These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the gospel of Mark. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
I wish I could tell you that when you come to Jesus, all your problems will be over. I wish I could tell you that when you give your life to God, it will all be clear sailing. I wish I could tell you that following Jesus would mean an easy life and an easy road. But I cannot tell you that in honesty. Life is tough for everyone, including Christians.
But as a follower of Jesus you will never face the storms of life alone. God is always watching. God is always available. God is always caring. We are going to see those three truths illustrated for us today.
Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. 46 After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. 47 Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. 50 They were all terrified when they saw him.
But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” 51 Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, 52 for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in. (NLT)
I’m going to give you three big truths about Jesus today that show us something significant about God.
You are never out of God’s sight
First, you are never out of God’s sight. Verse 45 says, Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home.[i]
- Some people have a misconception about following Jesus. They believe following Jesus and doing God’s will is going to produce less problems, less storms, less trials, and less troubles. In some ways yes, but in some ways no. Sometimes God will send you into a storm. Sometimes He will “insist” that you head a certain direction, get involved in a certain ministry, or make a certain decision that He knows is going to lead into the middle of a violent storm that you alone cannot handle. But even when He does that, He still has His eye on you.
- Jesus made something very clear about this world. He said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV). Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (NLT). The point is, following Jesus is not going to be easy. It’s going to be difficult. You will encounter trouble. God may even lead you into a storm. When you follow Jesus there will be those who mistreat you because of your commitment to Him. But even as all these things happen, God’s eye is always watching. You are never out of God’s sight.
Now, look at verse 46, “After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray” (NLT). Jesus demonstrates something very important here. We are not to be driven by opportunity, but by God’s will. Just because you have an opportunity to do something does not mean it’s God’s will. Just because you have an opportunity to be promoted does not mean you should accept it. Let me show you what I mean.
- Remember, Jesus had just miraculously fed about 20,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish who had gathered to see and hear Him. According to John, this miracle was so impressive the crowd wanted to make Jesus their king. But instead, Jesus dismissed the disciples and the crowd and decided to spend some time alone in prayer to the Heavenly Father. He had an earthly opportunity to be king, but Jesus recognized that was not God’s will for His life. Jesus had another mission, another agenda, something bigger than simply sitting on an earthly thrown.[ii]
- This is a clear example of what knowing God’s will for your life can do. When you know God’s will for your life, then you know what to say no to in your life.
Look at verse 47, Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. Jesus knows about your storm.
- Sometimes when you are in “serious trouble,” you may start to think that your situation has slipped under Jesus’ radar. But if you are going through “trouble” today, you can rest assure that Jesus sees that you are in trouble, that you are in a storm and you are struggling.
You are never out of God’s sight. You might feel that you are stuck out in the middle of nowhere far away from God’s watchful eye, but it’s not true. God sees it all. He knows your situation. He knows what you are going through. Whenever you find yourself in the middle of one of life’s storms, you are never out of God’s sight.
The Lord is aware of your situation even before it happens and He remains in control of the situation at every moment. But the storm and the disciples were in His hands. Though He was too far away to physically see the boat through the stormy darkness, Jesus always knew their precise location. The omniscience of God (His ability to see and know everything) is unlimited in its scope and universal in its sight.
- Proverbs 15:3, “The Lord is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good” (NLT).
- This truth is echoed 2 Chronicles 16:9 which says, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (NLT).
- The omniscience of God is again declared in Hebrews 4:13, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable” (NLT).
- When David was thinking about the omniscience of God, he said in Psalm 139, “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there you hand will guide me, and your strength will support me” (vs. 7-10, NLT).
The omniscient Jesus had not abandoned His disciples to the storm. He knew exactly where they were and how He would deliver them. You are never out of God’s sight.
You are never out of God’s reach
Number two, you are never out of God’s reach. Verse 48 says, About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. Jesus was on the land and the disciples were out in the middle of the lake. It would seem that they were out of Jesus’ reach, but Jesus comes walking right out to them.
Here is what the disciples did not know. They did not know that Jesus was watching them and they did not know that Jesus was already headed toward them. When you are going through a valley and when you are going through some trouble it feels like Jesus is not watching and it feels like Jesus is not coming to help. You are so focused on the storm, the rowing, and just trying to get through the storm to safety that you are not aware that Jesus has been watching you, waiting for the right time to show up, and is already on His way to help you. Regardless of your situation, you are never out of God’s reach.
Jesus is “walking on the water” coming toward them. This is a true miracle. Jesus walking on top of the water, demonstrating his power over nature and his own true nature as God. In the Old Testament only God walked on the water and had power over the sea. Job 9:8 says, “[God] alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea” (NLT). So by doing this miracle, Jesus was demonstrating once again that He is God in the flesh.
I don’t want you to miss this because the next thing Mark tells us is Jesus “intended to go past them.” That is an odd statement to throw in there. What does it mean and why is it important?
- At first glance, it sounds like Jesus is walking on the water and is planning on walking past them and leaving them in a panic and letting them struggle some more and letting them keep on thinking He was a ghost walking around on the water. That doesn’t seem to fit anything about this event. I think there is something else going on here and more revealing.
- In English, the phrase “intended to go past them” means one thing, but in Greek and to the original readers it carries a special force and is charged with significance. It signals a rare, but powerful revelation of God. At Mt. Sinai the Lord “passed by” Moses (Exod. 33:22; also 33:19, 34:6) in order to reveal His name and compassion. Again, at Mt. Horeb the Lord revealed His presence to Elijah in “passing by” (1 Kings 19:11).[iii] When God would “pass by” someone, it meant that God was showing up to reveal Himself to them. We say something very similar to this when we say, “I will come by your house later today.” The phrase “come by” does not mean to simply drive by your house and not stop at it. It means I’m going to come visit you for a few minutes to either tell you something or drop something off. The phrase “pass by” is very similar when used to refer to God “passing by.” Jesus is going to pass by in order to reveal something about Himself. He is going to pass by to visit the disciples with some truth about Himself.
- When Mark says that Jesus “intended to go past them,” Mark is using language to mean that Jesus would pass by them to reveal Himself as God to them. Jesus “intended” to reveal Himself to them as the “I AM.” God in the flesh.
Even though Jesus was about to reveal more of who He was, the disciples did not recognize Him. Mark tells us in verse 49, But when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. 50 They were all terrified when they saw him. Storms in life have the ability to cause us to not recognize Jesus even when He is with us in the storm.
- The word “ghost” (phantasma), from which we get our word “phantom,” refers to an apparition of some type. During that time a popular superstition that many believed was that spirits of the night brought disaster, and the disciples assumed the worst. After hours of yelling at each other in the middle of the storm, they were so startled that in spite of their tired voices, they yelled in horror. As Mark describes, “they cried out in terror” and “they were all terrified.” The word “terrified” (tarasso) means “to throw into a panic” or “to strike with dread.” They had already been afraid of the storm; seeing a figure walk toward them on the water propelled their fear to even higher levels of intensity.
- The disciples thought Jesus was a “ghost.” How many times have you thought the devil was at work, when in reality it was God Himself. How many times did you blame that difficult season in life on the devil, when God allowed, watched you go through part of it and then came to you in it? Our human nature finds it very difficult to see God when going through a crisis, a trial, some trouble, or anything that may cause stress. We usually see the worse in the situation, not what God is doing and sometimes when He does show up we don’t even recognize Him. Regardless of what you are going through, you are never out of God’s reach.[iv]
You might feel like you are stuck out in the middle of the sea going nowhere, far away from any help or rescue, but remember, God is always there. You are never out of God’s reach.
You are never out of God’s care
You are never out of God’s sight. You are never out of God’s reach and Number three, you are never out of God’s care. Notice verse 50, But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” 51 Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped.
- While the winds were blowing and the waves were crashing Mark says, “Jesus spoke to them at once.” Somewhere in your storm, sometime in the middle of your crisis, at some point during your trouble God is going to speak to you. When you are surrounded by chaos, confusion, and drowning in your own fear and misunderstandings God will speak to you. He starts where you are. Listen for Him. He will speak through His Word. He will speak through a godly friend. His Spirit will speak to your heart. He cares.
Jesus spoke three things to them. He said, “Don’t be afraid” and “Take courage!” and “I am here!”
- Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid.” Even though the disciples hadn’t learned it yet, but they were learning and they would eventually get there. They hadn’t learned that when it comes to God you are never out of His sight, never out of His reach, and never out of His care. Because of this you don’t need to be afraid.
- Then Jesus says, “take courage.” The command “take courage” (tharseo) means to be brave or to be of good cheer. It is used by Jesus to call His people to depend on Him as the source of their confidence, even in the midst of impossible circumstances (cf. Matt. 9:2, 22; 14;27; Mark 10:49; John 16:33; Acts 23:11). Your courage doesn’t come from what you can do, your courage comes from what He can do.
- Then Jesus says, “I am here!” This is a significant statement by Jesus. We don’t see it clearly in English, but in Greek (the original language of the New Testament), Jesus is saying, “I am.” He used the same phrase when speaking with the Pharisees when He said, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” (John 8:58, NLT). They understood Him to be claiming to be God. “I AM” is a covenant name that God used to declared to His people when they were facing circumstances outside THEIR control (their slavery in Egypt). His name “I AM” basically means that He is promising that He would be everything His people needed for Him to be. When Jesus used this same title with the disciples in the boat, He was identifying Himself to His troubled disciples and letting them know he is able to be everything that they needed Him to be in their distress. He is able to be the same for you. He cares.
After comforting His disciples with these statements, Mark tells us in verse 51, Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped.[v] I love how Mark stated this so simply. The wind is blowing, the waves are crashing up against the boat, water is splashing in the boat, the boat is rocking and the men are rowing and hanging on. During the storm Jesus walks across the lake on water, the men panic and think it’s a ghost to bring them harm, Jesus stops near the boat, gives them an encouraging word, and then Jesus “climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped.”
- This tells me that Jesus has complete control of all this. The reality is, when Jesus was on the land He could have spoken to the storm to stop and it would have immediately done so. He had done that very thing several weeks earlier during another storm. This time He decided it was best to let them ride through the storm for a while. There was something they needed to learn about themselves in the storm and there was something they needed to learn about Jesus at the end of the storm. You are never out of God’s care.
- When John describes this event he shares an interesting insight. John says in John 6:21 that after Jesus spoke to them, “Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!” (NLT). Is it possible that God allows certain storms to come into your life in order to teach you what you need to know? Is it possible that God allows storms in your life in order to get you where you need to go? Following Jesus and becoming more like Jesus is not just prayer and Bible study, but it involves what God teaches you in the middle of your storm. When you sit down to read your Bible you expect to hear from God. When you pray, you expect to hear from God. When you enter a storm, expect to hear from God. He is going to talk to you and He is going to use that storm to get you where you need to be – “immediately they arrived at their destination!” You are never out of God’s care.
Then Mark wraps this section up by saying at the end of verse 51, They were totally amazed, 52 for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.
- After Jesus got into the boat Mark tells us “they were totally amazed.” Those who translate the Bible into English for us struggle with finding the right words to capture the meaning of the Greek word (existemi) for “totally amazed.” This is why different translations describe this as “completely overwhelmed” (Amp), “completely astounded” (CSB), “so baffled they were beside themselves” (CEB), “completely confused” (CEV), “completely amazed” (ERV), and “utterly astonished” (NASB). What just happened blew their minds. They were unable to fully comprehend what was happening.
- The disciples were growing and they were learning. However, Mark tells us “they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves.” They had already come a long way in their understanding, but they had a long ways to go. Even though Jesus had done the incredible miracle of creating food for thousands with five loaves of bread and two fish and then explained it that it was an object lesson of Him being the bread of life… they still didn’t get that it revealed His deity and Him as God in the flesh. Because they didn’t understand who He truly was they were still utterly astonished and “totally amazed” when Jesus did something God like. They didn’t fully understand that Jesus was the Son of God and that He can do anything. A lack of resources is not a hindrance to Him. Difficult circumstances do not affect Him in the least. He sees our trials perfectly, transcends our storms powerfully, presents Himself to us in our trials graciously. He is the Son of God and He cares.
- Then Mark tells us why the disciples didn’t understand the miracle of the loaves and it was because “their hearts were too hard to take it in.” Don’t miss this. This is talking about followers of Jesus whose “hearts were too hard to take it in.” They believed a lot about Jesus already. They have sacrificed for Him. They are growing. They are for Jesus, not against Him. There were some things they just couldn’t believe yet. Their heart was still too hard. It was stubborn. Their misunderstanding of Jesus caused unbelief in Jesus. They were not ready to embrace the full impact of who Jesus was. What Jesus had done and who He was had not completely penetrated their hearts yet. Their minds were closed to who Jesus really was, but it would eventually open. Even these incredible miracles were not opening their eyes to who Jesus really was yet.
As you follow Jesus, you will discover that your heart is still hard in some areas toward Him. Even then, He still cares for you.
When you study God in the Bible you discover that He is all-knowing, all-present, and all-powerful. This is what Bible students refer to as the three “omnis” – God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. The word “omni” means “all.” Omniscient means all-knowing. Omnipresent means all-present. Omnipotent means all-powerful. Those three line up with the three main truths for today.
- You are never out of God’s sight, because God is all-knowing.
- You are never out of God’s reach, because God is all-present.
- You are never out of God’s care, because God is all-powerful.
This also means,
- You are never out of God’s sight, that means God has not forgotten you.
- You are never out of God’s reach, that means God has not abandoned you.
- You are never out of God’s care, that means God has not stopped loving you.
[i] Jesus “insisted” that His disciples get into the boat. The word “insisted” (anagkazo) means “to force” or “to make” someone do something. The disciples must have argued with Jesus and wanted to stay with Him, especially after the miracle He just performed and with all the people who were wanting to make Him their king. I don’t think Jesus threatened the disciples or used physical force, but He was definitely firm and commanded them to get into the boat and head to Bethsaida.
[ii] This may have been another attempt by the devil to offer Jesus the kingdoms of the world. According to Matthew 4:8, “The devil took [Jesus] to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. ‘I will give it all to you,’ he said, ‘if you will kneel down and worship me.’” Just as he had offered the kingdoms to Jesus in the wilderness, now the devil is offering him them same thing but cloaked in the voices of the crowd.
[iii] Another connection with this idea is found in Job 9:8, 11 which says, “[God] alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea. When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.” This quotation bears linguistic as well as thematic similarities with v. 48, for “treads the waves of the sea” contains the same wording as Mark and the same crucial word for “pass by” (parerchesthai). The Job quotation summarizes a passage that begins in 9:1ff. by recounting the awesome separation between God and humanity. God can do what humanity cannot do and can never conceive of doing. His wisdom is beyond compare, he moves mountains, shakes the earth, obscures the sun, arrays the heavens in splendor, and “treads on the waves of the sea.” This God cannot be conceived of in human categories, and any “natural” explanation of his acts is foolish and pointless. The God described by job is wholly God, wholly Other, and can never be confused with human beings. But when Jesus “passes by” the disciples on the lake he does something differently from the revelation of God in the OT: he intends to make the mysterious and enigmatic God of Job visible and palpable as it had not been and could not have been to former generations. The God of Israel, majestic and awesome but unknowable face to face, is now “passing by” believers in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ walking on the water to his disciples is a revelation of the glory that he shares with the Father and the compassion that he extends to his followers. It is a divine epiphany in answer to their earlier bafflement when he calmed the storm, “Who is this?” (4:41). In this respect Mark’s Christology is no less sublime than is John’s, although john has Jesus declaring that he is the Son of God (John 10:36), whereas Mark has him showing that he is the Son of God. In Mark one must, like the disciples, be in the boat with Jesus and enter into the drama in order to behold who Jesus is. The one who calmed the storm is the one who now appears in the storm, the “I Am” of God. (The Gospel According to Mark, James R. Edwards, p. 199)
[iv] Now before we look down on them for this, and before we call them unduly “superstitious,” let’s remember their condition. They had been rowing for hours, far into the early morning; and had been doing so after a very long and hard day. Let’s keep in mind that they had accomplished little for all their straining at the oars. The wind was blowing. The waves were crashing. The men were rowing. They are exhausted. It’s about 3:00 am. They look up and they see someone walking through the storm and walking on the water. How many of us would react calmly and rationally to the sight of a man walking on the water in the middle of the night even in the BEST of conditions – let alone in such conditions as theirs?
[v] Why did Mark and Peter leave out the part about Peter walking on the water?