Wednesday, December 2, 2015

THE GHOST IN THE STORM


Obedience to God is right and favored/blessed, but obedience is also resisted by the enemy of our souls, the world, and sometimes ourselves. In Mark 6:45-56 and John 6:16-24 there is an account recorded of the disciples obeying Christ but meeting resistance. The resistance came from "the ruler of the kingdom of the air" (Eph. 2:2) and communal fear. In Other Words...a wicked storm and fear of a Ghost In The Storm.

Pulling from both accounts but leaning on the Mark 6 version, we observe first that "Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to Bethsaida,..." I believe we can safely deduce that it was at this point, right after the Feeding of the Five Thousand, a command was given in which obedience followed.

  • Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. (Mark 6:45)
After dismissing the crowd Jesus found one of His favorite solitary places - a mountainside - to do one of His favorite solitary things - pray. From following the rest of the story to the end and observing John's account, I believe Christ prayed for the disciples, for the sick that He would heal on the other side of the lake and for direction from Father God.
  • After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. (v.46)
John 6:16-17 has all this beginning as the evening hours were upon them.

  • When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum.
Capernaum and Bethsaida were two towns north of the Sea of Galilee that were close to each other.

Mark 6:47 records our first passage of time and where the disciples were located and where Jesus was located. 
  • Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land.  (Mark 6:47)
The passage of time is indicated by the phrase - "Later that night,". The location of the disciples is indicated by "the boat was in the middle of the lake,". And Jesus was located on that solitary mountainside with the phrase indicating - "and He was alone on land." John 6:19 actually pens an approximate mileage into the lake - When they had rowed about three or four miles,

Because it is nighttime and Jesus is about 3.5 miles away on a mountainside from His disciples, I've got to believe Jesus used some supernatural eyesight to view the disciples struggle with the storm. The next verse in Mark describes Jesus witnessing the disciples struggle.
  • He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. (Mark 6:48) 
Next, notice there is another passage of time while the disciples continued to battle the elements. The second part of Mark 6:48 says, 
  • Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. 
So, between the time Jesus saw His disciples and when He decided to head out toward them before dawn - there is time that elapses, there is time to struggle, there is time to mature, there is time to experience The Ghost in the Storm.

The last part of Mark 6:48 I do not hear mentioned often - He was about to pass by them,. If Christ had traveled on to their destination, I feel positive the disciples would have survived and been amazed that Jesus made it to their destination before they did. As it turned out they were amazed at Him within the storm.

People don't walk on water. It is no wonder then that the disciples were gripped with terror as they saw what looked like a ghost walking on the wind-battered waves of the storm. How would you react? Now the disciples have to battle the waves, wind and a weird apparition.

  • but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. (Mark 6:49-50)
It is no surprise Jesus encouraged them, identified Himself, then comforted them once more.
  • Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
John's account then says - Then they were willing to take him into the boat, (John 6:21). They were certainly not willing to take in a ghost. The disciples were going to do all they could to keep the water and the weirdo out.

Identification of their Savior was the first major hurdle in the middle of the storm for the disciples and sometimes for us. And a discerning mind/spirit is encouraged in Scripture -
  • "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit." (1 Corinthians 2:14) 
But when Jesus reveals Himself and says,"Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."discernment becomes crystal clear. Christ's next step (pun intended) after identifying Himself is even better - He gets on-board and the storm disappears.
  • Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. (Mark 6:51)
The next sentence describes the disciples reaction and the reason for their reaction. 
  • They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:51-52)
Therein lies the rub. The disciples had not grasped Jesus as Master of Everything - Creator of All. Jesus had just proven He had mastery of the elements by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fishes to feed five thousand plus people. If they had understood this about Him with the loaves and fishes prior to the walking on water and calming of the storm - amazement may be there, but keyed downed to an expected amazement (if you will).

Let us re-evaluate the experience. The disciples had obeyed and disembarked on an evening boat trip across the Sea of Galilee to an area known as Gennesaret (including the towns of Bethsaida and Capernaum). While Jesus stayed behind praying on a mountainside the disciples encountered turbulent weather and could only manage to "spin their oars" (spin their wheels") in the middle of the lake/sea. Then just about daybreak Jesus shows up, not just mysteriously appearing in the boat somehow, but out in the turbulent storm of the winds and waves He came walking. Already battling the winds and waves, terror gripped the disciples and I feel certain they tried even harder to get to shore quicker. However, Jesus calmed their fears and calmed the situation with His words and His presence as He spoke to the disciples and stepped into the boat.

My encouragement to all believers with this perspective on this story is to realize first - God is always with us. Second, when we step out in obedience to Him, there is a good chance of resistance (from the enemy, the world, or ourselves). But no matter the size or strength of the waves keep rowing. No matter the fierceness of the wind be persistent. And as you possibly encounter the supernatural, be ever discerning for it might be our Savior coming to us as The Ghost In The Storm.