HARDENED HEARTS AND MISPLACED PRIORITIES OBSCURE THE IMPACT OF GOD’S SAVING PRESENCE
Nothing is more frustrating to a teacher than to continue to present lessons that the students just don’t get. Karen, as you know, teaches some of the lower level math classes over at the community college.
There can be many reasons why students don’t get it
– Some associated with the teacher
o Doesn’t have a good grasp on the material himself
o Problems in communication – language barriers
o Problems with methodology – just doesn’t know how to teach
– Some associated with the student
o Doesn’t show up for class – just not present
o Poor listening skills
o Just slow – they will never get it – don’t have the mental capability
o No application – doesn’t do the homework
Why do Christians sit every week under sound biblical instruction … and yet you see no positive change in their lives?
We will spend the bulk of our time on the first section dealing with Jesus walking on the water
Important lessons of faith in this section
I. (:45-52) THE DISCIPLES DON’T GET IT – PROBLEM = HARDENED HEARTS –
LESSON OF FAITH: SINCE JESUS CARES FOR US WE SHOULD TAKE COURAGE RATHER THAN BE AFRAID
How can we tell that Jesus cares for us?? Mt. 14:22-33; John 6:15-21
A. (:45-46) Committing Himself to Prayer
1. (:45) Dismissing the Class from the Feeding of the 5000
a. Dismissing the Disciples
“And immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida,”
Jesus had to send the apostles away because of the growing plot to make him a political king
Compelled them to depart
This boat is seeing a lot of action
Hendriksen: John mentions the reason – or one of the reasons – why Jesus withdrew into the hill. That reason was the attempt by the people to take him by force and make him king (6:15).
Parunak: Even now, his ministry toward us is one of prayer: Rom. 8:27; Heb. 7:25; 1 John 2:1. No need to ask Mary or one of the saints to pray for us; the Son of God himself is our intercessor. . . Cf. Gen. 16:7-14, Hagar’s experience of the God who sees us. Beerlahairoi, “the well of the Living One who sees me.”
Hiebert: The existence of two Bethsaidas seems best to harmonize all the data.
Grassmick: The simplest solution seems to be that Bethsaida Julias (east of the Jordan) spread across to the western side of the Jordan and was called “Bethsaida in Galilee” a fishing suburb of Capernaum. The disciples sailed for this town from the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee but were blown off course southward, eventually landing at Gennesaret on the western shore.
b. Dismissing the Crowd
“while He Himself was sending the multitude away.”
No easy matter to dismiss a crowd of over 5,000 plus women and children – easier when they saw that the disciples had left – nothing more going to happen here
2. (:46) Devoting Himself to Prayer
“And after bidding them farewell, He departed to the mountain to pray.”
bidding the crowd farewell
Constable: This is the second of the three crises, all at night, that moved Jesus to pray, that Mark recorded (cf. 1:35; 14:32-36). Evidently the desire of the multitudes—to take Jesus by force to make Him king—drove Him to pray (Gr. proseuchomai, cf. John 6:15). This was another temptation to secure Israel’s leadership without the Cross. References to Jesus praying always show His humanity and His dependence on His Father. The mountain contrasts with the shore where Jesus left the disciples.
Priority of prayer for Jesus – even though he was weary with burdens of ministry
B. (:47-48) Coming to the Rescue
1. (:47) Jesus Can Seem Distant
“And when it was evening, the boat was in the midst of the sea, and He was alone on the land.”
Interesting emphasis – Jesus was the only one remaining by himself on the land – not stressing loneliness of disciples – they were all together in the boat
2. (:48) Jesus Can Manifest His Presence
“And seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.”
How could Jesus see them? It was dark; God sees all – or did He come to them and see them as He approached them??
Lord did not help them immediately – it was the fourth watch
Hiebert: “Distressed”, more literally, “tortured,” suggests the grievous physical pains and mental distress to which the twelve were subjected in their efforts to reach the western shore as directed. Efforts almost beyond their strength were demanded to keep the boat facing the wind and waves. . . It was hard work and they were making little headway.
Hiebert: As Jesus approached the boat, He deliberately changed His course so that He would come alongside the boat, following a parallel course with it. Obviously, His intention was that the disciples should recognize Him and ask Him to come into the boat with them. He seemed intent on testing their faith. Knowing His miraculous powers, would they have enough faith to recognize Him in this unique manner of coming to them?
Constable: The “fourth watch of the night”—by Roman reckoning, which Mark followed—would have been between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m. (The Jews divided the night into three watches.)
Parunak: if they set sail around 6 the previous evening, they have been rowing against the wind for nine hours, and going nowhere!
James Edwards: The latter part of v. 48 is not immediately clear, however. “He was about to pass by them” is baffling, suggesting that Jesus intended to walk past the disciples. In the OT, however this nondescript phrase is charged with special force, signaling a rare self-revelation of God. At Mt. Sinai the transcendent Lord “passed by” Moses (Exod 33:22; also 33:19 and 34:6) in order to reveal his name and compassion. Again, at Mt. Horeb the Lord revealed his presence to Elijah in “passing by” (1 Kgs 19:11). The most important antecedent of the idea, however, comes in Job 9:8, 11:
[God] alone stretches out the heavens
And treads on the waves of the sea.
When he passes me, I cannot see him;
When he goes by, I cannot perceive him.
This quotation bears linguistic as well as thematic similarities with v. 48, for “treads the waves of the sea” contains the same wording as Mark . . .
The Job quotation summarizes a passage that begins in 9:1ff. by recounting the awesome separation between God and humanity. God can do what humanity cannot do and can never conceive of doing. His wisdom is beyond compare, he moves mountains, shakes the earth, obscures the sun, arrays the heavens in splendor, and “treads on the waves of the sea.” This God cannot be conceived of in human categories, and any “natural” explanation of his acts is foolish and pointless. The God described by Job is wholly God, wholly Other, and can never be confused with human beings.
Borgman: OT language of theophany – Ex. 33 – an appearance of God; a demonstration of God; 1 Kings 19:11-12; God is going to appear to the disciples in the flesh;
C. (:49-52) Calming the Tempest – both Within and Without
1. (:49-50a) Crisis Panic
“But when they saw Him walking on the sea,
they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out;
for they all saw Him and were frightened.”
2. (:50b) Calming the Tempest Within
“But immediately He spoke with them and said to them,
‘Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.’”
Did not leave them in their panic for any length of time but immediately tried to alleviate their fears – the Word of God is what should calm our panic and serve as an anchor in times of distress
How do we react when someone counsels us “Just take courage … don’t be afraid”
Very difficult to apply – like the “Stop it” approach to counseling
At the heart of the 2 exhortations to take courage = the majestic statement of Deity – we have the privilege of the presence of the great I AM
Background of “I AM” declaration of Deity – Ex. 3:14 “Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them? God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
MacArthur: This name for God points to His self-existence and eternality; It denotes “I am the One who is/will be,” which is decidedly the best and most contextually suitable option from a number of theories about its meaning and etymological source. . . He’s the same God throughout the ages!
Bob Ramey: Analysis of ego eimi claims of Christ in Gospel of John:
1) “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35) – Lord’s Word of Regeneration
I am able to give you life initially and every day; Lord’s Supper given one year later for commemorative purposes only (don’t get confused here like Catholics do)
2) “I am the light of the world” (John 9:5) – Word of Revelation
He brings moral light into realm of moral darkness; healing of the blind provides a nice picture since Jesus connects the light-giving quality of His presence with morality; His opponents get the point: “Are you trying to say that we are blind also?”
3) “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7, 9) – Word of Refreshment and Access
Combine #3 and #4 – you go in for safety and sleep and go out for pasture and exercise
4) “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11-24) – Word of Responsibility
He stays with His sheep despite the danger; takes 100% responsibility for them
5) “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) – Word of Resurrection
– the resurrection is for the body
– the life is for the spirit
6) “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) – Word of Requirement and Exclusivity
Exclusivity of Jesus being the way, etc.; You need Me; a word of encouragement to the disciples
– I am the Truth Way – I am faithful to My Word; you won’t fail half way there
– I am the Life Way – provides abundant life and takes us to the right destination
by His power
7) “I am the True Vine” (John 15:1) – Word of Reality and Accomplishment
Other vines have been a disappointment
8) Used in absolute sense in 18:5 on the occasion of His arrest —
Reaction: they fell down before Him
3. (:51a) Calming the Tempest Without
“And He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped;”
Matthew = only gospel that included account of Peter walking on the water and the subsequent testimony of the disciples: “Truly you are the Son of God”
Another miracle recorded in John 15:21 – immediately they were at land
Borgman: Job 9:8 “God alone tramples down the waves of the sea”; Ps. 107:23ff – quiets the storm of the sea; controls both the winds and the waves;
4. (:51b-52) Calloused Hearts
“and they were greatly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.”
make dull or obtuse or blind, lit. ‘harden’ Mk 8:17; petrify as a rock; become calloused
Hiebert: They were in a state of being spiritually imperceptive. Their reaction was unworthy of those to whom it had been given to know “the mystery of the kingdom of God” (Mk 4:11).
Parunak: They did not consider the loaves. Had they done so, they would have realized he was amply able to care for them; even after they had eaten their part, the twelve baskets may have been with them even at that moment in the boat. How often in Scripture, the Lord’s past blessings to us are the motivation for us to trust him in the future.
Hendriksen: In Scripture the heart is the fulcrum of feeling and faith as well as the mainspring of words and actions (Matt. 12:34; 15:19, 22:37; John 14:1; Rom. 10:10; Eph. 1:18). It is the root of man’s intellectual, emotional, and volitional life, the core and center of man’s being, his inmost self. “Out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). “Man looks on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). When Mark says that the hearts of these disciples were “hardened,” this probably means that the obtuseness of the Twelve, their inability to draw the necessary conclusion from the miracles of Jesus, was the result of sinful neglect to ponder and meditate on these marvelous works and on the nature of the One who performed them. Amazement, so that in their exhilaration these disciples would even ascribe deity to their Master, as happened even at the present occasion (Matt. 14:33), did not prevent them from falling into a kind of spiritual torpor or sluggishness; that is, the failed to ask themselves what could be expected of such a divine Being. Again and again they needed to be aroused out of their spiritual drowsiness. On the other hand, this hardness of heart must not be confused with the callousness and imperviousness of the scribes and Pharisees. That attitude was the result of unbelief and hatred. The disciples, on the contrary (Judas excepted), were men of faith . . . little faith.
The fact that faith should be sufficiently wide awake to derive legitimate conclusions from firmly established premises is the lesson which Scripture teaches (Matt. 6:26-30 Luke 11:13; Rom. 8:31, 32), but which is not always taken to heart.
Parunak: Not the usual OT expression, as applied to Pharaoh in Exodus, or to the Pharisees in Mark 10:5. This one means “calloused.”
How can we guard against Hardened Hearts?
– Allow God’s Word to speak to us each day as fresh and new revelation
– Respond to God’s Word by being doers and not just hearers only
– Keep reviewing and feeding on examples of God’s faithfulness from our past experiences
II. (:53-56) THE PEOPLE DON’T GET IT – PROBLEM = MISPLACED PRIORITIES –
LESSON OF FAITH: SPIRITUAL HEALING IS INFINITELY MORE IMPORTANT THAN PHYSICAL HEALING
A. (:53-55) Recognizing Jesus Only as a Miracle Worker
1. (:53) Change in Location
“And when they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored to the shore.”
This is just the next morning after the feeding of the 5000
Grassmick: This summary statement marks the climax of Jesus’ Galilean ministry just before His departure for the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon.
2. (:54) Consistency of Reputation as a Miracle Worker
“And when they had come out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him,”
3. (:55) Crowd Gathering Around the Miracle Worker
“and ran about that whole country and began to carry about on their pallets those who were sick, to the place they heard He was.”
B. (:56) Requesting from Jesus Only Physical Healing
1. Rabbit’s Tail Mentality
“And wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and entreating Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak;”
Reminds us of the woman with the 12 year old blood issue problem who snuck up from behind just to touch the garment of Jesus
2. Remarkable Cures
“and as many as touched it were being cured.”
So different from healers today – who put the emphasis and the priority on the physical healing and are not effective
Constable: “Gennesaret” was the name of both a town and the plain on which the town stood. The region was the northwest coast of the lake. It was so prominent because of its agricultural richness that another name for the Sea of Galilee was the Sea of Gennesaret (Luke 5:1).322 It was an area of dense population.
What does it mean to you that God wants to reveal Himself to you today?
What does it mean to you that Jesus Christ is present with you as the great I AM?
What is causing you to fear or be anxious?
What type of situations cause you to panic and take your eyes off the Savior and sink in the surrounding storms of life?