Good morning! If you have a Bible with you this morning, please turn with me to The Book of Mark and chapter 6. As you know, we’ve been studying The Gospel of Mark for several months now and we’ll be looking specifically at verses 45 – 56 this morning.

I know this is a well known text (the account of Jesus walking on the water). And our tendency is to move quickly past text with which we are very familiar. But, I want to encourage you to not do that with this passage. There are things in this text that God showed me this week that were new to me and, if we are willing to look at it with fresh eyes, I believe that you will see some things new as well.

After all, we need to remember that the Word of God is active, it’s dynamic, it’s alive. It is always speaking in fresh ways into our circumstances. So, let’s not move quickly past this well known passage. I want to read our text in a moment. But first, I want to remind us of where we’ve been over the last several weeks.

Jesus was with His disciples around Capernaum performing some incredible miracles. After that He returned to His hometown of Nazareth with His disciples where He met skepticism & unbelief. Jesus used that context to send out His followers into the surrounding villages to heal the sick & proclaim the gospel. As Mark is telling us about that, he stops and explains what happened to John the Baptist (you’ll remember that Herod had him beheaded).

Mark then comes back to the account of the disciples returning to Jesus after going out to proclaim the gospel. That’s where we read about the feeding of the 5,000 (which was probably 10,000 or more when you factor in women & children). That’s where we pick up our verses; right at the end of Jesus performing the miracle with the fishes & loaves. This is what Mark records beginning in verse 45:

[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. [46] And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. [47] And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. [48] And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night[a] he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, [49] but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, [50] 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.” [51] And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, [52] for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

[53] When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. [54] And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him [55] and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. [56] And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

This is a pretty incredible story, isn’t it? Where I’m from we have what we call “fishing stories.” Do you know what a “fishing story” is? It’s the clearest form of exaggeration known to mankind. A fisherman will say, “I caught a fish this big!” And somehow the fish gets bigger & bigger the more times the fisherman tells the story. The point is that stories tend to get more sensational as time goes by. They get exaggerated as they are re-told over & over again.

Let me be very clear: this IS NOT one of those stories! This is Mark’s account of what happened that day. It has been inspired by the Holy Spirit and it is a part of the inherent, infallible, objectively true Word of God. Which means that this went down just like Mark says it went down.

And, when we read it for what it is, we get a pretty incredible window into the character of God and how we works in the lives of His people. In other words, these are things that should have a huge impact on how we live and how we relate to God.

For clarity, I’m going to break this down into 3 sections that track with how Mark lays this narrative out for us. And I think you’ll see very quickly how relevant these things are for our lives.

  1. The disciples find themselves in trouble
  2. Their circumstances allowed for their testing
  3. They experienced Jesus care & provision in their weakness.

Let’s dig down on each of these points and see the glory of Jesus and the beauty of the gospel in these verses. First, the disciples find themselves in trouble. Look again at verses 45 – 48. “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.”

There are a couple of things we need to dig a little deeper on here. This account is also in Matthew & John and they refer to this as a storm. But, what’s interesting is that this was a particular kind of storm that is unique to the Sea of Galilee. In fact, it was called a “Searah”.

The fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were afraid of this type of storm. It’s the same type of storm that we saw back in Mark chapter 4 when Jesus was taking a nap on the boat. And Mark explained that the disciples thought they were going to die.

I’m actually familiar with this type of storm because my family used to live near Lake Tahoe in the Western US. This type of weather occurs when a lake is situated near mountains (as the Sea of Galilee was). What happens is a storm will build on one side of the mountain and will come down the mountain and hit the lake violently. It’s no ordinary storm!

So the disciples find themselves in trouble and they find themselves in trouble very quickly. By the way, isn’t that how trouble comes at us? It’s always quick, it’s always unexpected. These guys just participated in one of the most miraculous things you could imagine. They weren’t just witnesses to it, they were participating in it. They touched the bread, they touched the fish. As it was distributed to 10,000 people it just kept coming. And there were baskets left over at the end. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine what a spiritual high these guys must have been experiencing?

They probably didn’t want to leave. Which is why we have the language here from Mark; He says that Jesus had to MAKE THEM GET INTO THE BOAT. Have you ever had such a beautiful experience that you didn’t want it to end? It was so amazing that you didn’t want to leave? I think that’s what is happening here.

I can just imagine the disciples, as they got into the boat. Jesus has just said, “You guys get to the other side… … I’ll meet you there!” They’re probably sitting in the boat laughing and recounting what just happened. And then, after being on the lake for a little while, they would have noticed the wind begin to change.

And as the wind changed, they begin to labor at the oars, unable to make any headway. And now they find themselves stuck in the middle of the lake. They can’t go forward because the wind is in their faces and they don’t want to go back because they’re trying to be obedient to Jesus. They’re stuck! And then, here it comes — the Searah! It comes rushing down the mountainside! And, all of the sudden, after this beautiful experience with Jesus, after witnessing His power, after being obedient to what He told them to do, they find themselves in serious trouble.

Now, I’d like to pause here and say something that I believe is absolutely critical for us to understand. We tend to think that when we find ourselves in trouble, it’s because we’ve done something wrong. Do you know what I mean? We’re conditioned that way as children: “I’ve been disobedient so now I’m in trouble.” Jonah is a great example of this from the Old Testament. God called Jonah to something, Jonah refused and ran away from God, and he found himself in trouble.

But notice, in this case, that it was the disciple’s obedience that led to this trouble. I think there’s an important lesson here for us. Sometimes God leads us into situations where we desperately need Him so that we will learn to trust Him. It’s not necessarily that we’ve done anything wrong. He’s just choosing to do work in us.

Church, don’t be surprised if you’re following Jesus and you’re praying things like: “I want to be more faithful.” “I want to be obedient” “I want to be used by you.” Don’t be surprised if a storm is coming. Don’t complain when the storm comes because the Lord is actually answering your prayers. The storm is often the means of grace for Him to grow us.

Just think about your own life. How often do we believe that God is against us because we’re experiencing hardships in our lives? When, in fact, we know that God is always for us. And He’s actually using those hard things to lay the groundwork for our greatest good.

I believe that Jesus wanted to create a situation where the disciples would be tested, especially after such a spiritual high with the feeding of all of those people. He wanted to test them. That’s the second thing I want for us to consider: The disciples circumstances allowed for their testing.

Look again at what this says in verses 48 (starting right where we left off). “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.”

Notice how Mark mentions “evening” in verse 47 and “the fourth watch of the night” in verse 48. That basically means that they’ve been in this storm for several hours. So, Jesus led them into this storm, He’s let them struggle for hours, and we know from verse 48 that He sees them; He knows exactly what’s happening. And then, after all of that, finally Jesus comes to them. Mark says that “He meant to pass by them…” Which is really interesting, isn’t it? I think that this little phrase is meant to teach us something very important.

It triggered my mind because we know that Jesus didn’t mean to go unseen. We know that because Jesus doesn’t fail at things. If He meant to pass by them and not be seen, He would have done that successfully. No, Mark means that Jesus intentionally passed by the boat so that they would see Him as He walked on the water. The question is WHY? Well, I think it’s for a couple of reasons.

Most obviously, to the point here, it’s because Jesus is testing them. He’s stretching them. In the midst of difficulty, in the midst of something hard, He’s showing them a lack of trust — a lack of belief — that He is in control of the situation. Notice how verse 52 says that the disciples “hearts had been hardened about the bread.” Apparently they had drawn the wrong conclusions about Jesus as He fed all of those people. I believe that Jesus wanted to give them a tangible lesson about trust & belief.

But I think there’s something else that Jesus wanted to show them, because He could have taught them that lesson from the land. Instead, He chose to walk on the water. You see, this is a clear demonstration of His power and it’s a clear revelation of His glory. It shows that even the molecules of water must hold up the feet of the Sovereign Lord. It’s the glory of the King of Kings on display.

I would suggest that this is Jesus revealing His glory to the disciples, and that’s why I think he intended to pass by them. I believe that Mark is intentionally drawing our minds to the mountains. Not just the mountain that Jesus was praying on, but Mount Sinai (Mount Horeb).

You might remember the accounts in the Old Testament of Moses & Elijah (the disciples would have remember them). In both of those cases, they are up on the mountain and God caused His glory to pass by them. Because, in both of those cases, they could not behold the glory of the Lord. They couldn’t experience it because of the gap that existed between the Holiness of God & their sin.

They would have needed a mediator to experience (to behold) God’s glory. They didn’t have that, so the Lord caused His glory to pass by them. Here we see Jesus (on a mountain), but coming down the mountain to display His power and His glory to sinful men. He reveals His glory by “passing by” the disciples on the water; which is what you would expect if you’re familiar with those Old Testament accounts. But then, something breathtaking happens, something different, something new. Where Moses & Elijah couldn’t behold the glory of The Lord, where they couldn’t physically be with Him because of the separation that sin brings, Jesus GETS INTO THE BOAT!

He doesn’t just pass them by to the point where they can catch a glimpse of His glory, He gets into the boat. He enters into their circumstances. He enters into the pain, and confusion, and uncertainty. And, in so doing, Jesus brings care and provision in their weakness.

What Jesus intended to teach the disciples (and what this text is meant to remind us of) is that Jesus IS THE MEDIATOR. Jesus IS IMMANUEL — GOD WITH US. Things are not like they were before. God is doing something new. He is doing something different than before. Where His glory would kill people earlier (because of the separation that sin brings), now, because of Jesus, people are able to behold His glory. And not just behold His glory, but be transformed by His glory in His presence.

You see, Jesus provision for the disciples is Himself. And He cares for the disciples with His presence. And the same thing is true for your life & my life. Jesus Christ is our righteousness. Where we could not exist in the presence of God because of our sin, Jesus took our sin upon Himself and gave us His righteousness in return. We can now exist in the presence of God!

Jesus Christ is our mediator. Where we could not behold the glory of the Lord because of our sin, Jesus is the propitiation for our sin. So that we can, “with unveiled face, behold the glory of the Lord, and be transformed into the same image…”

I believe these are the things that Jesus was revealing to the disciples, and it’s what He wants to reveal to us this morning. And it must shape the way we see everything in our lives; especially the difficulties, especially the hard circumstances, especially the storms in our lives.

I want to challenge each of us this morning to think about the circumstances of your life right now. Think about where God has you right now and ask yourself these questions in each of those circumstances:


Those are the questions that will reveal the motivations of our heart.

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