How do you sum up a life changing experience? I can use adjectives: amazing, fantastic, etc, but how do I convey to you what was done in my heart? Unfortunately, I don't think I can truly do it justice. Instead, I would like to pass on a few lessons that I learned on my first trip to the Holy Land.
A Lesson Learned in the Holy Land:
You Don't Need to Worry When He Has a pillow
I was struck with this thought on our first full day in Israel. Jerry Wyatt, a missionary to Tanzania, was preaching from this very passage and he read the same Scripture that you see above and the Lord pointed something out to me that was obvious if I just read what the Bible says.
Of course we know that every word in this Book is there for a reason. I heard the missionary read this passage and that phrase: And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow, and it hit me. Jesus had a pillow.
As I looked deeper into the context of this passage with the memory of the Sea of Galilee in my mind's eye, that which I already knew to be true was bolstered. If we go through this whole account, piece by piece, I hope you will be helped by the same lessons that I learned.
Jesus was Drained
If we pay attention to the context of this passage we can see that Jesus had given this day His all. Look at what He had done in one day...
He cast a demon out of a man, Matthew 12:22 Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.
He dealt with opposition from his enemies, Matthew 12:23-24 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
Then we see His day continues, Matthew 13:1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
Our Lord then preaches for the rest of the day, Mark 4:1-2 And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. And he taught them many things by parables...
A story that interested me while I researched this account was told by a former British soldier that had visited the spot where it is believed that Jesus was teaching on this very day. The former soldier reveals that with a calm sea at his back as a sounding board, and the bowl shaped hills that his subordinates were sitting on, he could project his voice with ease to the dozens of men spread out over the hillside.
Even though Jesus may not have had to yell to teach the multitudes, it was still a tiring amount of time and effort that He put into this day. Jesus was drained. He was wiped out. I know Jesus was God, but He was also man. He had to be looking forward to going to sleep. Ready to call it quits.
What can we learn from this? We don't serve a lazy God. During our tour, we had the opportunity to stand on the Steps of Ascent that led right up to where the Temple would have been in Jesus' time. The very place where He said, wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
Remember that story? As a 12 year old boy, He had begun to recognize His responsibilities. And for about 20 years at this point in His life had faithfully been carrying them out. He was so tired. So drained because...
The Day was Almost Over
It was finally time to go home for Jesus and His disciples.
Have you ever just been done with a day? Not because you were frustrated but just because it was a looooong day? When we were driving from JFK towards Akron after getting back from Israel I was having one of those days.
From the time my wife and I left the hotel to go to the airport in Israel until we pulled into our driveway in Akron, 26 hours had passed. I can tell you from experience what it feels like to just want to go to sleep.
Jesus was looking forward to going to sleep after His long day. Even though it was a very long day...
Jesus Loved His Disciples
He loved these men! Understanding His love will come into play a little bit later in this lesson but just tuck away the fact that Jesus really, truly, and deeply cared about these men.
We know He loves everyone. And we know He loved His followers, those that listened to Him speak and teach. But He had a special place in His heart for these disciples.
He had given everyone else everything He had, but He still made a few moments count for personal time with His closest followers on Earth.
Has it ever occurred to you that He will always have time for those that want His time? Remember how He treated the little children that just wanted to sit in His lap? And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
On New Year's Day, the Sunday right before we were going to leave for Israel, I was on one of our church's buses, just like every week. This week though was going to be a bit odd. As we pulled up to a stop towards the middle of our route, one of our newer bus kids (age 7) ran out of his house and yelled, "Come inside, my Grandpa is not breathing or moving!". Sadly, Grandpa was not and long story short, the Saturday after we got back from Israel I was privileged to be able to officiate the memorial service for that man that had passed away sometime early in the morning on New Year's Day.
As I stood before the family and friends I was reminded of the 3 little children in that home on New Year's Day that had been left behind, and the fact that Jesus loves them. As the song says, Jesus loves the little children, and He loves you!
We notice that Jesus loved His disciples and...
He Gave the Direction
Jesus was the One that said, let's go over, knowing full well what would occur.
Do not get so caught up in your situation that you think that Christ does not know what is going on. He brought you to this place, He sure can take you out. Psalms 25:8-10 Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Friend, if we truly wrapped our minds around the fact that Jesus knows where you are because He lead you there, I think it would change the way we trust Him...
We need to...
Depend on Who He Is
Jesus is willing and able to accompany you anywhere, but He will not change Who He is for anyone. Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
There is lesson here about trying to change Christ to suit you, but I think there is an even greater promise here!
The same “as He was” God that stepped into that little boat is the same God that we have the joy to serve today!! What a joy to know that same Jesus!
Now we come to the scary part of this passage because...
The Situation was Dire
I want to draw your attention to the fact that the presence of God in that boat did not preclude the disciples from having problems. Just because you are on the Lord's side does not mean that God is going to keep every problem at bay.
You can see how calm the water was in the picture that my Dad took while we were there. From what I understand, the winds can whip up and the Sea of Galilee can become dangerous very quickly. That sounds like life does it not? Easy and calm in one second, and scary and daunting the very next.
Read the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5. Blessed are the poor in spirit... Blessed are they that mourn...
Don't buy into any false prosperity gospel that charlatans are selling. Serving God is a joy, it provides peace, it is always the best decision you can make, but God never guarantees a bed of roses at every stop along the way.
Even though the situation was bad, was dire, was life threatening...
These Disciples were Deft Fishermen
I am no expert on the water. My brothers and I were trying to remember which side of the boat on the Sea of Galilee was port, and which was starboard. If I was in a boat I would defer to the judgment of lifetime fishermen such as Bro. Christine or Pastor Grimaldi here at FBC Kenmore. Men that fish a lot. I am not going to trust my own ability on the water, but these men could.
The disciples of Jesus knew the water. They had spent their lives and made a livelihood on the exact waters they were crossing. The distance to the other side of the Sea was only about 6 miles, a short journey for lifetime fishermen.
These men knew every nook and cranny of this body of water and yet they knew the jig was up. It was all over. They knew it was out of their hands. The winds and waves were going to end their lives.
I wonder if it was their trust in their own ability that made them wait so long to wake Jesus. Why did they wait until the boat was full to get Him?
Maybe they were just trying to be considerate because...
Jesus was Dreaming
I can sleep through a storm outside of my house. I have been camping and slept through a storm outside of my tent. My tent even started leaking, dripped onto my sleeping bag, and still I slept.
As hard a sleeper as I am, I don't think I could sleep on a boat through a storm while the boat began to fill with water. But that was the kind of peace that Jesus had. Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
I do not know if Jesus was purposely sleeping and waiting until the disciples woke Him. I do not know if he was just that tired from a long day's work. I do not know if it was just a supernatural sense of peace that He had, but Jesus was sleeping with a boat full of water and then...
The Disciples Dared to Question Christ's Love
Have you ever looked up at God and asked, “Do you even love me anymore?”
What a dangerous place to be when we forget Hebrews 13:5b for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Can you imagine the thoughts that went across Jesus' mind that He left unsaid when they foolishly asked that question? If I were in Christ's place I would have screamed, "Do you have any idea what I am going to do for you on the cross?!". "Do you have any understanding of the fact that I came down from Glory for all of you?!".
Instead of reaming out His disciples...
Christ Demonstrated His Power
I often make the mistake of not reading the Bible for exactly what it says. He did not just say, peace, be still. He rebuked the wind and then calmed the waves.
There is a lesson in this as well. The waves were only a problem because of the wind. Waves can be pulled as tides by the moon but wind can greatly affect the water.
Some commentators attribute the bad weather that the disciples faced to Satan trying to kill Christ as He slept. We know that demons and angels can hold sway over the weather at times, Revelation 7:1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
Christ might have been putting a few demons in their place about trying to tread in His domain of Creation. I don't know if we can attribute the bad weather to a nefarious attack on Christ, but regardless, Christ said enough to change the entire evening when He rebuked the wind and said "Peace, be still".
His Disciples were in Disbelief
It is hilarious to me that they feared exceedingly. It is also convicting to realize how similar we can be to these scared disciples. It almost sounds like they were more scared of Him than they were the situation they were just in!
We have the God of all Creation on our side, and yet we still fear our circumstances. Then when God moves in a mighty way, we fear Him!
The disciples asked each other, What manner of man is this?! Of course we can answer that! He is the Creator! He is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God! He is our Shepherd. He is our Mediator! We know the answer, but so often we forget when we are in disbelief like the disciples were.
When was the last time that God so moved in your life that you exclaimed: What. A. God. Is. This!
There is an old song you may not know called, Master the Tempest is Raging. Part of the chorus says this...
Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
Friend, you don't need to worry when He has a pillow.