Mark 6: Walking on Water

Introduction: Storms and Sea Monsters

hello everybody,
Who is finding the NZ winter cold?
Who would rather be at the beach?
lying on the sand in the sun,
Watching the waves.
 
The sea isn’t always friendly.
Last month, Heather told us about her trip to Antarctica.
While she was in the boat, there was a storm.
 – she was afraid.
 
Heather came back okay, but some people don’t.
Who saw this movie: “The Perfect Storm”?
It’s about a fishing boat.
in 1991 it was caught in a huge storm off the East Coast of America.
it sank and everyone on board died.
 
 
There are even more exciting movies with sea monsters.
Who can recognise these?
Jaws.  A huge shark
Moby Dick.  A killer whale
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.  A giant squid.[1]
 
 
Long before movies, thousands of years ago in Bible times,
people told stories about monsters like these.
Did you know there are sea monsters in the Old Testament of the Bible? [2]
 
Let’s meet one, something like a giant killer crocodile or Godzilla or a dragon.
The Bible calls it Leviathan.
 
Its mouth is filled with terrifying teeth.
Its back has rows of shields.
Fire seems to spray out of its mouth.

It makes the ocean boil.
It stirs up the sea.
Nothing on earth is equal to the leviathan.

Job 41             page 413
 
 
Would you like to go for a swim and meet him?
Do you still want to lie on the beach by the sea?
I think I’d rather be tramping in the mountains!
 
In the Bible, the sea is often a sign of danger and death.
A scary place of storms and monsters.
 

Lake Galilee

over the last weeks,
we have seen Jesus on the beach alongside the Sea or Lake of Galilee in Israel.[3]
Galilee is about 21 km long and 12 km wide – smaller than Lake Taupo in NZ.
Some of Jesus’ followers were fishermen, like Peter and James and John.[4]
they sailed on the lake in their boats to throw out their fishing nets.
 
 
2000 years later, people still fish on Lake Galilee.[5]
In 1986, two brothers were walking along the beach – their father was a fisherman.
it hadn’t rained for a long time, so the water level was lower.
They saw something sticking out of the mud.  What was it?
It turned out to be a very old fishing boat, from the time of Jesus.
The first one we’ve found.
 
I just read this book about the discovery:
“The Sea of Galilee Boat” by Shelley Wachsmann.
It was 8 m long, 2.5 m wide, 1.2 m high.
Similar to many boats in Auckland today.
 
There were five sailors:
two people rowing with oars on either side, and one at the back to steer.
Writings from a battle said the boats could also carry up to 10 soldiers.
So a maximum of about 15 people.
Jesus and his followers made 13 men, so everybody could fit on board.[6]
 
 
I hope one day I can go and see Lake Galilee.
It sounds very beautiful, with hills all around – covered with green grass in spring.[7]
You can still go sailing.
In good weather, it would be lovely.
 
But it’s not always nice.
the wind can blow down from the hills and suddenly make big storms.
 
Here’s a headline from the Jerusalem Post newspaper, 12 March 1992.
Kinneret is another name for Galilee, Tiberias is a town by the lake – from the time of Jesus. 
 
“Kinneret’s Crashing Waves Flood Downtown Tiberias.
Cafe Tables and Chairs Swept Away by Storm.”
 
The article said:
Waves nearly three meters high spilled water 20 meters from the shore…
At one stage in the morning, the waves were breaking over the jetties and walls at a height of 12 meters.
 
those are big waves.
In weather like that, would you like to be in a little boat about 1 m high?
One night, Jesus and his followers were on the lake
in weather like that in a boat like that.
 

Stilling the Storm

Let’s read about it.
 
35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, ”Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ”Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, ”Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
Mark 4:35-41
 
 
Jesus’ friends were strong hard men.
Some had been fishing on Lake Galilee all their lives.
If they were afraid, this was a serious storm.[8]
 
Heather talked about this passage, so we’ll just look at their question.
“Who is this man?”
Who is this, that even wind and waves obey?
 
 
About 1000 years ago, there was a great king of England (1016–1035).
King Canute.
His followers said he was so great, that even the sea would obey him.
He had them put his throne on the beach and he sat down.
It was low tide, starting to come in.
King Canute ordered the sea, “stop!”
The tide kept coming in.
He shouted, “stop!  Come no further!”
The sea didn’t listen.
The waves splashed on his royal feet.
They washed over his royal throne.
King Canute had to run away.[9]
none of us, not even kings, can control the sea.
 
Jesus’ followers were good Jews,
since they were children, they learnt the Old Testament of the Bible.
They knew about an even greater King than King Canute.
For example, God says
 
I kept the sea inside its boundaries …
I locked it behind barred gates,
    limiting its shores.
I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
    Here your proud waves must stop!’
Job 38: 8-11 [10]
 
God commands and the sea obeys!
Maybe they remembered those verses that night.
And I bet they could relate to this Psalm about sailors on the sea:
 
Their ships were tossed to the heavens
    and plunged again to the depths;
    the sailors cringed in terror.
 
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
He calmed the storm to a whisper
    and stilled the waves.
Psalm 107:23-30 [11]
 
 
That’s what God did in the Psalm.
And it’s just what Jesus did on the lake.
At first his friends were afraid of the power of the big wind and the huge waves.[12]
Now they were even more afraid, because an even bigger power was there.
 
They didn’t fully understand
but Jesus had just done what the Bible shows only One person can do.
somehow, in some way,
with Jesus on the boat, they were in the presence of God.
 
 
Last week, in chapter 6, again we saw Jesus by the lake.
He taught all day, the crowd was hungry, they had nothing to eat,
Then Jesus made enough bread and fish to feed everyone – 5000 people.
 
That was a long day.  Jesus and his followers were tired.
And so we come to our main passage.
 

Walking on Water

 
45 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. 46 After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.
47 Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. 50 They were all terrified when they saw him.
But Jesus spoke to them at once. ”Don’t be afraid,” he said. ”Take courage! I am here!” 51 Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed.
 
Mark 6:45-51
 
 
In chapter 4, the disciples learned that they didn’t need to be afraid of the storm. 
Jesus was on the boat with them.  They were safe.
This time Jesus sent them across the lake on their own, without him.
 
 
Again the weather wasn’t good.
The wind was blowing hard against them.
They were rowing for most of the night – maybe 9 hours.
And they were still only in the middle of the lake.
They were getting tired – they probably took turns on the oars.
They were wet from the waves.
If the storm got worse, they could die.
 
How they wished Jesus was with them like last time, but he wasn’t.
They were alone and afraid.
 
 
And then, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the lake, in the distance,
they saw something coming.
What was it?
Maybe they remembered those stories about sea monsters.
Maybe they screamed, “Jaws!”  Maybe not…
It came closer.
It looked like a man.  A ghost!
Maybe the ghost of a sailor who had drowned there,
coming to drag them down into the water, into the grave.
 
The thing kept coming.
I can imagine Peter shouting, “Row, row, row!”
 
Have you had a bad dream when you tried to run away, but you couldn’t move?
It was like that – the wind was too strong for them.
The thing was catching up.
 
And then it spoke.
It was a voice they knew, a voice they loved.
It was Jesus!
 
They felt alone,
But they weren’t:
 
From the hill where he was praying, Jesus was looking down.
He knew exactly where they were; he knew how they were feeling.
They couldn’t wake him up whenever they wanted, like in chapter 4.
They couldn’t see him,
But when the time was right, in Jesus’ time, he came and helped them.
They felt afraid; in fact they were totally safe.
Jesus was watching over them all the time.
 
 
It’s like that for you and me.
Sometimes life is hard, and I wish Jesus was still physically here.
so I could grab him, “Wake up, help!”
 
As Jesus taught his friends, God wants to teach us faith:
He wants us to trust that he is still looking after us, still with us.
Although we can’t see him physically.
 
 
When Jesus got into the boat, the wind stopped blowing, the waves stopped crashing.
the storm was over,
It was not long before morning.
Jesus had come, the darkness was passing, and soon the sun would rise.
They must have been so happy and relieved.
 
But also, again they were amazed.
Who can walk on the water?
Who can march right across those big terrible waves?
 
 
There’s a lizard from South America that can run across the surface of water.
It has special big feet.  It’s called “the Jesus Lizard”.[13]
God’s creation is amazing, but they weren’t thinking of it!
Leonardo da Vinci designed “water walking shoes” but they weren’t around then.
 
From the Bible Jesus’ friends knew that only one person can walk across the sea.
Only One can fight the monsters:
 
God alone has spread out the heavens
    and marches on the waves of the sea…
Even the monsters of the sea are crushed beneath his feet.
Job 9:8, 13 [14]
 
Once again, they must have been asking, who is this?
This man does things that only God can do.
What can it mean?
 
Two chapters later, Jesus asked them directly,
“Who do you say I am?”  (Mark 8:29)
 
It was a big question for them. 
In fact, it’s a turning point in the book of Mark.
It’s a big question for us, and it can be a turning point in your life:
who do you think Jesus is? 
 

Peter Walks on Water

Some of you have heard this story before.
Have you noticed something is missing?
let’s turn to Matthew for the director’s cut, the extended edition with a bonus extra scene.
 
Matthew 14:28-31                   page 746
 
28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
29 ”Yes, come,” Jesus said.
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ”You have so little faith,” Jesus said. ”Why did you doubt me?”
 
 
Peter loves Jesus so much.
He just wants to go to him, even if the sea is in the way.
As long as his eyes are on Jesus, the waves are like the footpath on Queen Street.
 
But then Peter looks away from Jesus, he looks around.
He sees the waves surging, he hears the wind howling.
His is filled with fear, his heart sinks – and so does he!
 
I like Peter, because his faith is very up and down.
I’m often like that. 
Some days I feel close to God; other days it’s hard to believe he’s there.
Maybe you’re like that too.
I need to remember that God’s love does not go up and down like waves, like my feelings.
He is always faithful.  He always stays the same.
 
Peter cries out to Jesus, he prays like David in the Psalms:
 
Save me, O God,
    for the floodwaters are up to my neck.
Deeper and deeper I sink into the mud;
    I can’t find a foothold.
I am in deep water,
    and the floods overwhelm me.

Psalm 69: 1-3
 
Peter cried out.
Jesus reached out and rescued him.[15]
 
It was another lesson in faith.
One writer said faith is “trusting in the buoyancy of God.”
I like that!  Buoyancy is what makes something float,
like a lifejacket that makes it almost impossible to sink in the sea.
 
Jesus is our spiritual lifejacket:
no matter how we feel, how big the wind and waves.
With Jesus, we are totally safe: it’s impossible for our souls to drown.
 
 
Who has gone to the beach at Piha in summer to go surfing?
There are people called lifeguards.
They sit on a tower and look out over the sea… 
“Look!  Someone is in trouble!”
they get into their boat, they bounce across the waves, and they pull that person out.
Jesus is like that.
He watches over our lives like he watched over his friends
ready to help us if we get in trouble.
Except he doesn’t need a boat – he just walks across the water to save us!
 
 

Conclusion

 
We are all in different seasons of life.
Maybe you are facing storms and monsters that make you afraid.
It seems like you are alone, like Jesus’ followers on the lake.
Remember what we’ve seen:
Our God can stop storms, and walk all over those monsters.
Jesus is our lifeguard who rescues us.
As he said, you do not need to fear.
 
 
Or maybe you feel like you’ve been rowing hard all night.
You are tired and the shore isn’t getting any closer.
I wonder if Jesus’ followers thought about turning back that night.
with the wind behind them, it would be so much easier.
But Jesus had clearly told them to cross the lake.
So they kept on rowing straight ahead.[16]
 
If that’s you – working hard for years, obeying God, but you see no progress,
be encouraged.
there will come a time when Jesus joins you in the boat, the wind dies down,
you see the fruit of your efforts, and you arrive at the shore.
 
 
Or maybe there aren’t any monsters or storms right now.
You are sailing over the lake of life under a bright blue sky.
That’s great.  Thank God for the good times he gives you.
 
But it could be, it might be, that God calls you to something more.
If you’ve been cruising along easily for years,
Is God asking you to be like Peter?
To take a step of faith, to get out of the comfortable boat.
To fix your eyes on him and walk to him across the water? [17]
 
 
Wherever we are right now,
a day is coming when storms will stop for ever and the monsters will be gone.
Here’s a promise from the Bible:
 
In that day the Lord will take his terrible, swift sword and punish Leviathan…
He will kill the dragon of the sea…
 
God will spread a wonderful feast
    for all the people of the world…
    with good wine and the best meat…
He will swallow up death forever!
Isaiah 27:1, 25:6-8
 
That’s a picture of heaven:
God will defeat the monsters, the storms, everything that is wrong.
Then there’ll be a big celebration with a big feast.
Long ago, the Jewish people read this and they asked: What exactly will we eat?
What do you think?  What is the food in heaven?
I know the Koreans will say, “kimchi!”
The Jewish people answered: seafood.
 
Who likes seafood? 
Fish, crab, squid, shark?
They said this will be very special seafood: Leviathan! [18]
 
Instead of the monsters eating us, God’s people will eat them!
God will be cooking up Giant Squid rings, Moby Dick whale meat, chunks of juicy Jaws.
and slices of Leviathan on the barbecue! 
Imagine the yummy smell.  Does that make you hungry?
 
It certainly gives new meaning to the verse:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” 
1 Corinthians 15:54
 
I think eating the monsters is a fun idea, but it’s not in the Bible, so take it or leave it.
 
What the Bible does say about the future is this:
One day Jesus is coming back.
At last we will see him face to face,
like when he arrived at his friends’ boat on the lake that night.
It will be time for a celebration![19]
 
In this life, while we cannot see Jesus physically,
it may be that the wind is blowing hard,
the waves are crashing over you.
There are monsters and storms that make you afraid.
 
Then remember what we’ve learned today:
Although we can’t see him, God is watching over us.
Jesus has the power of God to stop every storm.
He can walk over the waves to rescue you, so you will not sink.
He can defeat every monster that attacks you.
You are not alone.
So do not be afraid.
 
 
The floods have lifted up their voice…
the floods lift up their roaring.
But mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the Lord on high is mighty!
Psalm 93:3-4
 
 

Questions

 
Are there storms or “monsters” that make you afraid?
Have you experienced God rescuing you from them?
 
Is your life smooth sailing?
Has God ever asked you to “step out of the boat” and do something that seemed impossible?
 
“Who is this man Jesus?” – What is your answer?
(Read Matthew 14:33 & 16:15-16)
Can you trust him to be your lifejacket and lifeguard?
 
 


[1] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kraken
[2] The Jewish people did not like the sea.  They thought it was a place of danger and darkness and death. In Ancient Near Eastern cultures, the creator god fought the sea of chaos and killed its monsters.  In the Exodus, God defeated Pharaoh, described as the dragon in the Nile, and blew back the Red Sea.  Isaiah 51:9-11.  In Daniel 7 and Revelation 13, the evil beasts come up from the sea.
[3] http://www.bibleplaces.com/seagalilee.htm
[4] Bethsaida, a town in the gospels by Galilee, means “House of Fishermen”
[5] In fact, over-fish it.  See http://www.greenprophet.com/2010/04/israel-fishing-ban-sea-galilee/
[6] The boat also had a flat bottom, so it could come very close into the beach – good for Jesus to sit in and speak to the people from, as the Bible says.
[7] There is a Jewish saying, “God created seven seas, but this is his special delight”
[8] Maybe even a supernatural storm.  My Greek dictionary says this word can mean a hurricane or a whirlwind.  Used in Job 21:18, 27:20, 38:1-God speaks out of the storm.  For a great sermon on this, see http://www.generousorthodoxy.org/sermons/the-god-of-hurricanes-(nantucket-version).aspx
[9] Henry of Huntingdon, the 12th-century chronicler, wrote: “continuing to rise as usual [the tide] dashed over his feet and legs without respect to his royal person. Then the king leapt backwards, saying: ‘Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.’ He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again “to the honour of God the almighty King”.
Cf re Antiochus Epiphanes: “Thus he who only a little while before had thought in his superhuman arrogance that he could command the waves of the sea, and had imagined that he could weigh the high mountains in a balance, was brought down to earth and carried in a litter, making the power of God manifest to all.” (2 Maccabees 9:8)
[10] O Lord my God, how great you are! … At your command, the water fled … you set a firm boundary for the seas.  Psalm 104: 7-9
The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created.  He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.  He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.  Psalm 33:6-7
[11] O God our Savior.  You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas…  You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves. Psalm 65:5,7.   You rule the oceans.   You subdue their storm-tossed waves. You crushed the great sea monster. Psalm 89:9-10
[12] When they came to shore, Jesus defeated the forces of evil demons that were torturing a man-the longest story of exorcism in the Gospels-maybe the storm was also demonic.  The word used for Jesus rebuking the wind in 4:39 is the same as that for silencing the demon in Mark 1:25.
[13] http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/green-basilisk-lizard/   See “How “Jesus Lizards” Walk on  Water” at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/11/1116_041116_jesus_lizard.htmlhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45yabrnryXk
[14] By his power the sea grew calm. By his skill he crushed the great sea monster…     and his power pierced the gliding serpent.  Job 26:12-13. Cf Psalm 77:19, Habakkuk 3:15.  In fact, Genesis 1:21 says “God created the great sea monsters” – he is totally in control!
[15] I hold you by your right hand- I, the Lord your God.  And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.  Isaiah 41:13
[16] There is a book called “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”  That is part of the Christian life.
[17] There is a book called “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.” 
[18] And its skin used to cover the tent where the banquet will take place!  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leviathan
[19] “a new heaven and a new earth…  the sea was no more… Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”  Revelation 21:1-4.

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