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Sunday, August 19, 2018

posted Aug 20, 2018, 3:55 AM by Site Administrator
 

IT IS I; DON’T BE AFRAID

 

John 6:14-21

Key Verse 6:20

But he said to them, "It is I; don’t be afraid."

 

First, "Jesus withdrew to a mountain by himself" (14-15). In the previous passage we learned that Jesus fed the large crowd with five barely loaves and two fish. It was a glorious miracle. Now after the crowd was fed, they said, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." The word, "Surely," shows their complete confidence. They did not say that Jesus was a prophet, but the Prophet, referring to the Promised Messiah. With such confidence, they said, "Jesus, you are the Christ." At that time, however, Jesus did not say, "Finally, you believe! You are saved." Instead, verse 15 shows that he withdrew to a mountain by himself. When they said, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world," he was very burdened; he avoided them by withdrawing to a mountain by himself. Saying to Jesus with such confidence, "Jesus, you are the Christ," seems good. How come, even if the people shouted, "Jesus, you are the Christ," Jesus was burdened and avoided them?

 

Originally, these people had a certain spiritual desire for him. That's why, when they saw Jesus going to the other side of the lake by boat, they followed him by running around the Sea of Galilee and getting there ahead of him. They were like sheep following their shepherd. And Jesus took care of them, even by feeding them with heavenly bread. They experienced Jesus' grace; they saw Jesus' glory - he even fed about 10 thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish. Only God can do it. Who should Jesus be then? It was the time when they should open their eyes and see who Jesus truly was - the Son of God who came into the world in a human form. But instead, when they saw Jesus feeding 10 thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish, they saw a great possibility to solve their serious bread problem in and through him. In those days, if you ate two meals a day, you were considered rich. To most people there, the bread problem was very important and urgent. Now they saw the possibility to solve that problem in and through Jesus once for all. When they saw this possibility, they quickly forgot about their spiritual desire - knowing Jesus personally or learning of God; instead, they were ready to say, "Yes, Amen!" at anything Jesus would tell them. Jesus being the Promised Messiah, "Check!" Jesus being the Son of God, "Check!" Jesus being their leader, "Check!" Only if Jesus could take care of their urgent matter, they were ready to accept him and say "Amen," all the time. They were even determined to make him their king without any vote, even without asking for Jesus' consent. At this, Jesus was burdened; he avoided them and withdrew to a mountain by himself.

 

Modern day, many people show the same kind of attitude toward Jesus. They come to church, not necessarily with pure spiritual desire for him; nonetheless, they still have some spiritual desire; they come to church, because, everyone says that Jesus is the Savior, they want to check out who he is; everyone say that Jesus is God, so they wonder if it is really true; or simply, because Christianity is one of the major religions and many people say that they have experienced him  personally, so they want to check out; or, simply, they wonder if they can find the truth in the Bible, so they come to church. In this way, they have some spiritual desire when they come to church. But at the church, they find the possibility of solving their serious problems, then, they quickly abandon their spiritual desires. Some people are lonely, and in the church, they find some friends whom they can hang out with - quickly they forget about their spiritual desire, and they become sin-partners with each other; or they find that church people are nice, far better than party animals and wicked people in the world whom they cannot trust at all - you never know what kind of life they have lived; but in the church, they find such sincere and nice people, forgiven people whom they consider as the best marriage partners for themselves. So, quickly forgetting about their spiritual desire for Jesus or for the truth, they doggedly look for some desirable people to marry. Or, in the church, they find the possibility of establishing good network for their business, or even some people try to recruit some investors and business partners in the church. They are corrupt, quickly giving up their spiritual desires for the sake of the possibility of solving their own serious problems in the church; yet, meanwhile, going to church every Sunday, or saying, "I am a Christian," or saying, "Hallelujah! Amen!" They are no longer seeking Jesus or the truth - or they are not so interested in such things. They just want Jesus to bless them in those things. In the true sense, they are not serving or worshiping Jesus as their God and King, but they simply want to utilize Jesus to solve their problem. If Jesus helps them in those things, they have no problem to call Jesus, "The Christ," or "King," or handing out gospel tracks on the streets occasionally. When people are corrupt like this, Jesus is embarrassedeven if they say, "Surely, Jesus is the Christ," or "Jesus, you are my Lord and King," he is burdened and he avoids them. We never want to see Jesus avoiding us. But how easy it is to give into our own desires! That's why we must be very careful in our Christian life and strive to love Jesus really.

 

When we come to Jesus, he has pity on us and helps us; thus, we come to experience his grace and many great things occur in our life – we come to enjoy beautiful fellowship with many friends in the church; Jesus restores our sanity that we no longer live a reckless life, but we become very sincere about one life we have; our minds are purified that we can now focus on studies and perform well getting good grades and receiving favors from our professors at school and from our boss at work; we see that we can live a sound life in the world as well. But at that time, we must not be given to such things. Instead, we must remember Jesus who has done all these great things for us – all these great things have happened only when we come to Jesus, only when we come to the church, only when we come to our Bible studies. All good things are from Jesus. Seeing this, we must put our trust in him and thereby, pursue him really so that we may come to know him more and that we can be really blessed by him.

 

Second, "A storm training" (16-18). Look at verses 16 and 17. When evening came, Jesus’ disciples went down to the lake, got into a boat, and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus was not with them. According to Mark’s gospel’s record, the disciples just had returned from their mission journey, on which Jesus sent them two by two. For several days, they had traveled on foot, preaching the good news, driving out demons, and healing many sick people. Their mission journey was a great success. When they returned to their headquarters in Capernaum, they had a great mission report with Jesus. Everyone had something great to share – they were excited; their spirits were good. But Jesus noticed that they were exhausted from the long mission journey and that they needed rest. So, Jesus invited them to a picnic with him, saying, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." They left the crowd, and went on a retreat, going to the opposite shore of the Sea of Galilee. But when the crowd saw Jesus and his disciples leaving, they figured out where the boat was heading; they ran around the Sea of Galilee, and arrived there ahead of Jesus and his disciples, and said, "Hi, Jesus." Because of this thoughtless crowd, their retreat plan was ruined. But Jesus had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus taught them the word of God, and when they were hungry, he served them all with delicious barely loaves and fish. After the disciples served the crowd, they were exhausted - 12 waiters serving 10,000 people was really exhausting.They had a long day. These 12 dog-tired disciples were rowing the boat in the dark night. Yet things did not stop there. 

 

Look at verse 18. "A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough." Suddenly, the peaceful boat ride became a terrible nightmare. Strong wind and waves tossed the small boat back and forth like a basketball, and water was flooding the boat. The disciples worked desperately to keep the boat from sinking. Peter and James manned the oars, John at the rudder, and the rest of them frantically bailed out the water from the boat. But the waves only crashed down harder filling the boat with more water. According to Mark’s gospel, in chapter 6:48, their struggle lasted until the fourth watch of the night, which is equivalent to between three o’clock to six o’clock in the morning. Suppose that they left the other side of the lake at 7 o’clock in the evening, then it meant that they had been struggling against the wind for about 8-11 hours. The lake was less than four miles diagonally. With 7 experienced fishermen on the boat, they could have finished the boat ride in less than one hour.  But that night, they had to spend about 10 hours struggling hard to row the boat and make progress against the strong wind. Indeed, it was a desperate struggle for survival. During this storm, they must have been fearful that the boat would sink any moment.  

What was Jesus doing during all this time? He was on the mountain, praying. Mark 6:48 reads that in the evening, he saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. He knew how tired his disciples were. He knew that they were struggling in the storm without him. So, what did he do for them? Did he rebuke the wind and save them? No. He just let them go through the storm all night long until maybe 5 o’clock in the morning. He did not come to help them right away, but kept praying to God. When we think about this, we can see that Jesus did it intentionally. Why didn’t he help them right away? This event is not unrelated to the previous event of feeding the five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. Out of shepherd’s heart, Jesus fed them with heavenly bread, even though they had not asked him for it. But when they ate the bread, they were corrupt, quickly abandoning their spiritual desire, because they saw the possibility of solving their serious bread problem. The situation was: The more Jesus served them, the more corrupt they became. When Jesus saw this, he was really frustrated and burdened. When people were like that, how should he or how could he serve God’s work? The more he served them, the more fleshly they became! He needed insight, wisdom and guidance. This matter was so bothering that he wanted to go to God by himself on a mountain, even without his disciples. Then, through having fellowship with God in prayer, he came to have a clear direction, that was, instead of serving these hopeless people endlessly, he would focus on his disciples whose hearts and lives were completely dedicated to him. They were an absolute minority – only 12, compared to many ten thousand people, or even millions people, but they were dedicated to him. Jesus put his hope on them and wanted to train them so that they would become strong, reliable and effective servants of God who would be able to serve God’s work in any challenging circumstances. Then, when the storm attacked them, Jesus wanted use it as the means to train them –it was the perfect time to train them when they were exhausted and their human strength was gone. 

 

While the storm was going on, the disciples had hard time; they were already exhausted, and struggling with the storm was like having a boxing match after a marathon race. They were so afraid that the boat would sink any moment. While the disciples were straining at the oars, Jesus was watching over them, and he let them go through the storm. That’s a very interesting picture. In the storm, the disciples struggled hard to survive, doing all their best, using all their skills and muscles, and maybe, praying to God and to Jesus wholeheartedly, but no answer came. They felt that they were alone; they were scared that they would die any moment. Yet, Jesus was watching them, and even praying for them. Indeed, they were not alone, but together with Jesus. They were not fighting alone, but together with Jesus. The storm attacked them and they had a hard time, but there was God’s divine will and purpose for them. Surely, they would not be destroyed by the storm even though they might have had a hard time. Surely, Jesus was watching over them even though they couldn’t see him. Surely, Jesus was with them even though they thought that they were alone in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus hoped that his disciples would come out as strong leaders and as unshakeable warriors, who would establish God’s kingdom in the hearts of men. He hoped that they would be men of integrity that couldn’t be shaken by challenges at all. It would be these disciples that would destroy all terrible and wicked lifestyles in the world. Through this storm training, they would come out as powerful leaders, who were refined, beautified like beautiful glittering diamonds. Job said, "When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold." (Job 23:10) 

When we think about this passage, we are very touched by Jesus’ desire for us. Who are we? Nothing but sinners just like all sinners in the world. But only because we dedicate ourselves to God, Jesus takes us very specially and he puts all his hopes on us – he wants to take care of all peoples on earth through us. And in this hope, he trains us. We are God’s hope for the whole world. Who put such great hope on us? Only Jesus our God! In him, we become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation; in him, we become fathers and mothers of many nations.

 

We also learn that Jesus trains us – it is not some kind of a religious training such as memorizing 10 Bible verses a day, but a real training through our life’s challenges – some health matter, some financial matter, some relationship matter at work, at home, and even at the church; sometimes, through painful betrayals, sometimes through terrible injustice that goes beyond our imagination maybe at work, or at home or even in the church; or sometimes, some people deceive us and take all our money and we become heavily indebted. For those who do not have faith in Jesus, such storms are nothing but bad luck, or terrible fate, or miserable failures, or terrible injustice or betrayal; as a result, so many people carry such wounds and scars in their hearts that they cannot trust anyone any longer – they are indeed destroyed by such storms – their characters are terribly damaged, and their view of life is so crooked, or they develop deep void in their hearts for money or human love – their whole life is terribly damaged. Or some people just give up everything and, out of frustration, they jump off the building. But for Jesus’ disciples whose heart and lives are fully dedicated to him and his kingdom work, these storms are the means of training for them. As they go through these storms, their hearts are being purified. Through these storm training, all worldly, humanistic, and relativistic elements are removed from them – think about the disciples who, in the storm, throw away all things they have in the boat for survival – in this way, they are being purified as God’s servants, ready to say, "Yes, sir!" at whatever direction God gives them. They are being prepared for God to use freely. When you are in the storm, remember that Jesus is watching you! When you are in the storm, remember that Jesus is praying for you that you may come out as pure gold. Jesus has great hope on you, so he trains you. At that time, have faith in God! And say just like Job, "When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold."

 

Third"It is I; don’t be afraid" (19-21). Look at verse 19. "When they had rowed three or three and half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified." The lake was no more than four miles long. So they were almost at the shore of Capernaum. In the storm, they really struggled hard to row the boat, and now they were very close to the goal. When they began to have a glimpse of hope for survivalthey saw something on the water in human shapeAt this, their hairs on their necks suddenly stood up, and theyscreamed, "G GG Ghost!!!" They were terrified thinking that finally, a sea ghost had come to take them to the bottom of the lake. Because they had been in the fear of death all this time, because their struggle had been so intense that even when Jesus appeared to them, they could not recognize him; instead, they recognized him as a ghost that was going to attack them and kill themLook at verse 20. Let’s read this verse together: 

 

But he said to them, "It is I; don’t be afraid."

 

Jesus said, "It is I; don’t be afraid." How surprised the disciples must have been when they heard Jesus’ voice. Theynever dreamed of seeing Jesus in the middle of the stormy Sea. They thought Jesus was too far away. But, Jesus said to them, "It is I; don’t be afraid."

 

Many people due to their struggle with the storms of life, often do not recognize Jesus. Jesus visits them because the storm training is almost at its end, and soon new and wonderful things will start in their life – the time of God’s restoration, the time of God’s blessing and the time of God using them for his wonderful salvation plan for the whole world as his servants. But due to many wounds and scars they have received because of the storms – betrayals or injustice, they are still in the fighting mode, trying to defend themselves, even against Jesus. So, Jesus reveals himself to them clearly, saying, "It is I; don’t be afraid."Jesus touches their wounded hearts with God’s love deeply. Jesus shows his great vision for them, saying, "From now on you will catch men." While some people are so mistrusting and self-defensive due to their wounds and scars, Jesus makes his efforts to reveal himself to them, saying, "It is I; don’t be afraid." The time of the first training is almost over, so don’t hold onto your past wounds and scars. Instead, let Jesus start a new page in your life by opening your heart to him and following his guidance freely. Jesus has been with you because he has great hope for you.

 

When the disciples realized that it was Jesus who walked on the water and came to meet them in the middle of the lake, they were overjoyed. They shouted for joy. Then, they could overcome all fear of the storm. They could be confident that there was nothing to fear since Jesus, the Sovereign Lord was with them. The Apostle Matthew records that when Simon Peter heard Jesus’ voice, "I it is I; don’t be afraid," he was completely fascinated and wanted to walk on the water also. So he boldly asked Jesus, "Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water." Then Jesus told him, "Come." And Simon Peter immediately jumped out of the boat, and behold! He stood on the water and began to walk. If all the 12 disciples had done the same thing, they would have had one hundred meter dash on the water in the middle of the lake in the storm.

 

When the disciples heard Jesus’ voice, the storm was not a storm any longer but a joyful wind surfing time. They had reallya cool time at 6 o’clock in the morning in the middle of the lake, and their fatigue was gone immediately, and their spirits were restored. It was the real retreat Jesus had prepared for his disciples. When we serve God wholeheartedly, we come to experience this kind of miraculous refreshment from God.

 

Look at verse 21. "Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading." This was another miracle. Now all of them, the 12 disciples and Jesus were full of spirit and joy. As soon as Jesus joined their boat, the boat was full of God’s power that it reached to the shore of Capernaum immediately. It flew at the speed of light, and in the blink of an eye, they were at the shore, ready to serve God’s work again

 

One Word: It is I; don’t be afraid

 

 

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