GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 18
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2010|
|Are you afraid? Are you faced with overwhelming circumstances? What can we learn from the story of Jesus walking on the water?|
What Happens When the Son Rises on the Sea?
The title of the message this morning is this: What Happens When the Son Rises on the Sea? If you remember last week, Jesus has just fed 20,000 people with five loaves and two fish. The momentum is building, if you can imagine here. The news reporters are there. The media crews have shown up. The Times Free-Press, if he was in Chattanooga, would have been there reporting on the story. Jesus’ success, if you can imagine, is at an all time high. But as we’ll see this morning, he does something very different that we would expect him to do. In fact, we would expect him to do something very than what he does. After feeding the multitude, Jesus does something miraculous in front of the 12 apostles, and I want to challenge you this morning from the Word of God, looking at the miracle of Jesus walking on the water. I want to challenge you to live a life of worship because of that and also to see the true identity of who Jesus really is.
If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Mark 6:45: “Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night [that’s key] he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them [note that] but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”
Let me give you the first challenge of the text and we’ll see it right out of the gate. Jesus us shows us—don’t miss this, Church—the priority of prayer. Look at it in the text. “Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat….” As Jesus was dismissing the crowd, he turns to the disciples and he makes them get into the boat. This is a command. This is not an option. He commands them to get into the boat. He causes them by force or, another way to say it is, he demanded for them to get into the boat. There are some things that you have to make people do, and that’s what Jesus made the disciples do. He made them get into the boat. Whether they wanted to or not, they were going on across the water without him.
Meanwhile, Jesus stays back. Look at the text. He helps them depart. Now, 15,000-20,000 people, remember, men, women and children, he just fed. And now it’s getting late and they’re looking for a place to what? To sleep, right? No Motel 6’s back then. There’s no light being left on for them. They’re camping out on the open field under the stars, if you can imagine that night. And Jesus does something very different. You would think Jesus, in his own, terms and human perspective, if this would have happened back then, the revival is starting, the lights are on, the stage is set. There are thousands of people that have showed up. He’s honored by the crowd. He’s recognized by the crowd. He’s revered by the crowd. It’s the perfect recipe for revival. You would think Jesus, if he was an American preacher, would have stood on the stage and preached. You would think Jesus, as an American preacher, would have signed Bibles at that point. He probably would have gone through the crowd bathing in the worldly recognition. Wow, it’s finally here. This is finally an opportunity to preach.
But don’t miss this. Jesus has a different perspective on ministry. As the crowds are building, Jesus departs and goes up to the mountain to pray. Look at it in the text: “And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.” That word in the language of the New Testament means not just to pray but it means to pray fervently. It means to pour your heart out before another person. Go back to Mark 1:35. The same word for prayer is used in this context and it’s a similar context. Remember, the same situation is happening on a smaller scale. People are excited about Jesus. They’ve come to be healed and to be taught. Look at verse 35: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he [what?] prayed.”
What did he pray for, Robby, when he went up to the mountain in Mark 6? We don’t know. We don’t actually know what he prayed for, but we know the context of his prayer. If you remember, just moments earlier, John the Baptist, his cousin and prophet and friends, was just murdered by Herod Antipas. Just moments earlier, he preached to the 15,000–20,000 people about a miracle of his identity, that he’s the bread of life, and they missed it. And not only did they miss it, look at the end of Mark 6. Verse 52 says even the disciples missed it. “For the disciples did not understand about the loaves but their heart was hardened” as well.
I’ll take a stab at it. I think Jesus obviously prayed for the disciples. We can get that from the counsel of the New Testament. In Luke 22, you remember the story, Jesus said, “Peter, I have prayed for you that your faith would stand. The devil is trying to sift you out now but I’ve prayed for you.” So we know he prayed for his disciples. Did you know that Jesus actually prayed for us back then? He prayed for future believers who would come. John 17:20-21. Listen to what Jesus says: “I do not ask [only for these, Father]” – when he’s praying in that high priestly prayer – “but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one….”
You see, unlike the crowd, Jesus’ source was God. Unlike the crowd, Jesus’ refreshment came from God. Unlike the crowds, Jesus’ revitalization came from the Lord. His devotion was to the Lord. His admiration was to the Lord. God was the object of his worship and it says in the New Testament Jesus did what pleased the Father. Jesus was not interested in pleasing man. Jesus had one agenda and it was to please one person. Who was that? It was to please God.
Now let me ask you this. What about you? Do you set aside times of refreshing and renewal? Do you set aside times to get away and to take a break? Do you do that? Because you should be. You know, so often we can get caught up in ministry and think we’re doing a lot of good things for God. But you now, the ministry creates burnout in people. You need a time that you can get away for a time of refreshing and renewal. That’s what the Lord Jesus did. It shows us something amazing about the Lord Jesus. Jesus Christ, as the immortal God, took time to get alone with the Father. How much more do you, as mere mortal men and women, need to get alone with the Father.
Jesus had a priority of prayer. Secondly, notice in the text, he sees the problem of the disciples. Prayer was a priority, but notice there’s a problem with the disciples. The disciples continue to paddle in the sea. Jesus sends them ahead. Now, they should have hugged the land. If you know the layout of the land, they’re traveling on the north side of the Sea of Galilee and they’re just taking a three or four mile journey. I mean, this is an easy trip. These guys were raised on the water, they know this water like the back of their hand. They should have hugged the shoreline, made it to the land, and they should have been there by now. But we notice in the text it says something puzzling.
Look what it says in verse 48: “And [Jesus] saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them….” Now that’s important. See, the Romans—Mark’s using the Roman calendar—they divided the night into four watches. It started at 6 pm; it went all the way to 6 am. And every watch—don’t miss this—was divided into three hour sections. And so the first watch began at 6 pm and ended at 6 am. The fourth watch of the night would have been between 3 am and 6 am in the morning. That shows us that these guys would have been paddling—get this—for seven to eight hours on the sea.
Now, why in the world would they do that? Go to Matthew 14. I’ll show it to you in the other account of the same story. Matthew 14:24. Matthew gave us a clue: “but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.” Go to John 6. One more insight as consider this. John 6:18. Same account, different context: “When they had rowed about [underline that] three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened.”
Why in the world are they three or four miles out into the middle of the lake? The wind was so hard, it was making such force against the boat, they couldn’t move forward and so, in essence, the sails were down, the oars were out, but they were paddling and going nowhere. Now, Jesus? Where are you? I mean, don’t you see what’s going on? You’re the one who put us in this storm. Where are you when we need you?
Don’t miss this. Jesus knows exactly where they are. Go back to Mark 6. It says Jesus knew where they were. Look at verse 48. “And he saw [them] that they were making headway painfully….” Underline that. He saw them. How did he see them? He was up on a mountain. The disciples were four miles into the water with a storm brewing on the sea. How did Jesus see them? This is how: Jesus saw them the way God saw them. It brings us into the omniscience of Christ. There’s a spiritual truth here. Don’t miss it. Don’t gloss over this. Jesus is saying—in the text, Mark is saying Jesus is God because only God can see, only God knows all things. It shows us an incredible truth. Jesus knows us and sees us when we’re in difficult times. That’s encouraging this morning. Doesn’t that encourage you? I know there are people in this church morning, there are people joining us that are going through difficult times. It’s encouraging times to know that right where are, Jesus sees us.
Notice not only the problem of the disciples, Jesus steps in and demonstrates the power of Jesus. Write this down: a) he discloses his identity. Verse 48, “…[they] cried out.” This really brings us into the drama, it builds emotion here. They cried out. That word cried out is the same word used when Herod the Great in Matthew 2:3 heard that the King of the Jews was born. He cried out. He couldn’t believe it. It’s the word that means agitated. Can you feel that? Sense that? It’s the word that means trouble. It’s a word that means to cause confusion or to cause terror because of something. Because of the weather and the darkness, the disciples cried out in fear.
At first they look in the distance and they see a phantasmal, a phasma, it says in the language of the New Testament. It’s the word for phantom. It’s the word for fantasy. It’s actually the word that really means a ghost. They’re looking in the distance—can you picture it?—and they think they’re seeing a ghost out there. And then Jesus calms their fears and he says, “Listen, it is I.”
Now, here’s the key to the text. I don’t know if you caught this when you read this. It said Jesus was about to what? Did you catch this? Pass by them. No, what in the world is that about? Let me tell you what he’s not doing in the text. First of all, he’s not trying to play a joke on the disciples by walking past them to see if they figure out it’s him. That’s what he’s not doing. Secondly, what he’s not doing in the text is he’s not passing by them, and then he changes his mind and says, “Okay, I think I might help these guys.” He’s not doing that either, because we know he saw them on the mountain. And thirdly, he’s not trying to sneak up on them as a ghost and try to scare them or frighten them. We know he’s not doing that.
So the question is, what is he doing, Robby? When you read those words pass by them, you have to be reminded of something in the Old Testament. In fact, let me submit to you, church, when the phrase pass by them is used and connected with God, it always refers to an epiphany. That phrase pass by them is actually one word in the language of the New Testament. And when it’s connected to God, it talks about a revelation, a special time when God intervenes in the natural world and reveals himself to people. It’s happened two times in the Old Testament. Can you remember them? The first one is in Exodus 33. Exodus 33 shows us about this epiphany. Exodus 33:17. John Myers says, “God made striking and temporary appearances in the earthly realm to select individuals and groups for the purpose of communicating a message. God always did this to communicate a message to people.”
Exodus 33:17. God’s about to pass by Moses. Moses sees God and speaks to God and says, “God, I want to see you. I want you to reveal yourself to me.” Look what it says: “‘Please show me your glory.’ And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name “The LORD.” And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But [he said], you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.’ And the LORD said, ‘Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory [underline this] passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have[underline this] passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.’”
What’s interesting is Jesus is showing us in the text, without saying anything, that his identity is one with the Father. Do you see it? Jesus was not passing them by to scare them or to frighten them. Jesus passed them by to prove to them who he was. But after he passes them by, secondly, he dismantles their fears. Look at it in the text. He says, “Do not [what?] be afraid.” That word be afraid in the language of the New Testament is phobio where we get the English word what? Phobia. Do not be afraid. This word is used all throughout the New Testament and the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, from Genesis to Revelation, that word is use 100 times, that phrase do not be afraid. Over 100 times in the Old and New Testament. It’s over. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.
It’s the first phrase that God uses to speak to his people in the New Testament—get this—after 400 years of silence between Malachi and the speaking of the New Testament. He speaks through the angel to Zachariah and the first word God says is fear not. When God spoke to Joseph, what’d he say through the angel? Fear not. When he spoke to Mark through the angel, fear not. And the first thing he says to the disciples when they see him, “Fear not. It is I. Take heart.”
You know what God says to us this morning if we’re fearful? Fear not. It is I. What does that mean, “It is I?” In Hebrew, he’s actually not saying it is I. He’s actually saying, “Fear not. I AM.” Does that ring a bell? Fear not, I AM. You have to be thinking of the Old Testament Moses. Remember when Moses was spoken to by God through the burning bush? He said, “How am I going to go tell Pharaoh to let your people go? Who shall I tell him sent me?” God said, “Tell him I AM sent you.” I AM. You know what God is saying? “I’m the God who always was. I’m the God who always is. And I’m the God who always will be. Tell him that I AM sent you.”
You know what calmed the disciples’ fears in this text. It was the fact that they realized God was there with them. Jesus Christ was there with them. He is showing the disciples through the text that he is God. There is only one person who said his name is I AM and that’s God. Isaiah 43:25, “I am the one who blocks out your transgressions.” Isaiah 48:12, “Listen to me, Israel, whom I’ve called. I am he. I am the first and I am the last.” Isaiah 51:12, “I am he who comforts you. Who are you that are afraid of man who dies, or the son of man who is made like grass?”
You know, this word I AM is the same word that Jesus used when the temple police came to arrest him in the garden. You remember the temple police? They came with the corrupt politicians and leaders of the day. Jesus was praying in the garden and they came to him. And Jesus says, “Who do you seek?” in John 18. They said, “We’re here to see Jesus of Nazareth.” When Jesus said to them, “I AM he,” it says in the text, “they fell back to the ground and fell.” It’s the same word that Jesus uses and he says, “I AM” and it draws the soldiers back on their backs. But don’t miss this. It’s the same word that he speaks to the disciples that actually draws them in to him.
And, you know, it’s the same word that he speaks to you today. Do you have a wayward child this morning? I AM. Are you fearful of a situation in life this morning? Jesus would say I AM. Has your job been too much to handle at this point? I AM. Is a child’s health declining? I AM. Has an illness overcome your life? I AM. Does your life look helpless this morning? I AM. Are you at the point of exhaustion this morning? I AM.
But, see, at this point, you’ve got to be asking me, “Pastor, there’s something missing from the sermon. I mean, there’s something glaring that’s missing from the sermon.” Did you catch it in the text? What is missing in the account of Jesus walking on the water? Did you catch it? Peter walking on the water, right? Mark, in essence, leaves that out. Matthew includes it.
I want to share with you the final point of this passage and this section, he draws the courageous. He dismantles their fears, he discloses his identity, he draws the courageous. Go to Matthew 14:28. After Jesus says it is I, or I AM, don’t be afraid, fear not, notice what Peter does. Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, can you hear it? “Come.”
“So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you [underline that] of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him[that’s the key part there]saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
Peter, like the disciples I imagine, is scared out of his mind, if you can imagine. The winds and the rain at the point; we think a storm is brewing. They’ve been paddling forward. They’re going backwards. And he calls out to the Lord. He says, “Jesus! Is it you?” What would possess this man to get out of the boat? Here’s the point. Peter believed that it’s better to be near Jesus on the water than to be separated from him on the boat. And so he calls to him. “Jesus! Command me to come!” Do you notice the submission in the text? He’s submitting to the authority of Christ. “If it’s you, call me to come to you.” And Jesus says come.
He steps over the side of the boat that day. The disciples are probably saying what is Peter doing? Peter’s not thinking about that. He’s focusing on Jesus. And he actually begins to walk. Can you picture it? He’s actually walking on water. And then he takes his eyes off the person of Christ and onto the problem of the sea and he begins to sink. And I believe Jesus grabs him as he’s just going into the water and he pulls him back up. Now don’t miss the point here. The point of this passage, as so many people have missed this, is not the fact that Peter is walking on water. The point of the passage is the focus of the Lord Jesus Christ as the one to save him, as the identity of God.
Now you may be saying, “Robby, it’s pretty sad that Peter missed it.” You know, a lot of people get on to Peter. Peter, why’d you miss it, man? Why did you have so little faith? You know this phrase you of little faith is used four times by Matthew. Jesus says you of little faith. You know what he’s saying? You need more faith. You have a little bit but you need more faith. But don’t look at Peter for having little faith because it was little faith that acknowledged the Lord. It was little faith that submitted to Christ. It was little faith that got out of the boat—get this—and it was little faith that walked on the water
You know, you may be asking why did Mark leave this account out of the gospel? You know, I’ve asked that question, too. Why would Mark leave this important account of Peter walking on the water? John MacArthur gave some interesting insight. You know as well as I do that Mark was written through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit with the assistance of Peter. We knew that. Peter was the one who gave the firsthand account to Mark, who wrote the gospel. And at this point in Peter’s life, we assume that Peter is a humble man now through the trials and tribulations of life. He’s not the one who has a foot-shaped mouth any longer. Peter now is humble. He’s a man that’s seeking humility. He’s a man that’s exalting Christ. Could it be just maybe that Peter is so focused on glorifying Jesus that he doesn’t want people to focus on him? And so he tells Mark in the writing of the gospel, “Don’t put that in because I don’t want people to focus on me. I want people to glorify Jesus.”
And that’s why I want to show you the final perspective of the text. Not only did Peter have a proper perspective of Christ, but we see the perspective of the disciples changing in the text. Look at verse 33 of Matthew 14: “And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
Friends, it’s not just about getting out of the boat that matters. It’s about what happened when they got back in the boat. And what did they do when Jesus got into the boat with them? They worshipped the Lord Jesus Christ. Now don’t misunderstand me. Worship is not singing alone. You know, we may read that and think, “Well, they broke out in hymns. They broke out into song.” I don’t think so. They may have. I don’t think so. See, worship is more than singing. It’s an attitude of the heart. It’s a desire to draw near to God. It’s a desire to be in the Lord’s presence. This is what worship is. It’s ascribing God worth. It’s seeing God for who he is. Isaiah saw a picture of God that so radically changed his life that he fell down and worshipped the Lord.
Friends, worship is more than what we do on Sunday morning. It’s what we do every day of our life. They worshipped Jesus and guess what they say? “Truly you are”—church, don’t gloss over this—“the Son of God.” This is the first time in scripture where the disciples called Jesus the Son of God. They got it! This is the turning point in the ministry for the disciples. They finally see him as the Son of God.
Now, a few moments later we’ll see Peter stand up when Jesus says, “Who do people say that I am?” “Some say Elijah. Some say John the Baptist. Some say some of the prophets.” “Who do you say that I am?” Peter says what? “You’re the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” But that’s not this. This precedes that. And the disciples see him for who he is and it affects everything they do.
Now, you may be saying, “Well, that’s not what Mark says.” Look at the end of Mark. Go back to Mark. In Mark it looks like their hearts were hardened because it says “they didn’t understand the loaves but their hearts were hardened.” I want to submit to you what’s happening here. Jesus gets back in the boat and, yes, they worshipped him as God. Yes, they realized what his true identity was. But they still didn’t understand the purpose of the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. They’re still trying to figure out why Jesus did the miracle and what is the significance of that.
Rodney Cooper says “the disciples did not understand Jesus’ miracles at this point. If they had understood the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, they would have understood Jesus’ walking on water immediately. They should have understood that Jesus is the Lord of creation at that point, that he has supremacy over the Sabbath, over the purity laws, over the bread they ate and even upon the water that they sailed. They didn’t understand the significance of the events.”
But I want to submit to you they understood the true identity of Christ at this point. And guess what? This is the neat thing. Once you have a proper perspective of Jesus, it affects everything in your life. Did you know that? That when you truly see Jesus for who he is, when you see God high and lifted up and you worship him the way he’s supposed to be worshipped, guess what? It affects everything we do on earth. Did you know that?
You know, one of the things about Rig is, we love Rig. And one of the things about Rig is Rig is a ham when it comes to taking pictures. So when we go take our family portraits, we get a bunch of pictures from Rig. And one of our favorites is the wallet-sized picture. Okay, this is a little picture and you can see he has a cute pose. Kandi told me on the way we should have put him in a Gerber photo. We missed his call. But anyway, this is Rig, right? And so one of the things is not only do we enjoy these pictures. Guess who else enjoys receiving these in the mail? Grandparents, right? And so what we do is we send them out to grandparents. We send them out to friends. We send them out to families. And they enjoy getting this picture.
But one of the problems with the picture is it doesn’t do justice to who Rig is, right? I mean, you can look at Rig and you can see his face. You can see the emotion in his smile. You can see his personality, kind of, from the picture. But if you never meet Rig, then you really don’t know Rig. If you don’t spend time with Rig, you don’t really know Rig. You can’t love him like he supposed to be loved. You can’t experience him like he’s supposed to be experienced. This is just a wallet-sized picture of Rig.
See, this is our problem in the body of Christ. You and I have a wallet-sized picture of God in our mind. See, we don’t see God for who he is, right? This is what we think. This is God. I just pull him out when I need him. I put him back in when I don’t need him. And that’s what we view God as. And the problem is God is great and is magnificent and glorious and worthy to be praised and high and lifted up. The angels sing and never get tired of worshipping God and honoring God.
But not us. Oh, no. See we have a different perspective of God. Maybe that’s why your life is the way it is. Maybe that’s why many of you are not experiencing the presence of God.
Let me ask you this morning, do you miss the presence of God? Do you miss the intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ that maybe you once had? Well, I’m going to command you this morning the same way Jesus commanded Peter. Come to Jesus today. Do the impossible. Submit to his authority. Be obedient to his commands and come to him. Bring him your problems. Bring him your difficulties. Bring him a situation that is impossible. But, friends, listen to me. Come to Jesus. Recognize his true identity. See the priority of prayer in his life. Your fears will be dismantled. Your obedience will serve him and you will see his true identity.