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According to Us

One Husband, One Wife, Five Children and Everything in Between

“You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail….”

The background story for this song (Jesus walking on water) is found in three of the 4 gospels. (Matthew 14:22ff, Mark 6:45ff, and John 6:16ff)

It is immediately following the feeding of the 5,000 (from 5 loaves of bread and two fish). I think it is significant to look a little closer than that at the background. Before Jesus feeds the thousands of people he hears of some tragic news. John, the baptizer, had been killed. How closely Jesus knew John is not clear. We know that Jesus and John were cousins (Luke 1); we also know that Jesus was baptized by John (Mt 3:13ff, Mk 1:9ff, Lk 3:21ff); and that John knew of Jesus’ growing ministry and following. Even after John was arrested, he had sent messengers to ask Jesus if He was the One, the promised Messiah (Matt. 11:1ff). Jesus then explains to the crowd the greatness of John, his significance, and calling. For sure, Jesus knew of John and loved him for being obedient to his calling. When the tragic news comes to Jesus that he was beheaded, like any person who has found out about the loss of a loved one, he withdraws from the crowd. Jesus gets in a boat to try to escape.

The crowd, also hearing of this news I’m sure, decide to gather around Jesus. I can picture the news spreading from town to town. Not only did they hear about the tragic and selfish death of John, but they hear of how Jesus is escaping away to grieve. They come out in droves. As Jesus’ boat lands, he sees the crowd that has gathered to be near him. Perhaps they have come to show their support. Maybe they came to just see for themselves. Instead of getting away from them, Jesus is filled with compassion and love. He wants to use this opportunity to touch them, to offer comfort. He understands the significance of John’s life as well as his death, but he also knows the limited understanding of the people that follow him. He knows of their desperate attempts and needs. Not just the immediate needs that we often seem to get stuck on, like food, shelter, popularity.

Jesus gets out from the boat and begins to heal the sick that have come. He spends the whole day meeting the needs of the people, putting his own needs aside. His disciples come, as the sun begins to drop. The remind Jesus that it is almost dark and there is no fast food joints near by. The encourage him to dismiss the crowds; they’re probably famished. Jesus, in his infamous way, turns it on them.

“You feed them,” he says. I’m sure Jesus knows the limited food that the disciples have. The crowd later is counted. (5,000 men, plus women and children) Jesus knows they can’t do it, alone that is.

After everyone is seated, Jesus takes the 5 loaves and two fish, prays over it, and begins to break it apart. He miraculously feeds all the people there. Not only is everyone full, there are 12 baskets full of left overs, far more than what they started with.

It’s now dark, the end to a very long and emotional day. After the crowd is dismissed, Jesus tells his disciple to get back in the boat and go across the lake to the other side. He was going to stay behind.

I can’t imagine what must have been going through his head. Perhaps Jesus still needed more time to grieve the loss of John. Maybe John’s death was a reminder of what was to come for himself, death on the cross. Just maybe, Jesus was overwhelmed by the needs of the people for a Savior and yet was hurt that all they could focus on was what they could physically benefit. It’s not clear, but it does say that Jesus went up the mountain by himself and prayed through the night.

All three passages make it clear that Jesus is alone on the land while his disciples are making their way across the Sea of Galilee. In Mark 6:47 it says that the disciples are about half way across the lake. In John it says that they are 3 to 3 and a half miles from the shore (the lake is about 6 miles wide). As the disciples are going, there seems to be some storm that comes. They are struggling against the tide.  Jesus, still on land praying, sees them struggling, and decides to go to them and help.

It’s dark out on the water. The disciples, some who are trained fishermen, are struggling against the storm. Them, out on the water they see something. I’m sure the waves are rising and falling. Maybe they aren’t certain they see someone.

Wait, there it is again.

Whoa, there is a ghost coming. We are going to die, I’m sure they are thinking.

As Jesus gets closer, he calms their fears. They aren’t seeing a ghost. Jesus really is walking out to them on water. How can this be? Remember, Jesus is God. He created the world and the laws of physics that we are bound to, but he is not. How can he heal? how can he make something out of nothing? how can he walk on water? He created it. He can do what he wants and is not limited like we are.

Take courage! (literally, Cheer Up)

It is I. (I am)

Don’t be afraid. (Stop being afraid)

I love this. Why do we need to stop being afraid and cheer up? The I AM- Yahweh, God Almighty, the One, Maker, Lord- He is with us and on our side. I have blogged many times about the significance of I AM. I AM is God’s holy name. {Here, and here are a couple of them.} We come to God, most the time very unsure and scared, with our troubles. He meets us with the answer- HIMSELF.

Both John and Mark’s accounts end here with Jesus getting back in the boat. John says that immediately the arrive on the shore. I’ve always wanted to hyper speed.

Matthew paints a little more of the scene. Peter, being the outspoken try anything kind of guy, says to Jesus, “if it’s you, tell me to come on the water.” Did Peter doubt it was Jesus, or did he want Jesus permission. I don’t know. Peter knew that was an amazing sight. He knew he could never do it without Jesus.

“Come,” Jesus calls, giving Peter permission. The invitation is there. Step out of the comfort zone. Never mind the fact that the boat is somewhat an illusion of control. Peter is invited to step into total trust and reliance.

He steps out of the boat. Was he timid, like a child who partly hangs on to the edge? Did he swing his legs over and walk out? Maybe he even cautiously stepped out, reaching out to Jesus hands. As Peter saw the wind blow up, and perhaps the waves move under his feet, he was filled with fear. That moment of total trust was lost to fear. {I’ve done that many times.} He begins to sink. It’s lost, that moment.

SAVE ME!

Jesus reached out, and lifted him up, but not without a rebuke. “Why didn’t you believe?” {ouch} The disciples later also get rebuked about doubt when they worry about food to eat. (um, he just fed an entire town of people with nothing.)

They both climb into the boat. I’m sure if you were to look at the other disciples faces every one of them would be wide-eyed, jaws dropped. Those in the boat worshiped Him as the Son of God.

Life is a journey. There are times along this journey that I am victorious in my faith. Given a difficult situation, faced with fear, I choose to believe. Sometimes I was left with disappointment and confusion. Other times I felt victorious, knowing that my faith had helped me endure that difficult time. Then there were all the other times that I was like Peter. I stepped out with full intention of trusting God. I wanted to show that I had this huge faith. Then the waves rose up and I sank. I was left licking the wounds of doubt. I wasn’t as amazing as I thought. My faith had failed. I had failed.

Then, like Peter, Jesus did it anyway. When I was out-of-the-way, Jesus steps in and does what only he can do. Those times of faith were never about me and what I “can do” for God. I remind myself, it’s about HIM.

Isaiah says it this way,

When you pass through the waters,
 I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God, (Literally I AM)
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” (emphasis mine)

Isaiah 43:2-7

Jesus will do it, because his name is at stake. Believe, and it will be even more amazing.

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