Jesus Walks on Water: An Example of Religion or Faith?

BLCF: Jesus-walks-on-water

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Jesus Walks on Water: An Example of Religion or Faith?’

© March 13, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 13, 2016

Based on Message Shared with BLCF April 18, 2010 (and Revised on 8/24/2014)

BLCF: exercise_faith

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading # 660 (The New Way of Life – Luke 6); Prayer

Opening Hymn #1: Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty; Choruses

Tithing & Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Scripture Verses: Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:51-52 and John 6:20-21

  

BLCF: by-faith-we-grow-to-sonship

Let us pray…

This morning’s message is about the miracle of Jesus’ walking in the Sea of Galilee.

But first let us let us look what is the definition of a miracle, as described in the Bible? It’s very interesting that a common word used for miracle in the New Testament can also be translated “sign.” A miracle is a sign that God uses to point to Himself; the same way we follow signs to guide us along highways or city streets.

Most scholars agree that the Gospels record 37 supernatural miracles of Jesus or, 37 Devine interventions in nature.   There are 21 of Jesus’ miracles recorded in Matthew, 3 of which are unique to Matthew. There are 19 of Jesus’ miracles recorded in Mark, 2 of which are unique to Mark. There are 22 of Jesus’ miracles recorded in Luke, 7 of which are unique to Luke. And there are 8 of Jesus’ miracles recorded in John, 6 of which are unique to John.

We do not have time this morning to go through all 37 of these miracles, which are by definition supernatural events. And when we say supernatural, we are not talking about ghosts, zombies or things that go “bump in the night”, though the disciples did initially mistake the Lord treading across the sea for a ghost or apparition. A supernatural event can be described as something that is super or above and beyond nature or what is described as a natural event. Natural events follow the rules and laws of physics. The natural event can be predicted to follows these rules and laws. A supernatural event defies the rules because it was caused by the Lord, who is supernatural, as he is part of the Trinity of God. God created the universe and therefore is not bound by the rules of nature.

This morning we will focus on the miracle of Jesus walking on water, which occurred the day after Jesus had performed the miracle of the “Loaves and Fishes.”

Matthew 14:22-32 (ESV)

BLCF: Jesus walks on the sea

 22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

Mathew’s account of events records three miracles; Jesus walking on the water; Peter’s walk on the water; the calming of the wind and waves. John’s account records a fourth miracle; and that the boat was instantly transported to their destination of Bethesda, some 3½ miles away. Only Luke’s Gospel does not give us an account any of these miracles. Perhaps he was asleep in the cabin, having served an earlier watch? But, upon what body of water did these events take place.

Sometimes referred to as a lake, the Sea of Galilee, lake described in this passage, from Britannica Online:

BLCF: Jesus walks on the water

The Sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake in the north of Palestine. It is 13 miles (21 km) long and about 8 miles (14km) across at its widest point, with a maximum depth of 150 feet (46km). Lying 640 feet (195m) below sea level, it is surrounded by mountains 1,200-1,500 feet (365-460m) high, rising close to the shore except for short stretches on the south, southwest and northwest. The lake is fed from the north by the River Jordan and by numerous lesser streams, as well as by underwater springs, some of them hot, to which medicinal properties have been attributed. Emerging from the southern end of the lake, the Jordan carries the outflow to the Dead Sea.

The area was very prosperous in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Early on, under the Ptolemies, the fort of Philoteria was built on the site of ancient Beth Yerah and served as the capital of a district, developing into a large Jewish city in the Roman period. The shores of the Sea of Galilee were the scene of the early ministry of Jesus. From Nazareth he went to preach in the synagogues, some of them in cities close to the sea, such as Capernaum and Chorazin. It was from these shores that he called the fishermen, Simon and Andrew, and James and John “to become fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-21), and at the water’s edge that he fed the multitude with two loaves and five fishes (Matthew 14:19-20). Tradition places the site of this miracle at Heptapegon, where the early Church of the Loaves and Fishes was built. Both Jewish and Christian communities flourished along the shores of the lake during the whole of the Roman and Byzantine periods. Excavations made on many sites round the lake, such as Beth Yarah, Tiberias, Hammath, Heptapegon and Capernaum, have revealed much evidence of the splendor and prosperity of the region in all periods.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/224050/Sea-of-Galilee

Similar to Ontario’s Lake Nippising, near North Bay, the Sea of Galilee’s dimensions and orientation makes it a prime candidate to sudden unpredictable storms caused by the prevailing winds. Needless to say, I am sure that Jesus, having been blest with the Holy Spirit, and by virtue of being the Devine Alpha and Omega, (beginning and end), knew that the disciples would encounter a storm on their journey.

So why did He allow them to go in the boat without Him? And why did He wait so long before joining them?

Do not forget that Jesus wanted to go up the mountain to pray. As Christians, we need to take time to pray, to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, in order to clear our slate of thoughts, actions and feelings which distance us from God.

Jesus was a good teacher not only to the multitudes, but to the twelve who followed him. The journey from Heptapegon, also known as Tabgha, el-Oreme or ‘En Sheva to Bethesda was about seven miles distance and would have taken the disciples maximum of 3-4 hours under normal conditions. Because of extreme head winds and waves, the disciples’ boat had covered only half the distance in about 12 hours’ time or about 1/6 of the normal rate of travel.

There is no doubt that Jesus knew about the challenges his disciples were encountering, but he allowed them to go for some time before he set out to tread across the sea. Until Jesus arrived, the disciples had to work persistently and together to keep their boat on course, against the storm. The disciples would need the same persistence and cooperation, in the not too distant future, to share the Gospel to people who knew nothing of God, or worse, had drifted away from God in the pursuit of a religion devoid of the Holy Spirit.

Continuing with Mathew 14, verse 25:

BLCF: Jesus walking on water

25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Again there is the human tendency forget their faith, as initially none recognized Christ on the water, thinking instead they saw a spirit or ghost on the water. If Christ had told them he would join them, they had forgotten. If they expected Christ, they seemed not to understand that Jesus had the power to effortlessly cross a stormy sea which held the disciples’ vessel stationary.

Now Peter, not sure if it was Jesus said, reading Mathew 14, verse 28:  

BLCF: Jesus-walking-on-water

28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

The disciples, who have already seen the power of Jesus, having witnessed several miracles, had not connected the dots to conclude that it was their master who approached their vessel.  As Christian believers, we too can suffer from an absence of faith in the face of adversity. If for a second we take our eyes away from the Saviour, just like Peter we can be distracted from faith, by dwelling on our circumstances, as Peter did, and in our fear and doubt, sink in the sea of our adversities.  In spite of the fleetingness of faith, Jesus still is there just waiting for us to call to Him to extend His hand and lift us from a sea of sadness and despair. He joins us and He calms the sea and accompanies us to our destination. Up to this point the disciples had showed a lot of religion and only a little faith. Their hearts had been hardened to the source of the miracles which they had witnessed up to this point, as was indicated in Mark 6:51-52:

BLCF: Lord-Jesus-animated

1And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Jesus had allowed the twelve disciples to suffer life threatening peril of the storm at sea and they had not recognized the supernatural Christ, who had dominion over all of nature, walking towards them on a violent sea. Instead they saw a ghost. Peter allowed his vision to distract himself momentarily forgetting Jesus, whereupon the disciple promptly sank into the sea. It was not until Jesus had boarded the vessel, that the disciples finally understood just who had performed the miracle of the loaves; feeding the multitude; who had walked across and calmed the stormy sea; who had empowered Peter to walk the sea; and who Jesus really was Matthew 14:33:

BLCF: Jesus_is_Lord_animated

33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I believe that this was the purpose of the exercise of the voyage to Bethany, the storm on the sea, and the subsequent miracles. The miracle was a sign to the disciples who their teacher was: the Son of God! For this miracle established in the disciples a belief without question that Jesus was the Son of God, and from this belief comes faith that as Son of God, Jesus performed miracles to fulfill the scriptures.  As we read in Hebrews 11:1 (ESV):

1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Now Christ did one more miracle that was not only for the benefit of the 12 disciples, it was for everyone, man, woman, child, all generations for 20 centuries, up to and including today. He died on the cross for our sins, to remove the tempest of God’s judgment. Jesus did the ultimate miracle by rising from the dead. Not finished with His miracle, he ascended to heaven to be our advocate. Finally, he rewarded our faith by send us a comforter in the Holy Spirit, to join us on our travels through life; to assure us through the storms we may encounter; to calm the fears; to accompany us to our destinations and assist us in sharing the Gospel.

Our bodies are like clay jars, fragile easily, shattered, but thanks to His miraculous power capable of being vessels of a treasure, the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 4:7:

BLCF: earthen_vessels_with_heavenly_treasure

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Just as the disciples set out in a vessel that can be destroyed by the raging sea, our bodies are subject to destruction by the natural forces of misadventure, disease, and age. But by faith in Jesus, we can remove the threat of natural death and supernaturally share the miracle of eternal life. But to make our bodies a proper vessel for the Holy Spirit, we must cleanse ourselves of unrighteousness, by confessing our sins and accepting the miraculous gifts of sacrifice on our behalf, receiving justification in God’s eyes. Only then are our bodies sanctified to receive the Holy Spirit, as we read in 2 Timothy 2:20-21:

BLCF: Holy Work Earthen-Vessels

20Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honourable use, some for dishonourable. 21Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonourable, he will be a vessel for honourable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house ready for every good work.

It may appear, to some from outside this church, that Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship is like a vessel set upon by a great destructive storm. We are a relatively small congregation with a large mission of sharing the Gospel of Christ. Still, God has rewarded our faith with what is necessary to achieve His purpose in our community: to feed and minister to a multitude of nearly 150 each and every Wednesday evening. God continues to provide the means, including the funds, volunteers, even the fridges and stoves, for workers in His house to do this good work.

Do we need a ghostly apparition in our midst to convince us from whom these miracles come from? Dare we take our eyes away from him to look at the storm around us, and in doing so, risk losing our precious faith to end up sinking into a sea of despair? Are we here to perform hollow religious worship or are we here to demonstrate our faith in our Savior, faith in the gift of Salvation, cleansing our bodies in faith, so that our vessels so that they may hold the Holy Spirit, in order to do the Lord’s work?

Let us conclude today’s message with the following characteristics of religion and faith:

Religion exists to control faith;                                                                                      

 faith exists to keep religion in check.                                   

Religion is man’s interpretation of God’s will,                                                                            

faith is its acceptance.

May our actions demonstrate our faith and trust in God, not a practice of religious ritual. Let us not question God’s will, but with the help of the Spirit, accept and implement it to His glory.

Let us pray…

BLCF: faith_in_God

Closing Hymn #126: Amen, Amen!

Benediction (Romans 15:5-6):

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

BLCF: Faith - Hebrews 11_1

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