Storms of Life
“For the past 25 years, Jim Cantore, The Weather Channel's ‘Storm-tracker,’ has tracked, chased, run into, and then reported on some of the most extreme storms on the planet. A 2011 USA Today article on Cantore noted, ‘Whether he is leaning into the ferocious winds of a hurricane or shivering as a blast of polar air drops down from the Arctic, Cantore, 47, is often on the scene to help viewers appreciate how weather tests us.’
In the spring of 2011, Cantore provided coverage in the midst of the severe tornado outbreaks in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri. Both towns suffered extensive damage. ‘It was as unthinkable as you would think,’ Cantore says. ‘Houses were piled up into corners, and the streets looked more like movie sets.’
But according to Cantore, these kinds of storms pale in comparison to the personal storms of life that some people experience on a daily basis. In particular, Cantore thinks of his two children, both of whom were born with Fragile X syndrome, a genetic disorder that can lead to autism-like symptoms. Cantore says that his children have the real storms of life, or what he calls the ‘storms that hurt the most and never go away.’
Cantore says, ‘What my children have to deal with on a daily basis is by far more difficult than anything I will ever come in contact with.’”
Jonathan Lebowitz, "Jim Cantore Has Weathered 25 Years of Chasing Big Storms," USA Today (8-10-11); submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky.
Rowing up the Susquehanna River
Each year, for several years in a row, my three boys and I would go with Rick Runyan and his two boys for an adventure on the Susquehanna River
We would pack our camping and fishing supplies along with some canoes and kayaks and make our way upstream to one of the islands, north of City Island, that had a camp site on it
We would spend at least one night on the island, sometimes more
Our boys enjoyed hacking out paths through the thick underbrush on the island and usually at least one or more of them would wind up with poison ivy
We would cookout over an open fire and fish and kayak around the island
One of the years we went, there was a storm brewing when we set out from the boat ramp
Levi and I were in one of the canoes that was loaded down with equipment and supplies
We were paddling upstream, against the current with a strong wind blowing in our faces
It was all I could do to make headway upstream
What made it more difficult was the storm wind kept turning the front of the canoe around
Everyone else had made it to the island and Rick saw that we were struggling, so he kayaked back down stream to help
What we finally did was tie off the kayak to the back of the canoe and Rick and I hopped in the water and pulled the canoe the rest of the way to the island
Rick was our “savior!”
I was exhausted, wet, and frustrated by the time we got to the island, but a good night’s sleep helped a lot
Storms in nature
How many of you have been in a hurricane?
How many have been close enough to see a tornado?
How about a Sharknado? (that’s for our younger crowd)
Storms of life
These can come in many forms too
Health issues (high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, cancer, eye problems, back problems, mental health, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, cutting, etc.)
Death of a loved one
Relational struggles (work, neighbors, family, church)
School (you may be struggling with learning)
When we go through these difficult times it can seem pretty dark and we wonder if God or Jesus is there
The disciples went through a dark and lonely time. They were expecting Jesus to be there, but a storm came up on the Sea of Galilee. They were never out of Jesus’ sight even when they couldn’t see Him. He was there with them, but they had to invite Him into their storm. John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – Peace comes when we invite Jesus into the storms of our lives.
GOD (John 6:16-21)
Going Back (vv. 16-17a)
John makes it sound like Jesus went up on the mountain by Himself to avoid the crowd, who was trying to force Him to be their King
The disciples just made their way down to the lake (it almost sounds like they casually strolled down to the lake)
Matthew and Mark’s account
Their accounts make it sound like there is some urgency
The same Greek word is used in both accounts for “made”
Jesus is compelling them, driving them, persuading them, entreating them to get into the boat and cross to the other side of the sea
Matthew 14:22, Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.
Mark 6:45, Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.
The urgency comes in the fact that Jesus knew the intentions of the crowd – they wanted to make Him king by force
He was protecting His disciples from the attempt, by the crowd, to define His role here on earth
Once Jesus has taken care of the disciples, He turns to the crowd and dismisses them, before going up on the mountain to pray
Going back to Capernaum
John tells us that the disciples went down to the lake, got in a boat, and started to cross the lake on their way to Capernaum
It is probable that Capernaum was the mission center for Jesus in Galilee
Perhaps He and the disciples had just come from there when they crossed over to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 6:1)
Capernaum was on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee
The disciples would have been rowing across the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee
The disciples are by themselves on the sea, while Jesus is on the mountainside praying and spending some time by Himself
Dark and Stormy (vv. 17b-18)
The disciples are on the sea and it’s dark
Perhaps they weren’t too concerned, because some of them were seasoned fishermen and had spent time on the water in the dark
The fact that Jesus had not yet joined them is more for the reader of the story than for the disciples who are part of the story
John knew the end of the story and gives us a note about the fact that Jesus had not yet come to them
“‘Not yet’ implies that he will come. This has to be the reader’s expectation, not that of the disciples. The writer assumes that his readers know (more or less) what will happen, just as earlier when he told them that Jesus knew what he was going to do (v. 6). Their impression is that Jesus will come. The only question is when.” [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 355]
The disciples can’t see what’s going to happen, because it’s dark
“Maybe, like the disciples, you’re at a point in your life where it’s dark and you don’t sense the presence of the Lord at all.” [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, New Testament, 483]
Perhaps you’re facing bankruptcy and you don’t sense the presence of the Lord in that dark time
Maybe you’ve just been diagnosed with some medical condition that has you feeling like it is a dark time in your life and you’re wondering if Jesus is real and if He is with you
Some of you may be dealing with a marriage relationship that is anything but loving, caring, and nurturing and you find yourself afraid, scared, frustrated, angry, and depressed (it’s a dark time in your life – where is Jesus?)
Anxiety and depression can overtake us when school assignments start piling up, when our children are sick, when relationships are strained, and for many other reasons (the darkness starts to envelope us and we struggle to understand where Jesus is in all of this)
As a church, we can look at the payroll tax debt, tight finances, and decline in attendance and allow it to take us to a dark place (we can feel like Jesus isn’t here)
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have the hope that Jesus is always with us
Hebrews 13:5-6, Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Psalm 23:4, Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Did you hear those promises from God, today?
God will never leave us or turn His back on us
He is aware of the dark things you are going through and is right there with you
He is there to comfort you
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim the promise that God is always with me, even during the dark times of my life.
You can take comfort in the fact that Jesus is coming to help with your situation, even though you may not sense His presence yet
The disciples are in the dark, and on top of that, a storm has come up on the sea
Storms or rough waters were not uncommon on the Sea of Galilee
They still experience these rough waters today, which require the modern powerboats to remain docked [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 204]
“The Sea of Galilee lies about six hundred feet below sea level. Cool air from the south-eastern tablelands can rush in to displace the warm moist air over the lake, churning up the water in a violent squall.” [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 275]
Jesus knew that the disciples were going to have to face rough waters
He compelled them to get into the boat and start out across the Sea of Galilee
They had experienced some pretty incredible miracles in the days leading up to this boat ride, and perhaps Jesus was helping them to not lose focus and faith in Him
When incredible things are happening, we can begin to rely in our own strength instead of focusing on Jesus
The dark times of our lives and the storms that come up should cause us to seek the face of God more earnestly and not to turn away from Him
“Jesus is not only the Savior in the storm but also the sender of the storm. And, just as He did with His disciples, He will send you into a storm knowingly and lovingly if He sees you’re about to get pulled into the mentality of the crowd.” [Courson, 483]
Remember, the crowd wanted to force Jesus to be their king – they wanted to define Jesus’ role on earth
We can look at the difficult situations in our lives as storms
Jesus may be knowingly and lovingly sending you into a storm to protect you from being pulled into the mentality of the crowd – one that is not healthy or biblical
He may be knowingly and lovingly sending you into a storm so your faith in Him will be strengthened and you will not become proud
My Next Step Today Is To: Thank the Lord for the storms of life He has knowingly and lovingly sent me into, so I will depend on Him and watch my faith grow.
What we see next is that the disciples were never out of Jesus’ view and He was with them
Jesus is Here (vv. 19-21)
The disciples location
The distance across the Sea of Galilee, at the northern part would have been around 5 miles
They had rowed about 3 to 3.5 miles by the time the wind began to blow and the waves became rough
They were more than half way across the Sea of Galilee when the storm came up
The disciples had been rowing since evening, probably before dark
Mark tells us that by evening they were already in the middle of the lake (Mark 6:47)
Matthew says they were a considerable distance from land (Matthew 14:24)
In both Matthew and Mark, “evening” means between 6:00 pm to the beginning of night
During Roman rule there were four watches of the night
Evening (6:00 to 9:00 pm)
Midnight (9:00 pm to 12:00 am)
Cock-crowing (12:00 am to 3:00 am)
Morning (3:00 am to 6:00 am)
So, the disciples perhaps started out at 6:00 pm and had rowed 3 to 3.5 miles by sometime between 9:00 pm and 12:00 am
The disciples were making good time until the wind started blowing and the waters got rough
That’s when their progress basically came to a complete halt
Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus came to them about the fourth watch of the night, which is between 3-6 am, meaning that they were not gaining ground for about three hours
Jesus is aware of the struggle they are having to row against the rough waters
Jesus walks on the water
The disciples were never out of Jesus’ sight
Mark 6:47-48, When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake.
I love this imagery here, Jesus saw the disciples
PRINCIPLE #1 – Jesus sees us in our storms of life.
If you are struggling financially (Jesus sees you)
In the middle of the negative medical diagnosis (Jesus sees you)
When you are struggling in your relationship with your spouse, family member, neighbor, coworker, boss, or fellow believer (Jesus sees you)
During the darkest times, when anxiety and depression are overtaking you (Jesus sees you)
Even when financial and relational difficulties surface in the church (Jesus sees us)
You and I can claim the promise today that Jesus sees us in our storms of life
Jesus didn’t just see them, though, He reacted
Jesus leaves the solid ground of the land and begins to walk to the disciple’s boat, on the water
PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus is all-powerful (omnipotent)
The waves are rough, but that’s nothing for Jesus
He is able to walk on the water as if it solid ground
He has the power, through God, to override the physics associated with water
Individuals have tried to discount this miracle
Most of them believe that the disciples were rowing close to the shore line and Jesus was just walking along the shore line where they could see Him
“Did Jesus really walk on water? Or maybe he just surfed on a patch of ice. That's the conclusion of a 2006 scientific article published in everyone's favorite bedtime reading item—The Journal of Paleolimnology. The article was titled ‘Is There a Paleolimnological Explanation for 'Walking on Water' in the Sea of Galilee?’ Dr. Doron Nof, an expert in oceanography and limnology (the study of lakes), and his co-authors speculate that an odd combination of atmospheric conditions may cause rare patches of floating ice on the Sea of Galilee. According to their calculations, the chances of this floating ice phenomenon happening are less than once every thousand years. But those odds didn't deter them from questioning whether Jesus walked on water after all. Perhaps Jesus just surfed a patch of floating ice.
To be honest, I'm not sure which one would be more amazing. Surfing a piece of floating ice across the Sea of Galilee would take miraculous balance. And if those patches of ice appear only once every thousand years, it would take miraculous timing too. I'd love to see a high-definition, slow motion instant replay of either one—Jesus walking on water or surfing on ice. But Dr. Nof's theory may reveal more about the human psyche than the circumstances behind Jesus' miracle. We have a natural tendency to explain away what we cannot explain. And that's why most of us miss the miracle.”
Adapted from Mark Batterson, The Grave Robber (Baker Books, 2014), pp 174-175
Jesus wasn’t walking along the shoreline and He wasn’t surfing on a patch of ice, He was miraculously walking on the water, because He is all-powerful!
The disciple’s reaction is fear
John tells us that the disciples were terrified
Matthew and Mark tell us that the disciples thought Jesus was a ghost, which made them terrified (Matthew 14:26; Mark 6:49)
They hadn’t seen anyone walking on the water before
There must have been a belief that ghosts floated above the ground, which would have made sense to them to see a figure “walking” on the water – a ghost!
They weren’t afraid of the rough waters, because many of them were fisherman and were accustomed to being on the water during a storm
Jesus identifies Himself to the disciples and encourages them not to be afraid
They were probably afraid, because it was dark and they did not, at first, recognize the figure coming across the water
We sometimes respond the same way to the miraculous
We’re afraid when dark times come our way
There is fear in experiencing the supernatural
There is fear in the unknown
There is fear in what cannot be explained through natural and human thought and experience
Jesus is saying the same thing to us today – “don’t be afraid. I am here!”
PRINCIPLE #3 – Jesus’ timing is perfect.
“In the midst of your own struggling and toiling, Jesus knows the perfect time to come to you and whisper in your ear, ‘It is I. Be not afraid.’ But it won’t be a minute too early, and it won’t be a moment too late.” [Courson, 483]
That truth is something you and I can hold on to while we’re going through the storms of life
Jesus is with us and will help at just the right time
We don’t have to be afraid
The disciples did something pretty important that would bring peace to their storm
When they knew that the figure walking on the water was Jesus, they willingly took Him into the boat
Notice that Jesus didn’t force His way onto the boat
He didn’t force His way into their storm
It wasn’t just enough for the disciples to see and recognize Jesus, they had to invite Him into the boat [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 121]
They had to invite Jesus into the difficult situation they were experiencing
The same is true for you and me
It’s not enough for us to know and recognize Jesus
We have to invite Him into the storms of our lives
Perhaps you’re experiencing a storm in your life, right now (financial, relational, health, mental, school, etc.)
Have you invited Jesus into your “boat,” into your “storm?”
Perhaps that is the step you need to take today
My Next Step Today Is To: Invite Jesus to come into the storm in my life.
Peace comes when we invite Jesus into the storms of our lives.
John tells us that as soon as Jesus stepped into the boat it immediately reached its destination
“One can scarcely imagine, indeed, that after an act of power so magnificent and so kingly as Jesus walking on the waters he should have seated himself in the boat and the voyage have been laboriously continued by the stroke of the oar. At the moment Jesus set foot on the boat he communicated to it the force victorious over gravity and space, which had just been so strikingly displayed in his own person.” [Godet cited by Milne, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of John, 108-109]
Matthew and Mark tell us that as soon as Jesus stepped into the boat the wind died down (Matthew 14:32; Mark 6:51) – there was peace on the sea
Claim the promise that God is always with you, even during the dark times of your life.
Thank the Lord for the storms of life He has knowingly and lovingly sent you into, so you will depend on Him and watch your faith grow.
Invite Jesus to come into the storm in your life.
We can do the same things as a body of believers
We need to claim the promise that God is always with us, even during the dark times in our community
We need to thank the Lord for allowing us to go through the storms of life, so our faith and dependence on Him can grow
We need to invite Jesus to come into the current storm of financial and relational difficulties
“Mark Twain was accompanied by his wife on one of his visits to the Holy Land. They were staying in Tiberius on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It was a moonlit night, and the weather was perfect, which gave Twain the romantic idea of taking his wife for a boat ride on the lake.
They walked down to the pier, and Twain inquired of a man sitting in a rowboat how much he would charge to row them out on the water. Twain was dressed in his usual white suit, white shoes, and white Texas hat. The oarsman, presuming him to be a wealthy rancher from the USA, said, ‘Well, I guess about twenty-five dollars.’ Mark Twain thanked him, and, as he turned away with his wife on his arm, he was heard to exclaim, ‘Now I know why Jesus walked!’”
Ward Williams, "Walking on Water," SermonNotes.com.