Summary: Following an exciting day of ministry that included feeding the 5,000, the disciples had a long night ahead. This would be a night filled with fear and doubt, but one that would end in wonder and amazement of faith.
Strengthened through the Storm
Mark 6: 45-52
Our text follows another very busy day of ministry for Jesus and the disciples. He had just multiplied the bread and fish of a little boy’s lunch, and the disciples distributed the meal to several thousand people. The day is coming to an end, but there is yet another teaching moment in store for the disciples.
This is an account most Bible students know well, but it is often looked at from Matthew’s perspective. Mark doesn’t record Peter walking on the water, but his brief walk of faith took place during this journey. John also provides some interesting details of this encounter. Following the miraculous feeding of the multitude, the people were ready to take Jesus by force and make Him their newly anointed king. John 6:15 – When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. Jesus knowing His time had not yet come, and this would not fulfill redemption’s plan, departed from the multitude.
This passage deals with another storm in the lives of the disciples. While they didn’t enjoy them any more than we do, this particular storm would prove beneficial for them. Like the disciples, we must learn from our difficulties and draw closer to Jesus through them. I want to examine the facets of this encounter as we discuss: Strengthened through the Storm.
I. Their Submissive Obedience (45-46) – Here we discover not only the obedience of the disciples, but also the submission of Jesus to His Father. Consider:
A. The Directive (45) – And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people. Prior to Jesus sending the multitude away, He constrained the disciples to get into the boat and make their way across the Sea of Galilee once again to Bethsaida. It is interesting to note that this has the idea of “forcing them into the boat.” It is apparent that the disciples had no desire to leave Jesus, and yet He forced them to sail to the other side without Him. This was likely done for several reasons: He needed to send the multitude away; Jesus had planned to spend some quality time with the Father; and the disciples needed another teaching moment. I am convinced Jesus allowed and even purposed the disciples to encounter another storm in order to strengthen their faith.
We have discussed many times that storms are never enjoyable, but there is usually some benefit in them. The Lord does allow trials and storms to come into our lives to strengthen us and bring about spiritual maturity.
B. The Devotion (46) – And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. Having sent the disciples away on their journey and dispersing the crowd that followed them, Jesus departed into a mountain to pray. He needed this time of solitude with the Father. His life and ministry had been quite demanding and Jesus was committed to spending time in prayer. It is evident that He closely guarded that time and made provision to engage in prayer. (This serves as another reminder of our need for prayer. If Jesus saw the need to pray, literally making time in His busy schedule to do so, how much more should we desire and make time to pray?)
II. Their Persuasive Experience (47-50) – Here we come to the heart of the passage, another great learning experience for the disciples. Notice:
A. The Separation (47) – And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. Mark intentionally revealed that Jesus had not yet been reunited with the disciples. They were in the midst of the sea and Jesus remained alone on the land. The storm would arise during this time of separation.
This does not imply that Jesus will desert us when we are facing great adversity, but it does reveal that we too must learn to trust Him even when it appears we are all alone. Unlike the disciples, we have never seen Jesus face to face. We must walk by faith, trusting His unseen hand. We must remember what Jesus was doing during that time of separation – He was praying to the Father. No doubt He was interceding for them. We have comfort knowing our Lord also intercedes on our behalf. Heb.7:25 – Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
B. The Observation (48a) – And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them. Although they were separated physically from Jesus, they were never beyond His watchful eye. As Jesus spent time in prayer, He was aware of their struggles in the midst of the sea. This too had become a desperate situation. They were struggling to stay afloat, toiling in rowing against the wind and waves. These men were terrified by the storm they encountered.