I want to share a word with you that is in the Book of Mathew, the gospel according to Mathew, chapter 14. I’ll begin at verse 22, well known passage and I think it has a timely message for us, message of encouragement and verse 22, Mathew 14:22 says:
“…Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them he went up on a mountain side by himself to pray and when evening came he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land buffeted by the waves, because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them walking on the lake and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. It’s a ghost, they said and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them, ‘Take courage, it is I, don’t be afraid’. ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water’. ‘Come’, he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 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, why did you doubt?’. And when they climbed into the boat the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’. When they had crossed over they landed at Gennesaret and when the men of that place recognized Jesus they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak and all who touched him were healed.”
I shared this passage with the Latino congregation last Sunday and I feel that it has a message for us as an English ministry tonight as well. It’s an encouraging message. It’s a message of encouragement but as these messages of encouragement go in scripture, it’s a complex kind of message of encouragement. It has a tinge as well of complexity to it that I think we also need to explore.
But I have always found this passage inspiring. It shows me how eloquent passages of scripture such as this one can be. How deceptively complex and profound they can be. And it also shows me about the internationality of scripture, the fact that there are stories that are told in the Bible and you can just read them at one level and be blessed by them, but as you go deeper into them you find a sort of a subterranean message, if you will, a second level and even a third level of a message. And I believe that really this passage and the events that transpire in it were designed by the Holy Spirit for us take courage and hope in times of tribulation, in times of trials, in times of difficulty, when we’re not sure where the answer, or when the answer is going to come.
So, we begin by looking at that first line. It says that immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on. Now, that word immediately suggest that has something has transpired before that we need to know. And if you look at the passage right before this one, you notice that Jesus has just carried out a magnificent miracle multiplying bread and fish that couldn’t have fed a handful of people in order to feed and entire multitude, thousands of individuals have been fed by this miracle. Something marvelous has happened and Jesus says to his disciples, well, guys, get on the boat, go in front of me and I will join you later.
And it says that he stayed in order to give leave to the multitude. And it says here another very revealing thing, it says that he made the disciples get into the boat. In the Greek original, as I looked at it, that ‘making’ the disciples go, get into the boat is an emphatic expression that means that Jesus was intentional about making the disciples get into the boat and go on to the other side.
Many speculations have been made as to why Jesus asked the disciples to go and get into the boat in such an insistent manner. One of the interpretations is that when he carried out that miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, if you read in the book of Mark it says that the multitude wanted to make him King, rather it’s in John, the multitude was so astounded by what he did, and so impressed and actually seeing the potential advantages of having a king that could do these kinds of miracles, they wanted to install him as king.
And, so many interpreters says that he stayed to dismiss the multitude because he wanted to sort of quiet and down. If the Roman authorities found out that they wanted to make Jesus king, it would really complicate his ministry tremendously. First, some might interpret it as a seditious act, an act of rebellion against the Roman government or against the reigning authorities at that time; or it probably could have also distorted Jesus’ own message and his own ministry and put a twist that he really didn’t want to have to deal with at that time. We know the complexity of Jesus’ initial ministry where he allowed his divinity, or his messiahship to unfold in a very organic sort of way. He didn’t wanted to be made too public prematurely and so he was allowing that whole message to kind of come in a natural sort of way in order for to arrive at the proper time.
Personally I don’t agree with that particular interpretation. It sounds very plausible and in any case one thing that does impact me about the fact that Jesus wanted to have a time with the multitude before leaving, even there I see something about the delicateness of Jesus’ way of dealing with people. He did see that they were somewhat exulted and excited about what had taken place, and he wanted to kind of give a closing touch to that time, they had been spending hours together. And we know that at the end of that lengthy period of time that Jesus had been with them, the disciples said, ‘Lord, it’s getting dark, and it’s late. Tell them to go home because we can’t take care of them’. So, evidently Jesus had been with them for a long time and he didn’t want to just leave them like that.
There’s something there I think, which is relevant to the whole unfolding of this message which is that caring dimension of Jesus for people, the love that he had for the multitude, how, when they came to grab him, they were go on vacation, so to speak, if you read that passage in other versions, and when they got to the other side of the lake they found this large number of people who were just waiting to hear him and to be taught by him. And Jesus postponed his exhaustion and his desire for rest in order to minister to them and out of that came this miracle of the loaves and the fish.
And then, at the end he still wants to be with them to minister to them and to make sure that they’re ok before he leaves. You know, there’s something there that is important about the caring nature of Jesus, the fact that if he could care for such a large multitude, an anonymous mass of people, certainly, his heart would be able to care for his disciples as well, and certainly he could care for us as well.
One of the things that touches me as I read practically every passage in scripture that portrays Jesus’ way of acting is that care that he had for people. Whether it was Zachaus looking at him from a tree and Jesus understanding the drama that was behind that man, his guilt, his need for forgiveness and for a touch of hope that God perhaps had a plan for his life.
I think of Bartimaeus, screaming at Jesus, ‘have mercy on me, Son of David,’ and everyone wanted to just put him aside because he was just meaningless, he was just a beggar and Jesus stopping and turning to Bartimaeus and tending to his need.
Think about the woman with the flow of blood. Jesus actually has a miracle stolen from him as he touches him secretly from behind and power emanates from him and heals that woman.
And you know, Jesus could have allowed to kind to slip unnoticed into the multitude again, perhaps feeling a bit guilty because she had touched Jesus in a secretive sort of way and perhaps feeling a bit unfinished about what had taken place. I mean, she had been for years, and years, and years living a lonely, isolated life because of the nature of her disease that forced her ceremonially to stay away from people. And Jesus understanding spiritually that that woman needed a moment with him and so he seeks her out. He asks, ‘who touched me?’ and the probably was afraid of what he would say and how he would react, she comes timidly before him. He hears her story and then he says, ‘Go in peace and your faith has made you whole’. And I think validating what this woman has done and adding a finishing touch to that mysterious moment that she had with him.
Jesus begins processes, he likes to finish them. I think that we should not go too quickly past that moment where he does decide to stay with the multitude, but I really think that the reason why Jesus makes his disciples go into that boat, by themselves, without him is more profound than that. I think Jesus was pedagogically intentional in every way. Every event that his disciples went through had meaning, had purpose. Jesus got benefit from every experience and every moment. He always took opportunity because he was training, he was discipling these men.
Often I think that he engineered being himself God and able to foresee things and understand the confluence of events and his own intentions with men and women, he could engineer things so he could allow certain things to happen, or he could allow for the potential complexity of an event to unfold somehow, and I think that he knew what was about to transpire in the disciples’ life at that moment.
If you see for example, that in that previous miracle when the disciples tell him, you know, let them go and get their own food somewhere. Jesus says, ‘well, you give them something to eat’. You know, he was again, he was training. He wanted them to see his miraculous power. He wanted them to see that they could do certain things with him present, with him directing, with him empowering them. They could do great things, nature could not limit him, and therefore nature could not limit them either. And so he was teaching them in that previous miracle and now he allows them to enter into another process in order to teach them other things as well about himself and about them and what they can accomplish and also perhaps, about some of the trials that they’re going to go through in life as well.
So, I think that he puts them into that boat with a particular reason in mind. They’re going to go through a dark time, a horrifying time. And, can we apply that to our life perhaps? I mean, is it possible to believe that God would sometimes engineer certain experiences in our lives that are horrifying and terrible and scary that sometimes lead us to question God’s goodness, God’s coherence, God’s faithfulness, God’s making sense? Is it possible to believe that God allows dark experiences in our life for particular purposes?
I happen to believe that yes, we see that all across the scripture, the most horrific one of all is the experience of his own Son, Jesus, who had to go through a terrible experience of crucifixion, of horrible psychological agony and of spiritual suffering of taking upon himself the sin of the world and going through the most horrific, senseless kind of experience because God had a purpose through that experience. Not only did God allow it, God engineered it, out of that terrible suffering came the most amazing result of life that we can ever contemplate, the salvation of all of mankind.
And we many times through scripture that God does allow difficult, at the very least, experiences in our lives, painful experiences that he wants us to God through and that if we knew that we’re going to go through those experiences, we would flick as quickly as possible, like Jonas into a boat and try to get away as far as possible, or tell God ‘Father, do not let me drink of that cup’, at the very least, and yet God says, ‘you know, son, daughter, I want you to go through that. I need you to go through that because I have a purpose through that.’
I was in an outing for our church just this morning, wonderful, we went to Hopkinton State Park, and we had a large number of our parishioners there and I was walking around the group; we were using a lot of the tables there in Hopkinton State Park and a young man, who belongs to a family in the congregation, said that he wanted to speak to me. So I took some time and I sat down with him. He, very brilliant guy, going to a very, very prestigious university here; and I had to take some time off from school because of significant academic difficulties and he had to take a year off at the very least. And he’s going through a time of a big struggle in his life and depression and self questioning and low self esteem as a result, and has lost his sense in a certain way, of who he is academically and intellectually. And it’s a big struggle in his life, it’s a big tragedy in his life.
And you know, we went through the process of hearing him and proving here and there, and as I heard him I could not promise him a hundred percent that somehow, a year was going to go by and that he was going to return to the university, and that everything was going to be ok and that he would graduate at the end of the whole process and have his diploma. I mean, God is a powerful God and I encouraged him to believe in that and I encouraged him not to let his self esteem unnecessarily be pummeled by this terrible experience, to believe that the God who got him there, against all odds, and I know this, how miraculous it was that he would just get there, would also be able to get him through that experience and he would come out victorious, but I also told him, ‘listen, God may have other plans for your life as well and he may decide..’
We talked a bit in the natural as well, as I understood, you know, I work for admission offices and know a little bit about academic processes and so on and so forth, and I know that for this to struggle, and I didn’t want to tell him completely some of the difficulties that I saw, just in the human, but I encouraged him to think, well, you know, God… first of all I said, keep trying and make sure that you do the best that you can that you pray and that you believe that God can get you out of this. But, at the same time, reserve a certain amount of space for the possibility that even if you were not able to return to your very prestigious university and the most difficult thing in your life happened, that you could not sort of regain your life again at that level and that you have to end up studying at another university. You know, it’s not the end of the world, there’s so much that you can learn from the process, so much that you can gain, the intelligence that got you to this place can also get you to a high position later on and five, seven years from now, if you have gifting inside of you, and you have stamina and character and discipline and intelligence, it won’t even matter whether you finish at this place or some place else. And God is powerful enough to guide you.
And you know, I went on to encourage him how sometimes tragedies in our life and times of pain and suffering can be also times of great growth and development and an entry into another dimension of God’s personality and mystery, and how suffering sometimes can come into our lives and dredge all kinds of things in us and kill so many impurities in us and kill pride and self sufficiency and judgmental spirit and a superficial understanding of God. Pain, directed by God, crafted by God, gone through with God, lived through in the light of scripture and with the energy that comes from the Holy Spirit living with us and in a spirit of obedience and utter submission to God, like Jesus, saying Lord, I don’t want this thing to pass in my life, but if that’s what you want, may your will be done.
When we take pain and we embrace it and frame it within biblical paradigms, pain can be the most powerful ally that any of us can go through. I say this from personal experience, many times through my life and I also say it from the reading of scripture where I see time and time again the mystery of God’s surgical, if you will, interventions in our lives. Pain is the most mysterious ally of all. Just as all those other negative experiences in life: fear, physical pain. These things are actually allies in the proper measure and particularly when God wheels it for his purposes. When we arrive on the other sides of those experiences, we can be much more powerful tan ever.
Jesus speaks many times about the dieing that leads to life in his eloquent metaphor he speaks about, if the grain of wheat doesn’t fall to the ground it remains whole, that is, it remains one single grain of wheat, but if it falls to the ground and dies it bears much fruit. And it’s that principle of the dieing and nothing heals a human being like pain.
Now, pain can destroy you, pain can ravish you if you resist it and become bitter against it and if you enter into a modality of doubt and questioning God’s goodness it becomes a bitter sword that cuts through you and serrates you actually. But if you take pain and if you have the power, spiritual power to see pain as God’s intentional work in your life you’re knowing that nothing happens in your life, nothing happens in our life for no purpose. There’s always a reason.
You know, the Bible speaks about the God’s creating us in the womb of our mother, and creating the bones, creating the inside of our own body, so it’s sort of a concentric circle, the inside of the inside. God creates us and nothing escapes his will, his knowledge, his sight. And as believe, that is the most powerful ally that we have. God is never far away from us and he has a purpose, so everything that happens in our life, and even the horrible sufferings, the crisis that we go through, they have a purpose.
I would even dare to say that even those things that happen before we enter into the Kingdom of God as believers, had a purpose because it’s not like God one day, when we came into his kingdom, said, ah, oh yes, now I know that this person exists. Now I’ll deal with them in a certain way. No, God uses all of the experiences, the difficult experiences.
And Jesus is working through this situation, he’s putting them through a time of great suffering because he has something that he wants to teach them. Now, it says here also, that he said to them, ‘go ahead to the other side’. Two things about that. You know, what is the other side? Physically speaking of course it was simply they were to go on to the boat and meet him on the other side of the shore.
I think there’s a metaphorical meaning about, that if we take that whole experience of the boat and the suffering and so on and so forth, because this is really,… the Bible says that these things were written that we might be edified by them. So I don’t think that God just wanted to register an event, he wanted to teach a certain things, and everything there has meaning.
I have learned so much from scripture by assuming that everything has meaning. That other side to me is that place of resolution, is that place where things have resolved themselves and we have arrived safe after whatever time of trial we have gone through, whatever time of terrible suffering and just scary experience we have gone through.
And it’s interesting, that’s one thing, the other thing is this, that if Jesus said, ‘go and meet me on the other side’ I believe that it was impossible, physically impossible for them not to meet him on the other side, because Jesus was God, his God and he’s saying, ‘I will meet you on the other side’.
I would say mathematically it was impossible for those men not to arrive to the other side. Now, they probably arrived with a few pounds less, with a bit terrified and a little wiser and so on and so forth, but they arrived at the other side. And it is like that, I think when God engineers certain experiences for our lives, he will make sure that somehow we arrive on the other side. It may not be the way we would like to arrive on the other side.
That young man may not arrive on the other side with a diploma from the original university that he went to, but I believe, that when he gets through that dark time in his life, if he holds on to the hand of Jesus, he will arrive stronger, wiser, more humble perhaps, more spiritually inclined because I think that’s an area that God is working on him, and a whole lot of other things that will have happened to him that, you know, it’s wonderful, those of the things that he gained through that experience because if he has those needs in his life that I believe that God is working in through that experience, and he gets a diploma and is simply a superficial Christian who doesn’t know the mysteries of God, then that diploma is really worthless for him.
But if he goes through certain experiences that enrich him as a human being then, my Lord, I think that it’s well worth it. So, I think that when God engineers experiences for us, when God allows us to go through dark times, we must always believe that there is a purpose, there is a good reason that we will somehow arrive at resolution.
The Bible says that to those who love God all things, all things work for good. And I know when you’re going through it, don’t tell anybody, when somebody is suffering, don’t tell him, oh, don’t worry, or, to those who love the Lord, everything works out for good. They’ll probably slap you in the face. Tell them in a gentler sort or way, but you know that’s the last card that we can play when we are in times of difficulty as believers, when nothing makes sense, it’s that affirmation of scripture, that as a child of God everything that happens in my life, by faith, I can turn it into something for good. That has kept me through some very dark times throughout many years of my life. It’s that idea, that I ask the Lord, ‘Lord, what is it that you are trying to teach me through this experience?
I read the events of my life the way I read the events of scripture, believing that it’s a book that has meaning. Our life is a book with chapters and words and sentences and characters and it is written by the most profound of narrators and as in any novel everything has internationality, the sequence, the environment, the characters, the events, the resolution, the problem, everything has a meaning. And so it is with our lives as well.
So, that I hold on. You know, when I’m going through difficult times I say, Lord, what can I learn? What can I gain from this experience and how can I become more profound, more powerful, more like Christ and more dangerous to the powers of hell? Because I have found that when I have gone through experiences with Jesus, holding on to Jesus and to his promises I always come out. It didn’t look like it when I was going through it, but I’ve always come out and it’s always been better than the last time.
You know, I think of the words of the psalmist, it says, and I translate from my Spanish knowledge of the text. It says that patiently I waited upon the Lord and he inclined himself towards me and he heard my cry and he extended his hand towards me and he pulled me out of the miry clay, I think it is, and he set my feet upon a rock and he straightened my path.
And then it says, he put a new song in my mouth, many shall see this and feel the Lord and praise him, because many times the trials that we go through, you know, they’re also for public viewing. We are eloquent lives that speak to the people around us and many believers, when we go through trials and difficulties, if we do it in a biblical, Christ-like sort of way, many people around us we’ll have a multitude of witnesses, maybe our relatives, it may be friends, it may be people in our church and they will see the God that has pulled us out if we had waited patiently.
That psalmist says, patiently I waited. He was in that miry pit for a long time probably, but he waited, he waited. He clamored on to the Lord, he cried to the Lord and at one point the Lord heard him and extended his hand and pulled him out and then it became a public drama that others could enjoy.
Remember that you never go through your dramas by yourself. You have God involved and also many will be blessed if you go through these stages in a Christ-like, biblical sort of way.
Now, it’s interesting in this passage it says that he sends them off, which I believe, again, is a commissioning and an insurance that they would emerge on the other side and it says that when they got into the see, which is really a large lake, they were assaulted by a storm. And remember that Jesus, it says here that he went off to pray. If you read in the gospel of Mark, it’s interesting, I’ve always found revelation in this, in 6:48, Mark which is another version of this same event it says that:
“… when evening came the boat was in the middle of the lake and he was alone –meaning Jesus on land- and in verse 48 says, he saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them…”
He saw the disciples straining at the oars, that detail doesn’t emerge in the Mathew version. And you know, I visited that area of Palestine a year plus ago, and it’s like a big amphitheatre, that lake is pretty big, several miles long, but if you stand…. there are hills all over and if you stand on those hills you can see the entire lake.
And it also says here that we can tell that it was spring time because that multitude was seated on grass and around that time full moon, you could see clearly the entire lake. Jesus was there praying and he could see his disciples straining against the storm. Now, to me that also has a powerful, powerful meaning.
Number one, this fact that Jesus was praying. Why did Jesus pray? Jesus prayed to seek communion with God, Jesus prayed after ministering to people just to renew himself, to renew his strength. By the way, that’s an important thing when we’re going through struggles in our lives, you know, the one thing that the enemy wants you to do is to not pray. He wants you to not read your word. He wants you to stop going to church. He wants you to stop pursuing your spiritual disciplines. He wants you to stop praising him, and he wants you to stop serving others and serving the Lord. He wants you to become passive so that he can then really destroy you and I believe that prayer is so important for life as a whole, to strengthen, preventive prayer so that we can always be strong and remedial prayer when we’re in the middle of struggles.
But you know, this idea of Jesus praying, is it possible that he could have been praying for them as well? As he saw them. It says, he came to them during the fourth watch. The Roman way of keeping time in the evening was beginning at 6 pm and it went into 4 3-hour periods until 6 am. The fourth watch was between the hours of 3 am and 6 am.
Now, Jesus saw them evidently, if he could see them from there, he was praying in that high position, they were in there for a long time. And I believe that Jesus was praying for them, that they might be kept, that they might be prepared for what was going to happen, to transpire in a moment and this image of Jesus praying for his disciples when they were going through a crisis brings salt to my life, because the Bible says that Jesus is right now sitting on the right hand of the Father and that he intercedes for us, he prays for us, awaiting his time to come to the earth again.
I think that brings me comfort. This idea of Jesus the intermediary, Jesus, praying and interceding for us. Jesus, he said to the disciples, it’s good that I go. It was good that he went I think because apart that he would be praying for us, he would be interceding for us and I know that when I go through struggles in my life I’m not alone. I have Christ praying for me. I have Christ encouraging me through his spirit. I have Christ making sure that the enemy doesn’t win that battle and that he doesn’t destroy me through the struggle.
When he told Peter, he said, Peter, you are going to be buffeted by the devil. Remember, before Peter had that great trial where he denied Jesus 3 times? And Jesus warned him, you know, here’s a situation where Jesus knew that Peter was going to go through a dark time of his life. When he was questioned about being a follower of Jesus, Peter was lead 3 times to deny his master. The lowest point, the most demoralizing point in Peter’s life. It says that he cried bitterly after what he did. But Jesus had told him, Peter, you’re going to deny me 3 times and Satan himself.
Is it possible that God would allow Satan himself to touch our life many times? You know, the mysteries of God, if you read Job that’s exactly what happens. The mysteries of God. Many times God will allow even Satan to have a time, just as he did with his own Son with us.
But you know what Jesus said to Peter, he said, But Peter, I have prayed that your faith will not falter. In other words, Jesus was saying, I’m going to let you be trained, I’m going to let you go into that deep dark space so that you might know your limitations, that you’re not the king of the hill, that you’re not more courageous than everybody else, as you think you are; that you don’t have more physical courage than everybody else, because I need you to be humble, I need you to be broken because I’m going to use you, and I need a pastor, I don’t need a boastful truck driver going around saying how big he is and how strong he is.
Jesus needed a pastor and so he was going to put Peter through the paces. But he said, I’m going to pray that as you go through that dark time in your life, your faith will not be broken, that that crisis won’t break your spirit, that you won’t become so demoralized and so self questioning, and so low in self esteem that your pastoral or ministerial possibilities will be totally annihilated. I’m going to pray that you will go through that dark time in such a way that when you come out of it, you’ll come out strong, humble and understanding your limitations, and understanding who I am, as he does, towards the end.
Read also the letters of Peter. Man, what a difference between the boastful, simplistic, superficial fisherman and the powerful, deep, profound, broken pastor that writes the two letters of Peter at the end. It’s almost like, it couldn’t have been that person because he had been taken through the paces, he had been taken through the training, that dark time.
But the thing is that when Jesus allows difficulties to come into your life, he says, I am going to be with you when you go through that stage and I’m going to encourage. I’m going to get the paraclete, the encourager, the consoler, the Holy Spirit to be there with you, every step of the way, guiding and managing and administering every aspect of your journey. That should give us encouragement.
You’ve all read the metaphor or the little narrative of the footprints. When we think that we’re alone, it’s not, we’re not alone in the sand. Those footsteps, those single footsteps is because Jesus is carrying us upon him, not because he has abandoned us.
So I think it’s important that we understand that these disciples were there in the water, being tossed by the waves, the wind against them, just as in life many times, we can have the wind against. But Jesus Christ, the Master of the Universe is there looking, waiting for the right moment of intervention, and that moment of intervention may not be the moment when we want it. Years may go by before Jesus decides to intervene. That’s scary but that’s the truth.
Sometimes we want an answer, we want it now, right away. And we’re like little babies that we cry and we want mom to come right away and put the bottle in sight. But you know, psychological depth and complexity is not gained by mom putting the bottle right in sight every time, if that happened you would never grow, because psychologically you need struggle, you need distance and you need waiting, postponement of pleasure in order to become psychologically complex. All the things that we don’t like to have.
You see, psychological depth, just as a spiritual maturity is only gained through the struggles of life, through the painful times of waiting, through resistance, through exercise, through times of struggle and of doubts when God hides himself from us and forces us to depend sheerly on his promises and on our faith. If God intervened visible and immediately in every situation that we’re going through, we would never become people of faith. We could never encourage others who are going through times of difficulty. God needs to veil himself many times and that is one of things that I resent the most about him many times.
He veils himself and I am asking him, Lord, give me, through me a bone, work with me, give me a little intimation that you are there. And he remains silent and he says, no son, I want you to learn to use the tools, the instruments that I have given you in my word. I want you to become strong, I want you to exercise your powers of perception and of understanding my word and grappling with my mysteries and my personality because I want to fashion a counselor, I want to fashion a teacher, I want to fashion somebody that will glorify me with their persistence and the richness of their life and their understanding of who I am and their ability to minister to others. And those things are not gained by God feeding you every time you cry.
Jesus let them there for several hours while he prayed for them, while he strengthened them and then, when they’re nice and ripe, when their terror has achieved its proper level of depth and intensity, when they have lost all hope, when they are fairly sure that that storm is serious enough to kill them and that by themselves they cannot get out of it, when God has set up the miracle perfectly and the drama is at its highest point of complexity and maturity, then, he steps down and starts walking on the water.
Now, why did Jesus walk on the water? Because he is a Master teacher. The water was precisely what was against these guys, the water was the source of their misery. The water was what was keeping them from going anywhere. The water was their enemy and the water was invincible and unapproachable, totally mute and blind and indifferent to their plait, the water was immensely powerful, it was their giant.
You know, just like circumstances of life, sometimes they’re inaccessible to us, they’re unapproachable, they will not be appeased in any way and in this world we are victims of circumstances except for Jesus. And Jesus loves to show his power, not because he is a showoff but because as we see him in his power, we can take courage and take hope from that and because we are so intimately connected with him, we can expect victory because his victory is our victory.
And Jesus makes that clear in Mathew at the ends of Mathew, he says to them before he has sent… he says, ‘all power is given to me in heaven and in earth, therefore go and preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations.’
Why did he say ‘all power is given on to me in heaven and in earth’? Because he wanted to show off? Was that a gratuitous, unnecessary declaration? No, for these disciples, these raggedy bunch of people, to aspire to disciple nations, they nations they needed a man, a being, a master, a companion, an ally that had all power given to him in heaven and in earth.
So, we always have to look to Jesus. We have to be absolutely possessed with the face and the presence of Jesus in order to survive the struggles of life. We have to be yoked to him, “…remain in me and I in you and you will bear much fruit. Outside from me you can do nothing …”
You see, the power of believer is in discovering that intimacy with Jesus, is in connecting yourself with Jesus, it is in Jesus becoming such a real being that he is 3 dimensional, that you are obsessed with him, that you walk with him, that you ride with him, that you’re always talking to him, that you’re always interpreting your life in the light of Jesus.
This is why Peter, when he always daring that he is, he says, ‘oh Lord, if it’s you –and this is why Jesus by the way- it is I, do not be afraid.’ You see, because not being afraid is depending on the ‘it is I’, and Jesus needed to give them an eloquent, graphic image of who he is, the Master over the waves, the Master over the waters, the Master over the physical, the Master over everything that seems intractable and absolutely rebellious to human intervention.
I shudder when I see critics of scripture, well intentioned, Christian commentators of the Bible trying to demystify this miracle and suggest that it was because they were closer to the water and that Jesus was walking just on the shore, this and that. What a silly, stupid attempt. It destroys the mystery of the whole things, besides internally it’s not supported by the internal evidence of that passage. Evidently, Jesus needed to walk over the waters, he needed to show his power, just as he showed it by multiplying the fish and the loaves, just as he showed it by taking Peter into the deep and getting a huge catch of fish in the most inhospitable of circumstances. It’s always meant, you see, Jesus’ miracles are always meant to show, I am powerful over death, over disease, over demons, over temptation, over sin, over my humanity, over the physical universe as well.
And as we see Jesus, you see, that’s why, let Jesus speak to you in scripture. Read and drink of the image of Jesus, cultivate the presence, the image of Jesus in your life and let it become 3 dimensional to you, let is become intimate with you because if he is intimate with you, then you will be inscribed with that image of him, victorious over death, victorious over the cross, victorious over the tons of the multitude, victorious over treatury, victorious over the demons of hell, victorious over loneliness, all these things and in you, as a result, by looking at Jesus you can participate of all of those skills, all of those gifts, all of those resources. As long as Peter keeps his eye on that Christ he can do the same miracles that Jesus does, he can walk over the waters, but when he takes his eyes off Jesus and looks at the difficulties and starts thinking…
So, this is the calling of the word of God tonight. You know, I cannot promised that you can be delivered from the trials, from the difficulties, from the pains of life, I cannot promise you a rosy life and I don’t want to. It would be the most boring thing. God calls us into a life of adventure, he calls us into a life of meaning. I want to be part of a masterful novel. I don’t want to live an easy, simple life. I mean, what good is in that?
I want to live like an explorer, soldier, an adventurer, I want to know God, I want to know Jesus. I want to fight giants. I want to roam the world doing great things for God. Drama does not come without conflict. Glory does not come without terror, without enemies that are stronger than you, without times of defeat, without times of suffering and of failure and of knowing your weakness. That’s stuff of great, great drama. Any good novelist will tell you that. And you don’t want to live a silly, simple life where everything works out exactly the way you want it.
You want to live a life that has meaning and purpose and power, and pathos and God can write those things into your life. Let him guide you. don’t put limitations on him. Don’t tell him how to write your life. Tell him, Father, I commit my life to you and I will simply let you guide it, whatever you write into my life, I will let it be written, whether it’s loneliness, whether it’s suffering. But also I tell you there will be glory, there will be joy, there will be hope, there will be celebration. I can tell you that much as well, I’m not here to just spell doom for you. The Christian life is the most wonderful, fulfilling, joyous, adventurous thing that you can ever conceive and in the midst of trial and difficulties there will also be great, great joy and great, great victory.
So, let us embrace the race. Let us embrace the journey. Let us embrace the pathos. Let us embrace the mysteries. Let us embrace the suffering and let us see scripture in that complex way that God wants us to see it. Amen.
Let us stand for a moment and I’m preaching this to you and I need to learn this myself, believe me. I preach this to you and next time I go through a hard time, I’ll doubt half of what I’ve said here, but catch me in my better moment, which is right now. And I tell you that everything I say, that’s what keeps me going in this world. I think I would have taken a spaceship out of earth a long time if I could have, unless I knew that I have this God, this faithful, loving, make sense God. And he’s stern Father, he is a trainer, he is severe, he will not be blackmailed, he will not be emotionally manipulated. He takes his time in doing things. He trains us, but he’s such a good God and he makes sense. He takes his time, but he arrives right on time, never too late and never too early, never before we have learned the lesson and never so late that he has to scrape us from the floor. He comes at the right moment and so whatever he has in store for your life, embrace it right now.
I say, Father, I give you full freedom to deal with me and to have your way with me any way you want, and I say this Lord and I tremble as I say it, because I know what a terrible thing I am saying. But Father, I give you a blank page with my signature at the bottom and I say, Lord, write on that page whatever you want because it will be good and I’ll be proud of it.
Father, just at the ends of it all, I want to be proud of the short story of my life, of the poem of my life. I want to be proud because you have written it and because you have fashioned it in a way that is so profound, so complex, so multidimensional. I pray this for my brothers and sisters tonight, each one of them, that they might also embrace your goodness, they might embrace your purposes. We say welcome Holy Spirit, welcome in whatever intentions you might have in our lives. Come Holy Spirit, I pray that if any of my brothers and sisters are tonight even going through difficult dark times, that you will encourage them, that they will be able to frame their suffering in the perspective of the Kingdom of God, his love, his invincible love and good intention for our lives, that they might take courage from that Jesus, that they might look to Jesus in such a way that they will be strengthened because he suffered so much and came out victorious and as the writer of Hebrew says, that we place our eyes on him as well, and we are strengthened by that.
Thank you for being faithful, Lord. Thank you because you have never failed us. We worship you, Lord, tonight, we give you all the honor and all the glory. Thank you for being faithful, our dear Jesus Christ. thank you, Lord. Amen and amen. Thank you Father.
Well, I don’t have a chorus that goes to that, I know one, all to Jesus I surrender, and I don’t even know if… does anybody know it? do you know it? Come on over and let’s lead us through it. I don’t…. maybe who know who we can get it up there. ‘I surrender all’. How many want to surrender all to Jesus? Amen, I don’t know what he has for me in the next 10, 15 years but I surrender it to him, I give it all to him right now. it is good. People, you don’t even know the half of what God has for you but what he wants to show you, what he wants to teach you.
So, live a joyous, expectant life because it will be good. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.