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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 12 - Series B

Text: Mark 6:45-56

Title: “It Is All About Jesus”

Date: Sunday, July 29, 2018

Pastor Steve Bocklage

Before we get into today’s Gospel reading, let’s take a look at what has happened in the Gospel readings from Mark 6 the last few weeks: First, Jesus is rejected in his hometown of Nazareth. Then the Apostles are sent on mission impossible to heal, preach, and cast out demons in Galilee, which God makes possible. Next, John the Baptizer, who is Jesus’ cousin and the one who cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29b) is beheaded and buried. And last week’s scheduled Gospel reading was Jesus feeding thousands of people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, with 12 big baskets full of leftovers.

         In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus dismisses this same crowd after feeding them late in the day. He then compels His disciples to get in their boat and sail on the Sea of Galilee “to the other side…to Bethsaida.” After bidding them farewell, the Lord goes up on the mountain to get some time alone to pray. All seems well. Hours later, long after the sun has set, Jesus is still “alone on the land” and the disciples are still in “the boat…out on the sea.”

         Then a storm comes up. The water becomes very rough, which is not uncommon on the Sea of Galilee. Knowing how the winds kick up strong at night, Jesus is well aware of their situation. He sees them out there struggling and “…making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.” (v 48) Even though several of these men are experienced fishermen and know how to pilot a boat in storms…they are having a very tough time in this storm. In this horrendous weather, their progress to get to their destination is real slow. It has now been around 8 hours of being distressed, tired, and tormented.

         As if that isn’t enough, somewhere between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., they think they see a ghost. Seeing Jesus walking on the water, they think He is a ghost and they cry out terrified and literally scared out of their wits. (cf. vv. 49-50a) Who of us here would not have reacted in much the same way? For the disciples, this is simply a case where faith gives way to superstitious fear.

The strange thing about this is not Jesus walking on the water. What is strange is that “…He meant to pass them by.” (v. 48) This is where the brakes slam on for me. What does that mean “…He meant to pass them by?” Did Christ mean to sneak by them but got caught? That doesn’t sound like the Creator of the universe…the One who controls the wind and waves with His very voice! Did Christ mean He wanted to beat them to the other side? Why would Jesus do that?

         Thank the Lord it doesn’t mean any of these things. It has much more significance than that. When the Bible speaks of God passing by someone, it often means He is going to reveal Himself to them. It means He is going to pull back the veil of His glory for a moment and show a glimpse of His power, His holiness, His perfection…and freely give His love.  That is exactly what Jesus is doing here. He wants to pass by them and let them see that He is there with them…that He is powerful and holy…that He is in perfect control of His creation. While it is surprising to see the Lord showing up the way He does, the disciples shouldn’t be shocked. After all, they have seen Jesus heal Simon’s mother-in-law. They have seen Him cure a leper…a paralyzed man…a bleeding woman…and a shriveled hand. They have seen Jesus raise a dead girl…calm a storm…cast out demons…and feed a huge crowd of people with almost no food. These are just a few of the many miracles Jesus did to show that He is God…that He is powerful, holy, and perfect…that He is the King of all creation. Miracles that the disciples will see when they land in Gennesaret and the people will lay “the sick in the marketplaces and [implore Jesus] that they might touch even the fringe of his garment.” St. Mark writes: “And as many as touched it were made well.” (v. 56)

So, when the disciples see anything out of the ordinary, they should KNOW it is Jesus. They of all people should “get it.” After witnessing the feeding of the five thousand, they should have understood much more than they did. They should not have been “utterly astounded” as having “little faith” or having “spiritual weakness.”  These disciples of Christ should have understood that the One who had multiplied the loves and fish could readily walk on the water.

         Yet, the most amazing thing has to do with Jesus Himself and how He responds to these guys. In fact, the Lord makes His identity and His love for them very clear when He says: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (vv 50b) Then St. Mark points out that Jesus “got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased….” (vv 51) Don’t you just love that? Jesus doesn’t say, “forget you guys, after all I’ve done for you” or “you of all people should understand.” He does not say any of that stuff. The Lord Jesus just comforts them by telling them again who He is. He comforts them by coming closer to them and being with them. “Brothers, I didn’t mean to scare you. Have some courage. It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Or to translate it literally – Have courage. I AM He. Fear not.

         That is what this Gospel lesson is all about. It is all about Jesus! It’s about His love for His people…His love for you and me…as hard hearted and dimwitted and sinful as we are. Because you and I are this way, don’t we need to be reminded all the time of who Jesus is and what He has done for us and continues to do? In April 2001, in the midst of Israeli/Arab conflict, a motorcade carrying the Security Service Chief of Gaza came under gun fire from Israeli troops. The frightened security official called PLO leader Yasser Arafat from his car for help. Arafat in turn called the U.S. ambassador…who then called the U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell. Colin Powell then phoned Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, who ordered the shooting to stop immediately. And it did. The Security Chief's connections eventually saved his life.

         In a similar way, Christians have a divine connection to Jesus Christ, who can make a world of difference in any situation. You look at your life and see situations that are tough on you and may even be scary to you. How about worries you have for your children or grandchildren no matter what their age? What about problems at home you do not want to talk about or ignore? How about financial concerns…health issues…job concerns?

         Whatever they are, just remember…Jesus is always with you! Never forget that God is always in control! The Lord sees you at all times…even when you can’t see Him or feel His presence. Jesus comes to comfort you…to remind you who He is…to let you know He is with you. This is Jesus…who is powerful beyond knowing…who created the universe…who walks on water…who calms the storms with His mere presence.

You have a God who is present in your life and who loves you more than you can possibly ever know. When He suffered torture and died for your sins on the cross…He did it all for you! When Christ rose from the dead victorious over sin, death, and evil…He did it all for you to assure you that He will raise you up on the Last Day! He showed you His power, holiness, and perfection by taking your sins upon Himself, and in exchange, giving you His holiness and righteousness in order for you to live with Him forever and ever.

So, your life as a Christian…as a baptized believer in the Lord Jesus Christ…is a life that continues to unfold and grow in who you are and what Jesus has done for you and continues to do. Don’t become distressed or terrified…because the Lord’s purpose is to exercise the faith His Spirit has created in you….which believes these blessed words: "This is My Body…This is My Blood…Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." God’s purpose is to work trust in you of His promises so that you might grow in faith…in hope…in patient endurance…and that you might grow to always rely on Him. Amen.

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