When Jesus walked on water, he both frightened and amazed his disciples. The story is recorded in Matthew 14:33-36; Mark 6:45-56; John 6:16-24. Here are some lessons it teaches us today.
When Jesus walked on water. The storms of life can shake your faith and fill you with fear.
After feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus sent his disciples off in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee and he went off alone to pray. Later in the night, a storm arose and the disciples struggled in the boat against strong winds and waves. So Jesus walked out to them on the water.
Was this an impulsive, original idea by Jesus? Maybe not.
You alone stretched out the heavens and trampled on the waves of the sea. (ESV, Job 9:8)
Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? (ESV, Job 38:16)
Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. (ESV, Psalm 77:19)
These passages indicate Jesus had previous water walking experience, perhaps during creation, and this was just another casual sea stroll to demonstrate his divinity. Although when the disciples saw Jesus they thought he was a ghost and it frightened them even more. At least until Jesus spoke and they recognized his voice.
Isn’t this true for us? The storms we encounter in life shake our faith and cause fear? But notice, Jesus didn’t wait for the disciples to cry out for help. He saw their distress and went to their aid. It’s reassuring to know he takes the initiative on our behalf too.
When Jesus walked on water. Follow Jesus and you might get in over your head.
You have to love Peter. A guy who acts first and thinks later. He does at least recognize he can only walk on the water by Jesus’ power. And give him credit as the only disciple brave enough to get out of the boat. He does great at first while he focuses on Jesus. But then he begins to think about it. Second guess himself. Focus on his circumstances rather than Jesus. And begins to sink.
Although once again, Jesus grabs on and pulls him to the surface. And it wouldn’t be the last time Peter’s impulsive behavior led him into choppy waters. It’s a familiar story for us too. When difficult circumstances test our faith we tend to focus more on the circumstances than on Jesus. And may feel like we’re in over our heads.
But even when it feels like you are alone and abandoned, you’re not as David reminds us.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (ESV, Psalm 46:1)
In fact, God does HIs best work through us when we acknowledge our weakness and call on Him for strength. And when God demonstrates His power through our weakness, we are more likely to give Him the glory.
When Jesus walked on water. When you provide the faith, Jesus delivers the power.
Jesus chastised Peter for his little faith. But maybe with a smile? Because Peter demonstrated faith through his actions.
And this is exactly what Jesus’ half-brother talks about in James 2:14-26.
You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (ESV, James 2:18)
James isn’t saying to demonstrate good works to earn salvation. He’s telling Christ-followers now that you’re saved by grace through faith, you should demonstrate that faith by your actions.
Exactly what Peter is doing!
Of course, it wasn’t Peter’s first miracle rodeo with Jesus. He had just witnessed Jesus feed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Watched him command a lame man to pick up his bed and walk. Lazarus to wake up from the dead and come out of the tomb. And many others.
Yes, faith is important and Jesus said we only need faith the size of a mustard seed to move a mountain. And so too, is the importance of prayer. But the lesson in this story is the importance of remaining focused on Jesus. Because even as people of faith, the storms of life make that difficult.
But when Peter’s faith failed in the middle of the storm, he called out to Jesus who pulled him from the swirling waters. And we can trust God’s faithfulness. He will do the same for us.
Sin according to the Bible. It’s an important Christian teaching. Why? Because after Jesus Christ, it’s one of the most important Christian doctrines. In fact, it’s the reason Jesus came to earth. And understanding what the Bible teaches about it is important for determining your eternal destination. So, it’s a big deal. Here’s are some things to know about sin.
Sin according to the Bible. It wasn’t always this way.
The Bible teaches we are born with sinful nature. Live our lives in its toxic environment like fish swimming in polluted water. And personally succumb to its influence. Yet, so often, we deny it for what it is. But instead, blame other things and people for what we intuitively know is wrong within our own hearts.
But it wasn’t that way in the beginning. In Genesis, God called his newly created world “good.” And he planted a garden for Adam and Eve to live in that provided for all their needs. It was unmarred. An ideal environment without pain, conflict, and suffering. And they could eat the fruit from any tree in the garden except one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Which is exactly what Adam and Eve did. With that first act of disobedience, sin entered the world. And everything changed.
Sin according to the Bible. What is sin anyway?
The essence of sin remains the same: disobedience to God. But that first, seemingly, small act of disobedience grew like a cancer into more serious forms. For example, Adam’s son, Cain committed the first capital offense by murdering his brother Abel, out of jealousy.
As mankind’s disobedience increased and took different forms, God provided the Ten Commandments through Moses to establish moral order. It was simple and to the point. It listed the basic things you should do to honor God and the ones you shouldn’t to get along with other people. Don’t lie, steal, murder, covet and commit adultery.
However, the list of sins expands greatly in the New Testament. And Jesus made it clear that sin is not limited to our actions. Many of them come out of our hearts and take place in our thoughts.
Today you can picture sin like an iceberg. One-third of your sin is above ground where it’s visible. But two-thirds is below the surface within your heart and mind where only God sees. That’s why God looks upon the heart. And the apostle Paul reminds us we are all guilty of sin.
Sin broke our relationship with God, one another, and our world.
The impact of that one act of disobedience was immediate and is recorded in Genesis chapter three. Adam and Eve immediately became self-conscious about their appearance, realized they were naked, and covered themselves. So it changed their relationship with one another.
Next they shamefully hid themselves from God as he walked through the garden. So, it also changed their relationship with Him. It even impacted their relationship with the environment and animals. The environment changed from hospitable to hostile and required hard work to survive. And their relationship with animals went from friendly to predatory.
Do you see the fallout from that one act of disobedience? Every sin can trace it back to the source. It is the singular focus on ME, MYSELF and I.
The worst part, however, is that sin separates us from God, not just in this life, but for eternity. Unless there’s a way to fix it.
Fortunately, right after God kicked Adam and Eve from the garden, he began working on a Plan B.
Jesus is the source of true freedom. Although America is a land of political freedom, it’s home to many forms of oppression. According to estimates:
15 million struggle with alcohol abuse
23 million struggle with a drug addiction.
40 million regularly visit porn sites
Plus there’s gambling, gaming, prescription drugs, sex trafficking and many other types of physical, emotional, and psychological bondage. But Jesus delivers us from it all.
Jesus is the source of true freedom. He delivers you from an oppressive lifestyle
Jesus sat by a well one day and when a Samaritan woman came to draw water in the afternoon, he asked her for a drink. Other women from the city did this chore together in the cool of morning. But she came alone in the heat of the day. Why? Jesus points out the reason during their conversation. A lifestyle choice that made her a social outcast.
There is probably more to the story because you get the impression that she is trapped by circumstances. But Jesus gains her attention with an offer of hope. If she knew who he was she would ask him for “living water.”
And his offer extends to us today. When you recognize Jesus for who he is and ask, he will satisfy your thirst for freedom from oppressive circumstances.
Jesus is the source of true freedom. He delivers you from mental, emotional, and psychological oppression
A man who was mentally tormented by demons presented himself to Jesus. Mentally deranged and incredibly strong, he was a danger to others and inflicted harm on himself. So he was homeless and ignored by society, left to fend for himself, and made his home among the tombs where he cut himself with sharp stones.
Someone must have told him about Jesus. Because in a moment of mental clarity, driven by hope, he runs to and falls at the feet of Jesus in an act of desperation. Jesus casts out the demons and the man regains a sound mind.
This is not to suggest that the mental illness we know today is all caused by demons. Or reject modern treatment methods that calls for medication and counseling. But it is to claim that the authority and power of God reigns supreme. He knows your heart, mind, and soul. And He is the absolute source of physical, mental, and spiritual wholeness.
Jesus delivers you from the oppression of sin
One day Jesus taught a crowd of people in a home. So crowded that four men who brought their paralyzed friend for Jesus to heal, cut a hole in the roof and let the man down on a bed. Amazed by their faith, Jesus healed the man. But first, he forgave his sins.
The religious leaders present were appalled by his declaration. Only God could forgive sin! But Jesus assured them he was God and could both heal the sick and forgive their sin. Which he did then and does now.
However, we must first recognize we’re sinners who are ruled by sin. Because sometimes we convince ourselves we’re really not so bad. But sin holds us captive and separates us from God. And we are only set free when we seek God’s forgiveness. Which he does with joy and celebration.
Jesus is the source of true freedom. He delivers you from eternal death
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he demonstrated God’s ultimate power over death itself. And he did so again when he rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion.
But life is more than physical existence on earth. It is also spiritual and eternal. And you experience the abundance of it through Jesus. It’s more than a religion or philosophy of life. It is a relationship with Jesus Christ.
When Jesus said, “then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free,” he was talking about HIMSELF!
God’s path to greatness is described by Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And he uses children as an example.
Of course, modern society has its ideas about greatness too and assigns it a special acronym: G.O.A.T. (Greatest of all time)
It means ranking the highest score. Attaining the pinnacle of pursuit. Excelling above everyone else. But Jesus turned the idea upside down and compared it to children. Here are three things I think he means about God’s path to greatness.
God’s path to greatness is unassuming and unpretentious
Jesus overheard his disciples arguing about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. And their conversation was similar to modern ideas about greatness. Those at the top of the spiritual ladder. Who will be In charge in heaven. The best of the best. In a religious sense, that is.
But what drives this? Well, it probably starts as teenagers when we begin to wrestle with with self-image and comparison. How do I look? Do people like me? Am I popular? And this impacts our behavior and how much of our true selves we reveal.
Children, however, are unassuming and unpretentious. They accept what you tell them on face value and don’t hide behind superficial masks or seek recognition. What you see is what you get because they are unassuming and unpretentious. It’s a good example for all of us to follow.
Jesus is not saying to be foolishly naive. But to be honest and straightforward in all our relationships. To avoid comparing and competing and strive for authenticity.
God’s path to greatness gives others the benefit of the doubt
Children speak their minds without filters and express their thoughts and emotions openly. And since they speak honestly, they assume you do too and believe what you tell them. They also assume people have good intentions and look for the best in others.
Looking for the best in others is a trait you also see in Jesus. He regularly confronted people in their worst moments and yet he healed them, encouraged them with hope, and challenged them to behave better.
Jesus, like children, always gave people the benefit of the doubt. He saw their sin, but didn’t let it affect how he related to them. He saw clearly into their hearts, but chose to act towards them rather than react to them.
It is this aspiration that should drive those seeking greatness in God’s Kingdom.
Jesus taught that greatness means serving others
It was during his Last Supper with the disciples that Jesus presented one of the most counterintuitive teachings in scripture. It’s not natural even for children.
Why? Because despite all their innocence, they enter this world with a sin nature. Just like the rest of us. And one of the first words children learn when playing with other children is “mine.”
But Jesus clearly taught its importance for those who seek greatness according to God’s standard. It is putting the needs of others first and serving them. It is hard to do because it goes against our sinful, selfish nature. And often requires the very presence and power of God in our lives.
And still, we will regularly fail. But in Jesus’ willing, sacrificial death for our salvation, we have a perfect example to follow.
How Jesus describes righteous and unrighteous people is found in a parable in Luke 18:9-14. The story involves a Pharisee and tax collector who pray next to one another in the temple. Here are three differences between them that Jesus points out in the story.
But first, what does the Bible means by righteousness? And here is what it is NOT: A person who is morally superior to other people.
However, scripture does consistently describes righteous people as those who strive to follow God’s commands and the teachings of Jesus. In other words, they try to do the right thing according to scripture. But while righteous people strive to keep God’s law, they regularly fail. They know it, confess it, and then move forward to pursue it again.
How Jesus describes righteous and unrighteous people. A self-righteous person measures against other people. A righteous person measures against God’s standard
V.11 God I thank you that I am not like other men…
V.13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven…
The Pharisee in the parable already considers himself righteous. And why does he qualify? Because he compares himself to other people he considers morally inferior to him. And let’s give him some credit. On the outside, his religious life was probably exemplary. He did all the right religious things and avoided the moral misdeeds of those sinful people he compared himself to.
But he neglected an important aspect of sin. It goes beyond our physical actions and is often committed in our minds and heart. And when God measures our righteousness, he looks at the heart.
The tax collector understood that his real level of accountability was to God’s standard. He was so shamefully below that standard he couldn’t even look towards heaven. But he knew something else too. And that’s what drove his prayer.
A self-righteous person celebrates their virtue. A righteous person confesses their sin and celebrates God’s grace
V.12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get…
V.13 God be merciful to me, a sinner.
The Pharisee lists all his virtues and they actually are pretty impressive. Some of the things you and I do are pretty impressive too. And when we compile a list and compare it to the horrific deeds of bad people, we may look morally superior.
But here’s the problem. God doesn’t grade on a curve. His standard is absolute perfection. And absolutely no one–except for Jesus Christ–meets that standard.
That’s what Paul means in Romans 6:23 when he says the wages of sin is death. If you are counting on your good works to earn your way to heaven, you aren’t going to make it.
The tax collector knew this and he cried out to God for mercy. And we can too. Because the good news of the gospel is that we are not saved by our good works, but by the grace of God.
How Jesus describes righteous and unrighteous people. A self-righteous person demonstrates pride. A righteous person demonstrates humility
V.14 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
Nothing blinds us like pride. The Pharisee was oblivious to it. And as he itemized the good deeds that qualified him as righteous, he completely missed his sin. Or conveniently ignored it.
Sin is the white elephant in the room. We all recognize it. Acknowledge its often devasting consequences. But avoid even using the term. And instead we say things like, “nobody’s perfect” and “everybody makes mistakes.” But admit we often intentionally do things we know are wrong, and that deep in our hearts and minds are some pretty horrible thoughts? Well, we don’t want to go there.
But to be truly righteous, we have to. With honesty…vulnerability…and humility. Because God is not impressed with our virtuous actions, religious pedigrees or spiritual presentations. He’s looking directly into and surveying the condition of our hearts.
And when you willingly face your depravity and call on God’s mercy, He raises you up. It’s what he does in the story with the tax collector. And with you and me. So be real. Be broken. And healed by God’s grace.
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