bread of Life is, but be aware that popularity is a dangerous test. Christ said, "You aren't ready for it."
Can you imagine? These guys left everything to follow him. He had already had major confrontations with the authorities. He had been threatened. Now, all of sudden, the people say, "You're the guy. If your guy is the president, there's a good chance you're going to be on the cabinet." So they were all about that. Yet Jesus sent them away. Watch this. He sent them away because they weren't ready for the test of popularity and because they needed to be ready for future tests that were to come. They fed 5,000, and then a storm comes.
Let me take you real quick to Acts 4. You tell me if you don't think the disciples might have gone back to the story that we just read. See if you can find some similarities, and see if you can think of why Jesus did this right after this great event. This is Acts 4. It's Peter and John and the other disciples, the guys who were in the boat.
"As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening."
They were then later beaten and told not to do what Christ told them to do. Watch this. It says, "But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand." Interesting, isn't it? There were 5,000 men who had heard the message of Christ, the Bread of Life. They had responded to it. They said, "Yes, Jesus is what we're looking for to satisfy our souls." Then right after that, here comes a storm (imprisonment, beating, and threats).
While they were in that jail cell, don't you think Peter and John said, "Hey, listen. Remember what happened that other time? He was with us. He was interceding for us. He was aware of us. When the storms hit us, we should not relent. We know that he is in our midst, he is working in us and through us. Let us not grow weary. He is sovereign over the waves. He is sovereign over death. He has sent his Spirit to us, just like he said he would. The Spirit, he has told us, intercedes for us. Let's keep persevering."
Church, this is the message for you. The Scripture says, "All those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." You're going to be hit by a rogue wind. You could be my sweet friend, Ann Piper, faithfully serving the Lord, married lovingly to her husband, has two boys (one 11 and one 10). Her second is a special-needs kid. Three weeks ago, she goes in because she's having some stomach issues. A normal stomach exam and flu symptoms turn out to be cancerous. They remove her kidney to deal with her cancer.
Fast forward three weeks to last night, her air conditioner breaks in her house her husband says to her, "I'm going to go in that other room where we have the wall unit." He walks into the other room where there's a wall unit. She's recovering from cancer surgery. She has, like I said, the difficulties with her own children in her house. Her husband goes in the other room, has a seizure, and this morning, Ann walks in there, and he is deceased.
What are you going to do if you're Ann Piper? You say, "God, I'm just trying to serve you. I'm just trying to be out there," and there is nobody who loves her friends and shares Christ in this body as much as Ann Piper does. Every doctor, every nurse, every friend prior to that… Numerous rocks in this pile are because Ann Piper is engaged with friends who she grew up with right here in our little community, loving them, saying, "Come and see. Come and see." She is a discipler and follower of Christ, and she has been hit with some significant rogue winds. Where is Jesus?
A lot of folks go, "That's not the king I'm going to serve if he's going to do me like that." I'm going to tell you something. Christ has this text in here for you because there are going to be rogue winds. You're going along, the wind's at your back, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it says in Mark when he tells this story, you're straining at the oars. The wind is against you.
Your son has autism. Your kidney has cancer. Your husband is dead. Where is your God? I'll tell you where he is. He is there, and he is interceding for you. Let me give you a couple of things. I'm going to give you some bullet points. I'm going to bounce and show you stuff from Mark and the parallel story, but we're going to focus on this text because you need to know this.
1 . Until Jesus rattles us at the core of our competency, we don't learn to depend on him as completely as we should. Jesus sent away these guys who were in the boat. They might've gone, "We need Jesus when there's a hungry multitude. We need Jesus when there are demons. We need Jesus when there are diseases. But right here on the lake, he needs us. We're professional fishermen. We live on this lake. We've grown up on this lake."
What happened is he had to take these guys to know, "You need to know you need me always." A little bit later in John 15, he said, "I'm the vine. You're the branches. Apart from me, you can do nothing. You're going to bear no fruit." What he does, and he always does this, is he takes his followers and he puts them in the area of their greatest competency, and he shows them, "You are going to be overwhelmed. This about Christ in you, the hope of glory, not what you can do." They don't just need it where there are demons and diseases. The need it right there on the sea.
I've been on the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is like being in a bowl surrounded by mountains. At night, it is pitch black. I've looked out a hotel window over the Sea of Galilee, and it looks like you're looking into space. It's a black hole. What happens is at night that hot air rises, and there are channels of winds that will come in.
Violent storms will come up out of nowhere. There will be, in this little sea that is 7 miles by 14 miles wide, pitches of waves 12 to 14 feet high, and even the most competent fisherman in the world runs for that shore. Watch this. Jesus didn't just send them away from popularity. He sent them into persecution. That gets to my second point.
2 . Not only do you need to be aware that you need Christ in everything, but that sometimes, when trouble comes, it's not just going to be just because you brought it on yourself but because God is working to bring it about in you. Being a friend of Jesus does not make you exempt from the storms of life. In fact, you have to learn to love a God who not only delivers us from storms but specifically delivers us through storms. It can look like God is opposing us when all we're doing is seeking to obey him.
You went in. You're just trying to use the help that he's given you to serve him. You go in for your annual mammogram and…Boom!…you're fighting for your life. You're using your resources to give generously to other people and…Boom!…the economy flips this thing and you have nothing. You're like, "What gives God?"
He goes, "I don't need you to distribute money. While you have money, I gave it to you not to up your standard of living but to up your standard of giving. You can be sure of that, but I don't need youto be the means to which that money goes out." While it's there, you are to do that as a part of God's goodness in your life, that he might accomplish his purposes and allow you the privilege of participating with him, but he never promised that you would be that vessel through which he could that.
Just do it while you can. He never promised you your kids would be healthy throughout your life. He never promised you that you would have a long life. He would just promise you that he would be with you and not forsake you. Always.
There's an old classic story that's told way too often by preachers, and I'm now adding to the problem, about a guy who's a pastor living on the East Coast, and he was going to make his way across to the West Coast. Instead of flying, he goes down to the Amtrak station to buy a train ticket. The lady says, "What are you doing?" He goes, "I'm going to the West Coast." She goes, "Why aren't you going to fly?"
He says, "Because I'm scared to death of flying. I have no desire to get up in the air. People die in airplanes." The lady says, "I know who you are. You're a pastor. You're supposed to believe that God is your protector and your shield. The Bible says that he is with you always." The guy says, "No, it doesn't. It says, 'Low, I will be with you always.'"
So bad. That's John Madden by the way. That's his theology. That's why there's the Madden Cruiser. He won't fly. The Bible doesn't say, "Low, I will be with you always." He says, "Listen, I'm going to be with you always, even at the end of the age." But it can sometimes feel like he isn't with you. You need to know something. When those storms come, and when they hit you, God might be up to something more than you can imagine.
3 . Storms are more often a result of God's perfect plan than they are a result of God's perfect judgment. Sometimes storms do come because of our disobedience. Think of Jonah. Jonah has a significant problem with a storm because of his disobedience. Sometimes, your marriage is disintegrated because you have been a self-willed, self-absorbed beast.
Sometimes you have leveraged way up, betting on the come, and now you are in bondage to debt. Sometimes, you have made consistent choices to play with sin, and it's grown into an addiction that has brought ruin into your life, and there are storms all around you. God can take what you intended for evil and use for good.
He doesn't promise he's going to pluck you out of that storm in a way that won't have consequence, but he'll say, "I'm not done with you. I don't care what you've been doing. As soon as you're ready to return to me, I'll begin to take what you intended for evil and use for good." It might be a long journey back of rebuilding trust with that spouse who, after 20 years of being treated with indifference, believes that you're not just now responding to threats and decrees.
But don't grow weary in doing good. In due time, you'll reap if you don't grow weary. If nothing else, you'll hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant," when you come to your senses. Sometimes storms do come because of our disobedience (see Jonah). Sometimes storms come because we do obey (see John 6). The only reason these guys were in a storm… They could've been in the cabinet of the king, and Jesus says, "You go get in that boat, and you go to Capernaum." They are now straining at the oars.
James 1:2-4 says this. God's up to something. God's primary purpose in all of our lives is to produce in us a supernatural understanding and strength that the rest of the world marvels at when it sees us. That's why he says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance."
In other words, you're not going to fall down the first time you're persecuted and thrown in jail. The first time you become unpopular or people tell you're crazy for being so generous in the way that you give, you're not going to start to go, "You're right." The next time people start to tell you that you need to save money a certain way because of the economy and not give or not share your faith because it's just not politically correct anymore.
When you start to see God show up and be faithful because you've tested his goodness before, it will produce in you a perfect result that you might be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. So God puts them through this test. He's up to something. This is not so much a result in this moment of their being judged as it is God's perfect plan. "I'm going to teach you something about me." Why? Because the disciples still didn't know who he was, and he was teaching them.
This is really interesting. When Mark tells this story in chapter 6, it says in verse 48, " Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He [Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea…" Now watch this part. "…and He intended to pass by them." What the…? Right?
Along the way here, a bunch of folks have wrestled with, "What do you mean? Did he not see them? Was he jacking with them, like 'Hey, dudes'?" No. I want to tell you what I think was going on here. This is a very theological comment. Two other times in Scripture does this phrase, "pass by," show up.
One is in 1 Kings 19. Guess when it happened? When a servant of the Lord was overwhelmed by his circumstance. He was depressed. It was Elijah, and the world had turned against him. All the prophets of Baal had said, "This is the enemy." The king said, "This is the enemy," and God told Elijah, "You get in that cave, and I'm going to pass by," and God showed him his glory.
The other one is in Exodus 34, where Moses was overwhelmed with the responsibility of leading the people who were rebellious and who were not listening, and Moses didn't know what to do. God said, "Moses, I'm going to pass by you. I'm going to show you my glory. I'm going to tell you who is with you," and he revealed himself to him.
What do you think Jesus is doing to these professional fishermen? "Hey guys, I know you know I can heal. I know you've heard me teach, but you don't know who I am yet. You haven't fully got your arms around the fact that Jehovah God is your leader." If you were a fisherman, Psalm 107. If you were a Jew, in fact, you knew Psalm 107. Let me read you this little bit of Psalm 107. Psalm 107 is a text that, in verses 23 down through 30, says this.
*"Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters; they have seen the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep. For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; their soul melted away in their misery. *
They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still…" If you were a fisherman, you knew this text. "So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, so He guided them to their desired haven."
The Scripture says that when Jesus passed by them, they saw him, and they were really, really afraid because they saw the fullness of deity. The go, "Who is this that he walks on the waves?" There's a reason he comes. Because natural circumstances and forces do not intimidate him. Evil and chance are not in control. He knows exactly what's going on. His purpose in bringing them into the storm was to teach them who he was.
Isn't that what God does? Do you think Ann Piper is learning about the sufficiency of Jesus Christ right now in a way that you only can when you're healing from surgery to remove cancer from your body, and your husband, your warrior and co-shepherd of your children, is gone, and your A/C is broken. I bet you Ann found something out about the sufficiency of Christ. There's a reason her house is filled with people from this body right now as those hands and feet go to work and love her for seasons to come.
She's going to see the goodness of power of God in a way that in your competency and comfort you just cannot see. It's been true in my life. When God strips me of things, I have nothing to do but look to him, and I've seen him to be faithful. He has shown me that the favor of men is not where satisfaction is found, so he has prepared me to be a leader by letting my heart be broken by the false promises of this world.
He's taken away things that aren't necessarily, in and of themselves, wrong, but when they're wrong, and they become idols in your life, and they become your gods, he took away through injury and a gross lack of talent. "Sports aren't going to be where you find your significance, Wagner. There are other ways." I've seen him to be sufficient. But it's always through storms that I see him.
Now, watch this. Christ (or God) is aware of our needs, even when we are not aware of his awareness of our circumstance. Would it bother you if I told you Ann might have (in her heart) gone, "Lord, what in the world"? Would it bother you if you had been in that little boat and you heard Peter and John go, "What's he doing sending us out here like this? He knew the storm was coming. That's why he stayed behind"?
No. He stayed behind because he wanted you to know something. There's going to be a day when he's not going to be with you, and you need to know he is with you. He was up praying with them. It says, "He was watching them. That lantern in that boat, and that storm that rose up. It says he was aware of them. When he saw them straining, when the wind was against them, at the very dead of darkness, he shows up.
At first, they thought it was a ghost because they couldn't even imagine what it was. They had lost all faith and all perspective. But Jesus was right there with them. He says to them, "E _gō eimi…" which means I am. You'll find these statements all through John. He wasn't declaring necessarily right there like in all of the other, "I am," statements of John in similar ways. He said, "E__ gō eimi._ I am, boys. It is the name of God. You need to know who I am, and you need to know I love you, and I am sovereign. Don't be afraid. My glory is going to pass by you."
What would you do if you saw somebody walking on the water? Last night, I was driving home late. I turned a corner. I saw a guy walk in the middle of the street without his shirt on. It was dark, and I just barely caught a glimpse. It was like Night of the Living Dead. He was just kind of doing this in the middle of the street. I about went through the roof. Like, Whoa!
I can't imagine being dark in the middle of the storm and watching a guy come by me walking on the water. I'm like, "Oh my goodness." How comforting to hear, "Hey, let me tell you who walks on the waters. A sovereign God. Let me tell you, I'm your friend, and I love you. You have to recognize me for who I am, and you'd better invite me into your boat, brother."
When you get him in the boat, he says, "Be still," and the wind and the waves listen to him. I have to go, "I am so glad you are here." That's what he says. But what about those moments before he shows up? I just want to let you know something. This is what Isaiah 43 says. Do you think I'm going to share this with Ann in just a little bit? Isaiah 43:1-3:
" But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
I'm going to say, "Ann, that's who he is." I'm going to teach her, I'm going to remind her… Probably not today. Today I'm just going with her and weep and cry and pray, but there's going to be a moment where we're going to direct her, and we're going to remind her to exactly what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples in that moment. Jesus said, "When I leave you a little bit later, I'm not going to leave you as orphans, but I'm going to send you the Spirit, the Helper."
Paul later says this in Romans 8 about the Spirit. "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…" Watch this. "…and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."
The Spirit is always aware of what's happening in our lives. What about Jesus? Think about this. A little bit later in Romans 8 (verses 33-34), he's interceding for them. That's what it says in John 6. "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us."
Can I tell you who knows about what's going on at Ann Piper's house right now? It isn't just the body of Watermark. It's the head and the Spirit, and I have no idea why there is a storm and a rogue wind that has come up over there, but I know exactly who's behind it. It is not evil and chaos and chance. It is God at work in a chaotic world, redeeming it for good.
Can I just comfort you with something? The reason he has this text in here is because there's going to be a day when you won't need his comfort in the storms. Why? Because the Bible says in Revelation 21:23, "There will be no sea. There will be no tumult and darkness and death and chaos and fear. There will be no darkness." Revelation 21. Go read verse 1 and verse 23. "There will be no darkness. There will be no sea. But until that time, you need to know something. I know all about your sea and the rogue winds and the waves. Don't be afraid, for I am with you," says the Lord.
I loved what it says in Psalm 77. Do you guys remember that little deal, "Footprints in the Sand"? The guy looks back over the course of his life, and he sees that during the times of greatest trials, there was only one set of footprints. He says, "Lord, what's up with that? Did you take a vacation? Where'd you go?" He says, "No. Those are the times I was carrying you." We all love that little poem.
Can I tell you an even better one than that? It's biblical. It's Psalm 77:19. By the way, footprints on the sand are there for a while, but then they get washed away. What happens when you walk on water? How long is your footprint there when you walk on water? You can't even see it. It's gone immediately.
This is what Psalm 77:19 says. "Your way was in the sea and Your paths in the mighty waters, and Your footprints may not be known." But just be sure of this. God is with you in the storm to produce in you glory so that others might know as you endure the storm in the boat filled with hope, knowing that your Father has not forgotten you, with a peace that passes understanding, people will look at you and go, "Who are you?" You will say, "I'm a child of the King, who has not forgotten me. He is good."
Harold Kushner wrote a book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. It's a terrible book, a best seller. It's a book that basically says, "God is there, and he's loving, but he sometimes gets overwhelmed. The reason the bad things happen to good people is because this good God isn't sovereign enough."
I have to tell you, that just isn't informed by the Scripture. This rabbi, Kushner, missed the text. He is completely sovereign, and he is up to something that we can't always recognize. His ways aren't our ways. His thoughts aren't our thoughts, but his prayers are with us. He is with us to protect us to the end of the age, and even when we come to the very end of the grave, Paul says, "That's great. You want to take away my life, then I can move into glory where there will be no more darkness, and I will know him fully as he knows me fully now.
Let me just give you one last little takeaway that's significant to this little section of Scripture. That is that Christ (or God) can be counted on to provide and protect. In every way, he is the one who you should look to as your provision and as your source of peace. Psalm 23 is a psalm that we only bring out at funerals. It's not a psalm written for funerals.
"The LORD is my shepherd…" That is for living sheep. The reason I'm not worried about all the wolves is because I have a good shepherd. "…I shall not want. […] Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…" That doesn't mean I'm dying in that moment. It certainly is an application there, but that is a psalm for the living.
David said, "The reason I'm okay is because the Messiah loves me." So when I'm persecuted and when I'm beaten and when I'm rejected and when I'm broken, he's up to something, and all I have to do is persevere until he comes and speaks peace. The moment he wants peace, peace will come. Until then, it is my job to hope in him and to strain at the oars in the direction that he has called me.
I know that he is intimately aware of what's going on, and I marvel at his confidence in the Ann Pipers and the Angela Andrewses and the Julie Burnses in this church, and other folks who are overwhelmed with sickness and disease, crippled, who sing his praises. When you have somebody like that, like my friend, Nick Vujicic, when he was here… No arms. No legs. Go back and listen to Nick speak.
I had so many of you come up to me and go, "I've never thought in my life it would be possible for me to envy somebody with no arms and no legs, but I envy that guy." Do you know why? Because he knows this message. He has something those with arms and legs don't have, which is a peace that passes understanding. It is attractive. You really don't love Nick. You love Nick's God. You want to know Nick's God, which is why Nick is here.
God didn't want Nick to be born with no arms and no legs. He wanted all of us to be born and to live with him and enjoy him forever, but sin and death came into the world, so there is malformity, and there is brokenness. There are seizures in the night that take away people early, and God will redeem it. You watch him. He will speak peace to the waters, and the world will marvel. We will give Jesus the glory, and God will not forget his Anns and his Nicks and his Julies and his Angelas, and he won't forget you, and he hasn't forgotten you.
When he sees folks going though, you know why? Because you say, "Because Christ is in my boat." In the same way, this harkens back to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We just read through Daniel in the Journey, right? They were thrown in the fiery furnace when they were faithful to the King.
Nebuchadnezzar looks in there and said, "Didn't we put three men in there? There's a fourth one now, and he looks like the Son of God. They're dancing. They're broken free from their bondage. That's not the way folks are supposed to act in furnaces. Something's going on in there," and it changed the kingdom.
I want you to know that God might change a kingdom through you in the middle of a storm. It won't be by accident, but you have to do what these boys did. You have to recognize him. You have to believe him. And you have to invite him in. You have to cling to his Word because only his Word can bring peace to the waves. This text is there for you. He is the Good Shepherd who took them to green pastures and fed them. He's the Good Shepherd who took them from violence to still waters. Do you know him?
I'd be way remiss if I didn't close with this. The only thing that is probably more horrifying than being caught in a storm or in waves that overwhelm you in a way that brings fear to your life… I think I wrote it down like this. "The only thing more frightening than facing a powerful storm without knowing what to do is facing an all-powerful God without knowing who he is."
You need to know something. The Scripture says, "You're all going to meet this Jesus one time." He wants you to meet him now as a lamb who has come to take away the sins of the world, who has not forgotten you, who's seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding on your behalf because you have restored relationship with God through him by faith.
There's going to be a day that the rest of the world meets him as a lion. There will be no mistake that Ann believed correctly, that Peter and John believed correctly, that the church of Jesus Christ believed correctly. But he says, "You'd best seek him now," in the Psalms, "in a day of peace before a day of great waters and troubles when he may not be found."
The only thing more frightening than powerful storms right now when we don't know what to do is meeting an all-powerful God when you don't know who he is. His name is Jesus, and he walks on the waves that overwhelm you. His name is Jesus, and he is risen from the dead. His name is Jesus, and he is the visible image of the invisible God. His name is Jesus, and he alone is the way, the truth, and the life and the means through which you can be reconciled to God. His name is Jesus, and there is no other name under heaven by which you might be saved.
If you think storms are awful, wait until you meet him and he doesn't say, "I am your friend," but, "I am your Sovereign." Come. Trust him. Sail with him. Though the winds will be in your face, he will be in your boat, and there will be peace.
Father, I do pray that you would allow us to be the hands and feet of you, our glorious head, in this moment, so we can love folks who are middle of storms. Not every storm is as dramatic as Ann's this morning, but there are storms in this room. There are storms of fear and insecurity, of diagnoses that haven't returned yet, of loneliness, of broken relationships, of addiction. There are storms of unemployment, and there are storms of overprovision. Every one of them needs you. Lord, we thank you that when you passed by, you said, "I am the Lord your God, filled with grace and lovingkindness, filled with compassion and truth."
Father, thank you for your great patience with all of us. May we, this morning, just recognize you for who you are. You're not here to make us happy. You're not here because we deserve a bread maker who can fill our bellies. You are here because, in your love, you came. Not to be the kind of king people want, but the kind of king that is so unfamiliar to us. We still can't get over the kind of king who loves his subjects and dies for them. It is too wonderful for me to attain to.
I pray for those in this room who count it strange that my Savior should come and die. That they would come to know the grace that's available through this King, as I have. That they would join me in the journey while the wind is still at our face, while the sea still is filled with tumult, and while there is still darkness around me. That you would give them eyes to see what Scriptures have revealed.
Lord, will your grace pour out on those who are in this room this morning who are going to meet an all-powerful God one day. May they do it before a flood of great waters comes to them. I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ that they would commit to you and repent and not get lost in spiritual activity but pursue the things which make for life and godliness, and they would connect deeply in community, so when storms of trouble hit, when we are in the furnaces of life, we can dance in the way that the world does not understand.
Thank you that you don't expect us to be superhuman. You, yourself, wept in those momentary afflictions. So we mourn with those who mourn, rejoice with those who rejoice, but in all things, we look to Jesus. Our great God, who, if he is for us, nothing can be against us. I am certain that some in this room need to be reminded of that this morning, so you have preserved this text, and you have given us this song. As we sing it, may it change us.
For those of us who are sailing now with the wind at our back, may we use every strength and every resource to further the greatness of your name, so others would be spared the eternal consequence of missing you, and so those who are hurting can be strengthened by those of us who, at this time, you've given strength. We thank you, Christ. Would you keep teaching us now through song, reminding us of things that are true that we might worship you who tells us to not be afraid?
I'll tell you what's happening in this crazy little community that God's called you to be a part of, because the body of Christ is the hands and feet of Christ. I promise you this. Many of us who have sailed through storms who are going to be comforting Ann, who have comforted my friends who are in this room who are going through struggles. We comfort them with a comfort with which we, ourselves, have been comforted that they might not grow weary in the storm.
If you're not connected to that body, you can't experience the hands and feet that's part of the supernatural provision that God stirs his people, that the Spirit of God dwells in them to come alongside of you and to serve you as a reminder of the greatness of your God. If you experienced love this week from a believer, it's a reminder of the greatness of God, but you have to connect.
You have to be in. You have to confess sin. You have to say, "I'm struggling." You have to say, "I'm lonely. I'm concerned." Be attentive to his ways. Don't busy yourself with activity but spend your life to know the greatness of your God.
On the stage are thousands of stones (I know it doesn't look like it, but there are) of folks who have just recorded things that the greatness of God has accomplished here in our midst. For the next couple of weeks, we're going to leave them up here on the sides, stones that aren't written on with markers that you can write on that we're going to spread all over this campus. Stones of remembrance for what he has done, so when kids pick it up and ask what it is, we can remind them why we serve this God, little inns along the way to refresh us while we row into the storm.
We're not home yet, but he has not forgotten us. If you are here today, and you don't know him, would you not leave until we can explain to you how you can be reconciled to God through this one who is come as the visible image, who is the very God that we worship, who has died for you that you might be reconciled to him?
If you know him, will you worship him like never before? Will you be the hands and feet to a world that wants to know? Will you take what you've received from him and give to others? And will you not grow weary in the storm? Beloved, all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, and he will not forget.
Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.
Who was Jesus Christ? A mythical man created to give a false sense of comfort after we die? Some sort of character that enables us to justify our own choices while simultaneously giving us the power to judge others? Or was He something much bigger? God, in the flesh, walking and living among His creation. A sinless man who became the sacrifice for our sins. The Gospel of John is more than Christology 101. It is an invitation to a living and active faith in Jesus Christ. Come join us on this life-changing journey through the book of John: the story of Jesus Christ.