Walking on water – what was the point?

jesus-walking-on-water-benjamin-mcphersonConsidering the assignment God gave to Peter and the other apostles, it was imperative that they know and understand some things. First and foremost: Who is Jesus?

Background, Matthew 14

When Jesus heard about the death of John the Baptist he went across the Sea of Galilee, headed to a private place. However, the needy crowds went ahead of him by foot and met him when he landed. Moved with compassion, he healed their sick and multiplied food to feed over 5000 of them.

Key event: Walking on the water

Later in the day Jesus compelled the disciples to head back across the lake while he dismissed the crowd. Afterwards he finally went up into the mountain alone to pray. Rowing against the wind and buffeted by unruly waves, the disciples had gone some distance when Jesus walked out to them on the lake. When the disciples saw him they were afraid, fearing it was a ghost.

Jesus told the frightened men “Take courage, don’t be afraid, It is I.” Peter called out, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Now that strikes me as a strange thing to say. Suppose it wasn’t Jesus? Suppose some other entity (maybe the ghost they were afraid of) had said, Come. Would Peter have still stepped out of the boat? Obviously he didn’t automatically recognize that it was Jesus, either by sight or by the sound of his voice…

In any case, Jesus said Come and Peter stepped out of the boat. Walking on the waves he headed to Jesus – until he saw what the wind was doing to the waves. Even more afraid, he began to sink, although with boisterous waves he was probably beginning to sink from the very first step. Up, and down, rising and sinking. Rising and sinking.

“Lord, save me!” He screamed, so Jesus grabbed his hand and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Once they were inside the boat, the wind died down. Hmmm. That would have been even more frightening than seeing a ghost. Storm one moment, no storm the next – and those in the boat worshiped Jesus, saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Key question: Who do you say that I am?

Up until that time, who exactly did they think Jesus was? With everything Jesus had done, including just feeding that crowd of over 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, who did they think he was?

Even before that he had healed a man’s withered hand. He had healed the paralyzed man. He had cast out demons and healed everyone who was sick. He had spent a lot of time teaching them, explaining the parables, describing what was going to happen next.

He had performed miracles in their own towns. He had sent them out to do the same things he had been doing, and they did (see Chapter. 10). By now they should have known full well who he was, shouldn’t they? But they didn’t.

In Matthew 16 (and Mark 8) Jesus asked the disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?” They answered, some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.

“But who do YOU say that I am?” Jesus asked them. Peter answered the question, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”

What did “the Christ” mean to Peter? According to Jewish tradition and teachings, it meant a natural human being, a man chosen and anointed by God to be the final king of Israel, one who would fulfill the prophesies about the coming Messiah. (See Judaism 01: Mashiach The Messiah http://www.jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm)

But if that man didn’t fulfill every one of those prophesies, that proved he wasn’t the true Messiah. The Christ would overthrow Rome, ruling and reigning on his own throne as the Son of David. He would be a warrior king, victorious in battle, majestic head of the kingdom of God on earth. “Messiah” did NOT mean a supernatural human being, God himself come in the flesh.

Peter was certain Jesus was the Christ, as he understood the Christ to be. After all, Jesus had been doing the same things prophets Elijah and Elisha had done, so he must surely be the Messiah. He was God’s son, like David was God’s son. Like many mighty warriors and prophets of old, all sons of the Living God.

But then Jesus began to explain about having to be killed and resurrected from the dead. That was NOT in the traditions. NOT in the definitions, the descriptions, the actions of the prophesied Messiah. The real Messiah would certainly not be killed, he would conquer and reign here and now – not die and have to be resurrected from the dead.

No wonder Peter rebuked Jesus. Despite Jesus’ teachings that the kingdom of God would be spiritual and not physical, Peter didn’t understand. The disciples still didn’t know exactly who Jesus was. And so Jesus sharply corrected Peter in front of everyone else. That must have made an indelible impression.

Key event:  The Transfiguration

Soon afterward Jesus took Peter, James and John up into a high mountain. His appearance was completely changed, transfigured right in front of them as Moses and Elijah stepped out of heaven to talk with Jesus about his coming death (see Luke Chapter 9).

Peter, James and John were terrified. Not surprising at all! But Peter had to interrupt that conversation – “Let’s make booths for you, and Moses, and Elijah!” he exclaimed.

This time, Jesus didn’t correct Peter; God the Father himself spoke. He made it absolutely clear to them who Jesus is. “This is my beloved Son,” he explained. “Hear him!” (Mark 9:7) Not a suggestion, that was a command. HEAR him. Pay attention to him. Perceive the meaning of what he says. Believe him.

Surely now they realized exactly who Jesus was. Surely now they understood about the kingdom. Right?

Perhaps not. If they had, Peter wouldn’t have attempted a rescue mission. (See  https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/peter-fishing-industry-businessman/

The rest of them wouldn’t have fled for their lives and hidden from Roman soldiers and the Sanhedrin. They wouldn’t have doubted the women who first saw the risen Jesus.

They didn’t truly comprehend until after they saw him for themselves, after the Holy Spirit was poured out and they themselves were inhabited by Creator God.

Sometimes I think the church at large today is too much like the pre-resurrection Peter. Still needing more proof. Thankfully the Holy Spirit is more than willing to provide it.

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Down but not out… in the right place at the right time

BowedOverWomanBowed over for 18 years, imagine that. Dirt. Feet. Floor. Street. Sandals. Trash. Maybe a few children’s legs, a few knees, a few steps, a few chairs. But she could mostly see the stuff nobody really wants to see. Dirt.

The blue sky, fluffy clouds, people’s smiles, the beauty of the trees, the glory of the Temple, the rolling hillsides, the things people do want to see, those she couldn’t really see.

And yet on the sabbath day there she was, in the synagogue.

The men and women were separated in the synagogue, the men on one side, the women on the other side. There was supposedly a good reason for that, but whatever the reason, there was the bowed-over woman, in the right place at the right time.

I have a few questions about why she came that day. Was this her usual sabbath ritual? Go to synagogue, pray the prayers, hear the sermon? Hope for a blessing?

Or was it because she knew Jesus would be there, and maybe, just maybe, he would do something special for her?

By the time this occasion happened, Jesus had done many miracles, some in synagogues. He had attracted great crowds, many followers. He had chosen some to be apostles, and they had gone out doing miracles too. Word always got around pretty fast when Jesus was in the vicinity.

I can imagine the news being spread, can’t you? “Hey, did you hear? Jesus is coming this way!” I can visualize the townspeople telling their families, their neighbors.

I can see the news arriving at the home of this bowed-over woman. I can almost hear her thoughts – I’ve got to get there, I’ve got to get where he is, I’ve got to get near him.

When it was known that Jesus was nearby on the sabbath, everyone knew where he’d go – to the synagogue. It was his custom.

If the bowed-over woman always attended that synagogue on the sabbath, she was well known to the leaders. The teachers in charge, the men and women of the area knew her condition. Their hearts should have been full of sympathy and compassion towards her, helping her to get inside and find a good seat, hoping right along with her for a touch from God today.

That was not their attitude, however.

By then, the Jewish leaders had gotten leery of Jesus. He had become a rabble-rouser, a trouble-maker, preaching about a Kingdom. Claiming to be God! Dangerous nonsense.

He was stirring up too much attention from the Sanhedrin and maybe even the Romans. Miracles? It was as if the miracles had become invisible, not real, while the potential for a Roman crackdown was very real.

I doubt if the sick, the crippled, the blind, deaf and dumb, demon-possessed worried too much about what the Sanhedrin or the Romans thought. They just knew they had needed help and nobody else had helped them but Jesus. No longer sick! No longer blind! Healed, healthy, whole, they were free. Many also became followers.

And the bowed-over woman? Here’s her story:

He was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath. There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis that she couldn’t even look up. She had been afflicted with this for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, he called her over. “Woman, you’re free!” He laid hands on her and suddenly she was standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.

The meeting-place president, furious because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the congregation, “Six days have been defined as work days. Come on one of the six if you want to be healed, but not on the seventh, the Sabbath.”

 But Jesus shot back, “You frauds! Each Sabbath every one of you regularly unties your cow or donkey from its stall, leads it out for water, and thinks nothing of it. So why isn’t it all right for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has had her tied these eighteen years?”

When he put it that way, his critics were left looking quite silly and red-faced. The congregation was delighted and cheered him on. (Luke 13:10-17 MSG)

Several things come to mind.

  • The woman was a daughter of Abraham.
  • She was faithful to attend services.
  • She wasn’t just sick, she was bound by Satan.
  • She was not healed by all the sermons and prayers she’d heard in synagogue all those 18 long years.
  • She didn’t need another sermon, she needed deliverance.
  • She believed Jesus could provide what she needed.

And so, when Jesus called her out, she obeyed him. Even though it might have been physically hard or socially embarrassing, even though the Jewish leaders were trying to discredit him, she came forward publicly.

She got the miracle she needed. With a touch from the Lord she was straight and tall, delivered and healed. She gave God the glory.

A lot of “bowed-over” men and women are faithful to go to church every Sunday, but they don’t really expect Jesus to show up. They pretty much get what they expect. (It doesn’t have to be that way…)

“I’m not capricious”

FatherAndLittleGirlCroppedI was thinking about grace last night when the Lord interrupted my thoughts to say, “I’m not capricious.” So, I looked up the definition: “Given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior.”

“Synonyms include fickle, inconstant, changeable, variable, mercurial, volatile, unpredictable, temperamental; whimsical, fanciful, flighty, quirky, faddish.” Good to know!

Hebrews 4:16 tells us,

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (KJV)

“Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].” (AMP)

“So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” (MSG)

It doesn’t say come shyly, fearfully, or hesitantly to the throne of grace. In the original Greek, the words “that we may” come from a word meaning “in order to.” That doesn’t mean maybe or perhaps.

It doesn’t mean that we might possibly obtain mercy, or that we should search for, beg for or bribe God for mercy and grace.

It also doesn’t add if God is there, He’s not too busy, or off some place doing something else. It doesn’t add if God is in a good mood or if He’s not angry at you, not measuring up your sins against you, or not demanding some sort of IOU.

Father God is not playing hard to get. Grace is his favorable attitude towards you, his pride and joy, his most treasured child. Mercy is the proof! After all, it was bought and paid for by the blood of his son, our savior, Jesus.

(By the way – God’s throne is wherever God is / you are… living room, back yard, office, beach…)