Sapphire Sky

March 1, 2015

How do you respond to crisis?

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 4:33 am

How do you respond in times of crisis?

In the next scene in John’s gospel account, we see both Jesus and his disciples at a time of crisis. It is often at these times, when we are at our limits, that we find out what we have and what we truly need.

For Jesus, this was a critical turning point in his ministry.  He has spent the last two and a half years presenting himself to the nation of Israel, showing that he is their king.  Jesus had spent the entire day teaching and healing a huge crowd of over 20,000 people, and now they want to make him a king by force. The people like what he has to say and are interested in his miracles, but they refuse to submit to him as Lord. Jesus will spend his remaining year preparing both his disciples and himself for his upcoming sacrifice. 

The disciples must have been filled with shock and dismay. They had returned from their own teaching tours of Galilee and personally witnessed Jesus feeding this massive crowd. Everyone loved Jesus and the disciples were sure that he was now going to rule as their king. But instead, Jesus abruptly sends them away and dismisses the crowd. Now they are on their own, alone on the lake, rowing toward the other shore.

Jesus spends the night alone in prayer with the Father. He draws his heart close to the Father as he deals with his disappointment over the crowd that would not believe. He is close to the Father as he considers his upcoming rejection, death, and coming back to life.

As Jesus is praying on the mountain, he looks over the wide expanse of the lake below him. There, out on the lake, are his disciples in the boat, struggling against the wind. The wind picks up as the night goes on, and his disciples row harder. Jesus sees them struggle as he continues to pray.

After 9 hours, Jesus ends his time of prayer and walks out to his disciples on the water. It is now past 3:00am and they have been rowing all night. The disciples see him walking to them on the water and panic. It must have been a very unnatural sight to see Jesus walking over the waves to them. Through their disappointment and exhaustion of that day, they could only believe that this was a ghost.

Jesus calls out to them and joins them in the boat. Immediately, the waves are calm and they are at their destination. The astounded disciples are now ready to worship him as God. For as long as they had been with Jesus, and as much as they had seen, they still had not believed in him as God.

They did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Even in the presence of his great miracle, his own disciples were reluctant to believe in him as God. It is not enough to believe good things about Jesus, they needed to accept him as God.

Both Jesus and his disciples were in a time of crisis, but in the end the answer was the same.  They needed to lean on God during their time of peril. Jesus spent time with God first, and then went out to his struggling followers. The disciples tried to fight the wind on their own and completely missed the presence of the Lord with them.

 

Previous post: How do you handle interruptions?  


John 6:15-21
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

Matthew 14:22-33
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “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 of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Mark 6:45-52
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 he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 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.


 

Matthew: Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.

Mark:  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.

John: Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

John’s account tells why Jesus abruptly broke up the party.  Jesus had just finished feeding about 20,000 people and they were now ready to force him to be king!  Jesus responds with three immediate actions:

  1. He sends his disciples away.
  2. He dismisses the crowd and sends them home.
  3. He goes up on the mountain to pray. 

Jesus first sends the disciples away.  This must have been very disappointing for the disciples.  They saw Jesus’ growing popularity and now everyone wants him to be a king!  The people are ready to receive their Messiah!  We see from other accounts that the disciples are ready for His Kingdom to come, but Jesus would not be their king when the people were consumed by selfish motives.

Note that Jesus sends them to Bethsaida.  This is different from their current location (also called Bethsaida).  Jesus is likely sending them to a fishing village which is either in or near Capernaum. [3]

Jesus then dismisses the crowds and sends them home.  They did not honor him.  They did not repent and believe in Him.  They only wanted to make Him a King because all they could think about was the earthly benefits to make Him a King. They wanted freedom from Rome and to be fed. [1]

Finally, Jesus is alone.  He goes up on the mountain to pray.  He will be there for 9 hours! This is an important turning point in Jesus’ ministry. For the last two and a half years, he has been presenting himself to the nation of Israel, showing that he is their king.  But now, their rejection is complete.  Jesus has exactly one year left to prepare for his sacrifice and to prepare his disciples for what is to come.

 

Matthew: When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.

Mark: 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.

John: When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.

This is the second evening, or about 6:00 p.m. The Sea of Galilee is a below sea level and is surrounded by high mountains. It is very common for a sudden gale to descend upon the lake from the mountain valleys above. All the text says is that a strong wind was against them and the sea became rough. There is no indication that there was an actual storm on the lake, but rather that a strong wind was pushing them back.

 Mark’s account says that they were making headway painfully. The actual language indicates that they were in torment or distress. Instead of rowing along the shore, they were probably blown further out into the middle of the lake.

The text also does not say that the disciples had any fear of the storm. They were in distress, but they were pushing on.

It is also important to note here that Jesus noticed their distress when evening came. It was a clear Spring night and Jesus could watch them from his vantage point on the mountain overlooking the lake. The boat was being driven away from land, being beaten by waves, and yet Jesus stayed on the mountain praying. He would come to them but not until much later.

 

Matthew: And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Mark: And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 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.”

John: When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

The fourth watch of the night would have been between 3:00 am to 6:00 am. It has now been at least 9 hours since they left Jesus and departed.

The disciples may have not feared the wind on the lake but they were terrified when they saw Jesus! It is hard to picture what it must have looked like when they saw Jesus walking on the water, but it was clearly an unnatural sight. Jesus’ closest companions, the men who had been with him for over two years, thought he was a ghost (an apparition).

Mark’s account says that “he meant to pass by them”. The picture here is not that Jesus was bypassing them, but that he was going to come along side the boat, showing them that he was master of the waves. However, this changes when the disciples panic. Jesus responds with, “It is I; do not be afraid”. Literally, Jesus is saying the name of God, “I am”, with “do not be afraid”.

 

Matthew: And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “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 of little faith, why did you doubt?” 

Only Matthew tells of Peter’s encounter with the waves. Peter leaves the boat to go meet Jesus, walking on the water. But Peter becomes afraid when he sees the wind (i.e the waves) and starts to sink. Jesus saves Peter but rebukes him for his lack of faith.

 

Matthew: And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Mark: 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.

John: Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

The scene concludes with two points:

  • Jesus immediately stops the wind and takes them to their destination. He performs two immediate miracles when he steps into the boat.
  • The disciples are astounded and worship him. They realize that he is the Son of God.

“The miracle had been granted to show, first, that complete faith in Jesus as the divine Messiah is sufficient for every appointed task, and second, that Jesus’ refusal to accept the political proposals of the crowd should not disillusion them.” [4]

 


[1] John MacArthur, True and False Disciples, Part 1, John 6:16-21 

[2] Alfred Edersheim, Book III, “The Ascent”, Chapter 30. 

[3] Bethsaida means “Fishertown”. It is no surprise that several such “Fishertown” villages existed on the shores of the lake. The Bethsaida that was their destination was probably the fishing district of Capernaum. [2]

[4] Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Matthew 14, pages 955-956.

2 Comments »

  1. […] Previous post: How do you respond to crisis? […]

    Pingback by The Bread of Life | Sapphire Sky — March 15, 2015 @ 1:16 am

  2. […] He spent at least nine hours in prayer before coming down to rescue the struggling disciples on the Sea of Galilee (see here and here). […]

    Pingback by The Lord’s Prayer | Sapphire Sky — October 1, 2015 @ 11:19 pm


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