Friday, 31 August 2012

Why does Jesus walk on water?

Mark 6:45-52

Life is hard: there are discouragements, disappointments, criticisms
Some of us have been on holiday, and now we have to go back to work: we have to be responsible, do things we do not wish to do, wear the uniform, look smart.

The Christian life is no different: it is hard to be a Christian believer.
Our society is increasingly anti-Christian; maybe our work place or family is hostile to faith; our friends are at the stage where they want to experiment or have new experiences, which is great, except God plays no part in their thinking and they want to do things against what God has said.
Maybe you have lost your job, struggling with a sense of lack of worth, or with forgiveness, sickness, bereavement. 
It is hard living by faith, putting your total trust in an unseen God; and at times prayers seem unanswered, God seems absent and you feel forgotten. 

It is hard: the disciples (Jesus' followers) are being obedient to Jesus. He has told them to go to the other side of the lake, and they have gone. And yet, even though they are being obedient, 'they make headway painfully'. They are not getting anywhere fast.

But it is when the disciples are in this situation, struggling against the wind, making slow headway, that Jesus comes to them, walking on the water. 

Why?

1. Jesus walks on the water to show the disciples that he has not forgotten them.
Jesus sends off his disciples and goes up a mountain to pray. 
It reminds us that He is, even now,  praying for us. We're told that in Hebrews. He is 'seated' next to his Father, and he is praying for this world and for us. But in his prayer he not only faces God, his Father. He also looks for us.
And Jesus sees that his disciples are struggling. 

His prayer for them would have been more than enough. But Jesus comes to his disciples, walking on the water, to show that he has not forgotten them.

We know that Jesus is praying for us as we seek to obey him here. We know that he can see us and our struggles. But there are moments in our Christian life when things are hard going, and Jesus, in his compassion, comes to us and meets us - whether in worship, communion, an encounter, a time of prayer or whatever. He comes to us and reassures us that he has not forgotten us. 

2. Jesus walks on water to show us that he can come to the most unlikely place and at the most unlikely time.
'At about the fourth watch of the night [about 3am], he came walking to them on the sea'.

It was the most unlikely place: so unlikely that they think that he is a ghost. And he came at an unlikely time, at the darkest hour. 

They've been slogging away for quite some time: the youtube clip is taken from a boat in roughish seas on the sea of Galilee. They were in a much smaller boat than this. 



It was really hard work; it had been going on for several hours; and 3am in the morning is the darkest moment of the night.

And Jesus walks on the water to show that he can come, and he often does come, at that darkest moment or in that darkest place. Nowhere is beyond his reach, not even when we've been disobedient and we know we are not where we should be. 

3. Jesus walks on water to show that all things are possible to him
He's fed the 5000; he is now walking on water and calming the wind.
It is no wonder that the disciples are terrified and then astounded. 
It is no wonder that he needs to say, 'Don't be afraid'.

Notice that here they are not frightened by the sea. This is different to the occasion when the disciples are caught in an overwhelming storm and are terrified. This is simply about hard work. However, here, they are terrified by Jesus. 

Love, not fear
It's not surprising. Jesus says to them, 'Don't be afraid. It is I'. The words, in the original, used for 'It is I' are the same as those that are used to translate the words used by God when Moses asked God to tell him His name. God says, 'I am who I am'. 
This is the one who is the Creator; this is the one who is bigger than all we've known or experienced or dreamt - who is completely beyond us and outside our control. And yet he tells us, 'Don't be afraid'.

The reaction of the disciples in the boat to Jesus walking on the water, is the same as their reaction, a short while later, when they see him in his radiant glory (Mark 9:2-6). It is the same as the reaction of the women to the news about the risen Jesus (Mark 16:8). 

But Jesus does not wish for us to live by fear of him.
He loves us and he desires us not to be his slaves, but his children and his beloved. 

What is interesting here is that Jesus came to his disciples, but his intention was to pass them by. In other words, Jesus would have come to them, walked alongside them, and then gone on ahead to the place where he had told them to go.

But because 'they do not understand who he is', they are terrified of him. 

It is a bit like the children in one of the Narnia stories. They see a lion running beside them. If they had been trusting Aslan, they would have known it was Him, and been reassured. But because they had forgotten him and were trying to do their own thing in their own way, they are terrified of it. 

And Jesus, in his compassion, hears their cry and he gets into the boat with them. And when he gets into the boat, they are given a glimpse of heaven. The sea immediately becomes calm, and they reach their destination. 

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