The Fifth Sign – Walking on Water
Home Church Devotional 6/7/2020
These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.
Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. John 6:16-21 (NASB)
Fear, as defined by Dictionary.com, is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil or pain, whether real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid; to regard with fear, be afraid of. At one point or another, all of us, men, women and children, will experience fear. It is inevitable in our fallen humanity. We will feel and face fear in our lifetime. Some of this fear will be real fear as we face danger or evil, while other fear will be imagined as we fear the unknown of a financial struggle or difficulty in finding suitable employment. The fear we face in these situations can only be imagined until the outcome has been determined and the fear can, and sometimes does, become real.
In our passage, the disciples find themselves in a sudden and unexpected terrifying situation. The Sea of Galilee is 650 feet below sea level and 150 feet deep surrounded by hills. This is the perfect set-up for strong storms to develop suddenly and unexpectedly. The winds sweep down across the face of the hills causing the waters to become a raging sea in a matter of moments. To make matters worse, it has grown dark as the sea has begun to rage, tossing the boat around on the waves. Though most of them are seasoned fishermen, the disciples struggle against the storm and after rowing for three of four miles, they find themselves staring at a shadowy figure walking towards them ON the sea!! This is the perfect storm for fear to rear its ugly head and cause doubt within the disciples.
Through this experience of the disciples we learn four things that cause us to experience fear. First, the disciples are caught in the dark. Though they have fished this sea many times, in the sudden darkness with the terrifying storm, things are not quiet what they remember. The disciples are unable to see, compounding the threat, the danger and the emotional stress caused by this sudden and unexpected storm. The darkness of the storm the disciples face is representative of the spiritual darkness those who do not know Jesus face in the sudden storms of life.
Those in spiritual darkness face a great threat because they do not know what lies ahead, trouble, sorrow, difficulties of many types, even loss and death. There is a great threat in facing these difficult times because being in the dark they are caught unprepared. Those in spiritual darkness do not know God and cannot call upon Him for help or to receive strength from Him. There is great emotional stress for those in spiritual darkness that fear will overtake them, filling them with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Even those who know the Lord will, at times, feel the fear of the sudden and unexpected storms of life. The disciples were frightened in this sudden storm – they did not expect Jesus to come and they were unprepared for His help.
We forget in the darkness what is so clear in the light. Like the disciples, we depend on tangible evidence more than we should. Our senses, though valuable, have limits. As soon as Jesus left the disciples, they forgot the amazing power He had shown them earlier. We too forget the power of Jesus in our lives when the storms of life erupt. How much of your spiritual life is a series of peak experiences of God’s presence only to be quickly followed by decline? When you cannot FEELGod’s presence, do you assume God is not there and cannot help you? God’s presence and provisions should come as welcome expectation, not a frightening surprise!
The second thing that caused fear for the disciples was being without Jesus. Being without Jesus should cause fear in the hearts of people that do not know Him. Jesus had not yet come to the disciples and they were afraid to face the storm without Him. They realized they did not have His presence and help with them; they were alone to fend for themselves and that was a frightening prospect. The disciples had to rely on their own strength and abilities to save themselves. This gave them reason to fear, they are honest men and they know, deep in their hearts, their strength and ability are limited and will eventually fail them.
It is a fearful thing to walk through this life without Jesus. Those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior do not have the promises of Christ’s powerful strength and presence in their lives. They truly must face the storms of life alone, relying on their strengths and abilities to save themselves and in the end, they will fail. For believers, faith is a mindset that EXPECTS God to act. When we act upon this expectation, we can overcome our fears. Even as the disciples watched Jesus feed the five thousand, they could not make the final step of believing He was the Son of God. Had they made that step they would have been amazed to find Jesus walking on the sea. Are you expecting God to work in the storms of your life? Or do you rely on your own strength and abilities that will, eventually, fail?
Thirdly, the disciples were caught in these gale-like winds and sudden, violent storm as they crossed the sea. When they first began their journey conditions were favorable, sunny and pleasant. There was no reason to suspect their journey would be anything but successful! The disciples are confident in there ability as seasoned fishermen and did not expect to encounter any kind of trouble. Even though they did not expect to encounter this sudden, violent storm, the clouds and the wind did, in fact, come, threatening their lives. And so it is with the violent storms we face in life. Trouble, sickness, financial issues and even death come suddenly and without warning. They strike unexpectedly and usually when we are least prepared.
The disciples were not transferring the truths they already knew about Jesus to their own personal lives. They have seen the miracle of turning water to wine, the healing of the lame man, the feeding of the five thousand, and yet they had not made these truths work in their own lives. Even today we do the same thing when we read about Jesus walking on the water and then doubt that Jesus can work in our own lives when grocery money is small or bills are piling up or our health is failing and we cannot see a way out. We must also take the next step and take the faith we find in reading about the power of Jesus and transfer that faith to our own lives. Jesus is not a genie in a bottle, but His power and presence is unmistakable in the life of a believer.
Finally, the disciples are tired and gripped with the sense of impending death. Remember the disciples have been at work dealing with this storm for some time. They have rowed for three to four miles and when they started out it was daylight. It is now dark so, potentially, they have been at work for six to nine hours. The disciples are physically exhausted, they knew they could not prevail against this untamable force of nature. They have lost all hope of surviving and the impending sense of death sets in. When the disciples see Jesus walking on the water, they are terrified, they think it is a ghost, the angel of death perhaps, adding to their fear. The point is this, the storms of life can cause a sense of impending death or can cause fear to strike our hearts.
When we face the sudden and terrifying storms of life, we must not be afraid. When we are faced with spiritual and emotional storms, we too may feel like a boat being tossed about in a big sea. In spite of the sudden and terrifying circumstances that threaten to overtake us, we trust our lives to Jesus for His safe keeping; by this He will give us peace in our storms. Is there a storm you’re in the midst of now? Are you prepared for Jesus to come to you and help you through the storm? Are you acting on your faith and expecting God to come and help you? Or are you stuck in the storm, exhausted and unable to move further? Are you terrified and filled with a sense of impending death and destruction?
Wherever you might be in the storm, Jesus is ready and willing to come to you. But you must first believe that He is the Son of God, the only means of eternal life and trust that He alone has your best in mind for the Father’s glory. Won’t you trust Him in your storm today? To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.