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PORTRAITS IN THE STORM
Intro: It had been a busy day for Jesus and His disciples. They had ministered to the crowds all day long. Jesus had taught them the Word of God, and when late afternoon came, Jesus manifested His power and glory by feeding some 15,000 to 20,000 people with five biscuits and two sardines. Now, evening is approaching fast and Jesus sends His men away by boat to the other side of the lake.
There are a couple of reasons Jesus sent His men away at this time. The first had to do with the crowds Jesus had just fed. John 6:15 tells us that the people were so excited by the miracle of the bread and fish that they tried to take Jesus and make Him their king. Jesus knew the time had not come for that, so He sent His men away to remove them from that kind of thinking. Jesus did not want them to get caught up in the frenzy over the miracles. By the way, the people only wanted to make Jesus a king because He gave them bread, John 6:26. The same is true today! People go into the voting booth and elect the person who promises them the most money.
Another reason Jesus sent the disciples away was so He could spend some time alone with His Father. Jesus sensed a change in the direction of His ministry. He knew that the miracles and His popularity with the people would bring Him into direct conflict with the religious leaders. He knew that intense persecution and eventually death were just around the corner. He needed to seek His Father in prayer. What a lesson for us! We should be people of prayer, seeking the Lord’s help at every turn in the road of life.
A third reason for the disciples being sent away had to do with the disciples themselves. After all they had seen Jesus do they were still filled with doubts and unbelief. Jesus uses this storm to reveal His deity and power to His disciples one more time.
When this miracle is preached, the emphasis is always placed on the storms of life. We preachers love to emphasize the truth that Jesus helps the hurting. Those kinds of messages are well received because we live in a world of hurting people. Over two hundred years ago a preacher named Philip Brooks said, “If you preach to hurting people, you will never lack for a congregation. How true that is! While that is one possible application of this passage, it is not the only one it suggests. Nor is the primary interpretation.
I want to approach this passage a new way today. I want to take these verses and show you a few of the different applications that can be found here. I want to preach on the Portraits In The Storm. There is a word here for the brokenhearted. There is a word here for the Bride of Christ. There is a word here for the folks who have allowed themselves to be blinded to the power and person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me share these portraits with you today!
I. A PORTRAIT OF THE BURDENED
(Ill. There is a great word of comfort here for those going through one of the storms of life. As we have all heard, you are in one of three places in your life today. You are either in a storm, coming out of a storm or headed into a storm.
There are physical storms, mental storms, emotional storms and spiritual storms. There are storms in homes, marriages, at work and at church. There are storms that rage publically and there are storms that manifest themselves in the secret places of the heart.
Storms are part of our human existence, Job 14:1, Eccl. 2:23. Storms touch every part of our lives. We all find ourselves in stormy situations from time to time. These verses offer some help and hope for those passing through a stormy time of life.)
A. v. 45 How He Sent Them We are told that Jesus “constrained His men to get in the ship and cross the sea. The word constrained means to drive or to force. They did not want to go and Jesus literally pushed them into the boat and made them leave!
Did He know a storm was coming? Of course! In fact, I suspect that He might have planned it just for this occasion.
What you and I need to remember today, as we face our own stormy times, is the truth that God stands behind all the storms of our lives. (Ill. Psa. 37:23; Isa. 45:7; Ill. Job – Job 2:3)
If we are in a storm it is because the Lord has sent us into it. Some people have problems with that truth, but it actually gives me great comfort!
If just one area of our lives is outside His control today, then we are in serious trouble. If Satan, the world or this flesh is able to disrupt my life, apart from the permission of God, then no area of life is safe. However, if God is in control, and I believe He is, then whatever He brings into your life or mine will always work out for our good and His glory, Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:15-18.
B. v. 46-48a How He Saw Them They were on the sea in the middle of a dark stormy night. Jesus was miles away, on a mountain, praying to His Father. Yet, the Bible tells us that He saw them. This verse showcases two great truths that need to be mentioned about the Lords care for His people.
1. His Interest - Even though He was occupied with the matters of eternity, still He was interested in His men and their problems. He saw them “toiling. This word literally refers to torture. These men were in unbelievable stress as they labored against the sea. Even the wind was contrary. This word means in the face. They were fighting for their very lives on the sea and Jesus saw it all. Jesus knew their condition. He knew what they faced. And He cared for them and for their safety.
The saints have the same assurance when we go through the storms of our lives. We have a Savior who is interested in our condition and in what we face in life. In fact, our Lord is moved by the storms we are called on to face, Heb. 4:15; Matt. 12:20. He cares about what you face, 1 Pet. 5:7! Bring you impossible situations to Him and watch Him handle them in His power!
2. His Intercession Jesus was in that mountain, but He was not wasting His time. He was in prayer. Surely He was praying about the direction of His ministry, but I am also convinced that He was praying for the men struggling in the storm on the sea below.
Saint of God, you have not been abandoned in the storms of your life! The Lord Himself is praying for you at the throne of God, Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25. I can’t testify for you, but it sure does comfort my heart to know that the Lord is praying for me in Heaven! (Ill. Some possible scenarios.)
C. v. 48b-51 How He Saved Them Jesus didnt just send these men out there to die in that storm. And, He didnt just watch from a safe distance while they struggled. Jesus took an active part in their rescue. Notice how the Lord Jesus ministered to His men on that stormy sea.
1. v. 48 His Presence They were not left to struggle alone. The Lord Himself came to them using the very waves they feared as His vehicle. (Ill. Imagine the scene!)
He has promised us that we can count on His presence as well, Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20; Psa. 37:25; Isa. 41:10; Deut. 31:8. He will be with us to strengthen us and sustain us through all the storms of life. We will never weather a storm alone!
2. v. 49-50 His Peace When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, they thought they were seeing a ghost. The word spirit in verse 49 gives us our word “phantom. They were terrified and cried out. That phrase literally means to scream. They screamed out loud because they were sure they were seeing a ghost walking on the water. The phrase would have passed them by means that Jesus walked out to where they were and began to walk parallel to their boat. These fellows thought they were dead men!
Jesus senses their distress and immediately seeks to comfort them. He identifies Himself by saying “It is I. The word I is an emphatic personal pronoun. It is the same thing He said when He said I am the Bread of Life; I am the Door; I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; etc. It is His way of saying, Men, the great I AM has just arrived on the scene.” Then, He commands them to “stop being afraid and never fear again. If they could have grasped Who it was that was with them, they would have known that there was no reason to be afraid!
Isn’t it true that the storms of life terrify us? Isn’t it true that often the Lord will come to us, walking on the very waves we fear, and we don’t even recognize Him? Isn’t it true that when we do acknowledge His presence, He is able to speak peace to our souls?
I don’t know about you, but I thank God for the times He has “whispered sweet peace to me in the midst of a storm in my life! If we can just learn to recognize His presence, even while we are in a storm, we can peace that passeth all understanding, Phil. 4:6-7.
3. v. 51 His Power Jesus just walks up to the boat on the waves and gets in. When He does, the waves instantly cease. John tells us in His Gospel that when Jesus got into the boat, it immediately arrived at the other side of the lake, John 6:21. What a miracle! One moment they are in the midst of a raging sea. The next moment they are on a calm sea at their destination! That is the power of our Lord!
If you are in a storm today in your life, you need to know that the Lord can calm the winds and waves. He can still your storm. He has the power to do just that. On the other hand, He might choose to do in you what He did in Paul. He might choose to leave you in the storm and calm the fear in your heart, 2 Cor. 12:9. Either way the storm ceases to matter when He demonstrates His power. He is able, Eph. 3:20!
II. A PORTRAIT OF THE BRIDE
(Ill. While this miracle paints a clear portrait of those enduring times of difficulty and pain, it also paints a portrait of the Bride of Christ as she waits for her Bridegroom. The Bride of Christ is made up of every believer who has been saved since the day of Pentecost up to the Rapture of the church. If you are saved, you are part of the Bride of Christ, 2 Cor. 11:2-3; Eph. 5:22-33. You were placed in the Bride of Christ when you were saved, 1 Cor. 12:13. Let me show a brief portrait of the Bride of Christ in these verses.)
A. v. 45 How He Saves His Bride Just as these men were constrained to get into the ship, every person who is a part of the Bride of Christ was compelled or driven to come to Jesus. No one is saved today because they made a choice for Him. If you are saved today it is because He made a choice for you, John 15:16. If you are saved today it is because He came to you in your dead, lost condition, Eph 2:1. You are saved because God in love drew you to His Son, John 6:44. When He called, you came and He did not turn you away, John 6:37, but He saved your soul. You are in the “Old Ship of Zion because Jesus put you on board!
By the way, there is plenty of room for others in this ship. If you have never been saved, and the Lord is calling you to come to Him, you can come and find forgiveness and everlasting life in the Lord Jesus Christ!
B. v. 45 How He Sends His Bride Just like the disciples, He has started us on a journey. We are not headed to the other side of the lake; we are headed to Heaven. We are headed to a home of peace, rest and beauty that He is preparing there for us, John 14:1-3.
Those who know the Lord are not of this world, 1 Pet. 2:11. The world stands against the Bride of Christ and sometimes the sea gets stormy. Such is the case in America right now.
Everywhere you turn Christianity is under attack. This world is not attacking Islam, they would react in violence. This world is not attacking Buddhism. The Buddhists are not a threat to this world. This world is not attacking Hinduism. The Hindus are not a threat to this world. The Bride of Christ is a threat to this world, and the world reacts with hatred, slander and vicious attacks against true believers in Jesus Christ.
Why? This world hates Jesus because His way is a narrow way, Matt. 7:13-14. Jesus teaches that there is but one way of salvation and the world cannot and will not accept that, John 14:6; Acts 16:31! The world hates Jesus because His way is a holy way, 2 Cor. 6:17. The world rejects Christianity because it demands a total break with sin; the world will never accept that! The Bride of Christ can expect some very stormy seas in the days and years ahead.
C. v. 46-51 How He Sustains His Bride Our struggles do not go unnoticed! The Lord Jesus sees everything we face and He sustains us through the stormy seas of this life. Look at the provisions He gives us as we sail.
1. By His Prayers Ive already mentioned it, but the Lord intercedes for His people and He also intercedes for His church. He died to redeem the church unto Himself and He stands by us in these dark, treacherous days.
2. By His Presence These are dark days for the church. As I have mentioned, the Bride is under attack by those forces that would see her defeated and destroyed. Besides the attacks that come from without, there are problems within the church in these days as well.
The modern church has been gripped by the horrible blight of apathy and complacency. We are living in the Laodicean age, Rev. 3:14-22. Members of the local church have become satisfied and set in their ways. They oppose any kind of change and most are content to attend a service or two a week. They rebel when you try to get them to do more. They are satisfied! As long as there are people on the pews and money in the bank they are happy.
When you try to expand the ministry of the church, many of these complacent, apathetic people will rise up in protest! Some will stop coming. Some will stop giving. Nearly all will complain and murmur. That’s a sad commentary on the modern church, but it is still true!
By the way, if you can stop coming to church and if you can stop giving and if you are upset because the church is progressing, you have some deep seated spiritual problems that need to be addressed. This thing to do is to get yourself before the Lord and let Him help you!
I praise God there is a remnant today that is still looking for the lord to do something! Those people will not be disappointed! Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” Matt. 18:20. It doesn’t take a multitude! If there is just a handful who long to see the Lord move in power and get glory to His name, He will meet with them and bless them with His presence.
3. By His Power Jesus knows how to calm His Bride in the storms she faces too. He is able to come to His church and whisper peace to her in the midst of her trials. He is able to calm the storms she faces, if He so chooses.
a. He Has The Power To Calm His Church History has demonstrated time and again that the Lord can give His church great peace even during the most difficult of time. He is able to allow His people to worship, even while the storms rage around them.
b. He Has The Power To Come For His Church Just like walked on the water to come to His men in that storm, one day Jesus will come and deliver His church from the storm of this world! That is His promise, John 14:3; 1 Thes. 4:13-18, and that is our hope. Jesus is coming! It may get very stormy on this sea first, but He is coming. Look up pilgrim, the Lord is will soon appear and take us home to be with Him!
c. He Has The Power To Carry His Church Home Jesus safely delivered the disciples to their intended destination and the church can expect Him to do the same for her. This world will not destroy the church! The devil will not destroy the church. The rebels within the walls of a building will not destroy the church. I have seen local churches torn to pieces because of bitterness and petty disagreements, but the true church, the Bride of Christ, will arrive safely in Heaven one day. She will gather on the sea of glass before His throne and praise Him for His grace, His redemption and His deliverance, Rev. 4-5. The church is not going down; she is going up!
III. A PORTRAIT OF THE BLIND
(Ill. This third portrait is what this miracle is really all about. Jesus sent His men into this storm to give them a lesson in faith. He sent them out there so that they might come to understand Who He really was. In a lot of ways, the disciples were blind to the power and person of the Lord Jesus.
The same is true among those who profess to know Him today. There are a lot of folks who claim to be saved and love the Lord, but they don’t really understand Who He is and what He is all about. These verses have something to teach the blind as well.)
A. v. 45-51 The Teachings Of Faith There they are, out on the sea, terrified and fearing for their lives. All of a sudden, the Lord Jesus just shows up and demonstrates His great power over nature. He was not going up and down on the waves. He was not being tossed about by the raging winds. He was walking out to that boat just as calmly and as surely as is He had been walking on a sidewalk. Then, when He sat foot in their boat, the waves instantly ceased their raging!
These men had all evidence they needed to believe that Jesus was Who He claimed to be, yet eleven of them did not fully comprehend Who Jesus was until He had died on the cross and rose again from the dead. One of their number, Judas, never did get it and he died lost in his sins.
Even without this miracle, His men should have known Who Jesus was. Consider what they had already seen:
· They had seen Him cast out demons – Mark 1:23-26; 1:32; 5:1-20.
· They had seen Him heal all manner of diseases – Mark 1:29-32; 1:40-45; 2:1-12; 3:1-5; 5:24-34; 6:5.
· They had seen Him calm a storm – Mark 4:37-41.
· They had seen Him raise a girl from the dead – Mark 5:21-43.
· They had seen Him use them in an amazing way – Mark 6:7-13; 30.
· They had seen Him feed thousands with an extremely small amount of food – Mark 6:35-44.
Jesus had given these men an extensive, intensive lesson in His power and ability, but they never quite got it. In spite of all they had seen Him do, still they doubted His power and they doubted His ability to handle the next situation.
(Ill. Let’s not be too hard on these fellows. We are just as bad as they were. After all, haven’t we seen the Lord move in our lives in great power? If you are saved, you have been the partaker of the greatest miracle God can accomplish! If He has saved your soul and changed your life, it stands to reason that He can do anything! Beyond that, hasn’t He answered your prayers? Hasn’t He moved mountains for you? Hasn’t He blessed you beyond measure? Hasn’t He proven His power time and time again?
Then, why do we seem to have so much trouble just trusting Him? Why do we seem to have so much trouble just following Him wherever He leads us? We truly are a people of little faith!
Guess what? He is going to keep sending us to school, just like He did these men, until we get it! He is going to keep on training us to trust Him by faith until we learn that He is able.
Jesus did it with His disciples. God did the same thing with Israel, (Ill. All the trials they faced – Red Sea; Egypt; bitter waters of Mara; hunger; thirst; enemies; etc.) He will do the same thing with His church and with His people. He is determined to bring us to the place of total trust, dependence and obedience. He is determined to make us into the image of His Son, Rom. 8:28-29; Eph. 4:13. The longer it takes us to learn this truth, the more storms we will have to endure!
B. v. 51-52 The Transgressions Of Faith Verse 51 tells us that the disciples saw the miracle on the sea and they “wondered. This word means to marvel. It has the idea of leaving one with his mouth wide open in surprise. They could not believe their eyes when they saw Jesus do what He did. But, should they have been surprised? Of course not! Verse 52 tells us that they couldn’t believe it because they didn’t want to believe it! They had watched as the loaves and fishes were literally multiplied in the Master’s hands, Mark 6:41. They had watched Him take a lunch that was enough for a small child and use it to feed thousands. At that point, they should have been able to trust Him for anything, but they “hardened their hearts again the miracle. In other words, what they saw Jesus do with the loaves and fishes meant nothing when they faced the next trial.
(Ill. We are no better than they were! Again, how many of us have seen Him do the impossible time and again, yet we still fail to trust Him to be able to take Him where He wants us to be?
You know what our problem is, don’t you? We are just like those disciples; we have small faith and our God is too small!
As long as what the Lord wants to do fits within our understanding of Who He is we are fine. But, when He begins to try and stretch our faith and when He begins to do things we cannot understand, we begin to pull back from Him.
As long as God stays within the box we have constructed for Him we are fine, but when He begins to work in ways we have never seen Him work before, we close our hearts to Him and what He wants to do in us and through us. As a result of our small view, we often miss out on the big things the Lord wants to do in our lives and in our church.
Our lack of faith can actually limit God’s power to work in our midst, Psa. 78:41; Mark 6:1-6. His power is not diminished in the least, but He won’t often manifest that power in the midst of a people who refuse to trust Him by faith! We can have a big God Who moves in big ways, or we can have a little God Who rarely shows up and never shows out, but we cannot have both! We need to decide what we want around here!
C. v. 53-56 The Testimony Of Faith As soon as they reach the shore, Jesus once again tries to remove all doubts from the minds of these men. As they watch, the local people bring out their sick ones. These people have more faith than the disciples! They believe that if they can just touch the border of His garments they will be healed. Many touch Him and they are instantly healed! The Lord has used the disciples to heal before this, Mark 6:12-13. Here, He does it Himself. They are suffering from hard hearts and a lack of faith.
The Lord will accomplish His work either with us or without us. Jesus didn’t need His disciples. He chose to work through them. It seems to me that it would have been easier if He had just done it Himself. He doesn’t need you and me either. He chooses to work through us. Isn’t that a blessing?
When we are walking with Him by faith, as we should be, He is able to use us in a great way, Ill. Mark 6:12-13. When we are not walking in faith, He is not able to use us as He would like to. If He can’t use us, then He will find others He can use! Let’s determine that we will be a people He can use for His glory!
Conc: Are you burdened today? The Lord knows and He cares. Bring your storm to Him and let Him give you the peace you seek.
Are you a part of the Bride? Keep looking up, my friends, Jesus is coming for His people. If you aren’t saved, I invite to come to Jesus today. Let Him change your life and make you a child of God.
Are you blind to His person, His power and His potential? Have you closed your heart and mind to what the Lord wants to do in your life and in this church? Has He touched a sore spot with you today? If He has spoken to you, come to Him and let Him have His way in your life.