Wednesday, August 12, 2015
"Comfort Ye" Sermon: John 6:16-21
August 9, 2015 Second Reformed Church
Last week we saw that the crowd followed Jesus around the Sea of Galilee because they wanted Him to continue healing the sick – some wanted the sick healed out of compassion, some just loved the show. However, they did not get the point of the signs, that Jesus is God the Son and Savior.
Jesus decided to test the disciples and asked them where they could get lunch for the crowd of some fifteen thousand people. The disciples also failed to understand and explained to Jesus that they neither had the money nor the food to share with that big a crowd. But Jesus took what was on hand, five loaves and two fish, and fed everyone until they were stuffed, and then they collected twelve baskets of food left over.
The people responded by associating a prophecy about Jesus with the coming Passover, and wanted to force Him to declare Himself king against the Romans. (How could they be wrong, Jesus was a healer and provided unlimited food?)
But Jesus knew they were wrong and went back up into the mountain, leaving the disciples with them.
And now we have this morning’s text.
Did it seem like something was missing as I read the text?
One thing that John leaves out is Peter’s walking out on the water to meet Jesus and then sinking. He also leaves off the explanation that Jesus left the crowd and went back up into the mountain to pray and that Jesus told the disciples to go on ahead of Him.
Remember that Hebrew history is written to make a point – it is true, but it is written and organized in such a way to make a point – that is why there are differences among the Gospels in the order of events – it’s also why the bulk to the Gospel is: Jesus was born, turned thirty and began His ministry, and in the last week of His life, all these things happened, and He physically rose from the dead – most of Jesus’ biography is missing.
So, John is not denying that Jesus went to pray, told the disciples to go on ahead of Him, and that Peter walked out on the water to meet Jesus, he just didn’t mention these things because they were not necessary to the point he was making.
Remember John’s overall point: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31, ESV).
John wrote his Gospel and ordered it as he has so the reader will be convinced, by the Grace of God, that Jesus is God the Son and Savior. And this is what we see as we go through this Gospel – again and again, the point is – “See, Jesus is God the Son and Savior.”
So, let us turn to our text:
And we see first this morning, Jesus is sovereign over Creation.
“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.”
While Jesus was praying, the disciples went down to the boat and set sail across the sea to Capernaum – as Jesus had instructed them. By the time darkness came over the land, Jesus had still not come to them.
In other words: Jesus was in prayer for a long time – certainly several hours.
“The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.”
The calm sea suddenly became violently rough due to a strong wind. It was – and still is not – unusual for sudden and violent storms to come up on the Sea of Galilee, due to its structure and location. Sailors and fishermen would have been trained to fight and sail in such a way that they would be ready for and survive these intense storms.
“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.”
Picture yourself on a boat. You are making your way across the sea – which is about eight miles wide – and a violent storm suddenly rises up. You are with skilled fishermen, so you have hope in surviving the storm.
The sailors row feverishly, and made it to about the mid-point of the sea – about three or four miles across. You are thinking, “Half-way there – we have made it half-way.” And, suddenly, through the storm, you see Jesus walking across the sea, as though walking across dry land – drawing closer to the boat.
What would you think?
John tells us they were frightened. The other Gospel writers tell us they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
Does the Creation make you think of anything? Do you have any response to the Creation?
When you see all the different living creatures that live on this planet, as well as the mention of spiritual creatures in the Scripture, when we see the variety of plants and their complexities and uses, when we see the crystal calm sea and the blazing sun, the miles of farmland, storms and wind and volcanos and earthquakes – do we draw any conclusions – any overarching conclusions?
When I interact with animals and the plants in my garden and consider them and their existence, I am humbled by the Mind behind them.
When I stand in the surf of the sea and feel the pull against me into the vastness of deep blue ocean, I know Paul is right:
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20, ESV).
If we have any sensory contact with the Creation, it is abundantly obvious that there is a God and that this God is Powerful and Creative and Good – the Creation cries out, “God exists!” Why else would we cry out to God when there is violence and disaster in the Creation?
When tidal waves hit the Philippines, when hurricanes hit the Caribbean and the United States, when thunderstorms pass through – some of us find thunderstorms scary – we call on the God Who is known through all of His Creation.
Surely as the violent storm threatened the fishing boat the disciples were in, they raised up their voices in prayer to YHWH, asking that He would intervene and protect them through the storm, because YHWH, the God is Israel, is sovereign over His Creation.
But, off in the distance, the disciples saw a figure moving towards them – walking across the stormy sea – it was their rabbi, Jesus – or at least it looked like Him – it couldn’t be Him, because people don’t walk on water, especially through a storm – right?
But Jesus did. He walked the three to four miles out across the sea, through the storm, and caught up with the struggling disciples, as though it was nothing to Him. And the disciples were afraid.
If we saw video of the Philippines during the tidal wave, and we saw Jesus walking over the tidal wave towards land, we would be afraid, wouldn’t we? If we saw video of Mt. St. Helen’s exploding in volcanic eruption, and Jesus walked out over the lava, away from the volcano, we would be afraid, wouldn’t we? If we saw Jesus walking down the stairs where the Twin Towers use to be – through the air, we would be afraid, wouldn’t we? Mere human beings can’t do that.
But Jesus can and did; Jesus walked three miles across a storm-tossed sea to catch up to the boat with His disciples.
With what we know about God from the Creation, what does this event tell us about Jesus? Jesus is sovereign over the Creation, because He is God.
We may remember another time when the disciples were sailing across the sea and a storm arose, but Jesus stayed asleep, and the disciples woke Him up and asked Him if He didn’t care that they were all going to die.
“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the winds ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39, ESV).
So Jesus walked three miles across the sea during the intense storm.
“But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they were glad to take him into the boat,”
Jesus is Sovereign over Creation; He is the God Who created everything that is – and all of Creation is acting according to the plan that God had from the beginning.
No matter if the sun burns away all our crops, or tidal waves destroy all our cities, or earthquakes swallow up the cities into the ground, or twenty-four feet of snow falls in day, smothering the world, Jesus is Sovereign over Creation. He is completely in control. The Creation bends to the Will of God. We can call out to Him about the Creation, and He will hear us and act in accordance with His Will. Everything in Creation happens according to His Sovereign Good Purpose; nothing happens by chance.
We ought to find comfort in knowing that Jesus is Sovereign over the Creation, just as the disciples did and gladly welcomed Him into the boat.
Second, Jesus is sovereign over time and space.
Before Genesis 1:1, God is. God has always been and will always be – One God in Three Persons. God existed in community and joy and love with Himself in Trinity, and before everything was created, God.
It is difficult for us to talk about “before the Creation,” because we have only experienced “after the Creation.” It is especially difficult, because, before the Creation, time and space did not exist. God existed in a timeless time and a spaceless space before the Creation, and then God said, “Let there be….”
Before the Creation, God decided everything that would be and when and how it would happen – God set an inalterable plan in motion, and it continues.
Without getting too speculative, let us just understand that God created time and space, God is sovereign over time and space, God is outside of time and space, and God knows how time and space function better than we do. And time and space must bend to the Will of God.
Why does this matter?
Because our text says, “and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.”
The boat was in the middle of the Sea of Galilee – about three or four miles from shore. Jesus got into the boat and then, John uses a word which means, “immediately, at once, right away, without the passing of another moment,” they arrived at the other shore.
Somehow – by His Sovereign Hand and Will, Jesus caused the boat to travel three to four miles in no time and without them noticing it. Jesus stepped into the boat, and before they could say, “Shalom,” they were on the other side of the sea.
Why does John tell us this?
So we will know that Jesus is God the Son and Savior – the God Who is sovereign over time and space.
And so we will trust Him with our time. Jesus told us not to worry, but gave us the prayer through the mouth of Moses, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, ESV).
And Paul warns us, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unaware but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16, ESV).
Do we not have enough time for what we desire to do, let us pray that God will extend time for us and/or change our desires. Is something carrying on – like the wickedness of these last days – which causes us to mourn and cry out to God, let us pray God will shorten the time of wickedness without losing one that He came to save.
We ought to find comfort in knowing that Jesus is Sovereign over space and time, just as the disciples did when they immediately found themselves on the other shore.
If we have savingly believed in Jesus as God and Savior, let us not be afraid, but let us be comforted, for Jesus is Sovereign and causes all things to occur according to His Will, and as we pray to the Father, through the Spirit, and in Jesus’ Name, He will answer our prayers in accordance with His Will for the good of all we who love Him.
So let us pray, but let us not worry. Nothing is out of control. Nothing is happening by chance. God is Sovereign over all.
As Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow or reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet, I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:25-33, ESV).
Comfort ye, little flock. Jesus, our God and Savior, is sovereign over all of Creation, including time and space. Trust Him. Seek Him. Believe Him.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we are impressed by Your creative power and by the signs Your Son did on earth to show that He is God and Savior. Help us to believe and to trust You for all things and in all things, whatever may happen. For You are our loving Father Who gave His Son to be our Savior. And it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.