Can God use a storm to teach you about himself? Can he use a storm to redirect you to a new opportunity? Chances are that most of us would say “Yes” to both of those questions. But could God send you into unemployment? Can he send you into cancer? Can he send you into a trial in order to teach you to depend on him alone? While those questions are a bit more difficult to answer, they are still true nonetheless. Mark 6:45-56 shows that Jesus sent his disciples into a storm in order to reveal himself to them.
The story of Jesus walking on the water (45-52) comes on the heels of him feeding the 5,000 (30-44). Immediately after the miracle, Jesus hustled his team into a boat and sent them to the other side of the lake. Meanwhile, Jesus went up on a mountain to pray.
Normally, the Sea of Galilee can be crossed in 6-8 hours, even in poor conditions. Heading into a stiff wind, the disciples are making no progress at all. In fact, they get blown off course, landing at Gennesaret on the western shore instead of Bethsaida on the northeastern shore.
In the dim light of the early dawn (3-6AM), Jesus saw the disciples straining against the oars. He went to them, walking on the choppy waters.
The phrase, “He meant to pass by them” (48) strikes us as odd. Why would Jesus walk across the storm tossed sea and not stop to check on his men? Rather than bypass his disciples and ignore them, the phrase means to “pass beside” in order to reveal himself. The language comes from the Old Testament where God passed by Moses (Exodus 33:19-34:7) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-12) in order to reveal his glory to them.
Unnerved by the storm, the disciples think Jesus is a ghost. He calms their fears, speaks words of reassurance, and calms the storm. He once again demonstrates his power over nature.
The disciples are left awestruck by the miracle. They hadn’t understood how the feeding of the 5,000 revealed Jesus’ true identity. They had an earth-centered rather than a God-centered outlook on life.
Landing at Gennesaret, the whole countryside came out to see Jesus and to seek healing (53-56). The healing took place wherever Jesus went—villages, cities, fields, or marketplaces.
There are four lessons I take away from this story.
- God will sometimes send us into a storm. Whether unemployment, cancer, or a financial setback, God may send us into a trial to shape our character and teach us about himself. If God sent us into a trial, we can trust him to take us through it.
- God sees us in the storm and knows where we are. We may feel alone, but we have not been abandoned. If God sent us into the storm, he will monitor our progress and come to us at the right time.
- God reveals himself to us in the storms of life. God will use our trials as teachable moments to help us discover new aspects of his character and power. Nothing is ever wasted in the will of God.
- Rather than become hard-hearted, we need to learn the lessons he has for us. If the disciples could see and experience Jesus’ miracles up close and remain hard-hearted, then I need to be careful the same does not happen to me. I need to commit myself to believe his promises and obey his commands.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 19, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.