MONDAY SCHOOL for Pentecost, September 17, 2017, #3 – thoughts from the sermon Into The Neighborhood.
And the disciples are on the Sea of Galilee.
The Sea of Galilee is 13 miles at its longest from north to south, 7 miles from its widest. It’s less than 140 feet deep. The more shallow the water, the more susceptible it is to wind that causes storms. Remember the hurricanes? It’s the wind that makes that waves. It’s the wind that causes the storm. And the wind comes from the east across the Golan Heights. The wind comes down the Jordan River Valley. It’s confined by the sides and it can really pick up some speed and power. And a storm, quite a violent storm, even on such a small body of water, can very quickly happen. In March, 1992, in the city of Tiberius, they had a storm that sent waves 10 feet high into the downtown area. A storm surge just like with a hurricane with waves 10 feet high. Measure that against the wall nearest you for a moment.
I don’t know if the disciples are dealing waves that are 10-feet high. I just know that they’re having to go against the wind. They’re having to go into those waves. My father who was in the navy at the tail-end of World War II, 1945, told of taking a small ship, a landing ship tank, I believe, across the Pacific Ocean toward the Philippines when peace was declared. But he spoke of being in high seas, where you would stand on the deck and you would look up as high as two stories up, and that was the wave that was coming toward you. We don’t know how high the waves were for the disciples. We just know that they were going into the wind. But we do know from history, and from the weather reports that the waves can get as high as 10 feet.
But it’s the wind that makes the waves. And they’re having to row into the wind. Mark 6:48: And about the fourth watch of the night, between 3:00 AM and dawn, about the fourth watch of the night, He, Jesus, came to them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them.”
That’s an interesting phrase. He meant to pass by them.
Verse 49, “But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost.” If you’re ever up in that pre-dawn light, you know that you can see a figure at quite a distance even though it’s not very light. But you’ll find you cannot see the features clearly. Maybe the sun was just lightening the sky enough to where they could see someone coming toward them across the Sea of Galilee. Perhaps the moon, which is full during the Passover season, is providing some light. And, of course, they thought it was a ghost. They thought it was a ghost. And they cried out, for they all, all twelve, all saw him and their reaction was simply this: they were terrified.
Well, He meant to pass by them.
What could that possibly mean because they are struggling with the storm? They are struggling with a difficult moment. In fact, Max Lucado wants to paint them as being greatly frightened by the storm. I don’t think so. The scripture does not indicate that they were frightened of the storm. I think they had been on this lake before. I think they had been in a storm like this before. And I think that Jesus was willing and ready to walk right on by them because he knew they could handle it.
It might seem odd to you, but sometimes it’s okay with God for you and me to struggle because sometimes God has more confidence in us than we have in ourselves. Those of you who are parents, you’ve taught children how to tie their own shoes. You know what happens if you always tie their own shoes? They never learn. You know what happens if you swoop in whenever they have homework that’s a little too hard for them and you do their homework for them? They never learn. And you will sometimes hear within the Christian Church a principle- John Wesley called it quietism- but the principle is this: What you should do as a living, mature Christian, it sounds good until you think about it, what you should do as a living, mature Christian is to be wholly and completely dependent upon God.
Think for just a minute what that means. When I have a choice of doing something myself or completely depending on God to solve the problem, what should I do? I should let God work while I do nothing. Sometimes you’ll hear the principle expressed this way: What you should do if you really have faith is put yourself in situations where you can never help yourself but that literally God has to rescue you or complete disaster will happen. The idea is from this point of view that we should be completely dependent upon God.
There’s even a joke about this. Once upon a time, there was a man who was enduring a hurricane; the floodwaters were rising and the sheriff’s department came to his front door in a boat and said, “Sir, we’re here to help you evacuate.”
And he said, “Nope. God will take care of me. You just watch.” And he refused to get in the boat and the sheriff’s department had other people to help so they went on to the next people.
The next day the water was up halfway through his living room. And the National Guard came by in a boat and said, “Sir, you really need to leave. You really need to leave now for your safety.” And he called out from an upstairs bedroom window. He said, “I am perfectly safe because I am counting on God. I am depending on God. And God would never abandon me in my time of need because God loves all of us.” Sounds like a good sermon, doesn’t it?
The next day the water was up to the attic and the man was sitting on top of the roof. And along came a helicopter. Dangled down a rope ladder. “Sir, please climb up the rope ladder. Your life is in danger.” And the man said, “No. God will take care of me. I am willing to be completely dependent upon God.”
And the next day he died. Went up to heaven. Started complaining to God. “I trusted you. I testified to everyone how wonderful you were and how you were going to save me. How could you let this happen to me?” And God looked at him and said, “I sent two boats and a helicopter.”
The reason Jesus was going to walk right on past them is that they could handle this. Jesus is not your babysitter. Why? Because you are not a helpless baby.
There are times that you and I get angry with God because we think the minute that God shows up, all we have to do is lean back and let God do all the work. Some of you farm. Why can’t we just take the seed, throw it on the dirt, pray for it, and then let God do the rest? If we pray really hard, perhaps we could plant one week and then harvest the next week – nothing is impossible for God, right?
Well, what you would probably say to me is, is the same thing that God would probably say to you: “That’s not how it works.” There are things that we are expected to do for ourselves. I keep praying that God will clean up my garage and He keeps telling me that it’s my job.
He meant to pass by them, so I don’t think they were in trouble. And if it feels that God is passing us by, perhaps that means that God knows that we can handle it. What we think is too hard … just requires work.
Sometimes when you leave your place of prayer, your chair by the fire, and open the door to go outside, you will find that you are heading into the wind. It’s not easy sometimes to go into the wind … but people are depending on us, and so we go. There will be time to sit by the fire later, when the work of the day is done.
When you were a child, what was something that you thought was too hard to do?
How do you feel about that now? Have your feelings changed over the years?
When is a time recently when you’ve felt overwhelmed?
What would it feel like if God took over and magically made everything work out right?
What would be the good of that? What could be the harm in that?
What would you learn if God did everything that seemed too hard for you in the moment?
The map of the Sea of Galilee is used by permission of Biblos.com and is from http://bibleatlas.org/sea_of_tiberias.htm. There is a lot of excellent information at this web page on the Sea of Galilee.
This post is based on the sermon series Out of the Chair, Into the World at Kinmundy United Methodist Church.
Slides and audio for this message can be downloaded from http://www.disciplewalk.com/K_Sermons_June_Aug_2017.html
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.