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Reading through the Gospels #102


Mark 6:45-56, Matthew 14:22-36, John 6:16-24

Immediately after Jesus fed the 5000, Jesus made His disciples get back into the boat to go ahead of Him to Bethsaida, leaving Him behind to dismiss the crowd of people. They must not have wanted to leave Jesus because Jesus had to make them all go. I can imagine that the crowd did not want to leave either.

Then Jesus went up on the mountain to pray. He was alone in a desolate place to pray. It was already getting late when He fed the 5000, so evening must have come quickly. Jesus could see the boat from the mountainside and He could see that they were struggling to move along in the sea waters because of the wind against them. Yet he let them struggle as He continued to pray. The boat had such trouble moving it was a long way from land (hence below Jesus had a long way to walk.) The Book of John adds that they went 3 to 4 miles.

I note that nowhere in Scripture does it say there was a storm and yet so many devotions and sermons talk about people "being in a storm," of life making the story about us instead of about Jesus. It only says that there was a strong wind. When I read this story, I only saw a boat struggling against wind in my mind. Then I realized I was not picturing rain and a storm as I have often heard. Do not add to or take away from Scripture.

At about a fourth watch of the night (that is, about 3 a.m., which means Jesus had been praying for many hours) Jesus was walking on the water to make His way to Bethsaida, meaning to pass by the boat. It seems to me that Jesus was going to let them struggle against the wind because His intention was to pass up the boat. I know Jesus cared for them, but Jesus knows all (omniscience). God knows His own intentions, His creation, and all history in the past, present, and future.

The disciples would have been rowing hard and focused on the task at hand, not noticing Jesus coming close and then all of the sudden He was close enough to catch their attention. The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost and cried out in terror. I am not sure what I would have done had I seen what I thought was a ghost coming towards my boat in the middle of the night. I would probably go "ahhhhh" and duck my head down to try to hide.

Jesus immediately said to them "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." The disciples surely recognized His voice and were immediately comforted and, thereafter, immediately amazed that Jesus, a man, was walking on water. Jesus did not immediately calm the wind, but He did calm His people. The men were comforted by His voice. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them," John 10:27. Surely after seeing all of His miracles in the past months they did not doubt it was Him, and yet here we see that they are slow to believe. I think about the fact that Jesus is "The Great I Am" when I read the words, "it is I." I also think about the Angels in the field when Jesus was born saying "Do not be afraid." God has been telling us not to be afraid since Jesus was born and before!

Jesus got in the boat with them and the wind stopped. Jesus is all-powerful (omnipotent). The disciples were utterly astounded. Really? After seeing all of the miracles, how could they not be used to these surprises from Jesus? During Bible times, based on Scripture, the sea was said to be the dwelling place of an ancient serpent who was God's greatest and eternal enemy living in a realm of chaos. Isaiah 27:1 "In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and He will slay the dragon that is in the sea."  Amos 9, "If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search them out and take them; and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them." Jesus stopping the wind meant that He could stop God's greatest enemy.

They did not understand about the loaves and their hearts were hardened. What did they miss about the loaves? Why did they have hardened hearts? How do the two stories connect? The Scripture connects the feeding 5000 to the disciples struggling in the boat. What is God teaching them? What am I not understanding about the loaves? Both are struggling and both need Jesus and in both Jesus provides. Trust Jesus in impossible situations. Did the disciples look at his miracles matter-of-factly as something He just did instead of letting it sink into their hearts to trust Him? Trusting Jesus equates to faith in Him which equates to a good heart. Lack of faith equates to a hardened heart. Mark 8:16-21 also references the loaves and the hardened hearts. If a miraculous feeding and walking on water are not enough to help us understand, there is: John 6:35 "Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst."

When the winds of life threatened to shipwreck my faith, Jesus cares and protects me.

Matthew's version is different as it adds an interaction between Jesus and Peter. After Jesus replies "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid," Peter challenged Jesus to prove it was really Him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” How bold of Peter to be so forward and yet he also showed a lack of faith.

Jesus replied, "Come." And Peter got out of the boat and walked to Jesus! But then Peter began to think about the wind instead of focusing on Jesus and he began to sink saying "Lord, save me!" Jesus reached out to hold Peter's hand saying, "“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” In today's culture, we often hear the words "walking in faith" and I think it started with this Bible story. Peter called out to Jesus in a time of trouble which is a good example for us to follow. I often fail to call out to Jesus first and often go venting to a friendly listening ear before I even think of Jesus. The wind was a distraction to Peter's faith and there are many things in my life that distract me. It is a good reminder to be aware. Peter's "little faith" required a sign for proof. There is something good about "blind faith" in that it is "great faith."

Then the story continues with Jesus getting in the boat and the wind stopping. And then it adds that those in the boat worshipped Jesus declaring that He is truly the Son of God.

July 3, 2024

----- Written earlier
Help us see that the One that we’re looking for is You, Jesus. You’re right in front of us.
I have lots of self-imposed to-do's and often I begin to doubt that they will happen. I begin to focus on the negatives instead if the positive until I push aside my to-do. I focus on my circumstances rather than the end goal.  My faith to finish is destroyed.  The same is with my faith.  When doubts come, I must continue to push forward.

Copyright Cheryl Rutledge-Brennecke
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