Jesus Walks on Water: An Example of Religion or Faith? – September 2022

Dear BLCF Friends,

Effective April 10, 2022, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church will reopen by reservation only for Sunday worship under the limitations and guidelines set by Public Health and the Board of BLCF. In order to protect those who are vulnerable at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship from COVID-19 Virus infection, the BLCF Board mandates that the church will be open by reservation, with the following rules:

  • attendees must wear a mask while on the premises
  • attendees give their contact information upon arrival
  • attendees observe two meters social distance while seated
  • attendees use hand sanitizer as needed
  • attendees follow any additional directions given by members of the board, while inside the church

Please be advised that both the BLCF Café Community Dinner and the BLCF Wednesday Prayer Service will continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. We pray with the administration of sufficient COVID-19 vaccinations, and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities, that the danger of the Pandemic will have subsided sufficiently, to allow BLCF to reopen safely more of our worship and outreach activities without any concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: Jesus-walks-on-water

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© September 25, 2022, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared with BLCF on March 6, 2022, March 13, 2016, and April 18, 2010

BLCF Bulletin March 13, 2016

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

Music Special – Cochren & Co. – Thank God For Sunday Morning (Lyric Video) – https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=MfDBRfMRNU4

https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=MfDBRfMRNU4

Announcements and Call to Worship:

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

Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow) Instrumental – https://youtu.be/Mk4p3rihONU

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

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

BLCF: exercise_faith

Music Special: Lauren Daigle – Light Of The World (Lyric Video) – https://youtu.be/_cLhaZIBSpo 

Lauren Daigle – I Am Yours (Lyrics) – https://youtu.be/2Bo7mDvQyeA

Let us pray…

Good Morning and welcome to our morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church on this, the last Sunday of September and the first Sunday of Fall.

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

But first, 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 a miracle in the New Testament can also be translated as “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 follow 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 walking on the water; and the calming of the wind and waves. John’s account records the 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 of 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, a 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.

Ancient Harbor of the Sea of Galilee

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 Nipissing, 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 blessed with the Holy Spirit, and by virtue of being the Divine Alpha and Omega, (beginning and end), knew that the disciples would encounter a storm on their journey.

Canadian Hydrographic Services Key Map of Lake Nipissing

Canadian Hydrographic Services Key Map of Lake Nipissing

Callander Bay, the South Bay, Cache Bay, the Northwest Arm, the West Arm, the West Bay, the South River, the Sturgeon River and the French River can all be navigated safely in small skiffs. However, to venture to the Manitou or Goose Islands in such a craft would be foolhardy, except under the most favourable circumstances.

Lake Nipissing is notorious for the speed with which it can become treacherous when the weather turns foul – the combination of its shallow depth and low shoreline, its long fetch and orientation toward the direction of the prevailing winds, mean that it can become very rough in short order. It also exhibits a short wave interval, which makes it extraordinarily uncomfortable in windy conditions.

http://www3.sympatico.ca/jeffrey.froud/Cruising.html

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 all the thoughts, actions, and feelings in our lives that may tend to distance us from God.

Jesus was a good teacher, not only to the multitude 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 usually taken the disciples a maximum of 3-4 hours, under normal conditions. Because of extreme headwinds 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 with 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 to forget their faith, as initially, none recognized Christ on the water, thinking instead that they saw a spirit or ghost on the water. If Christ had told them he would join them later, they would have likely forgotten the lesson Jesus had intended to teach them. If they had expected Christ to join them before they departed, they likely would not have understood that Jesus had the power to effortlessly cross a stormy sea that held the disciples’ vessel stationary for so many hours.

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 had already seen the power of Jesus, having personally witnessed several of His miracles, had not connected the dots to conclude that it was their Master Who approached their vessel.  At this time of the Worldwide Pandemic and the horror of war that Russia is currently inflicting upon Ukraine, we as Christian believers may suffer from an absence of faith in the face of such adversity. If for a second we take our eyes away from the Saviour, just like Peter walking on the sea, we can be distracted from our faith, by dwelling on our circumstances, just 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 stormy sea and accompanies us to our destination. Up to this point, the disciples had shown 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 what they considered a possible 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 of the stormy conditions around him to act as a distraction, causing him to be distracted momentarily, which resulted in him forgetting the presence of 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; and Who had empowered Peter to walk the sea, In short, the disciples had forgotten just 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! 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, but it was also for everyone, man, woman, and child, for all generations of the next 20 centuries, up to and including today. He died on the cross for our sins, to remove for us the tempest of God’s judgment. Jesus did the ultimate miracle by rising from the dead. Not finished with His miracles, he ascended to heaven to be our Advocate. Finally, He rewarded our faith by sending 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 of fears in our trials; to accompany us to our destinations, and to assist us in sharing the Gospel.

Our bodies are like clay jars, fragile, and easily shattered, but thanks to His miraculous power He is capable of transforming us from empty clay jars into vessels of the most valuable of treasures, which is the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 4:7:

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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 the sacrifice made by Jesus on our behalf,  so that we may receive justification in God’s eyes. Only then, are our bodies sanctified to receive God’s 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.

Disciples sail the stormy sea

It may appear, come 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 up to 150 souls each and every Wednesday evening. God continues to provide the means, including the funds, volunteers, and even the fridges and stoves, for workers in His house to do this good work.

While our work has been paused due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, we may take this respite to reflect on the wonderous miracles the Lord has worked in our lives, in the life of His Church, and prepare to pick up the standard of faith so as to rededicate our commitment to continue His plan in our community!

Do we need a ghostly apparition in our midst to convince us from whom these miracles come? 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, only 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 may continue to 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 His Holy Spirit, accept and implement it to His glory!

Let us pray…

BLCF: faith_in_God

Closing Music Special: My Prayer For You (Official Lyric Video) – Alisa Turner – https://youtu.be/hj_0pvIGkks

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