Summary: We all have to face opposition, 'winds blowing against us', but with faith in Jesus and the courage that only the Holy Spirit can give, we can endure and come through the challenges victorious.
Title: Take Courage! Text: Mark 6:45-52
The context is important here.
Immediately before this section of Mark 6 we have verses 30-44
which record the time when Jesus fed 5000 men with only 5 loaves and 2 fish.
The disciples had witnessed a great miracle,
so why were they terrified and amazed by Jesus’ ability to walk on water?
Why did the Gospel writer Mark, who was not there in the boat,
and who would have learned about this even from Simon Peter (Cephas);
why did he describe the disciples as having hard hearts?
Could it be because, as Jesus Himself put it in Matthew 26:41
so often ‘the spirit / our spirit’ is strong
but ‘the flesh’ / ‘our flesh’ is weak
and ‘religion’ is only for an hour or so per week,
and not relevant to ‘the real world’ we live and work in.
We have to remember that the disciples were ordinary people,
although they were chosen by an extraordinary man
to do extraordinary things.
What would OUR reaction be if we were in a boat, in the middle of a lake,
without a lifejacket,
and it was evening, so it would be getting dark,
and the wind was blowing against us.
We would probably be cold, tired and afraid.
Then, what would our reaction be if we saw what we thought was a ghost
walking on the surface of the water, and about to pass us by.
The Gospel says they cried out because they were terrified.
Probably we would cry out too, as the disciples did; but would we cry out
‘Oh my God!’ in despair; or ‘Oh my God, please help me’?
Whichever way the words were uttered, the point is
that Jesus responded or reacted IMMEDIATELY, in spite of their hard hearts,
telling them to ‘take courage’ and stop being afraid.
Nice words, good advice,
but until Jesus climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down,
as human beings, they would probably still fear drowning.
My dictionary describes ‘Courage’ as
‘the power or quality of dealing with or facing danger, fear or pain’
and lists the following words which have similar meanings:
‘bravery, boldness, bottle, daring, heroism, nerve, pluck’.
In face of the danger of drowning,
Jesus was not telling the disciples to be brave with natural heroism,
as displayed by those who are awarded the Victoria Cross, which comes from within,
or face death with boldness as Daniel was prepared to do in the lion’s den
and countless Christians showed before they were martyred.
Jesus was not asking them to look INSIDE themselves
for some good quality that would help them in a time of testing,
but to look OUTSIDE themselves
to a Source of strength greater than any human being could display.
Christian covenantal baptism gives the assurance that the sins of all
who are prepared to look OUTSIDE of themselves and trust in Christ
are washed away because of God’s New Covenant of grace.
No one is saved and assured of eternal sin just by baptism;
that would mean salvation just because of a ritual they were involved in passively.
Martin Luther sparked off the Protestant Reformation by reminding people
of the Biblical doctrine of Justification by Faith, not by rituals and works.
Coming through the water of baptism is an important step in our life journey
but salvation does not depend on a few drops of water alone
and baptism counts for nothing if there is no faith, no trust in Jesus as Saviour.
When someone dies and appears at the Judgement Seat
their sins will be counted as washed away when they were baptised
IF they have displayed faith and trust,
but no one can expect to enter Heaven if they admit they had no faith
but say ‘but I was baptised!’
If baptism alone saved, without faith,
we could just line up everyone in the country and spray them with a hosepipe
and then close the churches down for a generation
and repeat the ritual every ten years or so.
So in today’s Gospel story, Jesus was asking the disciples to look to Him,
have faith in Him, and rely on Him to save them, which He duly did,
and the message to us in times of need and difficulty
or when burdened by our sins, exactly the same;
that we are to live by faith and trust in Him.
As Paul put it in Ephesians 3:17:
everyone who wants their sins forgiven and the assurance of eternal life
must ask Christ to dwell in their hearts through faith,
and grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God.
So, if Jesus was asking the disciples to have faith, take courage from Him
and if He also asks us to have faith, the next question is: ‘What is Faith?’