God’s Guide to a Well-Lived Life: Walk on Water! (Mark 6:45-52)
God’s Guide to a Well-Lived Life
Walk on Water!
Could you move to a foreign country? When we were getting ready to move to Romania in 2000, several people said they could not move to a foreign country.
It is intimidating to move to a foreign country. We’re afraid we can’t be happy if we’re not around our family whenever we want to. We’re afraid we can’t be happy if we can’t go to Meijer and get stuff whenever we want. We’re afraid we can’t learn a foreign language to communicate with people. We’re afraid we can’t earn enough money to be happy. We’re afraid we’ll have health issues that can’t be resolved in a foreign country. We’re afraid we might break a law and get thrown into a foreign jail. What do all these have in common? Fear.
Fear is the great enemy of the Christian. Fear is Satan’s tool. There is no fear from God. God does not cause fear. Satan does. So, we know that when we fear, we are giving our hearts to Satan. Faith comes from God and where there is faith, there is no fear.
Someone told me that they did not have enough faith to be a missionary. I won’t deny that it takes faith to be a missionary. But I would argue that it doesn’t take any more faith or any stronger faith to be a missionary than it does in most any other aspect of life.
If you’ve been laid off and you don’t know where your next check is coming from - you’ve got to talk by faith. If you’ve lost a child - you’ve got to walk by faith. If you’ve lost a spouse - you’ve got to walk by faith. If you’ve received bad news from your medical doctor, you’ve got to walk by faith.
Last year, we were afraid of a virus. This year, we’re afraid of the vaccine. Next year, Satan will give us something else to be afraid of. What will it be and what will our response be?
Listen to this poem by Helen Steiner Rice, called “Trouble is a Stepping Stone to Growth:”
Trouble is something no one can escape -
Everyone has it in some form or shape.
Some people hide it way down deep inside,
Some people bear it with gallant-like pride.
Some people worry and complain of their lot,
Some people covet what they haven’t got
While others rebel and become bitter and old
With hopes that are dead and hearts that are cold…
But the wise man accepts whatever God sends,
Willing to yield like a storm-tossed tree bends,
Knowing that God never made a mistake,
So whatever He sends they are willing to take…
For trouble is part and parcel of life,
And no man can grow without struggle or strife,
And the steep hills ahead and the high mountain peaks
Afford man at last the peace that he seeks…
So blessed are the people who learn to accept
The trouble men try to escape and reject,
For in accordance we’re given great grace
And courage and faith and the strength to face
The daily troubles that come to us all,
So we may learn to stand straight and tall…
For the grandeur of life is born of defeat,
For in overcoming, we make life complete.
This morning, I want us to take another look at a story very familiar to us - the story of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 6. Twelve times this year, we are returning to the life of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark and seeking “God’s Guide to a Well-Lived Life” and we simply cannot pass over this miracle in which Jesus walks on water in the middle of a storm. Let’s feed on the word of God…
THE SCENE - 14:45-46:
The apostles are with Jesus, doing good. He has fed the five thousand and then sent the multitudes away. John tells us that these multitudes wanted to make him king by force (6:14). So Jesus tells the apostles immediately to get into the boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. In fact, Mark says Jesus “made” the disciples get in to the boat. That verb means “compelled” or “forced.” That is, the disciples did not want to leave Him. Perhaps they were caught up in the hoopla over making Jesus king and they thought it might be a good idea. But…
Jesus Himself went up into the mountains to pray - perhaps to pray for a storm on the Sea of Galilee! Really, John tells us that the people had wanted to make Jesus king and it was after that that Jesus withdrew (6:15). Perhaps Jesus was praying for the proper self-control and humility to keep from allowing the people to make Him their king. If Jesus was at all tempted to allow Himself to be made king without having to endure the crucifixion, then maybe He was praying for the strength to say no to temptation. But I wonder if perhaps He did ask God to send that storm on the Sea of Galilee.
WE ENDURE STORMS IN LIFE - 6:47-49:
The boat was a long distance from the shore. The text says they were in the “middle of the sea.” John’s account says literally 25 or 30 stadia (6:19) or “three or four miles” (NASV). That would be about the middle of the Sea of Galilee, which was about 7 miles across.
They were straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Jesus had come down from the mountain where He had been praying.
Now it was the fourth watch of the night which, by Roman reckoning, would be between 3 and 6 AM. Let’s just say five o’clock in the morning!
He went to them “walking on the water,” the Bible says, “intending to pass them by” (Mark 6:48).
When the men saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and thought they saw a ghost and cried out in fear. How many people today are afraid of Jesus, or afraid of God, because they too don’t understand Him? They do not understand His love; they do not understand His mission. They do not understand His expectations. They do not understand His grace.
JESUS CALMS THE STORMS IN LIFE - 6:50-51:
So, Jesus tells His disciples three things: Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid. That’s when we see Peter illustrate to us a “water-walking” faith. We’re going to shift to Matthew’s account for just a moment before we come back to Mark…
TRUST - Matthew 14:28-29:
“If it’s you…” this suggests a little element of doubt. Peter asks for Christ’s authority or permission to walk on the water. Jesus had given miraculous powers to His apostles when He called them to be apostles. They could raise the dead and heal the sick and cleanse the lepers. Here, Peter asks for the same permission to walk on water.
What made Peter decide that Jesus could do that? That Jesus could / would give Peter the power to walk on the water?
Jesus cleansed the leper in Matt. 8:1-4.
Jesus cleansed the centurion’s servant in 8:5-13.
Jesus healed Peter’s wife’s mother - 8:14-17.
In another “boating incident,” Jesus is sleeping while the storm is raging - 8:23-27. He rebuked the winds and the sea and they became perfectly calm.
Jesus cast demons out of two men in 8:28-34.
Jesus healed a paralyzed man in 9:1-8.
Jesus raised from the dead a synagogue official’s daughter in 9:18ff.
Jesus healed a woman of blood-hemorrhaging in 9:20-23.
Jesus healed a mute-demon-possessed man in 9:32-34.
What is it about these miracles that keep us from having faith today? Why can’t we trust God to take care of us today in light of these miracles? Did Jesus not perform enough miracles? Do we need more miracles so we can trust Jesus?
In Matthew 10:1ff, Jesus called twelve of His disciples and made them special representatives, apostles, and to them He gave power over demons and to heal every kind of sickness and every kind of disease. Peter was one of those apostles to whom Jesus gave special miraculous power.
Jesus rebuked the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum in 11:20ff for their lack of faith.
Jesus healed a man whose hand had atrophied in 12:9-14.
Jesus healed another demon-possessed man in 12:22-24.
Closer to this particular incident, Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish - 14:13-21.
That’s fourteen specific miracles He has performed so far, out of about 38! You and I have all these miracles in front of us - why can’t we trust Jesus and do the right thing? Jesus doesn’t take away the storms of life and there will continue to be storms.
When Jesus responds with “Come,” He is in essence telling Peter, “Put your trust in Me.”
When Peter got out of the boat, he got out of himself, out of his self-reliance, his self-determination, his self-dependency. He got out of the urge to keep himself safe. He faced the fear of death and he saw Jesus through that fear. That’s trust. How was Peter able to walk on water?
TRUST OBEYS - Matthew 14:29:
As we see with Peter, if your trust in God is genuine and deep, you will not be able to stop yourself from obeying.
Recall that in the previous boating incident, in chapter 8, when Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea and they became calm, the disciples, Peter included, were amazed and said, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (8:27).
Think of an area of your life in which you know what God wants for you. It works best if you pick an area that may be a challenge for you. Then ask yourself, “Am I really doing what I know God’s will is, or am I living in fear and ignoring what God wants?”
If we say we believe but then do not obey, we’re saying, “Sure I believe you, God, but not enough to put my life where my mouth is.” And don’t you know that God sees through that? That’s hypocrisy.
But when Peter gets caught up with what is going on around him, he becomes frightened, he takes his eyes off Jesus, and he begins to sink.
He starts off obeying but then becomes afraid and begins to sink: “Lord, save me!”
We, too, are tempted to stop obeying Jesus when we become afraid. When life gets hard, we think we’ve got to spend more time doing this or that and we take our eyes off of Jesus. When persecution or mockery or something similar happens, we think we have to spend less time in worship and we take our eyes off of Jesus. The economy turns bad and our retirement takes a powerful hit and we get worried and we take our eyes off of Jesus. Or the economy hums along and money is flowing smoothly and we have more money and more free time to spend on ourselves and we take our eyes off of Jesus.
A “water-walking faith” obeys even if the world is in a mess around us. In fact, that’s when we show that we truly have a water-walking faith - it’s when we keep our eyes on Jesus even when the world is in chaos.
When we know the right thing to do and then we don’t do it — that’s sin (Rom. 14:23).
WORSHIPS - Matthew 14:30-33:
Of course Jesus does not let Peter sink and drown. God doesn’t want anyone to be lost. Jesus stretches out His hand and takes hold of Peter (Jesus could have simply spoken a word but the physical touch would have been more reassuring). But Jesus still gives Peter a mild rebuke: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” How many miracles have I got to perform for you to believe me? How many steps did you have to take to realize that if I could make you walk on water, I can keep you safe through the storm?
The two got into the boat and the wind stopped, almost as if it had started for that one special reason. Mark says they were “utterly astonished” (6:51). Then all the disciples in the boat worshipped Jesus, confessing, “You are certainly God’s Son!”
A water-walking faith worships Jesus. That’s the end result of our relationship with Him. If He is who He says He is, if he does what He says He does; if He teaches what He teaches - adoration and praise and thanksgiving and humility and worship are the end result of our faith. Faith can’t help but worship when we come into the presence of the Son of God. It was a night of very great terror for the disciples but their trial was blessed because it brought them nearer to God. It helped them realize His love and power. It resulted in their awe and love and adoration of Him.
HARD HEARTS - Mark 6:51-52:
Let’s go back to Mark’s account and finish up our study. Notice in verse 51 that Mark says the apostles were “utterly astonished.” This was something that was completely unexpected. Even though Jesus had calmed a storm already in Mark 4, the apostles are shocked that He calms the storm now. Why? Just how many miracles does Jesus have to perform before His apostles can trust Him?
The reason they were astonished, utterly astonished on this occasion is seen in verse 52. The apostles did not understand; they had gained no insight into the nature of Jesus, when He multiplied the bread and the fish and fed 5,000 people! Notice that last phrase: “but their heart was hardened.” The verb tense there shows that the apostles had made a decision in the past, hardening their hearts, and they had not softened their hearts yet.
Why were their hearts hardened? Because they were still thinking about themselves. They were still trusting themselves. They had not drawn the conclusion that Jesus can do anything. A few pieces of bread, a few fish, does not hinder Jesus. And a few waves and a stormy wind doesn’t stop Him either.
If we can learn to trust Jesus and obey what He says, we will find ourselves, not only walking on water with a strong faith, but we’ll find ourselves dancing in the midst of the storm, because we know that Jesus cares for us and He’ll do for us what is the right thing.
Take home message: When you find yourself in the midst of a storm, trust, obey, and worship Jesus. He’ll get you through.