John’s Gospel Chapter 6
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
Subject - WALKING ON THE SEA. The Fifth Sign.
Study portion - Chapter 6. 14-21.
Parallel passages for reading and study - Matt. 14. 22-33; Mark 6. 45-52.
1. GRACIOUS PURPOSE
This incident is related by the three evangelists as a sequel to the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, suggesting that 'Christ is Lord of heaven, earth and sea'.
Matt. 14. 22 reads 'And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away' (see also Mark 6. 45). We may ask: 'Why did He constrain His disciples to depart?' Was it not that they should leave the popular enthusi¬asm of the crowd who would make Him king by force, John 6.15, to learn the gracious purpose of His will and the glorious power of His sovereign love?
The spiritual is greater than the physical and material, and the way of His will is often the way of the storm.
2. GRAVE PERILS
Darkness, v. 17 - '... it was now dark and Jesus was not come to them'. Matthew 14. 25 reads 'in the fourth watch of the night . . .' but in their extremity Jesus appeared, for 'joy cometh in the morning'. Cf. Matt. 8. 23-27. On this occasion it was day and the Saviour was already with them in the ship, but they must now learn to trust His word to them even when they cannot see His way for them.
Except in Matt. 10. 27 and Luke 12. 3 where the word means secrecy, darkness is always used in a bad sense - for example see the following: physical, Matt. 27. 45, 2 Cor. 4. 6; intellectual, Rom. 2. 19; blindness, Acts 13. 11; place of punishment, Matt. 8. 12, 2 Pet. 2. 17, Jude 13; moral and spiritual, Matt. 6. 23, Luke 1. 79, 11. 35, John 3. 19, Acts 26. 18, 2 Cor. 6. 14, Eph. 6 12, Col. 1. 13, 1 Thess. 5. 4-5, 1 Pet. 2. 9, 1 John 1. 6; evil works, Rom. 13. 12, Eph. 5. 11; evil powers, Luke 22. 53.
Dangers, v. 18, 'And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew'. Was the adversary of souls permitted to strike terror into the hearts of the disciples now that they were alone upon the deep? Greater far than contrary sea and wind is the conflict with Satan and his wiles.
The apostle Paul writes, Eph. 6. 12, 'for we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places'. 2 Cor. 10. 4, 'for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds'.
Doubt, Mark 6. 49, 'But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out'. How many of our problems and doubts are unreal? Beware of 'suppositions', and note the following in relation to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Luke 3.23, His birth.'... being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph'; Luke 2. 44, 48, 49, His life and work. '. . . supposing him to have been in the company . . . they sought him ... he said unto them . . . wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? . . . they understood not the saying'; John 20. 15, His resurrection. ' . . . supposing him to be the gardener'. Much modern thought is built upon the supposi¬tions regarding the birth, human life and redeeming work of our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot afford to be wrong in these, for without them we have no Saviour.
3. GUARDIAN PRESENCE
Mark 6. 48, '. . . And would have passed by them'. Although the Saviour had seen the disciples, distressed in rowing' (R.V.), He had not come to them before the fourth watch, and now He would have passed by them. He would have them cry to Him in their need, for He never came to one as an unwanted guest, neither are His delays necessarily denials.
Compare similar occasions in scripture, as follows: Luke 24. 28-29, walking with the two on the road to Emmaus.'. . . He made as though he would have gone further. But they con¬strained him'; Luke 18. 4-5, of the unjust judge we read '. . . He would not for a while, but afterwards he said, . . . because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her'; Luke n. 5, 8, the friend at midnight, '. . . Because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth'. Sincere desire brings sure deliverance. John 11. 6, the death of Lazarus, 'He abode two days still in the same place where he was, then after that saith he to his disciples, let us go unto Judaea again'; John 6. 20, 'He saith unto them, it is I, be not afraid'. Note, Be of good cheer. Matt. 9. 2, 'Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee', i.e., good cheer for the past and its fear. Mark 6. 50, 'be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid', i.e., good confidence for the present and its doubts; John 16. 33, '. . . be of good cheer; I have overcome the world', i.e., good courage for the future and its conflict.
4. GREAT PRESUMPTION
Matt. 14. 28, 'Peter answered . . . Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water'. We may well ask, 'what was the real purpose of Peter's remark?' Was he perhaps saying in effect, 'Since it be Thou . . DARE ME to come?' Was there a desire on Peter's part to outdo and outdare the others? We note that there was no definite command, 'I bid thee', but a permissive gracious 'Come'. Peter must learn the lesson of 'no confidence in the flesh'. Verse 30, 'When Peter saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried, saying, Lord, save me'. To lose the vision of Christ and His saving power means failure and defeat. From John 21. 7 it would seem that Peter knew well the swimmer's art, but now he must depend en¬tirely upon the Saviour's arm. Human effort and divine grace are two different things.
5. GLORIOUS POWER
Matt. 14. 31, R.V., 'And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and took hold of him' . . . 'O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were gone up into the boat, the wind ceased'.
Peter was rebuked because he doubted the Saviour, not because he came to Him. Such is the wonder of divine grace. There was perhaps scope for Peter's natural boldness, but his error lay, not in undertaking too much, but in relying too little upon Christ. In Acts 4. 13, 'The people marvelled at the boldness of Peter and John, and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus'.
John 6. 21, 'Then they willingly received him into the ship; and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went'. Compliance with the will of God results in the completion of the work of God; Matt. 14. 33, 'Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God'. Thus once again the sign was written, 'that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God', John 20. 31.