Man’s Helplessness Meets Jesus Faithfulness

by James H. Tippins on April 2, 2014

Picture of a Leon Kortenkamp's brushed plate monotype of John 6 Leon Kortenkamp’s Brushed Plate Monotype www.dspt.edu

Looking into the pages of John’s gospel brings the fullness of God’s glory to life as Jesus and all His majesty is perfectly seen.  In John chapter six, Jesus performs His fifth miracle after feeding the multitude by meeting the disciples on the Sea of Galilee during a wind storm in the middle of the night.  Though this short little interlude between the miracle of the feeding and the Bread of Life discourse seems as a segway to these events, the event itself is a bold and powerful teaching moment, for not only the disciples, but for the church today.

Jesus had just finished feeding a multitude, and teaching the disciples that He, the Son of God, can do everything with nothing.  He even prepares them by asking the absurd question about where to buy bread,  Andrew, God bless him, settles to prove to Jesus that even what they could come up with is really nothing.  So Jesus in His compassion for the needs of the multitude, feeds them and has the disciples pick up twelve baskets of food, one for each of them, for their own provision.  After this, the crowd desires to make Jesus their king by force, so He vanishes and goes to the mountain to pray, leaving the disciples to answer questions and deal with the crowd.  As they make their way through the crowd with their baskets of bread, they get into the boat while the crowd watches, and they head out for the six-hour row to Capernum.

Now get this picture: The disciples were just taught that Jesus can do the impossible, and provide in abundance for every need.  They had already witnessed a great storm at sea as Jesus slept, then awaking, He calmed the sea and storm.  So the power of God in Christ has been evident to them.  The careful thing to notice here in John 6 is that as these men are rowing away from the crowds they have with them the present memory of the provision of God; the baskets of bread.  They have with them the memory and teaching of Jesus practices and provision through three years of ministry and yet, they find themselves in a windstorm, making it difficult to row.  Several hours into the rowing they see Jesus on the water and the scripture teaches that “they were afraid.”  They were afraid because they were attempting to go “home” to Capernum and the reality of the wind took their faith away.  They were desperately depending upon their own power for survival and even as they were readily reminded, they forgot the provision of Christ.

Not only had they forgotten the provision of Christ, but they forgot the presence of Christ.  They did not expect to see Him on the sea and thought He was a spirit and were filled with fear.  They feared because the idea of seeing Jesus was the furthest from their minds.  But Jesus had not forgotten them.  If He had provided bread for them to eat, why would He not provide safety for their travels home?  Jesus watched them, He is God and they had forgotten.  Jesus never left them, though they could not see Him, He was there.  He appeared to them and then He spoke to them, “It is I, do not fear.”  These creative words produced a confidence in the heart of the disciples.  It took their self-provision and fear and cast it into the sea of the Lord.  They were relieved and they were “glad to take Him into the boat.”  Jesus had proven His presence as well as His provision when they were faithless and unable to see.

One of the final aspects of this lesson is that Jesus was teaching them more than just material provision and physical presence, but He was teaching them of His divine power.  Scripture says that when Jesus stepped into the boat, that it was immediately upon the land to which they were going.  This means that with nearly three hours left of rowing, Jesus completed the task.  Not only were the disciples fighting a losing battle against the wind, but they were fighting a losing battle against their faith.  The flesh held them in unbelief, it held them in despair and it held them seeing only the physical world around them while ignoring the power that had so readily been shown and revealed and taught for several years.  It is this moment when God steps in, it is the moment when man realizes that there is no hope, no way, no rest, no assurance at all and then God appears.  God appears and provides and assures and assumes the lead when if man had continued, he would have died and failed.

God doesn’t help those that help themselves, He helps those that are helpless.  For if a man can, then God won’t and doesn’t need to.  Jesus allowed the struggle because it is promised.  And even in the tempest of the sea and the darkness of life Christ was there.  As the scripture teaches that Jesus went away to pray and it was dark, it shows us a time but more importantly it reminds of the truth of a Christless life; darkness.  But the goodness of God appears, giving salvation at the right hour and the light has come into the world and the darkness will not overcome the light!  The light of Christ is the salvation of God who saves the helpless and takes them home.  The suffering in this life is going to happen and our battles are going to be fought one after the other, but when Jesus steps in, even though the sea still rages against us, the light has come and we are taken immediately into the place of justice, the Love of God in Christ!

So as we fight the good fight of faith we are going to suffer, it’s promised.  And as we suffer, even then we remember that Jesus suffered to point of death and most importantly to suffer the fullness of the wrath of God the Father for the sins of all who believe.  So, when Jesus takes us home, He prepares the way that goes through suffering, but the hope is not in the journey of peace, but the Prince of Peace who gives life!  Jesus overcomes the faithlessness of man because He remains faithful and cannot deny Himself.

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James

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