Possibly the greatest comfort to the consecrated believer is the sovereignty of God. While the mature Christian never uses His sovereignty as a denial of His use of real and necessary means to accomplish the divine will, the believer rests in the fact that it is divine omnipotence that precedes, enables, sustains, and makes effectual every effort done in the name of Christ and for the triumph of His kingdom. In many respects, you and I are like the disciples. We too have seen Christ’s goodness, sovereignty, and power, and have been awed and mystified by the endless treasures of holiness, wisdom, deity, and knowledge that reside in this Man from Galilee. And we too are called, commissioned, and enabled by Him to reach the world for His name and glory. Yet those efforts will constantly be threatened by attacks within (from our flesh, from unbelief, from the temptation to focus on our glory and abilities rather than His) and without (from the world, the devil, and the flesh of fallen people with whom we interact).
What brings sustenance and staying power as we work for Christ in a fallen world? Only the vision of His glory as revealed in the Holy Scriptures! We must see the perfections and plans pf Christ and connect those by faith to real-life, real-world applications in our service to Him. All of these grand truths mean something for all of your moments and all of their implications! But we need the Holy Spirit to quicken our minds and understanding to make the connection.
Mark 6 gives us a dazzling example of the perfections of Christ that we can and must apply to every detail of our lives. They will breathe new life into our loving ministry to and for Him, if only we will listen!
A. The Perfect Wisdom of Christ (vv. 45-46)
We have just seen one of the grandest miracles Christ ever performed, at least in its extent. Of course, we do not have all of the extra details John gives us in his account—in which the response to His multiplication of food is so strong that Jesus removes Himself from the area because He perceives they want to crown Him king by force, apart from His Father’s timing (John 6:15), and later, after the miracle described in this section of Mark, they find Him again and He gives the bread of life discourse that so offends them that many “disciples” walk away, never to return (v. 66). In Mark’s version, we simply see the Lord making the Twelve get into the boat and travel to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while He dismisses the crowd and retires to a secluded place to pray.
I would have liked to eavesdrop on that prayer. Perhaps in glory we will know something of what He said to His Father—and what the Father said to Him. You see, Jesus had just been accosted by a crowd who loved Him for all the wrong reasons. Bound by their earthly, narrow, politically-motivated desire for deliverance, they saw in Him a king who could create a deathless army (He raised the dead!) that could never starve. They did not desire the earthly kingdom He offered in which righteousness dwelt. They did not desire Him to be the sovereign Lord of their lives. They simply wanted what He could give them.
I believe the actions of the crowd represented another temptation from Satan to our Lord. We know from His days in the wilderness that Satan’s goal was to get Jesus to disobey the Father by grasping what He offered Jesus in an unbelieving, illegitimate, sinful way. Here, the Enemy has found an opportune time—the crowd loves Him, Jesus is genuinely helping them, and the demand even comes after He has exposited to them the glories of the kingdom of God! “Surely,” the Serpent whispers in our Lord’s ear, “the time is now for you to take the kingdom. Why, the people are practically begging you to be their king!”
But Jesus, who knows the hearts of all men, knows their desire is miles away from the glorious earthly, physical kingdom He inaugurated and will complete at His Second Advent. For that kingdom is populated by those who have yielded themselves utterly to the God-Man, and who are invested in His glorious redemptive purposes for the earth and its people. And so Jesus withdraws, weeping and pleading with His Father to create fresh, clean hearts in the men and women they have lovingly formed.
Here too, we see our Lord’s gracious wisdom: He longs for communion with and the will of His wonderful father more than the empty, shallow adulations of men! He trusts His father’s plan and timing beyond the cheap (truly hollow!) shortcuts that have the singe of Hell about them.
O that we would have His faith and surrender to His Father’s plan! O that we would have His wisdom to see how better the ways of God are than the counterfeits of our flesh!
B. The Perfect Knowledge of Christ (v. 47)
Jesus is alone with the Father. He has pushed the Twelve to go ahead of Him, alone. Do you think Jesus did not know that before the foundation of the world He and His Father had decreed that a storm would come up at this exact time? Do you think the Father refrained from revealing this to our Lord’s human nature? Of course He knew.
He knows about our storms, as well. I don’t wish to be trite, but He sends us into the storms we experience. It cannot be otherwise if He is omniscient and sovereign over all things.
Can we reconcile this with His love, with His mercy, His desiring our best in all things? Yes! The thing we most need is the vision of His glory. (Of course we need and want other good things as well, but I am intending to speak of what is paramount among all of them.) Sometimes, Jesus chooses to glorify Himself and satisfy our hearts by letting us experience trial, either so that He can demonstrate His power in sustaining us, delivering us, or both. In either case, we can say, “The Lord has done it!” And what happens next is a perfect illustration of that grand reality.
C. The Perfect Timing of Christ (v. 48a)
The phrase “fourth watch of the night” is key to this whole narrative. In areas that were reckoned by Roman time, the night was divided into “watches.” The fourth was between 3 and 6 am. So the Twelve have been alone for hours—about nine if you do the math right. They are miles away from shore, and they are fighting a large storm that interestingly, and without warning, “just happened” to descend upon them. (If you’re thinking of Jesus’ miracle of calming the sea, you’re on the right track intertextually.)
The image here is rife with tenderness: “Seeing them straining at the oars.” This ties in with the point about knowledge above. It isn’t simply that Jesus knew what would happen before it did; its’ that He knew what was happening as it unfolded in real time. And that, dear Christian, is what prompts Him to act with the Twelve—and with YOU. He saw them abused, struggling, hurting, fearful, their strength unable to hold on much longer. And then, what wondrous words: “He came to them, walking on the sea.”
His heart was moved by His men struggling. He could not but act to rescue them. O the tenderness of Christ, and the sovereignty of Christ that moves Him to reach out at the exact right time! Three in the morning is not too late for the One who never sleeps. Indeed, He is actually right on time.
D. The Perfect Power of Christ (v. 48b)
“Walking on the sea.” This glorious image has been recounted in many iconic paintings ad even a few movies over the years. While scoundrel liberals who delight in vitiating the Bible of its supernatural elements do so here by saying Jesus was merely pacing on the shore and that it simply looked like He was actually walking on the sea, those who accept the inerrancy and inspiration of the text must accept that this is a stupendous display of the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus.
The One who made the sea and the One who can rebuke it with a word is also the One who can instantly command the sea to uphold the weight of a Galilean carpenter. And the sea bows and says, “Yes, Lord.”
The storming, churning, angry sea knows its Master’s touch and voice, and calms to create a path for the One from whom angels hide their sinless faces.
One note here on a translation detail: I tend to agree with John MacArthur when he argues the phrase “intended to pass by them” could be better translated as “desired to come alongside them.” He says, “He desired to come alongside them. There was not a coincidence…He had no intention of leaving the Kingdom in that little boat to drown. He had come for this purpose.” Christ deliberately intended to come alongside the little boat, so His men could see Him there, and reach out to Him, and be rescued.
E. The Perfect Peace of Christ (vv. 49-50)
Of course, the men are terrified! They thought He was some kind of ghost. But no, this was their Creator and Lord. Immediately He spoke not “to” but “with” them—conversational, gentle, filled with sovereign authority. Tale courage, He says, I AM. He is the God of the OT, the one they worshipped and adored in the synagogue from a young age, the One who delivered their ancestors with mighty and sovereign acts. We need not fear when we are with I AM!
F. The Perfect Control of Christ (vv. 51-52)
He gets into the boat. The wind stops—immediately! More, miraculously the boat crosses the sea instantly and they find themselves on the other side.
The Twelve are dumbstruck by this latest display of power. Matthew tells us they worshipped Him (14:33)—yet Mark tells us they were astonished because they had not gained insight from the miracle of the loaves. Indeed, the hearts of these believers were hardened—they could not put truths together and draw from that framework the necessary applications and implications! They had not drawn from these miracles all that they should about the Lord Jesus and His ways.
Yet the Lord is sovereign over this, too. How this ought to comfort us in our own hardness, and to seek to minister the Word in greater faithfulness to ourselves and others in the power of Christ!
What a stupendous, glorious picture of our wondrous Lord Jesus! What manifold perfections stir our hearts to worship and fortify us as we live in a world groaning under the Curse! What truths sanctify us that we might walk worthily of the One who even now calls us into His own kingdom and glory! Amen.