They still weren’t seeing Him for His divine abilities that could overcome any earthly odds they faced.
1: JESUS SEEKS PRIVACY (45-46)
Jesus sends away both His disciples and the crowds. Then He heads up the side of a mountain to be alone.
The reason? To pray. Jesus was always conscious of His Heavenly Father. Prayer was His essential connection with His Father during His time on earth. Nothing He did on earth was done without a view to Heaven. Jesus knew that His Father sent Him (Jn 17:25), that He validated Him (Mk 1:11), that He was working with Him and through Him (Acts 2:22), and that when it was all done He would receive Him back in heavenly glory at His side (Jn. 17:5).
Application: Pray to heaven for strength to live for Christ on earth
Application: Concentrate on God and you will want to commune with Him.
I have to say that this idea of Jesus on the mountainside praying alludes to His role as our intercessor. Think about it: the disciples were away from Him, He was “up” on a mountain, praying to God, we can be confident He prayed for His disciples. What is Jesus doing now? He is up on the “mountain” of God, praying for us, while we are away from Him.
Application: Remember Jesus is praying for you.
2: JESUS SEES THE STORM (47-48a)
While on the mountainside praying, Jesus sees the Disciples in the storm. John’s Gospel tells us that they had only gone about 3-3 ½ miles – which isn’t very far considering how long they’d been rowing. The fourth watch was 3am-6am, and Jesus probably sent them away at the 1st watch, which would be 6-9pm the night before. So for at least 6 hours they had been laboring at the oars – and 3 miles was all they covered. The storm was keeping them from making much progress. As alone as they may have felt, the truth was Jesus saw them.
Now it doesn’t mean Jesus saw the storm and so He assumed they were having a hard time out there. We notice the detail Mark writes with: He saw the disciples. His all-seeing eyes watched His chosen ones in the storm. He saw how much of a struggle it was too: He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.”
Application: Jesus sees you in your storm. He sees you straining at your oars. The Lord knows what you’re going through.
But notice the timing. Jesus didn’t notice them for the first time at the 4th watch. He was certainly aware of their struggle the whole night. But He doesn’t go out to them until the 4th watch. He waits. He keeps praying.
Application: the priority of prayer. Even this crisis didn’t cut-short Jesus’ prayer time.
Application: trust God in the storm to come in His time.
Still we have to ask: Why does Jesus wait so long? Why let the disciples go through this wet, exhausting, and frightening night? I’ll share with you my answers in a few verses.
3: JESUS STRIDES UPON THE WATER (48b-50a)
This is perhaps the most iconic moment of Jesus’ whole earthly career. Always aware of His people’s struggles, and never far from them. After seeing them He goes out to them.
Question: Why does Jesus choose to walk on the water? Why go out to them in this way? Let me offer several reasons.
First, because they needed another lesson in His power. They were overwhelmed by the need for food for the 5,000 people, but, they didn’t turn to Him and trust Him to provide.
PETER WALKS ON THE WATER
It isn’t mentioned by Mark, curiously, but, Matthew 14 tells us that Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. Matthew tells us that When Jesus identified Himself Peter wanted proof: “Lord, if its really you tell me to come out to you on the sea.” It’s like Peter was saying Lord, if its really you, enable me to walk on top of this storm, and not be drowned by it. Jesus says Come, and, the rest is history.
4: JESUS SPEAKS TO HIS DISCIPLES (v50b-51)
The disciples did not recognize Jesus when they saw Him on the water. They were afraid of the storm, then, they were terrified at some ghost-like creature coming at them.
Then He speaks to them. Just take that in. Don’t you love it that our God speaks to us? I mean look at your Bible. There it is right in your hands, all the wisdom, all the power, all the comfort, all the strength and all the examples of God’s love and faithfulness and power and judgment you will ever need in this life. Jesus speaks to us today through His word. Are you listening?
But He speaks to the disciples to identify Himself to them. He says:
Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Cheer up! It’s me!” Don’t be afraid!”
Once they realized it was Jesus the fear dissipated and they were able to relax. That’s our Lord, the Prince of Peace, the bringer of Good Tidings.
5: JESUS STUNS THE DISCIPLES (51b-52)
The scene ends with the disciples stunned. They’re astonished. This seems to be the expected response. I would be in awe of Jesus if I was there. But apparently, according to verse 52, that should not have been the response. And, on second thought, Mark is right. For one thing they’ve seen miracle after miracle and this isn’t the first stormy miracle they’ve ever seen. Notice how their amazement is because they still didn’t get it about the miracle of the loaves, and they didn’t get it because their hearts were hardened. Okay, lets break this down.
First, What exactly didn’t they get about the miracles? They didn’t get the scope of Jesus’ power. They still weren’t seeing Him for His divine abilities that could overcome any earthly odds they faced.
Next, understanding Jesus is from the heart, not the head. Matthew 3:15 says, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn, and I would heal them.” You can have facts in your head, but, it is always, always always a matter of the heart in the Christian life. You don’t know something until you know it with your heart. Knowing something in your heart is fundamentally different than knowing it in your head.
Third, we start to see why Jesus walked on the water. They still needed to learn how to trust that Jesus would provide for them and protect them. Their discipleship with Him for 3 years was a training camp for the Great Commission. When He was gone back to heaven and they were launching the church they were going to be in some serious storms: prisons, trials, mobs, beatings, hunger, shipwreck, abandonment and more. They needed to have it drilled into them that no matter what they went through Jesus would be their constant. He was watching over them.
Remember they were on a “high” after they got back from their first apostolic excursion. They were elated at how they had power to heal the sick and command demons to leave people. Frankly, knowing the human ego, they probably needed a quick lesson in humility and Christ-dependance. So they had to serve tables to 5,000 people. Then, they had to be alone on another stormy sea. They needed to be reminded that with them things were impossible, but, with Christ all things were possible.
- Remember God’s faithfulness yesterday so you can have confidence in Him today. How had their knowledge of Jesus’ faithfulness in the past informed their perspective of the crisis at present? How had the loaves, the earlier storm on the sea, and others given them a basis to trust God in the current storm? Remember God’s faithfulness to you yesterday, so you can have confidence in Him today.
- Peace comes when Jesus comes into your life. The winds and the storm stopped when Jesus stepped into the boat. If this scene teaches us anything it is that Jesus enters into our experiences with us, “He went out to them” Mark tells us. He got in the boat with them.You can be a Christian and Jesus is “not” in your life. This happens when we doubt Him. But if we’re learning anything as we go along in the Gospels its that fear enters where faith is absent. But when we have faith we have courage. When He was knocking on the door to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3 the picture was of Him on the outside of a church’s life.
- Watch your heart. The disciples’ hearts were hard and so they were unable to understand the things of God. The condition of your heart is the most critical factor in your Christian life. A hard heart will make you unable to see God’s will, unable to grasp spiritual truths, and leave you vulnerable to sin. Keep your heart soft. How can you do that? Here are some suggestions:
- Examine your life and confess your sins. Do this regularly. If you don’t think you need to, then confess that prideful attitude that makes you think that.
- Ask God to humble you and soften your heart
- Commit to praying praise-prayers to God regularly. If you lose sight of His greatness this will help restore that vision
- Devour God’s Word. God’s word and prayer are the twin powers for heart transformation.
- Trust God’s timing. Why did Jesus wait so long to go out to them? Because He has His time for everything. And His time is perfect. We could also say that they needed to be overwhelmed again to humble them. We could also say that they did not learn from the loaves about Jesus, so, another lesson was in order. All of these would be true. But they needed to trust in God to come through in His way and in His time.