Don’t Underestimate God
Text: Mark 6:45-56
Proposition: When we underestimate God because our hearts are hardened He reveals Himself in a new way to make our belief run true.
Introduction: When we were in Papua New Guinea a number of years ago we had the opportunity to buy a number of arrows that the village people made and were selling as a means to bring some money into the area. The arrows were just like the ones they used for hunting pigs and in some cases for settling disputes with neighbors. The arrows are different from the ones we’re used to seeing in that they have no feathers at the end of the shaft. The lack of feathers meant that the arrows could only be used for short range, or close up targets. There was nothing on the arrow to help it fly a true course beyond a short distance. The arrow was good only for game that was very close, all else could only be looked at with longing. Consider for a moment that what God does in our lives requires a long range accuracy. He aims us at the whole duration of this life and clear through that to the next glory of heaven as the distractions of sin and the wiles of Satan seek to pull us off course. How does the Lord enable us to fly true, to hit the mark that He’s aimed us at? What are the things that He takes into account daily in order to enable us to make the target? Let’s read an account in Mark 6:45-56 that describes the cause of short range belief and what Jesus does to correct that.
I. The Majesty of God Is Lost In the Leftovers. In the story of the feeding of the 5000 which has just occurred, Jesus had taken 5 loaves and two small salted fish, blessed them in a prayer of thanksgiving and then began to break them into to pieces to be given to over 5000 people. As He broke them and handed them out the miracle occurred as the substance of bread and fish increased. It was a miracle of creation, it was as if Jesus reactivated the very substances in the bread the fish that had enabled them to grow in the first place. The people ate to the point of being absolutely filled and 12 baskets were gathered up as further proof that a miracle of creation was right there before them. The response to this miracle by the people is quite passive, it likely took awhile for the account of how it all originated out 5 barley loaves and two small fish to get around. The disciples on the other hand had a front row seat. Their response is particularly puzzling, they hand out the food, they in all probability eat some of it, then they obey Jesus and gather up all the leftovers. What’s absent here is the right response of man to the act of a miracle of creation. Nowhere does it say the disciples worshipped Jesus because of this, or that they were in deep awe of Him. The leftovers, the 12 full baskets, are not mentioned again, perhaps they went to the people as an inducement to leave the area. Whatever their end, the majesty of God was missed by the disciples and the people, and was, so to speak, lost in the leftovers. Why do you think that was so? Was it the exhaustion, was it the busy moments of feeding 5000, was there some aspect of even resentment in the disciples hearts? In the weeks ahead of us there will be many leftovers as we celebrate what Christ has created. Because of His incarnation He created forgiveness of sin eternally, He created the means for the righteousness of God to be ours, first in a positional way but ultimately an eternal experience. He created the opportunity for the Spirit of God to indwell us because of imputed righteousness, for the Spirit will not go into unrighteousness. He made us a new creation, a brand new man. Don’t let the majesty of God in all these things become lost in the leftovers.
II. For a Disciple to Go the Distance They Need To Know Who Jesus Is. The feeding of the 5000 likely took place around 3pm, Jesus ensured that the disciples left the shore around 6, when evening came the boat was already far from shore. Jesus goes to the top of the hill to pray and as He does a storm blows in. He prays until about 2 in the morning. In the fourth watch which is between 3 and 6am Jesus walks on the water to the boat. What’s the point… the disciples had had no rest from the time they arrived the day before and now at the end of a 24 hour shift they are pushed to their limit, once again trying to survive in the midst of a howling storm. It tells us in verse 45 that Jesus constrained His disciples, He overruled their objections, and made them set out even though it was evening and they were exhausted. Jesus is putting the disciples in a situation where it will be impossible not to see and respond to the majesty of God. It is crucial that they know Who He is if they are to go the distance that is set before them. They had missed the lesson in the feeding of the 5000 because their hearts were hardened. They had been distracted by lesser things. Now the grace of God creates yet a deeper trial that they would know the glory of God and would be transformed by that glory. Not all the storms of our lives are caused by missed opportunities but this storm emphasizes the universal principle that for any disciple of Jesus Christ to go the distance they must know Who Jesus is. He is not just a provider of food and shelter, He is not just One who loves us unconditionally, He is not just One who is there to hear our prayers… He is Almighty God, He is the Lord, He is our Savior. Without Jesus we are lost, our ship will go down far from shore. He is the One who is over all, even the laws of nature are under His feet. We like the 12 need to be greatly amazed in Jesus, beyond measure and marvel at Who He is. Jesus is the glorious Son of God inhabiting humanity for all eternity so as to know sorrow, pain, death and resurrection that our sin would be completely taken away from us. Marvel at this Jesus. There are two things about how God’s glory is seen that are striking in their contrast. 1.The sovereign way that Jesus causes things to occur… At His command the disciples are put in harms way, at His timing He brings rescue. His priority of prayer to the securing of their understanding of Who He is took hours. The fact that Jesus sees these men who are 3 miles away (John 6) in the middle of the night, and He sees them straining hard at the oars, He knows the turmoil of our struggle. Do not mistake His absence for negligence, He sees and in His sovereign timing and means He will do that which glorifies Him most.2. The Responsibility of Man to call out… Did you see how Jesus was going to walk right past them in the storm in verse 48? It’s like the time on the road to Emmaus when He acted like He would go on but they invited Him in to stay. The sovereign will of God sets up the storm but the responsibility of man is to invite Jesus in to end the storm. The glory of God is revealed through the tension of these two, sovereignty and responsibility.
III. The Disciples Lasting Caution… Don’t Underestimate God! Would you say that in this story the disciples had underestimated Jesus? It’s my guess that they thought Jesus was going to find another way to Capernaum. Though Jesus could heal and even raise people from the dead they didn’t believe that Jesus was above the laws of gravity, above the forces of nature even though He had just created bread from the land and fish from the sea. When they see Jesus their minds translate that into a more acceptable image, “It’s a ghost.” They had never met Jesus on this level before and had in a sense limited the identity of Jesus. They had underestimated Him and this Jesus corrected as he calls out three phrases… tharseō, egō eimi, mē phobeō … “Be encouraged, I Am , Don’t fear.” He calls them to recognize Him, to not run from Him in fear, He again uses that great phrase that describes the eternal self existent nature of God, I Am He. With those words he steps into the boat with them and there is great relief. The storm immediately ceases, the trial is over. There is one thing conspicuously absent in this account. Remember that the gospel of Mark is written by John Matk who was not present during this event. We believe that most of what Mark wrote was told to him by Peter and the Holy Spirit inspired Mark as he wrote in all down. What is absent in this account of which Peter was the source is the part where Peter in the midst of the storm stood up and said, “Lord if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Matthew 14:28-31 describes it, but Peter left it out of his account, why? I suppose at the end of the day we really can’t answer for Peter, you’ll have to ask him yourself when you see him. But we could conjecture that the reason Peter did so was either for humility sake not to take away from the account of the glory of Christ or that the event of Peter walking on the water, as incredible as that was, still portrayed a man who underestimated Jesus. Later, after three times denying Him and three times being restored, after seeing the risen Christ Peter now knew the wonder of Who Christ is. Walking on the water was a story that underestimated the glory of Jesus and perhaps this is why it was excluded from this gospel. Don’t underestimate how deep the Fathers love is for you, don’t underestimate the wonder of Jesus Christ and the depths that He has gone that you would know Him.