I was once camping with some family and friends during college. We were at a lake and someone knew someone who had a boat and some tubes and skis and ropes etc. So we went out on the lake and went round and round and had all kinds of fun. I was new to this whole skiing and water tubing stuff and there was one time in the afternoon that I was rounding a corner heading to a nice long straight away, that I was very much looking forward to because I didn’t trust my own abilities, and I was I’m sure giving myself a pep talk. The driver is going to keep a constant, they care about you. The equipment has been solid all day, you’re good there. Until, the rope snapped and I kinda flung off in another direction. I put my faith in this seemingly rock solid equipment and it failed me. I didn’t water ski anymore that day.
Our text picks up where we left off last week after the feeding of the 5000. Jesus and the disciples just had a great restful celebration amongst spiritual friends and family. Now they’ve rested but Jesus still recognizes his need to be alone with them and teach them- and for himself to be alone and pray.
There is something we need to get straight. This is not the calming of the storm. Something about water, boats, Jesus and his disciples merges all these things together. In fact, there is no imminent danger in the text. It says that the disciples were finding it difficult to sail in the direction they wanted to. It’s the third watch, so its at least 2 or 3 Am and definitely before 6 am. I have recently learned some sailing terms because of our dear choir director and I now understand that the disciples should have been taking better, but as this is a more advanced sailing technique, there's a good chance that the varsity disciples sailing team were not the ones on the job for the 2-6 am shift. It’s dark they want to sleep, and the wind just won’t cooperate, they might be in a little over their heads but they are definitely very frustrated in the situation.
We know what this is like. This is when you’re trying for hours to change your breaks and then realize you have just slightly the wrong brake pads. This is trying to hang that heavy picture on the wall and you can’t seem to find the stud. This is trying to make a recipe for the very first time and you confuse one of the ingredients. Anything in life that is within your range to try but not not exactly you expertise can and often is very frustrating, and right there we stand with these disciples. We know what it’s like in their shoes right here.
Now it’s important to clarify that these disciples are tired, yes. They are frustrated, yes. BUT They are not in any kind of real danger. They are an amateur mechanic who grabbed the wrong part or tool, the home chef who confused the ingredients. You know you’re logically safe, but you’re having a hard time seeing that, past the obstacle right in front of your face.
Now Jesus has been at prayer late into the night and he looks out and sees them struggling and he has compassion on them. He wants to check on them. He cares about them. He loves them. So he walks out to them… on the water… and the text says that he is expecting to just pass by. He knows they aren't in danger but he wants to check in and see it for himself. Think of this like getting up to go to the bathroom and checking in on the kids, just to be safe.
The disciples do see Jesus walking out and here’s where things get interesting. They see him and they think he’s a ghost. The text tells us that their hearts are hardened and so they’re sinful human nature just is not willing to yet believe that he’s really actually physically the Son of God. The text even says that they were still confused about “the loaves” or last week’s feeding of the 5000. As they see him walk on the water they can’t at that moment see him as their God.
In this situation the disciples see a situation that they can’t understand on their own terms, can’t or won’t trust their own eyes and so they make up something to trust in- a ghost. They are comfortable if it’s a ghost. They refuse to put their trust in Jesus as the Son of God.
Now this is frustrating. I admit when I first started prepping this message I rolled my eyes at them here. I wanted to shake them. I wanted to grab them by the shoulders and say, He healed lots of people, right in front of you! He cast out famously possessed people, right in front of you. You’ve seen him change the weather, you’ve seen him feed tens of thousands of people with one kid’s lunch! How is this beyond what you’re willing to trust??
But right there, I realize that I’m just like that a lot too. Maybe you’re right there with me. Maybe you’ve had your doubts about Jesus, but get a lot of comfort from your health. Maybe you’re just getting promotion after promotion at work, but that whole resurrection thing is just a little beyond your realm of what you’re willing to trust. Maybe you take a lot of comfort in being a good and moral person and you think that if all else fails, maybe God will see how you’ve tried your best. Maybe, just maybe, you’ve been all of those at one point or another, or maybe there are any number of places where you’re most comfortable placing your trust outside of Jesus. The scary thing… health fails, careers fall apart, you can never be good enough or smart enough to surpass your need for the Savior.
Now this text has something unique going on. Normally when we hear about Jesus walking on the water, we think about Peter and his fear and faith. Peter doesn’t appear in Mark’s description. I think Mark is telling us something. I think Mark is dropping Peter, to keep our focus on Jesus.
Because Jesus does this…
He sees the disciples struggling in the boat and scared of him- terrified the text says. He tells them simply “it is I, be not afraid” ...or more accurate to translation don’t be afraid, I am, I am. Remember how God identifies himself to Moses in the burning bush? Charlton Heston taught us all this… “I am” Here Jesus identifies himself with the God of Moses as one in the same. Then he backs it up. He gets into the boat- so they see he is definitely not a ghost. And the wind stops, right there, he says nothing. He identifies himself as God and wind itself backs off.
Then our text finishes up with Jesus further backing up his divine claim by doing lots of miracles in front of the disciples.
We get into situations all the time where we are frustrated with what’s going on in our life. Or something very stressful is right in front of our face like that wind and we can’t focus on anything else. We can and do often jump to plan out a solution ourselves trusting in all kinds of facets of our own situation: our job, or health, our intelligence; but the only thing that absolutely never leaves our side during any storm or distraction, is the same one and only thing that has been by your side before and after the storm that you’re in It’s Jesus, the all powerful Son of God who calls you to put down your guard and your distrust and find the peace and the comfort and the stability that he brings through all of life’s storms.