MARK - CHAPTER 6:45-56 and Matthew 14: 27-33 - TRIAL OF FAITH
MARK – CHAPTER 6 – (Continued 6:45-56)
Peter and the Apostles - Trial of Faith
Tuesday Morning Bible Study January 24, 2023, the Year of Our Lord
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
After the miraculous feast to the crowd of five thousand and the Lord Jesus dealing with the lack of faith particularly in Philip and Andrew, Jesus allows a progression of trials of faith. God always has some wise-end in view in sending His people into a sea of trouble. In the case of the disciples, it is to discipline their faith, preparing them for sterner moral storms which are yet to try them in their calling. The night at Tiberias would imprint on their inmost souls’ truths and lessons which would never be effaced in all their future apostleship, and serve to brace their spirits for many an hour of perplexity and danger.
Mark 6:51b-52: …they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.
It is night on the Sea of Galilee, a night of tempest. If there be poetry in any part of the Gospel story, it is here. It forms an episode in the Life of Jesus Christ which itself was the grandest and most sublime of Epics. As the night-shadows were falling, the crowd who were about to come and take Him by force to make Him King (Jn. 6:15) were dismissed by Jesus before they could act. They might now be seen in straggling groups winding their way around the northern shore to their homes.
Mark 6:45-49: Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. When He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now, about the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. When they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He walked with them and said to them, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid."
Jesus gave no indication as to how or where He may rejoin them. If they set sail by 6:00 pm, the fourth watch of the night would be 3:00 am. After nine hours of rowing, they were only half way across the lake.
This is a visual of facing life in our own strength without the supernatural presence of the Lord. A few hours before the disciples had been passing out the miraculous bread and fish to the five thousand. But now within hours, they are in a storm and the Lord of the Feast is gone. The Shepherd has left, and the sheep are scattered like broken reeds on the waves of the sea.
Jesus had sent the multitude quietly and peacefully away; no storm burst on them; no danger threatened them; no fear disquieted them. Of all the thousands who had a few hours before listened to His voice, His own beloved disciples alone were called to contend with the tempest.
The Lord’s chosen ones are sometimes called to join their testimony with the band of ransomed voyagers now lining the heavenly shore, “We are those who have come out of great tribulation" (Rev. 7:14b).
The progression of these trials of faith and severity of the test increase as the spiritual life advances. The disciples are in the school of the Holy Spirit in preparation for those twelve thrones. Christian, we cannot make it through the tribulation in the world on our own strength and power. The disciples are getting a first-hand lesson of their inadequacy in their strength and power.
Just as a child is by degrees, step by step, taught to walk, so are these disciples tutored in the higher walk of faith. The previous storm had the same end in view (the testing and strengthening of this great principle), but there was on that occasion a gracious tempering of the wind by the Good Shepherd to His little flock.
This tempest is a severer test. On the former occasion, Jesus was like the mother seated by her infants’ cradle, now with the increase of spiritual and apostolic experience, Jesus subjects them to a further step of apostolic discipline.
1 Peter 4:12-13: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you, but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
1 Peter 1:7: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is praying upon the heights of one of these mountains that surrounded the north-east corner of the lake. The Redeemer of the world, in the silence of midnight is alone with his God doubtless praying for direction and wisdom not only for his own assignment, but for the disciples that their faith fails not.
As a pastor, when I cry out to the Lord for our little flock, I must remember to pray that our faith does not fail. Nor should we condemn those whose faith did fail their test. But even if I should fail to pray, we have a praying Savior interceding for us that our faith fails not.
Often those in a trial of faith say, “My Lord has forsaken me, and my God has forgotten me. But Zion’s God has already promised, “can a mother forget the baby of her breast, and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you" (Isa. 49:15).
Storms and tumults may be raging, God may seem to be hiding His face, and our nation and government is troubled. But behind these temporary clouds there sits a Savior of unchanging faithfulness, who, though some may have forgotten Him, has not forgotten us. Yes! Precious assurance! He who watched the disciples from Galilee’s Mountain, is now seated in Heaven interceding for us. He directs the wind of every storm that threatens our peace.
In their fear and lack of faith to know Jesus Christ as the Messiah, Son of God and Lord of Creation, when they saw him walking, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out for they saw him and were troubled.
Matthew 14:26…they cried out for fear.
He is so near the disciples that they can talk to Him, but their first thoughts are those of superstition that he is a ghost/devil. These superstitions are common among sailors and fishermen. They think they observe in the hazy darkness some unwelcome messenger from the spirit-world.
His dealing seem strange and I can’t say I always understood, but merely accepted that he passed them by. There is a strange delay in his intervention. He hears their cries. We remember how strange seemed the delay to the family of Bethany when he lingered in Gilead, instead of at once responding to their message.
In the end, it was all for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified. Again giving glorious proof that the Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him (Lam. 3:25).
He draws from us importune prayer.
1. Importune prayer is prayer made in faith, which is continual and persistent, with a goal of receiving what we desire. (Lk. 18:1-8; 18:35-42; 18:1-8).
2. Importune prayer has a shameless boldness. (Lk. 11:5-10).
3. Importune prayers is intense and increases in intensity.
4. Importune prayer does not give up when times are difficult or when the goal is not in view.
5. Importune prayer is energized by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.
Psalm 42: 7-8: I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and billows sweep over me. Through each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.
Psalm 42: 7-KJV: Deep calls unto deep at the noise of your waterspouts; all your waves and your billows are gone over me. Yet the LORD will command his loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.
Psalm 42: 7-8 T.P.T.: My deep need calls out to the deep kindness of your love. Your waterfall of weeping sent waves of sorrow over my soul, carrying me away, cascading over me like a thundering cataract. Yet all day long God’s promises of love pour over me. Through the night I sing his songs, for my prayer to God has become my life.
In the Gospel of Mark, Peter does not tell us the next part of this story. Peter dictated this Gospel to Mark in his last years while he was in the Roman prison. He had become a different man than the man in the story told by Matthew.
Matthew 14: 27-33: …Jesus spoke to them, saying, "be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid." Peter answered him and said, “Lord if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” When Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid and beginning to sink. He cried out, saying, “Lord save me!” Immediately Jesus Stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “truly You are the Son of God.”
Had no name been mentioned in this passage, we would at once recognize Peter as the apostle who went in impetuous haste, down from the vessel’s side, braved the stormy sea, walked upon it, sank in terror and rose again in faith!
Peter’s faults were the infirmities of a noble mind; and before he received his crown or I could say, "throne", he became a living testimony as to what the grace of God could do in modifying natural temperament. Peter, “speaking in his epistles,” is another man from the impetuous fisherman, on the shores of his native lake. Traditions represents him as having at his own request crucified with his head downwards in token of humility.
The Lord Jesus Christ knows the spiritual maturity of His disciples. He wants us to know our weakness and our strength.
Peter’s faith isn’t quite there. He says, "Lord if it is You?" Neither is faith or his motives will bear rigid scrutiny. How many times have we like Peter and Martha of Bethany asked “Lord if you had been here,” or “Lord if it be you”? Let us be still and know that He is God (Psa. 46:10). There is no room for “if” and “why” in His providential dealings.
Let us stay focused that the Lord has been dealing with the Apostles on their faith. First Phillip, then Andrew, the twelve and now Peter individually.
Let us never be so presumptuous to mistake forwardness, fool-hardihood---and a haughty-spirit with faith. All of these will inevitably be succeeded by a fall. There is a measure of faith in Peter’s faith and confidence in Christ’s ability and power. His conduct is commendable; but there was still pride, ambition, and rashness. There is a struggle for pre-eminence; a craving to win the highest praise from his Master. He would wish to make himself out the boldest and bravest of the apostle-crew. It is the saying and the failing of a future occasion put in another form and other words---“though all be offended, yet I shall not.”
There are many lessons in these few verses. Too many for me to cover in one short sermon.
Faith and fear may be found existing together in the minds of God’s children. Peter teaches us the cause of all the doubts and misgivings of god’s people is a lack of dependence on Christ. There is no situation in which Christ is not willing and able to help us. Christ calls Peter’s faith “a little faith.” Yet, as weak and faithless as he was, we are convicted when we think of the poverty and meagerness of our faith when compared even with that of the sinking disciple. Not many people when they hear the call will leave everything and follow Jesus.
We see in the same moment, courage, ardor, prayer, love devoted-ness, and yet the Savior reproves him and his silence tells that he felt the rebuke was no more than was due. Surely if Petr’s action could only be called a “little faith,” what must ours be in the church of the 21st century.
Peter judged himself and all the apostles in his narrative dictated to Mark. because their heart was hardened.
Mark. 6:51-52: Jesus went into the boat to them and the wind ceased. They were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.
We can close out Mark 6: 53-56 by saying that when Jesus came to the land of Gennesaret, he healed the sick wherever he was. Mark 6:56: Wherever He entered into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. As many as touched Him were made well.
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor Eastgate Ministries Church
Scripture from N.K.J.V. and T.P.T. as noted. I entered into the labors of Memories of Gennesaret by John MacDuff. Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of Brother MacDuff.