Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
Out of the Boat and Onto the Water
© June 4, 2017 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer
Opening Hymn #350: Open My Eyes, That I May See; Choruses
Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings
Communion – (Matthew 26:26-29) – Institution of the Lord’s Supper:
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Responsive Reading #635: Comfort from Christ (John 14) Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Out of the Boat and Onto the Water’
Let us pray…
Earlier in the Praise and Worship Service this morning, we celebrated God’s miracle and New Covenant through our Lord, Christ Jesus, when he died on the cross to atone for our sins; rose from the dead as proof that He is both the Son of God and the provider of eternal life for all believers; and in the meantime Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide us in the Way of the Lord.
For the Communion Observance, I selected Matthew 26:26-29 from a selection from one of several Scripture verses that describe the first communion which Jesus shared with his disciples during the Passover Supper before Christ was arrested and crucified.
This is not the only event in the Scriptures described in multiple places in the Bible. The same is true of the account describing the miracle of Jesus walking upon the Sea of Galilee, which is the subject of today’s lesson, ‘Out of the Boat and Onto the Water’. We will examine all three Biblical accounts of this miracle today in order to get a full appreciation of its significance.
Before we proceed, I would like to share the answer that was posted on the Web site, lavistachurchofchrist.org, in response to the question:
Is there a reason why the Bible has many repetitions, e.g. the gospels of Luke, Mark, Matthew, etc., and also repeated verses found throughout the Bible? Do the verses mean they (are) more important (when they are) repeated more often throughout the Bible, compared to a single verse? Is there a Divine reason why there is repetition in the Bible, instead of it being a concise book?
Answer: There are a variety of reasons why the Bible contains repetitions.
“If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true” (John 5:31). A single person’s word is not a witness to truth because you have no means of verifying the validity of what he stated. The Bible is the collection of about forty different writers who came from a wide variety of backgrounds and across a time period that exceeds 1,500 years, yet they state a single message. The statements, seen from different viewpoints, give us credible witness to the events they record.
Some, like the coming of the Son of God, is incredibly important and needs solid testimony. Even with the eyewitness accounts recorded by four different authors, we still have people today trying to undermine the truth they presented. It is the fact that the accounts come from different viewpoints that makes them difficult to pull down. Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience from a Jewish point of view. In a way, it is ironic because as a tax collector for the Romans, he was an outcast in Jewish society. Mark wrote for a Roman audience; yet, he was a very young man when the events happened and it is agreed that he was recording Peter’s account of the events. The Romans weren’t impressed by the Jews, but the witness aimed at their viewpoint was the apostle to the Jews. Luke wrote for a Greek audience. He was meticulous in getting details and interviewing eyewitnesses. His account is not a single viewpoint but a composite of many witnesses pulled together. John wrote for Christians. He focused on the discourses and teachings of Jesus. Each account gives us a good view of Jesus, but together we get a more complete view. Each account varies slightly in the details recorded, not in a way that contradicts, but because they were looking at the same events from different views. Between them they support the facts of what happened.
The Old Testament also has something similar, the records: I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings and II Kings are repeated in I Chronicles and II Chronicles. The first set is told from a historical point of view. The second set is told from a religious or priestly point of view.
Back to today’s lesson, let us read the first of today’s Scripture passages, Matthew 14:22-33 (ESV):
Jesus Walks on the Water
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way[a] from the land,[b] beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night[c] he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,[d]he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Footnotes: a. Matthew 14:24 Greek many stadia, a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters b. Matthew 14:24 Some manuscripts was out on the sea c. Matthew 14:25 That is, between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.d. Matthew 14:30 Some manuscripts strong wind
Matthew’s account of the events that occurred just after the Lord had performed the miracle of the ‘Loaves and Fishes’, sending his disciples to sail ahead of him on the Sea of Galilee while he went upon the mountain to pray that evening.
Observing that the disciples had struggled against a headwind overnight, Jesus decided to walk upon the sea to them during the fourth watch, which would be sometime between 3AM and 6AM.
Not expecting to see Jesus, to be walking to them on the wind-swept water, the disciples became fearful as they mistook the Lord for a ghost. And though the Lord had given his reassurance to the disciples of his identity, they were still uncertain whom they saw. This doubt was in Peter’s statement in Verse 28, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water”.
Then, following Jesus’ invitation to “Come”, Peter decides to get out of the boat and join the Lord, walking to Jesus on the water. Unfortunately the walk is short, as the disciple allows the conditions of the wind and sea to make his doubts and fears to overcome his faith; and Peter sinks.
Jesus takes Peter’s hand and comments in Verse 31, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When Jesus and Peter go into the boat, the wind ceases and the disciples aboard acknowledge the Lord saying in Verse 33, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on the water, the Lord had intended to address some glaring faith and trust issues among the disciples with respect to their teacher’s identity.
As the disciples embarked on the wind-swept sea, they soon seemed to have forgotten who had sent them, as they mistook their Lord for a ghost. They were so involved in going through the motions of sailing their boat they had seemed to have forgotten why and by whom they had embarked on their journey.
You may recall that Peter had first identified Jesus as the Christ, the prophesized Messiah of God. Jesus indicated because of Peter’s faith, the Lord would build his church. However on the boat, Peter expressed doubt, even after Jesus had told the disciples in the boat, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
The disciples suffered from an abundance of doubt and a shortage of faith. The root of this deficiency was within the disciples’ hearts, as we see when we read our next Scripture passage, Mark 6:45-52 (ESV):
Jesus Walks on the Water
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.
Footnotes: a. Mark 6:48 That is, between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.
Our second verse gives us additional elements of the account:
- We learn that the disciple’s destination was Bethsaida
- Jesus had intended to pass by his disciples, but paused when he had observed that they were terrified
- The disciples reaction of being astounded that Jesus walked on the rough sea confirmed that they did not fully understand the supernatural nature of Jesus feeding the multitude of 5,000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes
And this leads us to John’s account of the events, John 6:16-21 (ESV):
Jesus Walks on Water
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles,[a] they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
Footnotes: a. John 6:19 Greek twenty-five or thirty stadia; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters
We find additional information from John that the disciples had only rowed only 3 or 4 miles over about 8 hours’ time against strong headwinds and rough seas. And once Jesus boarded the boat, it was immediately brought across the sea.
In this account John indicated the destination of Capernaum, which is the nearest seaport to Bethsaida, which was the final destination indicated by Mark.
In conclusion, we find that the disciples had to not only overcome headwinds and rough seas to reach their destination, but they faced the bigger obstacle of hearts hardened by a lack of faith.
The faith obstacle would cause Peter to deny Jesus three times on the day of his arrest and have the disciples to lock themselves in the upper room and doubt the Lord’s resurrection until Jesus physically appeared before them.
Jesus not only delivered the disciples safely to their physical destination, he provided a companion of the Holy Spirit to ensure that the disciples reach their heavenly destination.
Some scholars believe that Jesus’ walking on the water is the only miracle involving our Lord as the focus of the miracle. What about the Nativity, (his birth), the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor; the Lord’s Resurrection, or the Ascension of Jesus to heaven? While it could be argued that the focus of all of these miracles, plus the Lord’s walk on the waters was Jesus alone, we must look at the larger picture that the ultimate focus was to bring faith and salvation to humanity, who were condemned to a death sentence for their sins.
As Christian witnesses, professing the Gospel of Christ, we often encounter similar obstacles to sharing the Good News. Again, we see the Lord gives us the Spirit so that we may open eyes and ears, and soften hardened hearts, just as he had helped the Apostle Paul as described in Acts 28:23-28 (ESV):
Paul in Rome
23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:
26 “‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”[a]
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday He Died for Me
Benediction – (1 Corinthians 15:56-57): The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.