Online Worship for Epiphany Five, Sunday February 6, 2022
Sermon for Epiphany Five – Sign #5
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
John 6:15-21 (NKJV)
15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. 16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them. 18 Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing. 19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
Son of God and Our Mighty Protector,
Dear Fellow Redeemed by His Blood –
It was what I would call a Crisis Situation.
It was 1973 and I was just 5 years old, my sister Anya was 3, my brother Seth 2. We were living in Hecla, South Dakota at the time, but were camping in the Buckshot Cabin in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the western UP. What that meant was that we were more than two miles from a road, and nearly 30 miles from a city with a hospital -- when my father woke up with serious abdomen pain. Kidney Stones.
My parents didn’t want to attempt to hike out in the dark with all of us little whippersnappers, so they left my then 12-year-old uncle John in charge. They walked out to the car in the middle of the night (which was mostly uphill by the way) meeting a bear on the way that was dining in a garbage can (which might have been another crisis). The next day the park rangers and a few others were sent in to hike us out, and take us to the hospital where my father was resting.
While it may not have been a life and death situation (don’t tell my dad I said that) it was what I would call a crisis situation.
A crisis is a crucial situation, a sometimes-unstable situation where the results could turn tragic. The word crisis, much like the word miracle, is a word that is used far too often today. For some a crisis is a serious life and death situation. For others, a crisis is not having enough flour to make a batch of cookies.
In the Word of God before us this morning we will witness two crisis situations. As we meditate upon the 5th sign recorded in John’s Gospel, we will see that Jesus is the Son of God and our Mighty Protector in time of need. We need never be afraid because Jesus is with us.
May God the Holy Spirit be our guide that we may see that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that trusting in Him we may have life eternal in His Name. Amen.
It’s not difficult to see the crisis in this Scripture. Jesus’ disciples were in a boat in a storm in the middle of a lake in the middle of the night. They had been rowing into the wind and waves for 3-4 miles. No doubt there was water in the boat. They were in danger of drowning!
It’s easy to see that crisis...but I doubt that we even notice the other crisis that led to it. The first crisis directly concerns your salvation and mine and is told to us in just a few words:
Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
This happened just after Jesus had fed 5000+ with 5 barley cakes and two small fish. The people noticed the miracle and some of them hatched a plan to take Jesus by force, to kidnap him and force him to be their King. They thought with their stomachs, “What would be better than having a king who can provide your every meal...free!?” There still are people who think that Jesus came merely to fill stomachs and fix bodies. If the crowds were large after Jesus’ miracles, just think how big they would become if Jesus became a walking ‘soup kitchen’! This wasn’t why Jesus came.
This was nothing less than a temptation, designed to turn Jesus away from the work of saving you from sin.
This wasn’t the first time that Satan used earthly things to tempt Jesus. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry, the Devil dangled the idea of earthly rule and authority. Matthew’s Gospel tells us (Matthew 4:8-9):
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
Surely, we understand the temptation. There may be times when we look at the problems in our world and in our country, state and city and think to ourselves: “If I was in charge...things would be different.” Sinful Pride infects us all.
Jesus was different. He didn’t think about Himself, but went about doing what was necessary to save us. When Satan came to him with the tempting thought: “Just think of all the good you could do if you were a kind and benevolent ruler of men on earth!”
“Away with you, Satan!” Jesus replied. If Jesus had chosen to establish an earthly kingdom and sought earthly glory as a ruler of men -- then the work of dying on Calvary to atone for the sins of the world would never have been completed.
If Jesus had chosen an earthly throne instead of the cross, then there would be no place in heaven for you or me. Now perhaps you see the first crisis clearly.
We know that in our cases, every temptation of the devil has potential to lead to tragedy. It would have been a far greater fall if Jesus as our substitute had failed to carry out the work of Salvation. If He had disobeyed the Father’s will and sinned then there would be no hope for you or me.
This indeed was a crisis situation.
While we may put our personal desires before the needs of others, Jesus refused. While we put self and family, food and drink before the Work of God’s Kingdom – Jesus would not! I’m not excusing our misplaced priorities – merely pointing out His perfect faithfulness.
Jesus knew full well what they were planning and what it would mean so He withdrew from them. First, Jesus gave instructions to his disciples (Matthew 14:22):
Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.
The disciples departed as they were told.
Moreover, notice that the second crisis occurred because they obeyed Jesus’ Word. The vivid description that follows reminds us that the writer John, a fisherman familiar with the Sea of Galilee, was in the boat:
when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them. Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.
If you have ever tried to wake up someone who is deep in sleep, then you know that such a person is apt to awake with a start and thrash around before fully coming aware of what is happening. The Apostle John here describes the Lake like a person who was sleeping, but is suddenly awakened.
When a great wind began to blow, the placid surface of the slumbering lake became like a person thrashing about. This happened in a darkness we don’t often see, before the days of city lights.
Despite the situation, the disciples continued to do what Jesus commanded. They continued on course fighting wind and wave, toward Capernaum. It was customary to turn one’s boat and ride with the wind and waves rather than fighting them.
These men had been told to go to Capernaum, and so they rowed into the teeth of the wind for three hours – a seemingly impossible task -- deep into the night. They must have been exhausted. It wasn’t just their bodies that were stressed but also their faith. It was tossed about by their fears.
19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid.
Matthew, who was also in the boat, reveals that it was during the 4th watch of the night when Jesus came to them. This would make Jesus’ appearance between 3 and 6am. They had fought wind and wave all night, rowing 3-4 miles.
If the fear of death wasn’t enough, they began to see a figure walking around on the lake. How did they see Him? Well, perhaps it was the flashing of lightning that revealed the figure as he drew near the boat. Whatever the case, Jesus’ sudden appearance terrified them. The situation seemed to get worse.
This all happened...because they did what Jesus said to do.
My Dear Christian friends, if you seek in your daily lives to do what Jesus says, then you too will encounter crisis. If we confess His name when given opportunity – we will be put off. If we seek to do what is right in His eyes -- instead of our own or societies -- then we will be called old fashioned or worse. If we rebuke our children and correct them when they sin – they will resent it -- they have human natures!
But we dare not shrink from obeying our Lord simply because it is difficult or appears impossible! The Lord Christ who has power over all the creation, power over death, power to heal, power to provide our earthly needs – stands behind us.
We have in Christ the Son of God, our mighty protector, who is able to help in every crisis. There is no force in all of nature that can stop Him and His Love for you, as the Apostle Paul, who knew all about trouble, said (Romans 8:35, 38-39):
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There is no storm of life, real or imagined that can keep Christ from coming to our aid! We may well ask ourselves when afraid, “Why are you afraid? Jesus is here with you!”
Instead of being timid or afraid, we ought to remember what the Apostle Paul concluded (1 Corinthians 15:58):
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
When we are afraid, oh that we would simply remember what the Lord said to his disciples:
“It is I; do not be afraid.”
When a child wakes from a nightmare it is often necessary to tell the child that all is well. Many a parent has spoken similar soothing words: “It’s OK, I’m here now. Don’t be afraid. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
All it took to comfort the terrified hearts of the disciples was the voice of Jesus: “It is I, stop being afraid.” There is nothing to fear, not anymore, for I am with you. I’m right here.
Nothing has changed. All it takes to calm our frightened hearts and wildly palpitating hearts is the word of our Lord Jesus:
When weak and alone He says:
“I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”
When doubts and questions arise in our hearts and disturb our rest, He says:
“Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest.”
When death comes knocking, He says:
“I am the Resurrection and the Life,
he who believes in me though he may die, he shall live.”
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, and nothing can stop Him from coming to our aid. This we understand by faith, and say with the hymn writer Charlotte Elliot (TLH 388:3):
Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without – O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.
Life without Christ and His Word is like being in a boat in the dark in a storm on a lake, with no compass or guide.
Life without Christ is like toiling in the dark, not knowing where you are or where you are going – certain only that you will die.
On the other hand, Life with Christ means reaching the heavenly goal safely in His time. Nothing can stop Him, or us when we travel with Him. So, witness yet another sign that shows that Jesus is the Son of God.
Learn, not from personal experience, but from the Word of Scripture – that Jesus, the Son of God is our mighty protector. Amen.