Sunday, January 31, 2010
The Rough Waters Sermon Continued
Then a storm blew up. The Sea (or lake) of Galilee has crazy storms. It is over 600 feet below sea level, yet it is bordered by mountains about 2000 feet above sea level (if you can call those hills mountains). Winds come down the river, and off the Mediterraenan Sea after going over the “mountains”. Tiberius had 10 foot high waves crash into the middle of the city in 1992, and it caused millions of dollars in damage. It has crazy high water because of the weather conditions, and because the lake is somewhat shallow. And they were rowing north, while the Jordan flows gently south through the lake. Put a small little boat, waters that are a lot like a noreaster in the Eastern Seaboard, and rowing against the current, and you can see what the sailors were rowing against.
It must have been scary. And nerve-wracking. The Scripture says they got to a point where they were halfway to their destination, about four miles. But Scripture does not record them being fearful until they are in the water in the middle of the night and some being starts walking on the water toward them. Is it a ghost? An angel? Is it the death angel? Is it Jesus? Did we mess up somehow? Were we not supposed to leave him behind? Did they kill him and this is his ghost. These are the questions racing through their head.
Jesus tells them not to fear. He tells them it is Him. He walks up to them. They let him in the boat. As soon as they do, they are miraculously at their destination. This is the fifth sign of Jesus in the gospel of John.
What is Jesus saying through this sign?
Many people look at this story about Jesus, and others like it and they use it metaphorically. They talk about the power of Jesus over the storms and darkness in our lives. When hard times come our way, Jesus is bigger than those hard times. When it seems like all of our circumstances are stormy and out of control, Jesus can come in and bring peace and hope and new life. When our world is dark, Jesus can bring it light and hope. Certainly all of this is true. But this is not the whole story.
Again, at the beginning of the chapter we see that this set of circumstances in Jesus’ life is tied in with the Passover, celebrating the deliverance of the people of God from slavery in Egypt. And as the bread is to remind them of the manna. If this is the case, then what is walking on the water and power of a storm to remind them of around Passover? If you guessed the parting of the Red Sea you would be right on. Jesus has power over the waters to see his disciples through the walls of water crashing around them. Moses led his people through the parting of the Red Sea. Jesus is showing he is a deliverer like Moses. He is the Messiah. He is the promised one. He is showing that he is more powerful than any of the worlds governments or forces. His kingdom was supreme.
But, he does this by showing his power over nature. The one who created the wind and the waves rules them still. As he walks over the waves, Jesus stands over the forces of nature and says “Fear not, It is I”. When he says “It is I” this is a form of the words “I am” which is the name of God that God revealed to Moses. He is bigger than the most scary and nerve-wracking power in nature.
The water is the place in Jewish thought, remember, where chaos resided. Underwater was where evil had reign. The water was a place that was untamable and uncontrollable. It was a fearful place. And Jesus stood on top of it. He controlled it. He ruled over the waters. He was more powerful than the more fearful place on the planet for the Jews. And it did not phase Jesus one bit.
There are a lot of things in our lives beyond our control. I don’t have all the answers to why all of them happen. I don’t know why some people live 90 years and other babies live only a year or two. I am not sure why some people have all the money in the world, and others can’t even afford to buy shoes. I might have guesses. But I don’t have answers. I just know THE ANSWER.I know the one that stands upon the waters as they rage and says, “Fear not, it is I”.
There are a lot of things in my life beyond my control. I don’t know if I will only have one more breath, or 50 years worth. I don’t know if Jennifer and I will have a boy or a girl yet. I don’t what level of health or lack of it that child will have when it is born. I do know the eternal hope that the Scripture offers when it gives me this promise about my eternal destiny because I trusted in him from the prophet Isaiah:
1 But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give men in exchange for you,
and people in exchange for your life.
5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.