Some truths can be tough. Take the truth about a swimming pool, for instance. This week I heard a smooth voice on the radio tell me how much fun a pool is for the whole family, how glorious on a scorching hot day to dive into the liquid coolness and splash your sweat away.
I might have bought it, except for the fact I happen to own a swimming pool. I know the tough truth: a pool is not fun unless you are willing to lay out loads of cash and hard work. The chemicals are expensive, keeping it clean is time consuming and back breaking, and worst of all never ending. Before you buy a pool, you need to know to know the tough truth.
Whether it’s marriage, or becoming a parent, graduating from school or landing a new job, the truth is both tender and tough. Unlike a pool, I might add, the best things in life are worth the tough truth. Marriage and parenthood and graduation and new jobs are worth the cost you pay.
Following Jesus belongs in this category of the best things in life. But there are some tough truths you and I need to keep in mind. Today we’re going to talk about the tough truth of being a Christian: truth not like ice cream that melts in your mouth, but like steaks, that require chewing to digest. The tough truths are found in Mark 6:45-56.
Jesus is perhaps the only Preacher Who never, ever shies away from the tough truth.
He often speaks the tender truth of God’s love, God’s grace, God’s mercy for sinners. He promises provide for us and protect us and never leave nor forsake them.
But He also speaks tough truths: following Him means denying yourself, taking up your cross daily. He tells whoever endures to the end will be saved.
But His disciples are like us: they often welcome the words they want to hear, and ignore the rest. This is what vs. 52 means when it says their heart was hardened. It’s not that they couldn’t understand the tough truth; they just prefer to live in denial. They forget the wise words of Job 2:10: …Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?
Jesus shakes them awake, and us awake, with 3 tough truths about following Him. The first one is
- Jesus often pushes us out of our comfort zone. (v. 45-46)
Previously in this chapter, Jesus and His disciples host a huge picnic, feeding over 5000 people with only 5 loaves and a couple of fish. It’s a very impressive miracle—so impressive John 6:15 tells us the crowd wants to …take Him by force to make Him king…
I imagine the apostles saying that’s more like it! We’ve been wondering when we’ll quit all this wandering and get down to business! Jesus will surely begin building His kingdom now!
But before the crowd can put the crown on His head, Jesus loads His apostles up on a boat. He made His disciples get into the boat= He pushes them into the boat away from the adoring crowd.
Instead of rallying the people, He sends them all home. Instead of ascending to a throne, Jesus walks up a mountain to kneel before His Father to pray. How can He throw away the opportunity of a lifetime? He could be King and save the world!
Jesus is teaching His apostles and the crowd and us some important lessons.
He did not come to win the approval of the crowd. He did not come just to fill hungry bellies and lead a revolution. He came to send us into the storm, to push us out of our comfort zone into places where we feel inadequate and even afraid. His ultimate goal is to push us where He is—on our knees, praying, depending completely on God.
Jesus pushes you and me out to the sea. He’s tells us to get in and go, but most of us cling to the shore. You’re afraid to go out onto the dark stormy sea. You’re worried that you won’t be able to paddle back on your own. You and I do all we can to keep ourselves safe and sound. If we get in that boat and Jesus shoves us off, we can’t depend on ourselves anymore—we’ve got to depend on Him. Prayer wouldn’t be just a few words spoken in a hurry on our way somewhere else—we would have to pray or sink! The tough truth is this is where He pushes me and you!
Somebody said boats are nice and safe in the harbor but that’s not what boats are for! Ships are made for sailing to places you’ve never been!
I confess I am a landlubber at heart, that being pushed out to sea scares me. There are times when instead of getting in the boat, I’ve clung to the shore. But when I let Jesus push me out, I have experienced glories I would never have known had I stayed out of the boat. Don’t let fear keep you anchored—step in the boat, and let the Lord push you out! The second tough truth I find here is
2. Jesus is more likely to show up in the storm than the sunshine. (v.47-52)
Anybody here know who Rebekah Speight is? She’s a lady who’s eating her chicken nuggets and notices one of them resembles George Washington. You know how you always carefully examine your chicken nuggets before you eat them. Well she decides this was so unusual that she didn’t eat the nugget—she auctioned it off on eBay for $8100.
I’ve seen pictures of the nugget, and I say the only way you’d see Washington in it is if you were looking for Washington. Mrs. Speight is maybe a history teacher?
I’ve noticed it seems when many of us look for Jesus, we tend to look for Him in the sunshine. When times are good we say the Lord is on His throne and all’s right with the world. But when times are dark, we’re quick to cry out my God, why have You forsaken me?
But what if the tough truth is Jesus shows Himself clearest in the dark stormy sea?
This is where the disciples find themselves. They are rowing for all they’re worth, but getting nowhere. …the wind was against them. (v. 48). Last time they were in a situation like this, Jesus was with them. Good thing He was because if He hadn’t stilled the storm, they’d have drowned!
But this time, He’s not in the boat—He’s on the mountain, praying, far removed from their plight. He probably doesn’t even realize what we’re going through out here.
But Scripture says …He saw them… (v. 48) Whether naturally or supernaturally, Jesus sees exactly where they are and precisely what they are going through. Between 3-6 AM,…He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. We’ll come back to this in a moment.
The apostles are terrified, thinking Jesus is a ghost, but He speaks to them, telling them Don’t be afraid! It is I= literally I AM! He gets into the boat, the winds and waves calm down, and the apostles are astonished and amazed because they are in denial about what just happened.
So what did just happen?
First of all, Jesus strolling on the waves reminds us of Somebody else:
Job 9:8 He [God] alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea;
Psalm 77:19 Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, And Your footsteps were not known.
When Jesus passes by the disciples on the sea, we’re reminded of Somebody else:
Moses Exodus 33:22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by.
1 Kings 19:11 And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces…
When Jesus says Be of good cheer! I AM! Do not be afraid. we are reminded of Somebody else:
Exodus 3:14 …Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
This is what theologians call an epiphany, when God pulls back the thick veil separating the natural from the supernatural and gives us a glimpse of His glory. It is as real as the burning bush or Elijah’s whirlwind. He shows us His glory in the storm!
He shows us the glory of His care. He sees through the darkness and turmoil, and sees exactly where we are and what we are going through. The angry waves cannot keep Him from coming to us. He walks on the water because this is the quickest way to get to His frightened followers.
He shows us the glory of His salvation. He calms His apostles’ fears and then calms the waves. When they are without help and without hope, He gets in the boat with them and gets them safely to where He wants them to be.
When your way grows dark, and the going gets tough, this is the time to look for Jesus to show up.
While you’re busy bailing water out of your sinking ship, remember He sees you. He never forgets where you are or what you’re going through.
Isaiah 49:15–16 15“Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. 16See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…
When your heart is dark with sin, and you’re drowning in guilt, you can call out to Jesus and he will show up to rescue you.
Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love…
Listen! Jesus is more likely to show up in the storm than the sunshine because it is in the storm when we realize how much we need Him!
God loves us in good times and bad. But he is even more real in our lives when we are having tough times. – Joe Gibbs
That’s tough, but it’s the truth. If your life is one long dark and stormy night, look for Jesus, call out
to Jesus, and just like these disciples, you will find Him passing by, showing you His glory.
Finally, the 3rd tough truth can be summed up this way:
- He does not want us to confuse resting with resigning. (v. 53-56)
These verses seem like throwaway lines. Mark’s been telling us over and over how crowds flock to
Jesus to heal them, how the miracles keep coming to them as they keep coming to Him. In the Gospels, this is business as usual.
That is just the point: things have got back to business as usual for Jesus and His apostles. They’ve been high and low, and now they go right back to their regularly schedule program, preaching the Gospel and ministering to the people.
Do you suppose it might have been a little difficult to go back to business as usual?
After all I’ve seen, I can’t just go back to these stinking crowd! That break we had reminded me of how much easier it is to just go back to my normal life.
Jesus had this crowd in the palm of His hand, and He sent them away! He walks on water, calms the sea, gets us to dry land and now He just goes on like nothing happened? Is this how He plans on bringing in the kingdom of God—healing more sick people, preaching more sermons? This isn’t what I signed up for!
To their credit, all 12 of His apostles stick with Him. They don’t let their rest lead them to resign.
But some of us do, don’t we?
Some of us start so well, get so hyped up to serve the Lord, but then we lose steam when things get ordinary. We flock to get involved when it feels new and exciting, but with time our enthusiasm wanes. When it’s not fun anymore, when it’s just the ordinary plodding along, we find more interesting ways to spend our time. I cannot count how many times in church people tell me Bro Mike, I just need a break for awhile. But then rest becomes resignation.
A good friend of mine was kidding with me last week about what I said about rest. He told me he figured out how to take my words to heart: he’d grab him some bait and go fishing on Sunday, because that’s how he likes to relax.
What he said jokingly some people take seriously, not just about attending church, but serving the Lord. The tough truth is God does expect us to rest, but we cannot afford to resign. The only reason rest is important is so you can regain your strength to keep serving the Lord. You cannot follow the Lord and not be involved in the work of the Lord.
John 12:26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also…
Serving Jesus and following Jesus are inseparable. The tough truth is that we must enjoy His rest, but we must never resign from His work.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Sunday morning, the alarm goes off, she gets out of bed and starts her morning routine. He just lays there. She gets her breakfast and coffee and shower, and he just lays there. Finally she nudges him and says, “Don’t you think it’s time to get ready for church?” He grumbles, “I’m not going to church.” She replies, “And just why not?”
“3 reasons,” he mumbles. “First, it’s too cold outside. Second, nobody there likes me. and 3rd, I’ just too tired.”
She grabs the covers and pulls them off the bed, saying so sweetly, “Well I’ve got 3 reasons you’re going to go to church. First of all, they’ll have the heat on. Secondly, there are a few people who like you. And 3rdly, you are the pastor! Now get ready you big baby!”
Perhaps the toughest thing about the truth is it never changes. But the greatest thing is the truth can change you.
The tough truth can challenge you to get into the boat and let Jesus push you out of your comfort zone.
The tough truth can show you the glory of God in the middle of your stormy sea.
The tough truth can keep you going when you are tempted to give in or give up.
This morning, I pray the tough truth softens your heart so Jesus can speak to you.