Friday, January 22, 2010

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night - John 6:17-21

"His disciples went down to the sea,
and after getting into a boat,
they started to cross the sea to Capernaum.
And it had already become dark,
and Jesus had not yet come to them.
And the sea began to be stirred up
because a strong wind was blowing.
When therefore they had rowed about three or four miles,
they beheld Jesus walking on the sea
and drawing near to the boat;
and they were frightened.
But He said to them, 'It is I; do not be afraid.'
They were willing therefore to receive Him into the boat;
and immediately the boat was at the land
to which they were going."
(John 6:17-21)

Have you ever found yourself in a dark, stormy, terribly frightening situation? That is where the disciples of Christ have found themselves in John 6 and their dark and stormy situation has much comfort to speak to our own.

Jesus has just fed the 5,000 + and the well-fed crowd has found itself overwhelmed by the miraculous work He has just performed. They want to make Him their king - but it is not time for His coronation so, as Christ often does, He withdraws from them. The disciples have headed out to sea and suddenly they find themselves in a bit of a pickle. Night is falling. The sea's waves are churning. Jesus is no where to be seen and the disciples are becoming a bit unsettled by the whole scenario. It was a dark and stormy night...really!

This particular story is recorded in Matthew and in Mark as well as here in John. Those two gospel accounts shed an interesting angle of light not expressed by John. Jesus MADE them get in this boat.

"And immediately He made the disciples get into the boat, and go ahead of Him to the other side...." (Matthew 14:22, Mark 6:45).

Christ "made" His disciples get into a vessel that He knew would carry them right slap dab into the middle of a frightening storm!
Friends - Christ set the stage here. He orchestrated and designed the situation. I suppose you could go as far as to say that the omnisicent and sovereign Savior set them up. However, we must remember that Christ is an all-wise, holy, and loving Lord who knows best what we need most - even storms. As we will see, this frightening situation which has been perfectly laid out and ordained according to the counsel of God's will, has a purpose - a faith increasing purpose.

Christian, what storm are you facing today? What "boat" has Christ "made" you sit in? Do you recognize God's hand in it and will you trust Him with it?

Several things prick me from John's account.

1. It appeared that they were alone in the storm. "It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them." (vs 17)

Here they are in a boat, in the dark, and in a storm. The water is churning all about them. The winds are blowing all around them. They are rowing feverishly. And they are scared stiff (see vs 17-19). Jesus MADE them get into this boat - and where is He? "OK Master - You sent us here! You put us in this vessel! Where are You?!?!" They feel alone. They feel abandoned. Where is He? Where is Jesus?!?!

Have you been there? I have. Even recently, Christ has put me in a "boat" on a churning sea and in moments of enveloping darkness and strong storm winds He "seems" to have disappeared. Job understood the feeling and his words have been my mantra many times over this past year:

"Behold, I go forward but He is not there,
and backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
When He acts on the left I cannot behold Him;
He turns on the right, I cannot see Him."
(Job 23:8-9)

But even Christ's apparent withdrawing (note that I say apparent) is with divine purpose. As we are about to see, Christ is coming, walking on the water - right on time - as He always does! Christian, you may "feel" alone - but you never are!

2. Despite their fears and feelings, they were not alone in the storm. "When therefore they had rowed about 3 or 4 miles, they beheld Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat." (vs 19)

The storm was fierce. They had to work hard to row against the winds and waves. Yet, here comes Jesus - walking on the water! Spurgeon once said that the things which to us are a crushing burden are to Him but a speck of dust. Here's a prime picture of that reality. Friends - Jesus is God. The crashing waves were as firm a walking spot for Christ as the sidewalk on Main Street is to me! Ryle reminds us that Christ was the Maker of the sea and that it was as easy for Him to walk on it as it was for Him to make it!

Oh dear ones, these weighty, pressing, debilitating and absolutely overwhelming things in our lives are less than feathers to Him and He will poof them away when it is time. He walks upon the storm. He walks to us on the storm. Do you trust the Maker of the storm to come to you in the storm? Too often I find myself rowing instead of resting and pouting instead of praying.

3. Thinking we are alone in the storm makes us irrational! "They beheld Jesus walking on the sea; and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened." (vs 19)

It was dark, they couldn't see Him. Their faith was weak, so weak that when He did appear to them they freaked out! How fickle and fearful we are as His disciples. "Hey Jesus - where are You? Did you bail on me?" Then He comes - not perhaps as we had assumed that He would - and we are scared stiff of Him! May God have mercy on us for our foolishness - and may we praise Him that He does. Whatever is right and true and honorable - let us think on these things rather than dwelling on the emotional irrationalities that our minds so often conjure up. Bilbically out-think your feelings and take your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.

4. Christ knows our fears and calms our frights. "But He said to them, 'It is I; do not be afraid." vs 20)

No sooner does Jesus see the fear mounting on their faces than He calms it and settles them - just as He calmed the waves and settled his disciples onto the dry ground. Oh, He knows our frailties. He knows we are but dust. He knows we are weak and faltering and foolish, faithless sheep - and He loves us anyway.

Ryle sums the whole scenario up well when he writes:

"Let all true Christians take comfort in the thought that their Savior is Lord of waves and winds, of storms and tempests, and can come to them in the darkest hour, walking upon the sea. There are waves of trouble far heavier than any on the Lake of Galilee. There are days of darkness which try the faith of the holiest Christian. But let us never despair if Christ is our Friend. He can come to our aid in an hour when we think not and in ways that we would not expect. And when He comes, all will be calm."

Hold on storm tossed one - knowing that He holds on to you. It may be a dark and stormy night, you may be fearful, you may even be irrational, but the King of all creation is coming to calm you and He is coming right on time.

Safe in the storm,

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