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.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
God’s steadfast love endures forever. The goodness of God knows no limits. His steadfast love endures forever. His love and His mercy are endless. His steadfast love endures forever. The steadfast love of the Lord extends to the heavens. His steadfast love endures forever. His faithfulness to the clouds. His steadfast love endures forever. His righteousness is like the mighty mountains. His steadfast love endures forever (Ps. 136, 36:5-6).
Today’s Psalm (136) makes that abundantly clear. If you don’t get it the first time, that Gospel refrain repeats in each of the 26 verses. In more places than Ps. 136, Scripture makes it very plain that the steadfast love of God endures forever. Scripture says it, and it is true. However, how often do we forget it?
When we have troubles, we question God’s love for us. When we face difficulty, we begin to search for some specific sin that maybe we forgot about and left unconfessed. When we feel the weight of this world pressing down upon us, we begin to wonder if God is so loving after all. We look at our lives that are filled with all sorts of pain and varying degrees of death, and we begin to doubt God’s goodness, mercy, and love.
Now, God’s goodness and mercy toward us doesn’t mean that our lives are perfect. Too often, we buy into the lie that Christianity is about having our best life now. We think that once Jesus is in our lives, everything is going to be peaches and cream. Because we believe these lies, we put on an act that everything is good and life is hunky-dory. The worst is when we believe that our story as Christians is that we are good people who are getting better every day. But that is not what Christianity is about.
Christianity is about bad people being told they have failed to be good. Christianity says, “You are a sinner. You deserve pain. You deserve punishment. You deserve God to stand there and watch as you perish with all the other sinners in the ditch of death.” That’s the Law. But Christianity also says that Jesus takes your place, and the place of all sinners. Christ took your pain and punishment and death. Christianity says that God leaves Jesus in the ditch of death right alongside of you and all sinners.
Because of God’s enduring, eternal steadfast love, God doesn’t just reach down into your pain, into your suffering, into your doubt, and into your death. Instead, God takes your very nature. He becomes flesh and blood, just like you, and Jesus enters into the midst of suffering and death with you and with all sinners.
Neither you nor anybody else can know what God thinks about you based on your experience in the past, present, or future. The only place that reveals what God thinks about you is the cross. The cross, where Jesus interceded for you. The cross, where Jesus steps in to the mess you and I have made of this world. The cross, where Jesus not just takes the brunt of God’s wrath, but drinks the cup of God’s wrath against your down the the dregs (Is. 51:22, Jn. 18:11). That is where you see God’s love. God fully reveals His enduring, eternal steadfast love in Jesus who comes into the midst of your suffering, conflict, and pain.
Today’s text picks up right where we left off last week. Jesus had brought the disciples to a to a place of suffering – to a desolate, desert place (Mk. 6:31-32, 35). The disciples didn’t think that the five loaves and two fish would be enough to feed the crowd. They think that Jesus has to remove the crowd from that place of suffering and desolation in order to provide for them. But Jesus reveals that because He is there, even in the midst of pain and desolation, that He can provide for His people. Because Jesus is there in the midst of pain, the five loaves and two fish became a banquet that filled the stomachs of the 5,000 men plus women and children. Not only that, but there were twelve baskets full of leftovers. Yes, because Jesus was there in the midst of suffering, there was more food left over than there was for the original meal.
Now, the disciples are separated from Jesus, and notice who causes that separation. Jesus sends them off in the boat while He dismisses the crowds. Jesus is the one who sends the disciples off in the boat and, eventually, into the storm to struggle against the wind and the waves without Him. But notice the disciples aren’t scared of the storm. They have been in this place before. They think that this trouble and turmoil that they are in is something they can deal with on their own. They have dealt with this type of trouble before, and they will do it again. So they are not scared of the wind and the waves. What scares them is Jesus showing up. Right there, in the midst of their troubles, is Man who is God. And they are terrified.
Jesus came to them in their hardship. The text says that Jesus “intended to pass by them.” This is the same language that is used when God “passed before” Moses and revealed His glory (Ex. 33:18-34:9). Remember how God places Moses in the cleft of the rock and defined His name, “Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious. Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Well, here is Jesus was revealing His divine glory to the disciples. But seeing the divine in the midst of their troubles, knowing that God was present in the midst of their suffering, creates terror because their hearts were hardened and they did not understand the nature of Jesus even after the banquet earlier that day. Seeing Jesus’ reveal His divinity by walking on the water (see Job 9:8, Ps. 77:19, Is. 43:16) sends the disciples into a frenzied fear.
But Jesus doesn’t leave them in their fear. Instead, in His mercy, Jesus speaks to calm their terror, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. Here I am with you in your suffering. Here I am delivering you with My words. Here I am to be with you. I am still your God. I am still in control of the situation.”
Jesus is here for you now, and He is with you in the midst of all your suffering and pain. You do not ever suffer alone. You do not die alone. There is Jesus right beside you, bringing you, safely through pain and death. Scripture does not teach that Jesus saves you from all suffering and death. God has never promised to do that. Rather, Scripture teaches that Jesus pulls you through all your suffering and death safely to the other side. So in the midst of your suffering don’t underestimate the goodness of God. Always remember that God would rather destroy His own Son than destroy you.
Christ will pull you through the mess you have made of your life, through the pain of this sinful world, through the death that you rightly deserve. He pulls you through all of that to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.