Sunday, April 26, 2020
Service Orientation: We have no need to fear when we follow the storm-calming Savior, Jesus.
Memory Verse for the Week: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
- Chapter 6 of John marks the watershed of Jesus’ career. Up to this point his popularity had been increasing, in spite of the opposition of the leaders and the occasional grumbling of disaffected hearers or disciples. The interview with the disciples at Caesarea Philipi and the Transfiguration, which occurred shortly afterward, called for a commitment on the part of the disciples and was followed by a new program on the part of Jesus. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 70)
- While not every aspect of the situation leading up to this remarkable event is clear, a reasonable scenario may be proposed. So strongly did Jesus desire to avoid the crowd who wanted to acclaim Him king that He devised a plan to elude them and return with His disciples to Capernaum. (Joseph Dongell, John: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 97) .
- The Sea of Galilee is six hundred feet below sea level, in a cuplike depression among the hills. When the sun sets, the air cools; and as the cooler air from the west rushes down over the hillside, the resultant wind churns the lake. Since the disciples were rowing toward Capernaum, they were heading into the wind; consequently, they made little progress. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 73) .
- The Lord Jesus, we must remember, is not only the Lord, but the Maker of all creation. “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3.) It was just as easy for Him to walk on the sea as to form the sea at the beginning–just as easy to suspend the common laws of nature, as they are called, as to impose those laws at the first. Learned men talk solemn nonsense sometimes about the eternal fixity of the “laws of nature,” as if they were above God Himself, and could never be suspended. It is well to be reminded sometimes by such miracles as that before us, that these so called “laws of nature” are neither immutable nor eternal. They had a beginning, and will one day have an end. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 237)
The question to be answered is…
Why does Jesus allow his disciples to head into this storm without him, and what does this situation teach us about Jesus?
The self-seeking crowd posed a greater threat to the mission than the storm, and another lesson needed to be learned. The I-AM incarnate is both Lord over matter AND Lord over nature, and none need fear when they are with Him.
The word of the day is… Fear
What lessons is Jesus conveying through this situation?
- Pursuit of the world’s approval can be more dangerous than losing life.
(Pro. 29:25; John 5:55; Acts 5:29; Rom. 12:2; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thes. 2:4; Ja. 4:4; 1 John 2:15-16)
Did Jesus know that a storm was coming? Of course. Then why did He deliberately send His friends into danger? Quite the opposite is true: He was rescuing them from greater danger, the danger of being swept along by a fanatical crowd. But there was another reason for that storm: the Lord has to balance our lives, otherwise we will become proud and then fall. The disciples had experienced great joy in being part of a thrilling miracle. Now they had to face a storm and learn to trust the Lord more. (Warren Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, 248)
- As Lord over matter and nature, Jesus’ mere presence can be enough to drive out fear.
(Jos. 1:9; Ps. 34:4; 56:3-4; 77:19; Is. 41:10; John 14:27; Phil. 4:6; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 John 4:18)
Jesus calmed their fears by speaking to them. When they recognized his voice, they were willing to take him into the boat. The miracle was designed to demonstrate that Jesus could be with them under all circumstances. As the multiplication of the loaves and fishes showed his power over matter, so the walking on the water revealed his power over the forces of nature. It was one more step in the education of the disciples’ faith. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 73)
Jesus is giving these men the powerful assurance of His presence. He will be to them all that “It is I” can mean, however dark and stormy any night may become. (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 127)
- Jesus’ presence brings peace to the journey.
(Ps. 16:11; Is. 26:3; John 16:33; Rom. 8:38-39; 15:13; 1 Cor. 5:8; 2 Thes. 3:16; 1 Pet. 5:7)
There are waves of trouble far heavier than any on the Lake of Galilee. There are days of darkness which test the faith of the holiest Christian. But let us never despair if Christ is our Friend. He can come to our aid in an hour when we do not think, and in ways that we did not expect. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 237)
There are many times in our lives – and we never know when they will strike – when, metaphorically speaking, suddenly the wind gets up and the sea becomes rough. As we struggle to make our way through, sometimes we are aware of a presence with us, which may initially be more disturbing than comforting. (‘We’re already nearly drowning, and now we’ve got ghosts following us!’) But if we listen, through the roar of the waves and the wind, we may hear the voice that says, ‘It’s me – don’t be afraid.’ And if we are ready then to take Jesus on board, we may find ourselves, sooner than we expected, at the harbour where we will be calm and secure once more. (N.T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1, 77)
Conclusion…How can these lessons transform our lives today?
A. Avoid seeking the crowd’s approval.
(Pro. 29:25; John 5:55; Acts 5:29; Rom. 12:2; Gal. 1:10; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-16)
Again, what sort of kingdom do they contrive for him? An earthly one, which is utterly inconsistent with his person. Hence let us learn how dangerous it is, in the things of God, to neglect His word, and to contrive anything of our own opinion; for there is nothing which the foolish subtlety of our understanding does not corrupt. (John Calvin, Commentary on John Vol.1, 181)
We must never be deceived by the “popularity” of Jesus Christ among certain kinds of people today. Very few want Him as Savior and Lord. Many want Him only as Healer or Provider, or the One who rescues them from problems they have made for themselves. (Warren Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, 249)
B. Seek Jesus’ presence in your life to help drive out fear.
(Ps. 9:9-10; 34:4; 56:3-4; Is. 41:10; Jer. 29:13; Mat. 6:25-34; Rom. 8:15; Phil. 4:6)
Jesus came to them in the storm. And that is a time He comes to His own today. He makes Himself more real to us in a time of trouble and sorrow. I don’t know why He waits until midnight, until the waves are rolling, but perhaps that is the only time we will listen to Him. When the storms of life are beating upon our little bark, our hearts are ready for His presence. (J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible Commentary Series, John, 102)
C. Realize that if you are in Christ, you will arrive safe.
(Ps. 91:1-16; 97:10; Pro. 18:10; 29:25; 30:5; 2 Tim. 4:18; 2 Thes. 3:3; James 1:12)
So it is because of who He is that Jesus can give these men the peace that overcomes their fear. When Jesus is welcomed into the boat, they “immediately ” come to the land where they were going. His presence will always bring us to our destination in His own time and way. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering the New Testament: John, 127)
Worship is a means by which Jesus can enter and calm the storms of life. In worship, His very presence reassures His people that He is with them.
(Ps. 121:2; John 14:27; Phil. 4:4-7, 13; Col. 3:16; Heb. 12:28; Rev. 14:7)
A child of God, made perfect in love, has no fear because perfect love casts out fear. Yet he or she is the person of all persons who most fears God. (A.W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship, 32)
Sometimes we are caught in a storm because we have disobeyed the Lord. Jonah is a good example. But sometimes the storm comes because we have obeyed the Lord. When that happens, we can be sure that our Savior will pray for us, come to us, and deliver us. In writing the account of this event years later, perhaps John saw in it a picture of Christ and His church. Christ is in heaven interceding for us, but we are in the midst of the storms of life, trying to reach the shore. One day, He will come for us and we shall reach the port safely, the storms all past. (Warren Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, 249)
The One sovereign over matter and nature loves you, died for you, and offers forgiveness and fearlessness in Him to face life’s storms.
Frequently our circumstances are dark, and conditions are all against us. We cry to the Lord, but He “does not come.” But let us remind ourselves, that God is never in a hurry. However much the petulance of unbelief may seek to hasten His hand, He waits His own good time. Omnipotence can afford to wait, for it is always sure of success. And because omnipotence is combined with infinite wisdom and love, we may be certain that God not only does everything in the right way, but also at the best time: “And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him” (Isa. 30:18) (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 308)
Spiritual Challenge Questions…
Reflect on these questions in your time with the Lord this week, or discuss with a Christian family member or life group.
- What storm has Jesus calmed in your life before? Looking back, how did the Lord use that storm for your growth and benefit?
- What storms are you currently facing now; praying for Jesus to calm? How might the Lord be trying to grow you through them?
- In what ways are you tempted to follow crowd-thinking? How can you be diligent in pursuing the mind of Christ within our information-saturated culture?
Quotes to note…
The darker the night grows, and the fiercer the storm becomes, the better will we remember that He of the lake of Galilee came to them upon the waves in the night when the storm was wildest. (Charles Spurgeon, “Honey in the Mouth!” sermon, 1891)
So, these disciples push out to cross the sea, but shortly find themselves in dire straits. For now darkness and a violent wind and a heavy sea are suddenly about to overwhelm them. And Jesus is not with them. What a picture of our contemporary existence—terrifying problems that defy any human solution, the breakdown of our primary human relationships, violence and anger becoming more and more the disorder of the day, while a sense of hopelessness and despair seem to paralyze the human spirit. Everything seems out of control. It is a dark, stormy night at sea. And there does not seem to be anyone in the boat who can save us. (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 127)
Our fears can only be dispelled by looking in faith to and having our hearts occupied with Him. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 310)
Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us. We assume burdens God never meant for us to carry. (Elisabeth Elliot, The Music of His Promises, 63)
The end of the story, then, is not shipwreck, but the appearing of the Lord. He came to them on the water. He came to them through the storm. Immediately He stepped on board, they found themselves “at the land whither they went” (John 6:21), not a fraction off their course! The moment He arrived, they arrived. What a blessed picture of the return of the Lord Jesus, coming to and for His harassed, persecuted, tempted, tormented church! Then immediately, the storm will be over, the port reached, heaven gained, and “so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17). (J.C. Macaulay, Expository Commentary on John, 87)
Jesus is giving these men the powerful assurance of His presence. He will be to them all that “It is I” can mean, however dark and stormy any night may become. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering the New Testament: John, 127)
FURTHER QUOTES & RESEARCH:
Seek first the kingdom of wealth, and you’ll worry over every dollar. Seek first the kingdom of health, and you’ll sweat every blemish and bump. Seek first the kingdom of popularity, and you’ll relive every conflict. Seek first the kingdom of safety, and you’ll jump at every crack of the twig. But seek first his kingdom, and you will find it. On that, we can depend and never worry. (Max Lucado, Fearless, 51)
So if the world doesn’t need more reminders of love, what does it need? It needs wretched saints who fearlessly walk through the valley of the shadow of death because they know God is with them. It needs Christians who live in the pain and sorrow of everyday life with a confidence that comes from outside of them. But until we embrace that we are who and what God wants us to be, its impossible for us to walk confidently without constantly peering out, around, and inward for the evil we fear is still lurking. (Noel Jesse Heikkinen, Wretched Saints, 50)
19 “Three or three and a half miles” shows that the disciples were still a considerable distance from the shore at Capernaum. Mark says that “the boat was in the middle of the lake” (6:47). As the disciples looked back, they were terrified to see a human form coming toward them across the water. The hypothesis that Jesus was walking on the lake shore and only appeared to be walking on the water is scarcely adequate. The fishermen who were well acquainted with the Sea of Galilee would certainly be able to discern the difference between a person walking on the shore and his walking on the surface of the water. Mark states that “they thought he was a ghost” (Mark 6:49), adding that “all saw him and were terrified.” (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 73)
Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of the great wind that blew” (6:17, 18). This tested the faith and patience of the disciples. The longer they waited the worse things became. It looked as though Christ was neglectful of them. It seemed as though He had forgotten to be gracious. Perhaps they were saying, If the Master had been here, this storm would not have come up. Had He been with them, even though asleep on a pillow, His presence would have cheered them. But He was not there; and the darkness was about them, and the angry waves all around them —fit emblems of the opposition of the world against the believers course. It was a real test of their faith and patience. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 308)
Notice that the disciples did not give up in despair – they continued “rowing” (v. 19)! And ultimately the Lord came to their side and delivered them from the angry tempest. So, dear saint, whatever may he the path appointed by the Lord, however difficult and distasteful, continue therein, and in His own good time the Lord will deliver you. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 309)
Remember this, O troubled one, your great High Priest who is “touched with the feeling of your infirmities” is above, ever living to intercede. His prayers undergird you, so that you cannot sink. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 309)
The skepticism of Philip and the unbelief of Andrew did not prevent the outflow of Divine mercy. So here, even the hardness of heart of these disciples did not quench their Lord’s love for them. O how deeply thankful we ought to be that “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psa. 103:10) (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 310)
Christ does not force Himself upon us: He waits to be “received.” It is the welcome of our hearts that He desires. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 311)
The disciples must have been baffled by this turn of events. Why would He walk away from a great opportunity to enlist a whole army of disciples if He were really serious about His new kingdom movement? But they let Him go off alone and apparently agree to meet Him later in or near Capernaum. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering the New Testament: John, 127)
So, these disciples push out to cross the sea, but shortly find themselves in dire straits. For now darkness and a violent wind and a heavy sea are suddenly about to overwhelm them. And Jesus is not with them. What a picture of our contemporary existence – terrifying problems that defy any human solution, the breakdown of our primary human relationships, violence and anger becoming more and more the disorder of the day, while a sense of hopelessness and despair seem to paralyze the human spirit. Everything seems out of control. It is a dark, stormy night at sea. And there does not seem anyone in the boat who can save us. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering the New Testament: John, 127)
The reaction of the crowd is explained in detail by John. He wants to rub our noses in the fact not only that the disciples saw what had happened but also that the crowds were puzzled. They knew Jesus hadn’t set off on the boat, and yet when they managed to get to the other side of the lake they found he’d already arrived in Capernaum. (N.T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1, 76-77)
Humility is the first step toward heaven, and the true way to honor. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 236)
Trial, we must distinctly understand, is part of the diet which all true Christians must expect. It is one of the means by which their grace is proved, and by which they find out what there is in themselves. Winter as well as summer–cold as well as heat–clouds as well as sunshine–are all necessary to bring the fruit of the Spirit to ripeness and maturity. We do not naturally like this. We would rather cross the lake with calm weather and favorable winds, with Christ always by our side, and the sun shining down on our faces. But it may not be. It is not in this way that God’s children are made “partakers of His holiness.” (Heb. 12:10.) Abraham, and Jacob, and Moses, and David, and Job were all men of many trials. Let us be content to walk in their footsteps, and to drink of their cup. In our darkest hours we may seem to be left– but we are never really alone. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 236)
Of the three Gospel accounts of this miracle, John’s includes the fewest details. He understates the action, and apart from a brief mention of the disciples’ fright, he makes little emphasis on this event. Matthew described Peter’s walk on (then in) the water. Mark mentioned the difficulties being created by the wind and waves as well as the fact that when the disciples saw Jesus, he was passing by them. The focus of Matthew and Mark highlighted the miracle and its effects on those who participated in it; John included the miracle as yet another indication of the true identity of Jesus. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 124)
This lake, the Sea of Galilee (or Sea of Tiberias, see 6:1), is very large. It is 650 feet below sea level, 150 feet deep, and surrounded by hills. These physical features make it subject to sudden windstorms that cause extremely high waves. Sailors expected such storms on this lake, but the storms could still be very frightening. Such a sudden storm arose as the disciples were on their way to Capernaum. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 125)
As soon as Jesus left his disciples, they forgot the amazing powers he had shown them so recently. But before we chide their lack of faith, we need to examine our own. How much of our spiritual life is a series of peak experiences of God’s nearness followed by declines? When we can’t feel God’s presence, do we assume that he is not there and that he cannot help us? God’s presence and help should come as a welcomed expectation, not a frightening surprise! (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 126)
The disciples, terrified, thought they were seeing a ghost (Mark 6:49)- They were frightened—they didn’t expect Jesus to come, and they weren’t prepared for his help. The literal reading for “It is I” is “I am” (Greek, ego eimi); it is the same as saying “the I AM is here” or “I, Yahweh, am here. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 127)
When those men intended to give to Christ the title and honor of king, there was some ground for what they did. But they erred egregiously in taking upon themselves the liberty of making a king; for Scripture ascribes this as peculiar to God alone, as it is said, I have appointed my king on my holy hill of Zion, (Psalm 2:6.) (John Calvin, Commentary on John Vol.1, 181)