Title: Walking on Water – June 5th, 2011
Pastor Chuck Gohn – Bellevue Christian Church, Bellevue PA 15202
Primary Passage: John 6.14-24
Media Used: PowerPoint Sermons: “Walk on Water”
Video Used: Sermon Spice Video: “Walking on Water”
If you have you Bibles open up to John 6.14. We have been going through the book of John and learning about the miracles and ministry of Jesus . Last week we looked at the miracle feeding of the 5,000. Next week we will be looking at the Bread of Life Discourse it is where Jesus spends a great amount of time reminding his followers that he is the Bread of Life; i.e., the supernatural provision of God.
But sandwiched between those two stories is the short story of Jesus walking on water. It is a story contained in three of four Gospels and like some of the other Gospel stories sometimes there are slight variations in some of the stories. We shouldn’t be alarmed by this. It does not mean that there are errors in the Bible, rather it should affirm the reliability of the baby. Just like three or four people who witness an accident or crime scene would see that scene from different perspectives i.e., pick up certain details or place more emphasis on certain aspects of the story, it is the same with the gospel writers. Each gospel writer is viewing the event from their unique perspective and place emphasis on certain details of the story based upon the audience that they are attempting to reach. We are going to look at the book of John and use the other gospel versions of the event to patch in the story so that we might have a complete picture of the story of Jesus walking on water.
A little refresher about where we were last week in the book of John; Jesus wanted to get away because he was grieving the loss of his friend John the Baptist. So he goes the other side of the lake and before he knows it the crowd follows them. So rather than ignore them he ministers to them because he sees them as sheep without a shepherd. So he does what he does naturally , he heals the sick, he casts out demons, he teaches them, he encourages, them. And the crowd grows and so the disciples get concerned and Jesus turns to Philip and says: “where will we buy food for these people to eat?” and Philip replies: “8 months wages would not be able to purchase enough food for these people to eat!”
And so he looks to Andrew and he says: “well there is this boy here who has 5 loaves and 2 fishes but how far will that go?” Jesus basically says: “let me show you”. So he takes the bread and gives thanks and before they know it Jesus has multiplied the loaves and fishes and begins to distribute the food to the crowd. So much food is available that there ends up being 12 baskets left to give to the poor or others in need. The people were so impressed by that they wanted to take Jesus by force to make him king. So that is where we pick up the story. So let’s read through John 6.14-24.
Now of the three gospels that contain this story John’s gospel is the most sketchy about this story. He gives the impression that Jesus went off to a mountain and the disciples hop in a boat and go to the other side of the lake. But as we read this story we find that the disciples did not voluntarily get into the boat but rather Jesus had to make them get into the boat. We see this in the gospel of Matthew and Mark. Mark 6:45 says:
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. Mark 6.4
So this verse gives the idea that maybe the disciples did not want to get into the boat and we ask “why?” Why would the disciples not want to get into the boat? Maybe they were fearful for Jesus. After all the people wanted to make Jesus king by force. So maybe they were worried for Jesus. Or maybe they were worried for themselves. Maybe they could see that a storm was brewing and maybe they didn’t want to be alone on a boat without Him.
Whatever the reason the point is that Jesus was up on a mountain and the disciples were alone on the boat on the Sea of Galilee. And all the gospels are consistent on the fact that when they went out on the boat after a few hours a storm came up. John writes:
By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. (John 6:17–18)
So they are in this boat and a storm came up. We said before that the sea of Galilee because of its basin shape was prone to storms coming up quickly. The winds would come through the mountains and valleys and hit that lake and stir up the waters and create a storm. So the disciples found themselves in a lake in a storm. And not only were they in a lake in a storm, but they were in the middle of the lake. In other words they were the farthest point from any shore. Mark tells us that:
When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. Mark 6.47
Now about this time, the disciples may have been having a little bit of a flashback. If you know your gospels you know that there was another storm that the disciples had earlier found themselves in. And this event is described in Matthew 8.23.
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
So this current experience of being on the lake in a storm, in the middle of the lake probably brought a little flashback to them. The difference this time was that Jesus was not on the boat. He was on a mountain praying. All they knew was that he was not where they wanted him to be i.e., on the boat with them in the storm. So they are probably grumbling at this time about that as they rowed against the wind probably saying something like: “where is Jesus when we need him?, at least in the earlier storm he was on the boat even though sleeping and we were able to wake him up, but now he is now where to be seen. Maybe he is neglecting us.” But the gospel of Mark seems to imply that just because he is absent physically he is not absent spiritually. Mark goes on to say:
He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went to them, walking on the lake. Mark 6.48
Jesus saw the disciples straining at the oars. But it was night, it was pitch black but Jesus saw them. He didn’t see them with binoculars. He was not seeing with his eyes but with his divine power. He had not neglected them, he was not unaware of their plight. And at some point late in the night during the fourth watch he decided to go to them on the water. And for those unfamiliar with nautical terms, the night watch is broken up into four watches. The first watch would go from 6PM to 9PM, the second watch would go from 9PM to midnight, the third watch from midnight to 3AM, and the fourth watch would run from 3AM until 6AM.
So Jesus waiting until 3AM to come to them. At this time they were physically exhausted straining against the oars. They were probably mentally exhausted and angry . They were likely spiritually exhausted and yet Jesus comes to them. And he comes to them in a very unorthodox manner. A way in which they had never experienced him. He comes to them walking on water.
They saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” John 6.19-20
And about that time, they are thinking this is something new. We had seen him utilize water when he turned water into wine, we had seen him when he sat at the well with the Samarian woman and offered her living water, we had seen him at the water pool of Bethesda and healed the lame man, but this was something new. And so it is easy to ask why walk on water, why not just show up on the boat?
With a little background reading we learn that water has a lot of symbolism in the Bible. Water was often seen as a good thing, but also seen as a bad thing, a thing that represents chaos and evil. i.e, an abyss, a watery grave. In many ways a picture of hell. And especially in the Old Testament water often represented the thing that stood between the people of God and their deliverance. If you think back on the story of Moses delivering the people and the people face the Red Sea. They were facing the thing that stood between them and their deliverance i.e., their ability to go and worship God in the wilderness. And God allowed Moses to part that water and go to freedom.
Now we see Jesus as the new Moses exercising his dominance over the thing that would separate the God’s people from God. The thing that would seek to destroy them. The apostles were thinking: “what is going on here?” so they become afraid, Jesus looks at them and says it is I don’t be afraid. In other words get your eyes off the storm so you won’t be afraid. Don’t even look at yourselves because you may see your failures. Just keep your eyes fixed on me.
And about that time is when we get a new detail in the story where Matthew informs us that Peter decided in the middle of the storm that he wants to learn how to water walk. So when Jesus says, “it is I don’t be afraid, Peter says prove it, he says:
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14.28
In other words don’t tell me to swim to you, or to row to you. Tell me to walk to you on the water, because I want to learn to water walk too. Peter was impulsive, but Peter was a master fisherman who likely had already exhibited some form of mastery over the sea but now wanted like Jesus to have complete dominance over it. He wanted to do what Jesus was doing, and after all, Jesus had told the disciples that someday they would be able to do what Jesus did. So Peter is saying okay now is the time, tell me to come to you. So Jesus calls Peter’s bluff. He says “Come”.
“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Matthew14.29
Peter got out of the boat, he didn’t stand there paralyzed and frozen. We don’t know how many steps he took, one, two, three or more steps. We don’t know, but we do know that he had enough faith to begin that journey towards Jesus in the middle of the storm. But then he messed up because he took his eyes off Jesus. He began to sink. The scripture goes onto say:
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14.30-31
So Peter is walking on water and takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to sink. So Jesus reaches down and catches him and looks at him straight in the eyes and says: “you of little faith, why do you doubt?”. In other words Peter when are you going to get this, when are you going to understand that I can deliver you from a storm if you just keep your eyes on me? And he picks him up and puts him in the boat and the rest of the disciples are likely looking on thinking, “wow, if Jesus is saying Peter has no faith, I certainly don’t have faith. Peter is crazy but he has faith.” By that time they were willing to take him into the boat because they recognized him. John goes onto say:
Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. John 6.21
We can read this without realizing that this is another miracle. They bring Jesus into the boat and just like that they were “immediately” transported safely to the shore. Safe on solid footing. So they are probably talking to each other about the event saying things like: “can you believe what we just went through, we were straining at the oars in the storm, Jesus comes to us, and then crazy Peter decides to go to Jesus in the middle of the storm, and he sinks like a ton of bricks, but Jesus reaches down and picks him up .” It was amazing. And someone is thinking this sounds like a familiar story like we heard in synagogue even like one of the Psalms, Psalm 18, when King David was fearful of being consumed by his enemies and God reached down and delivered him.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy…They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.
This is King David speaking, the same man who had the affair with Bathsheba. The one who would often get caught up in some form of sin. Yet God delivered David, because he delighted in him. Why, because in spite of his sin, God knew that David was a man after God’s own heart.
So that is the end of the story. So what lessons do we get out of it? This is one of those stories that if you don’t get a lesson out of it then you were likely not listening. This is one of the basis faith stories. The idea that storms are going to come. In the Christian life we call those storms trials and tribulations. And whether we like it or not those storms are going to come. And sometimes those storms are because of our own choices in life. Has anyone ever have storms come into their lives because of choices they have made in their life? I know I have. Every one of you have made choices that have likely brought storms into their life. If you don’t believe me then come visit me and I will help you recall one or two.
But sometimes storms come not because of something we did, but simply due to the fact that we live in a fallen broken world full of sin, sickness, bad weather, death, disease, etc. But for the Christian, those storms are not without purpose. In fact in James 1 he tells us that those storms serve to strengthen our faith and we should actually be joyful when they come, as the storms serve to mature us. James writes:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2–4)
If you have been a Christian for any length of time you should know that storms are expected and they come as opportunities to test our faith. We don’t like it but true. And sometimes they come suddenly. One day we are standing on the beach with Jesus eating fish and chips and the sun is shining and we are praising Jesus, the next minute we find ourselves forced out in the middle of the lake in a storm and Jesus is now where to be found. We get the phone call in the middle of the night and the doctor says I have some bad news for you, or your child calls and says I am in jail, or the bill collector sends a bill and says you are about to lose your house, or your spouse calls and says I don’t love you anymore.
The storms come. Yesterday was fine and then whoosh a storm comes through and you respond in panic: “Where is my buddy Jesus? I was just eating fish and chips with him having a good old time of fellowship and now he has abandoned me.” He isn’t in the boat, he is off praying or something, doesn’t he care about my finances, my relationship with my spouse, my health, my child? What’s up with that Jesus. Then we are reminded of what Mark says: He saw them. He is aware of what is going on.
But even though he is aware, he sometimes decides he is going to allow us to sit in that storm a bit until we learn to trust him. In fact I may wait until the last minute, the fourth watch of the night. The time when you are feeling the most physically, emotionally, and spiritually weak. Then I am going to show up in unexpected ways. Maybe you get another call from the doctor and he says that things are not as bad as I originally thought, or you receive an unexpected check in the mail or a word of encouragement from a stranger or someone in the church, or reconciliation from a partner or possibly a new relationship. All these things come in unexpected ways and then whoosh you are immediately transported back to the spacious place where the sun is shining and you are feeling safe again with Jesus.
But some people need a little more because they don’t get it, or that Jesus loves them so much that he wants to teach them to do something only he knows how to do; water walk. I am going to do this because I want your faith to grow. And Jesus is the only one who can teach you how to water walk. You can’t go into Barnes and Noble and look for a book called “Water Walking for Dummies” because only Jesus can teach you how to walk on water.
Jesus teaches you by one word: COME. Just come toward me. Just demonstrate that you have authority over this storm in your life that is attempting to isolate you from your relationship with God. And you say well what does this look like? What does it mean to water walk?
And three things came to mind. You are water walking when you know that this thing is not consuming you. In other words you are not going to give this storm more space in your mind or your body than it deserves. Sometimes we get into the storms and they control us. We get cancer and so we immediately spend our time finding out everything about cancer as if by knowledge we are somehow going to be able to cure it. Or we become preoccupied with our children’s every move even though we really can’t do anything about it. Yet we allow it to occupy so much of our mind, behavior, actions, and calendars. So the first thing is to not give that storm more space in our life as it deserves.
The second thing is to realize that the storm does not define us. Some people have storms in their lives and allow that storm to be their identity. Christians shouldn’t say: “Hello my name is Chuck and I am a widower, or my name is Debbie and I have cancer.” Christians know better. They know that they are children of God made in his image. New creations, in Christ. That is their identity, that is who they are at the core, they are not the storm. So they don’t allow the storm to define who they are because they already know who they are.
And consequently let that storm direct their goals or God’s plans for them. That God has filled them with His Spirit and spiritual gifts that enable them to walk forward with Him as he extends his reach throughout the world. They know they have a gift and a calling and no storm will come against it. The gates of hell will not prevail against God’s Kingdom and neither will your storm.
So really it is basically keeping your eyes on Jesus and not allowing yourself to sink but allowing the stinking thinking to set in. To not allow it to consume you, to become your identity, or to allow it to distract you from the plans and purposes that God has for your life.
And you may be thinking well that’s cool, that’s nice Chuck you have given me a nice spiritual happy thought that I can think about for the day, but I was really hoping for a practical example. I need to see some practical examples. And I thought I could give you some practical examples from my own life but instead I found two other examples one involves wind and the other water.
The first one relates to wind. I’ve said it before that I watch a lot of news and I assume that many of you know that there have been some major deadly storms that have impacted several parts of the country. And one of the biggest storms hit April 27th in Alabama. Anyway, I was watching the NBC evening news with Brian Williams and Brian is interviewing this pastor whose name is Pastor TL Lewis from Bethel Baptist Missionary Church in Pratt City. And this pastor is standing in the middle of his destroyed church. There is a picture of the destroyed church behind me on the screen. Anyway, he asked Pastor Lewis how he is getting through this. How are you coping with this? And Pastor Lewis makes a comment that I couldn’t help but write down because it was so inspiriting. He says:
"I can't tell you that I don't hurt over this, I hurt every day. But I got too much evidence to not have confidence to know that this too shall pass”
If you are currently going through a trial I suggest that you make about twelve copies of this and put in every place in your house, in your car, etc. If you are a Christian, you have too much evidence to not have confidence to know that this too shall pass. Can everyone say that right now?
This is what the Christian says. The evidence is that you have been through the trials and have seen God work through it, so you know that you will get through this current trial and be stronger because of it. And so this is an example of Walking on Water. This pastor is walking on water. He is standing in the middle of this ruined church and saying: “it is just a building, I still have my people, I still have my ministry, we will get through this, and nothing is going to keep us from our mission.”
The second example involves water. Does anyone recognize the name Bethany Hamilton? If you are a surfer you would if you are a Christian you might. In 2003 she was near her home in Kauai going out for a morning swim (or surf). It was a beautiful day, she was out in the water and her left arm was dangling over the board. Suddenly a 14ft. tiger shark came up and bit off her arm up to the shoulder. She lost 60% of her blood. Most people thought she would never get back into the water let alone surf again. As the following video shows, not only did she get back into the water she went on to place in women’s national surfing championships, proving that she can not only continue to surf but walk on water. That is she learned to overcome the thing that sought to destroy her and her vision.
[Play Video – “Walking on Water” – Bethany Hamilton]
Let us pray.