Last week we looked at how Jesus fed over 5000 people. Some call that passage "The Lesson of the Loaves." We learned how Jesus meets our most basic needs. It was a great lesson for the disciples and the crowd.
Today, our primary focus is going to be on Jesus walking on water. Remember, last week saw how Jesus meets our most basic needs. In the miracle of Jesus walking on water, we're going to see how he helps us break through our fears. How do we get over our fears?
Let's look at John 6:15-17:
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
Remember what happened last week. The people were beginning to feel that Jesus was a great prophet. Jesus knew they wanted to force his hand by making him king. So he withdrew into the hills by himself. Jesus was up on the mountain while his disciples pushed out to sea. They were alone. Meanwhile the crowd was searching for Jesus. Where was he? He intentionally separated himself from everyone. He did it for two reasons.
1. Jesus needed to reject the call of the crowd.
The crowd did what crowds do. They got caught up in the emotion of the moment. They wanted Jesus to become some kind of earthly Messiah. The crowd mentality clamored for an earthly king. So by going on alone, Jesus was saying no.
2. Jesus needed to spend time alone with the Father.
With the crush of the crowd and the hectic pace, Jesus needed to slow things down in order to maintain his closeness to the Father. What we learn from Matthew's gospel, but John doesn't report it, is as all these things were taking place, John the Baptist was beheaded. In the midst of intense ministry, Jesus learned his cousin had been murdered by King Herod. Devastating news. So for all the right reasons, Jesus needed alone time with God. There are times in life when it is good and right to have alone time.
These two dynamics set up a teachable moment where the disciples learn to trust Jesus, even in their fears.
We don't know what the disciples were expecting to happen. They were simply heading across a lake. It was something many of them had done more times than they could remember. Many of them were fishermen. They knew the lake like the back of their hand. They knew dangerous storms could whip up at any time. As verse 18 tells us, "The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing." They were out in the middle of the lake and Jesus wasn't with them. They found themselves in the middle of a storm. That's the way life is. Their literal experience is also a figurative reminder of how hardship or difficulty can spring up at any given moment.
That's happened to us more times than we care to remember. Stuff happens. Sometimes things go south when we're being obedient to God; when we're doing our best to follow the path He has set before us. There is no guarantee in life that storms won't strike. We know that.
In John 6, the storm hits. Let's look at verses 19-21:
When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid." Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
After the storm hit, something incredible happened. The literal translation says they were 25-30 stadia out to sea. A stadia is about 600 feet, so they were about 3.5 miles out. As Jesus walked toward them, how did they feel? Right…they were terrified. I'm not going to stand here and say I wouldn't have been frightened. I'd have been scared witless. Just like the disciples.
What did Jesus do? He met them in the storm. You see, this literal event becomes a symbolic example for us. Jesus walked up to them in a storm. Not a glassy sea. But whitecaps and waves. And out of this turbulence and turmoil, Jesus walked toward the boat. They were frightened. I think we all would be.
Here's something you might want to write down:
THIS IS A GREAT LESSON IN FEAR.
Their fear kept them from recognizing Jesus.
Don't forget, they had already seen Jesus do amazing things. Incredible things. He turned water into wine. He healed people who were gravely ill. He fed over 5000 people with a few table scraps. He had been directing their travel. He was not with them, but they knew his intention was to rejoin them. Who else did they think was walking out to them?
Can this spiritual amnesia happen to you and me? Of course it can. Sometimes when I'm afraid in the middle of a storm, I forget to look for Jesus. I forget. In the back of my mind, I know God has been with me through past storms. But the current fear is so front-and-center, I forget. Have you ever heard someone say, "I'm in a problem and I feel like God is so far away?" Why do they say that? Because their fears keep them from recognizing God's presence in their lives.
But that's just one problem.
Their fear kept them from seeing a solution.
They couldn't see the next step. So what did Jesus do? Verse 20 says, "But he said to them, 'It is I; do not be afraid.'" The Word of Christ helps us face our fears. That's why we need to read the Bible, and study the Bible, and have a consistent prayer life, and be in worship together. How does Jesus come into our lives? Through his words. Jesus wants to come into our lives and help us face our fears. He does that through his Word. That's how he makes a difference in the fears we face. The words of Jesus Christ cast out their fears.
Look at what happened next. Verse 21 says, "Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going." Don't get caught up in the logistics of it all. All we need to know is Jesus Christ takes us where we need to go.
Whatever it is causing our fears, it is but a momentary blip on our journey of faith. Simply trust Jesus as he moves with us.
Jesus calls us to trust him with our fears.
What do the disciples do? Once they hear his voice, we are told they were glad to take him into their boat. What did they do? They trusted Jesus with their fears. They let Jesus do what Jesus wants to do…be a part of solving the fearful situation in our lives. When Jesus and your fear get together, an amazing thing happens. The fear shrinks. Look at your fears in light of how big God is. And who Jesus Christ is. When the doctor brings you bad news, is Jesus in the room with you? When concern for a child keeps you awake at night, is Jesus in the room with you? Someone shared with me a phone call she received from a lifelong friend. The friend had battled a debilitating illness. She called to say goodbye. She had just a few days left. Talk about fear. But Jesus was there in their conversation. When you let Jesus Christ into your life, it's amazing how your fear shrinks.
Jesus Christ begins to move us away from our fears.
What we need to remember, and we need to remind ourselves of this when fear strikes, is there is another side to our fears. There is the Jesus side. Sometimes we look at fear from the dark side. We think we'll never get out of it. Why did God do this to me? But when we allow Jesus Christ to enter into our fears, he begins to break them down. By his power, Jesus takes those places of fear and he transforms them. When we are glad to take him into the boat, we find a peace and confidence we never knew possible. When you allow Jesus Christ to help you stand up to your fears, he will lead you to a ministry to bring change to the world. That is essential to the story of Celebrate Recovery. Jesus will not only bring you through and to the other side of your fears, in the process you will find ways to help others. You will see your fears in a whole new light. Jesus can turn your fears into a jumping off point for making your little corner of the world a better place.
Imagine that. A better you and a better place in the world through facing your fears with Jesus.
We're now at the part of today's passage that brings it all together. Let's look at verses 22-29:
On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
When we take the bread and eat it and the juice and drink it, we are symbolically saying that Jesus has become part of our lives. But here's the key point. It's just not the act of eating and drinking that makes it happen. It happens when we say, "Jesus Christ, I trust you with my heart and with my life."
Jesus Christ, you're as real here now as you were on the sea with your disciples. We have gathered to celebrate you. As we share this Holy Supper together, we don't do it as something routine. We do it together as a commitment. We're saying in our hearts in this visible way that we believe. We believe our sins are forgiven. We believe you are the One in whom we can find eternal life. We believe you're the One who gives abundant life. Lord Jesus Christ, we believe in you. In your name we pray. Amen.