One of the things that drives me crazy is when I fail at something. Especially if it’s an embarrassing failure. Let me tell you about one of those times. So when I was growing up I didn’t attend a lot of church. Barely any really. But I did attend two different Christian schools for the last three years of my high school career.
Then when I graduated from high school, I decided to attend a Christian college. Now when I entered into college it was for two reasons: First, and the most important, was to play baseball. The second was to become a teacher.
It hadn’t even crossed my mind that I would leave the college looking to go into ministry.
In the fall of my freshman year, I started attending conditioning for the spring baseball season. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary from what I was used to, except for one thing. We began and ended our practices with prayer. Now, I was used to hearing a prayer, but usually it was from the coach. Not these. Instead of the coach starting and ending the practices with prayer, one of the players would do it.
Now, even though I had been a Christian for almost two years, I had never prayed out loud. And every time someone was asked on that baseball field to pray, I sighed relief when someone stepped up and volunteered. You know why? Because I had no idea what I would say. How do you pray out loud? What do you say? How long does it have to be?
I didn’t know, because I never did it. Then it happened, one fateful day, when seniors asked for a volunteer, one of my teammates spoke up and said, “Hey Jeremiah hasn’t done it yet, why don’t we have him do it?”
A more colorful word than shoot went through my mind as all eyes turned towards me. And with a squeaky, “ok”, I began my prayer.
And it was the most amazing strung together of slogans and whatever came to my mind at the moment. I was using things from Nike, from pastors I had heard before, from anything my mind to grabbed on to as the words just swirled in my head. And to top it all off, I threw in a “be all we can be” from the army commercials.
And with my “amen” my teammates started to bust up laughing. It was the first time I had ever prayed out loud and I was embarrassed beyond anything I had ever done in my life.
And it’s an embarrassing situation that we find the disciples in as we come to the book of Mark today. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in Mark chapter 6 starting in verse 45. But as we open up, let’s talk about where we are this week.
Last week we talked about how the disciples returned from being sent out by Jesus. They had come back in excitement wanting to tell Jesus all that had happen to them. And Jesus was excited too, so they set off to get away from the work of ministry, and have some time of refreshment. But when they got where they were going, the work was waiting for them. Hungry, tired, and fed up with the people that always seemed to need something else from Jesus, the disciples missed the opportunity to be the ones that performed a huge miracle. Over 5,000 people needed to be fed, and Jesus challenged the disciples to do it. But they couldn’t because they had missed an opportunity to be refreshed by Jesus. They were so focused on getting to a destination for refreshment, that they missed a mini-refreshment on the way.
Which is what we talked about last week, and how we need to take the times of mini-refreshment as they come along.
But it’s at the end of Jesus performing the miracle that the disciples were challenge to do but failed, that we come to verse 45 in chapter 6, of the Gospel of Mark. Let’s read.
45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.
47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
Right at the end of verse 43 and 44, from last week, we were told two pieces of information: how much food returned and how many people were there. Then the passage makes a transition by saying, “Immediately.” That’s an important word. It means right away. So Jesus feeds the people, the disciples get to see how they missed out on the miracle, and everyone gets to see just how amazing it all was, because there’s still left overs.
And then what happens? We don’t see Jesus chastise the disciples We don’t see Jesus giving a teaching to the disciples. Instead, he just tells them to get into the boat. And if you have ever made your parent so mad that they can’t say anything except “Get in the car,” then you we might be able to know how the disciples were feeling right now.
Jesus puts them into the boat, and sends them off. How would you feel?
I’m thinking they they’re angry and embarrassed. Angry at themselves that they missed out on doing this huge miracle. Angry at Jesus for not sending the people away in the first place. And angry at the people for being there in the first place. And you know why I think they’re angry? Because of what verse 52 says, “…their hearts were hardened.”
But all this anger seems to be from a place of embarrassment. They failed, and they failed right in front of everyone. I’ve never failed that big. My biggest failure was in front of about twelve guys. The disciples failed at what Jesus called them to do in front of 5,000 plus people.
And because they were in this state of hard heartedness, they were about to miss everything that came next.
So Jesus puts these angry and embarrassed guys into a boat and sends them off. Then Jesus sends off the people, just like the disciples wanted. And then Jesus takes sometime to be refreshed. I think Jesus needed some alone time. Maybe Jesus was getting frustrated with the disciples. Not to the point of sinning, but more in the line of, “They just don’t get it.” He might be frustrated that they started to get it, but allowed the interruptions that come in God’s work, to get them angry.
But Jesus gets his alone time to be refreshed by God the Father. And I love what it says, in verse 47, and 48, “ Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.”
Now couple that with what it says at the end of verse 48, “He was about to pass by them…”
From the shore, Jesus saw where they were on the lake. He saw that they were struggling with the wind. And when he went out there, every reading of the passage from multiple versions gives the same Idea: Jesus meant to pass them by. Do you realize what Mark is saying? Jesus meant to leave the disciples in their predicament. To leave them struggling against the wind.
Now I have been reading and re-reading this, and asking the question, why? Why would Jesus do this. I mean, right before this it said that Jesus had compassion on the people that were hungry. But now, it looks like Jesus is done with the disciples. It’s almost like Jesus is going to leave them in their embarrassment. Leave them in their struggle. But is that what Jesus is doing.
Overtime I have heard a lot of sermons on this passage. Sermons that focus on the storms of this life. Sermons that pick up the gospel of Matthew’s version, where Peter walks out to Jesus, takes his eyes off of his Savior, and begins to sink in the waves. And reading Mark’s account of this situation, I have to ask why isn’t the part about Peter in it? I mean, Mark is writing his Gospel based on Peter’s first hand account. Even if Peter didn’t want people to know that he began to sink under the waves, if it was me, I would still be telling people, “At least I walked on water with Jesus.”
But Peter walking on water isn’t in Mark’s account, and I have to ask the question why?
And after a lot of time meditating on this passage, going back to God and asking why, here’s my conclusion: I think the reason Jesus meant to walk by the disciples, and the reason Mark does not include Peter’s experience, is because in the flow that we are seeing in the Gospel of Mark flows this way: What we’re seeing is how the inner struggle of anger and embarrassment that the disciples are dealign with is making it hard to deal with the physical storms that come our way.
Everything inside of the disciples has been building. They went from excited, to ticked off at being interrupted, to missing out on a huge miracle, and then being sent away in embarrassment. All that is building in them. Some of these disciples are seasoned mariners, yet they continue to struggle against a storm. Is it because the storm is too much for them, or is it that they are trying to struggle with both outside and inner storms at the same time?
But unlike the disciples who were not dealing with their inner struggle, Jesus did. Jesus took the time to rest and recuperate. To deal with the stress and the frustration that can come with it. Jesus didn’t allow the storm to form in his life, but his disciples did.
So Jesus meant to pass them by. But he didn’t mean to leave them there. Jesus gave them the option to call out to him. The option to meet with him as he met with God the Father. Why else would he walk so close to them? Why else would we have to understand that he saw them? Mark’s giving us insight into Jesus’ mind. That he is mindful of them. He sees them in their struggle. He knows what’s going on with them. And so, he passes by, and if they would call out to him he would enter the boat. If not, he would continue into the work he was called to do.
We can act just like the disciples some times. We can let embarrassment over what we have done, cause us to not be able to deal with the physical storms of this life. When we sin, and are to embarrassed to come back to God and confess it, we can allow the storms to get bigger and seem to have more power than they actually do.
We can let embarrassment over not doing what we know God wants from us, get in the way of talking with him. We didn’t say that one word, or act that one way, and because of that embarrassment, our communication with God is stifled. Then storms happen, and no matter how small they are, all of a sudden they seem enormous to us. And we keep fighting them in our own power and we just struggle.
But what happened when they called out to Jesus, even though they were scared that it might be a ghost? It reads like this, “Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down.”
All that struggle went away, when they overcame their embarrassment to let Jesus in. They returned their focus on their teacher. Were they completely back to where they when they first got back on that spiritual mountain top experience? No, they still had that hard heartedness, but they were on their way back to where Jesus wanted them. In the John’s Gospel account of this, it reads, “They were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading (John 6:21).”
We can allow our embarrassment to immediately take us out of the work God has for us. But when we allow God to come back in, he immediately takes us back and immediately puts us back on the his path.
And that’s what God wants from us, not to allow our mistakes to take us way from him, but rather to call out to him in instead of continuing in them.
Jesus walks alongside us to let us know, that at anytime, we can call out, and he can get in the boat.
So today, as a challenge, I want you to write one embarrassment, one sin, one mistake that is causing or might cause you to fall back into fighting storms on your own. Something that you are struggling with, and that is keeping you from getting Jesus in the boat. Write in down, then call out to God to get in your boat. Then take that paper and throw it away. And walk away with the understanding that Jesus is walking next to you, and all you have to do is call out to him, and he will get in your boat.
Because if we read the final verses of chapter 6, we find out that the work of God awaited the disciples. And the work that God has for you is waiting for you. But remember, you can only get their by getting Jesus in the boat.
Now may God richly bless you as he brings you to where he wants you, as you ride together in the boat. Amen