08 May Mark 17: The glory of Jesus
45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. 53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Have you ever felt tired when you got off a plane? When I was in University, I used to travel a lot from Sydney to Dallas. And I often used Korean Air. There was no direct flight from Sydney to Dallas, so I had to transit in Incheon and layover for one night. Korean Air provided a free hotel for the night. It took about 11 hours from Sydney to Incheon and 13 hours from Incheon to Dallas. And without fail, every time I stepped out of the plane, I was very exhausted. Does anyone know what I am talking about? Isn’t interesting? All we do on a long flight is sit, eat, drink, watch, read, sleep, and repeat. But why are we tired at the end of it? Research tells us that the reason we are tired is not because of what we do in a plane but because of the sound of the plane’s engine. We might not realize it, but it is there in the background. They call it white noise. So, even though we think we do not hear it, our brain hears it and processes it in the background constantly. That’s why we are tired after a long flight.
Let’s bring it into our lives. Whether we realize it or not, there are many white noises in our lives that make us weary. For some, it’s the white noise of relationships. You wonder if you are ever going to be in a relationship or are you going to remain single forever. For some, it’s the white noise of family. You wonder if you are ever going to have kids, or you worry about your kids’ future. For some, it might be the white noise of bankruptcy, divorce, workplace, or sickness. Or maybe it’s the white noise of future uncertainty. It is something that has not happened, but it is constantly at the back of your mind. Whatever it is, these noises are playing in the background of your life, and you are weary because of it. You are straining hard. But it seems that for each step forward you take, the wind of life pushes you back 10 steps backward. And if that’s you, I have good news for you today. The one who is in control of the white noises in your life sees you and cares for you. He will not abandon you and he will come for you.
Tonight’s passage is about storms. Some of you are thinking, “Didn’t we just do a sermon on storms a few weeks ago? Do we need another sermon on storms?” Well, here is the thing. I don’t set the agenda. What is cool about preaching expository sermons is I don’t have to worry about what I should preach next. The text tells me what to preach. And apparently, God thinks that the disciples need another lesson on storms. Why? Because they have yet to learn their lesson. They have yet to learn to live by faith. And the same is true for us. Listen. Living by faith is not natural for us. Do you know what comes naturally to us? Living by sight. Doubt is natural for us. Anxiety is natural for us. Trusting self is natural for us. But living by faith is counterintuitive. And there is nothing like storms of life that can teach us to live by faith and not by sight. Because when we are in a storm, we are helpless. Think about it. With all the technological advancements of our day, we are still powerless to stop literal storms. There is nothing we can do to control the weather. We can’t stop rains to come and flooding NSW. There is only one person who can control storms and weather. And storms of life are designed for us to look to Jesus and witness his glory. Because the glory of Jesus overcomes every storm.
I am going to separate my sermon into four parts: The setting; The tension; The resolution; The outcome.
Mark 6:45-47 – 45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.
If you remember what happened before, Jesus miraculously fed thousands of people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. And when the crowd witnessed it, they were amazed. And John tells us that the crowd were ready to crown Jesus as their king. Here is why: people love free food. That might be true, but the main reason is they wanted to start a revolution against the Roman government. And in response to this situation, Jesus immediately makes his disciples get into a boat and leave for Bethsaida. And pay attention to the word “made.” In Greek, this is a strong forceful word. So, Jesus is not telling the disciples to go, but he forces the disciples to go. It tells us that the disciples are reluctant to leave. Why? Because the disciples have yet to understand why Jesus came into the world. The disciples are just like the crowd. They think that Jesus is the Messiah that will drive the Romans out of Israel. So, they are probably joining the crowd chanting, “King Jesus. King Jesus.” Peter is probably the conductor. And Jesus says to the disciples, “You guys have to go. Now. Quick. Leave.” He forces the disciples to go. Because Jesus did not come to be a military king. He came to be a king who die for his people. He came not to overthrow Rome but to reconcile people to God. So, the disciples get into the boat and make their way to Bethsaida, while Jesus stays behind and dismisses the crowd. This happens probably at around 7 or 8 PM. And once Jesus dismisses the crowd, Jesus goes up on the mountain to pray. Notice the setting of the story. What we have right now is the disciples are out on the sea, while Jesus is on the mountain, praying. They are at two different places. And while Jesus is praying, a strong wind hits the boat, and the disciples are struggling.
Don’t miss the important lesson of these verses. There are times that we face storms because of our disobedience. There are times that we face storms because of our foolishness. But there are times that we face storms because of our obedience. It is clear in this story that it is Jesus who sent the disciples into trouble. The disciples are happy where they are, but Jesus is the one who forced them to go. And their obedience to Jesus leads them to a storm. So, the disciples are exactly where Jesus wants them to be. They are in the will of God. And they are facing storms. And this is not something new in the New Testament. We can see throughout the Bible that obedience to God often leads to storms. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego obeyed God and they were thrown into the furnace of fire. Daniel obeyed God and he was thrown into the lions’ den. Job obeyed God and he lost everything. Do you see what happened? Obedience to God is uncomfortable. Obedience to God will often lead us into storms. But it will also lead us to joy. If Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not thrown into the fiery furnace, they would never see that there was another man in the fire standing next to them. If Daniel was never thrown into the lion’s den, he would never see the mighty hand that shut the lion’s mouth. If Job did not lose everything, he would not be able to say, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” Get this. Obedience to Jesus will often lead us into the pain of storms and the joy of intimacy. And maybe the reason some of us do not have the joy of intimacy with Jesus is because we refuse to obey him. There is no such thing as stormproof life for Christians. When we sign up to follow Jesus, we sign up for storms. Just because we are facing storms does not mean we are not in the will of God. Sometimes storms actually mean we are living in the will of God.
Mark 6:48-50a – 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified.
The focus now shifts to the disciples. The disciples are out in the sea, and they are struggling. They try their best to get to their destination, but the wind is against them. And it is now the fourth watch of the night, which is between 3 to 6 AM. It means that they have been rowing for about 8 to 10 hours. And they are hardly making progress. The wind is too strong for them. And I am sure at this moment the disciples are tired and exhausted trying to do what Jesus told them to do. And maybe that’s where you are right now in life. You follow Jesus. You obey Jesus. But you are tired and exhausted trying to do what he told you to do. It seems like you face storms after storms, nonstop, every day. And rather than getting closer to your destination, you are getting further and further away from the destination. And you wonder if God cares for you. You wonder if you are doing the right thing.
But here is the good news. Jesus sees. Mark writes that Jesus sees the disciples are making headway painfully. Now, I do not know how Jesus sees. Because Jesus is up on the mountain, while disciples are on the sea. Maybe Jesus has a superman vision or something. But the fact is, Jesus knows exactly where the disciples are and what they are going through. He sees where they started. He sees where they are now. And he sees where they are going. Let that be an encouragement to us. When we struggle to see Jesus, know that Jesus sees us. He is never absent. When we are in the middle of a storm, it might seem that Jesus is far. It might seem that Jesus is not paying attention. Maybe he is taking a nap or maybe he is busy with other people’s lives, but he does not seem to care about ours. But that’s not true. Even when it feels like Jesus is not paying attention, Jesus is intimately aware of every single thing that happens to us. He sees what we are going through.
But Jesus’ plan is not our plan and Jesus’ time is not our time. Jesus always has his eyes on us. He never abandons us. He has a plan for us. But hear me out. Jesus’ plan is always better than our plan. Whenever we go through storms, we always have a limited perspective. All we can see are storms. But Jesus sees beyond. He sees what is waiting for us beyond the storms. He sees with a perspective that is far wider and far truer than our perspective. Think again about the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This is one of the all-time favourite stories in the Old Testament. And we love this story because we know the end of the story. Their faithfulness to God leads to a greater revelation of God. We know it. But they did not know it. It is only when they got to the other side of the storm that they know what God was doing. The same is true about our storms. Our perspective on our storms is always partial. But there is another perspective, God’s perspective. And on this side of heaven, we will not have all the perspectives we want. But the good news is Jesus sees. Jesus not only sees us in our storms, but he also sees the other side of our storms. Remember this. When we struggle to see Jesus, know that Jesus sees us.
Here is another good news. Jesus not only sees, but Jesus also comes. In the fourth watch of the night, Jesus comes to the disciples. I love it. This is what separates Christianity from every other religion. Every other religion says, “Row harder. Strain harder. Work harder to save your life.” Christianity says, “Jesus comes.” And Jesus comes at the darkest part of the night when the disciples have exhausted all their energy and are in greatest despair. He intentionally waits till the situation becomes very desperate and all human options are gone so that they might learn the futility of their strength and depend on Jesus. So, Jesus comes to them, walking on the sea. And in Greek, walking on the sea literally means walking on the sea. I need to mention this because there are many scholars today who try to say that Jesus did not actually walk on water. I mean, have you ever tried to walk on water? When I was little, I loved to watch Chinese Kung-fu movies. And in those movies, if your Kung-fu skill reaches a certain level, you can walk on water. There are two main ways to do it. First, you make yourself as light as a feather with breathing techniques. Or second, you run as fast as you can so that you can bounce on water. So, what I did was I combined both. I made sure that I breathe properly. I made myself as light as a feather by sucking in my belly. Then I ran as fast as I could. And I successfully sank into the water the moment I stepped into the water. Why? Because no mortal man can walk on water. It is impossible. Only God can walk on water. And that’s the point. Jesus is walking on water. Jesus is doing something that only God can do. And he is not rushing. Jesus is not like, “Fiuh, I’m glad I get to the disciples before it is too late.” Oh no. The language here is Jesus is casually strolling. It is what you do when you are window shopping in a mall. Think about it. Storms over water are the most chaotic, destructive, uncontrollable force on earth. You can drop a nuclear bomb into a storm, and it does not bother it. But Jesus is strolling on water amid a storm.
And I love what Mark says next. Jesus meant to pass by them. Wait. Why? It sounds like Jesus is just going for a stroll on the water and maybe trying to sneak past the disciples. It’s like, “Hahaha I can walk on water. You guys are struggling. Enjoy the storm guys. I am going to sneak past you.” But then he gets caught by one of the disciples and he is like, “Oh fine. All right. I’ll come over and help you out.” But that is not what is happening. We need to know that the terms “pass by” are used many times in the Old Testament to describe the revealing of God’s glory. Let me give you one example. There was one time Moses struggled to lead the people of Israel. The people of Israel continued to sin against God and Moses was tired. He was exhausted. He wanted to give up. The assignment God gave him was too much for him. He was facing a storm because of his obedience to God. And he said to God, “God, show me your glory. I need to know that you are with me.” And listen to what God said to Moses.
Exodus 33:19-23 – 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” Three times the word pass by is used to describe the revealing of God’s glory. Moses saw God in a way he had never seen God before as God passed by before him. Do not miss the connection. What Jesus is doing is not trying to sneak past the disciples. What Jesus is doing is he wants to show the disciples the greater glory of himself than what they had seen before. Jesus wants to reveal more of his glory to the disciples. That he is not an ordinary man. That he is not a military king. But he is the God who took on flesh and came to save his people from sin.
And look at the response of the disciples. When the disciples see Jesus walking on the water, they are terrified. Imagine the scene with me. As they are straining hard against the wind, one of the disciples looks to the right and says, “Hey guys, I think I see someone on the water.” “You mean in the water? Learn your preposition.” “No, I mean on the water. And he is walking toward us in the storm.” So, they all look to the right and cry out, “It’s a ghost! Help!” Now, don’t make fun of the disciples too much. Because if we were in their situation, we would be terrified as well. What Jesus does is out of the ordinary. If the disciples see Jesus swimming toward them in the storm, they would be like, “Oh wow. I did not know Jesus is a great swimmer.” They would be surprised, but not terrified. But walking on the sea in a storm, terrified. They have seen many storms, but they have never seen anyone walk on the water. They have no category for it but a ghost.
Mark 6:50b-52 – But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
This is my favourite part of the story. On one level, what is happening here is very comforting and simple. When the disciples are terrified, he doesn’t say, “I can’t believe you guys just called me a ghost. After all these years, is that what you think of me? I am offended guys. It hurts my feeling. I think I need some alone time to get better.” He doesn’t. But Jesus comes to them amid their fear and anxiety and says, “It’s okay guys. It’s me. I am here. Don’t worry.” This is exactly how a parent would speak to a child who has a nightmare in the middle of the night. Parents, what do you do when your kids come to you with a scary dream? Do you give them a lesson that dream is not real? Do you give them a mini-sermon on why they should not be afraid? No, you don’t. If they come to your room and they are crying, “Daddy, mommy, I had a nightmare. I am scared.” A mother would grab their hand, and whisper in their ear, “It’s okay. Mommy is here. Daddy is here.” Or a father would say, “It’s okay. Mommy is over there. Go to mommy.” Right? You would hug them and reassure them of the most fundamental truth, “It’s okay. I am here with you. You don’t have to be afraid.” And some of us need to hear Jesus say that to us today. In the midst of all the anxiety, all the fear, we need to hear Jesus says the simplest and sometimes the most profound theological lessons, “Take heart. I am here. Do not be afraid.” We need to be reassured of Jesus’s perfect love that casts out all fear. So, listen. Whatever storms we face in our life right now, know that the love of Jesus casts out all fear. Jesus is with us in our storms, and he is all we need. So, on one level what Jesus is saying is incredibly simple. He is saying to the disciples, “I am here. It’s going to be okay.”
But there’s another level. There is another level at which Jesus is speaking and he is saying something incredibly profound. It is the phrase, “It is I.” In Greek, this is the phrase “Ego eimi.” And this is the exact translation of the words God used to describe himself when he revealed himself to Moses through the burning bush. Moses asked God, “What is your name? Who should I say sent me?” And God replied, “I AM WHO I AM.” This is where we got the name YHWH. And the meaning behind the name “I AM” is that God is self-existent. He does not need anyone or anything else besides himself. He is good on his own. And to be self-existent also mean that he is self-sufficient. He is the inexhaustible fountain that will never run dry. He will never go weary. It also means that he is eternal and unchangeable. There was not a time when he was not. There will not be a time when he ceases to be. Yesterday, today, and forever, God’s name is still “I AM.” He was God, he is God, and he forever will be God. Nothing can change him, and nothing can move him. This is “I AM WHO I AM.” And in Greek, it is translated as “Ego eimi.” Do you know what Jesus is doing when he says to the disciples, “It is I”? Jesus takes the sacred name of God and puts it on himself. So, Jesus not only walks where God alone can walk, but Jesus talks like God talks. In other words, in the midst of the storm, Jesus is revealing himself to the disciples as the one eternal, unchangeable God of the universe. And this is the reason why they can take heart. This is the reason why they don’t have to be afraid. Because “I AM WHO I AM” has come to them. And when Jesus gets into the boat, immediately the wind ceased. The presence of the glorious Jesus in the boat overcomes every storm. And the disciples are greatly surprised. Why? Pay attention to verse 52. This is crucial.
Mark 6:52 – 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Can you see what happened? The disciples should have known better. The disciples should have known who Jesus is. The feeding of the multitudes should have revealed to them who Jesus is. They should have known that Jesus is all they need. Jesus is God incarnate. Jesus is the sovereign God of the universe. Jesus is more than enough. But they do not understand. They miss it. Not because they are not perceiving enough. Not because they are not smart enough. But because their hearts are hardened. It tells us that we can be around Jesus and witness the miraculous works of Jesus and still have hardened hearts. Witnessing miracles does not guarantee anything. Being amazed at Jesus is not enough. Because we can be amazed by Jesus and not put our faith in Jesus. Because faith is the gift of God. Faith is not something we conjure on our own. And oftentimes God uses storms in life to open our eyes of faith to see him for who he is.
There is something about storms that reveals our insufficiency and Jesus’ sufficiency at the same time. The goal of storms in the life of Christians is not to destroy us but to reveal the greater glory of Jesus. Jesus wants to reveal who he is to us. Think about it. If Jesus’ goal is to stop the storm, Jesus does not have to walk on water. Jesus does not have to come to them. He just needs to say it from the top of the mountain and the wind will listen to his voice. But he does not do that. But rather, Jesus comes to the disciples, walks on water, and reveals his glory to the disciples. Why? Because Jesus is far more interested in the disciples seeing his glory rather than stopping the storm. What the disciples need first and foremost is not for the storm to stop but to know the glory of the one who is with them.
Do you see how patient Jesus is with the disciples? They keep missing the point, but Jesus does not give up on them. And this gives us hope as well. Because we are no better than the disciples. Every time we face storms in life, we freak out all over again and we question God constantly. We should have known better. We should have known from our previous storms that the God who did not abandon us then will not abandon us now. But oftentimes than not, we fail to remember the lesson. But Jesus is patient with us. We want the storm to end as soon as possible but Jesus wants us to see more of his glory through the storm. He uses our current storm to remind us that he is our greatest need in the storm. Our greatest need is not for our circumstances to be fixed. Our greatest need is the one who is sovereign over all our circumstances. We do not have to be afraid of storms when the one who is sovereign over storms is for us. No matter what kind of storms we are facing, and we will face in the future, heed the words of the one who is sovereign over all, “Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.” What we need in our storms is Jesus.
But here is a puzzle that we need to solve. In this passage, when Jesus reveals his glory, it is the reason for the disciples to take heart and not be afraid. But in the Old Testament, when God manifested his glory, people were terrified. Let’s go back to the burning bush example. One day, Moses was tending the flock in Horeb when suddenly God appeared to him in a form of a flame in a bush. The bush was burning but it was not burned. Moses was intrigued. And God called out of the bush, “Moses, Moses, take off your sandals because you are standing on a holy ground.” In other words, God was saying, “Be careful Moses. Take off your sandals. Get back. Don’t get too close. Because I am holy.” And the holiness of God overwhelmed Moses to the point that he was afraid to look at God. No one can experience the manifested presence of God and be cool about it. The holy presence of God always terrifies people. God’s holiness destroys sinners.
But here, Jesus is saying to the disciples, “I am the holy God. Don’t be afraid.” How come? Because God’s infinite glory and power are now for them and not against them. This is the key for us to not be afraid. We need to know that God’s infinite glory and power are working for us. But how do we know that God is working for us and not against us? What changed? Let me tell you what changed. Someone else has paid the price of God’s holiness. Someone else took on the consequences of belittling God’s holiness and died for it. This is what Jesus did at the cross. Jesus, the “I AM WHO I AM”, came into the world to save us from our sins. At the cross, the infinitely glorious “I AM” became sin and was punished for it so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. So, when we put our faith in Jesus, there is not a single speck of impurity in us. We are covered in Jesus’ perfection. And when God sees us, he sees us as holy, blameless, and pure. Jesus has absorbed every single drop of God’s wrath toward our sins. So, all that’s left for us are goodness and mercy. This is why we don’t have to be afraid. Because Jesus has come to fulfil what God has promised in Isaiah.
Listen to this. Isaiah 43:1-3 – But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. What a beautiful promise. And this promise belongs to everyone who puts their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. This is why we can take heart and not be afraid amid storms. Because the Lord our God is with us through waters, rivers, and fire. He will not fail us. For all who love God, we can have the confidence that our end is guaranteed: eternal glory. There is a lot that we do not know in the storms, but we know that Jesus will not fail to lead us through the storms into eternal glory.
Mark 6:53-56 – 53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Not long after Jesus gets into the boat, the boat reaches the other side. However, the storm has taken them to a different place. They were sailing to Bethsaida but they end up in Gennesaret. Listen. Storms often lead us to a different place from where we originally planned. But it does not mean that we are in the wrong place. God knows exactly where he is leading us. He does not make mistakes. And he often uses storms to direct us to where he wants us to be. Look at what happens in Gennesaret. As soon as Jesus and the disciples get out of the boat, people immediately recognised Jesus and begin to bring the sick people to Jesus. And once again we see Jesus’ compassion for the people. Jesus ministers to their needs. Jesus shows compassion to the suffering and the hurting in surrounding villages and cities. And all who touch Jesus in faith are made well. Do you see what happened? Jesus is not only for us in our storms, but Jesus is also for others in their storms. And today, there are many people around us who are struggling with storms and needs. And Jesus uses our storms to direct us into their lives. And the reason he does that is so that we can be Jesus’ hand and feet to them. Just as we see the glory of Jesus through our storms, he wants others to see his glory in their storms. And he is using us to share the gospel with them. So, let us show Jesus’ compassion to those who are hurting and in need.
Let me end with this. Some of you might be in a storm right now and you pray for a miracle. You want a miracle of healing, you want a miracle of provision, you want a miracle of breakthrough. And I believe God honours your prayer. Pray for a miracle. But don’t stop there. The ultimate question is, do you have Jesus in the boat with you? Have you put your faith in Jesus? Or are you simply amazed by Jesus? It’s not hard to be impressed by Jesus. But it is incredibly hard to put your trust in Jesus. Have you seen his infinite glory working for you at the cross? Because if you haven’t, then you miss the point of miracles. Jesus does not perform miracles for the sake of miracles. He performs miracles so that you may know that he is the one true eternal unchanging God and that you may put your faith in him and have eternal life. So, pray for a miracle. But ultimately, pray that you may see the glory of Jesus in your storms. Let’s pray.
- Give some examples of “white noise” in your life. Be specific when possible.
- Have you ever experienced storms because of your obedience to God? What happened?
- Why did Jesus mean to pass by the disciples? What does it say about Jesus in our storms?
- Read Mark 6:52. What is the main problem of the disciples? Can you relate to them?
- How can we not be afraid amid our storms?
- What can you do to be Jesus’s hand and feet to people around you who are experiencing storms right now?