Sunday, April 26, 2015

After Dinner Stroll

After Dinner Stroll
A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
April 26, 2015
at Gordonsville Presbyterian Church, Gordonsville, Virginia
John 6: 16-24
Job 9: 1-11



Let us pray,
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives      
For your eyes show the way
            Your mind knows the truth
            Your being is the life.
Amen.

 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.[1]

As I said last week, in chapter 6, instead of one miracle at the beginning of the chapter and then all the fall out from it, here there are two. Last week we took a look at Jesus feeding the five thousand gathered by the sea of Galilee, the sea of Tiberias, with only two fish and five loaves. Every one ate their belly full, and there was some leftover even. Every one was happy, they were joyous, and they wanted to make Jesus their king. I said last week that what they were trying to do was recreate the miracle, of their full bellies, they wanted to make it a system, make it an institution, and what better way to do so than by making this miracle worker their king. If he can feed the people like this, he would make the best king ever. All of our struggles over limited resources, which from a practical and political standpoint, most people think is the root of all our problems. Because people do not have enough, they hoard, they steal, greed and envy are rooted in some having some and some not have enough, and some having more, but here Jesus can rid us of that, with more of these miracles. . . let us make Jesus king! But Jesus instead heads up the mountain to get away from these folks wanting to make him king by force.
And then he comes down and takes a little stroll, you know across the lake. Jesus walks on the water. It is an image so central to the life of Jesus. . . it has even become a trait given to people of perfection. . . at least in our minds, when we say, you know him he walks on water. It is the quintessential Jesus miracle. And the John Gospel version here, is so basic. It has all of the great aspects of a Jesus miracle scene. It's out on the water, a storm is coming up, the sea is rough and the wind is blowing, the disciples are gathered, and they of course, as they always do become terrified, and all Jesus says is, "it is I, do not be afraid," and then it is over, they reach the other side. We are all very familiar with the scene, and I think each in our own way we can picture it in our minds. . . that no matter how amazing and challenging to our faith it is, it is a simple miracle, but what does it mean? How do the people react to this one? He fed them and they wanted to make him king, what about when Jesus takes a stroll across the lake?
We'll talk more about it next week, but it the people do not really react to Jesus walking on the water, instead they just follow him because they "ate their fill of the loaves" according to Jesus. They do not say much about the walking on the water, though as we can see at the end of our reading for this morning, John makes it quite clear that they know something very, very strange has happened. . .
22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

So they come over there to Capernaum to find Jesus, but they do not ask him about how he got there, and all throughout the rest of the chapter he does not address to the crowd about how, why, or that, he walked on the water, so we don't have much. All we have is that Jesus says, "Do not be afraid, it is I." And that truly, I think, is all that matters to the gospel writer John.
Think about how often in this gospel so far people have come to Jesus, seen his miracles and not gotten the full picture of just who Jesus is. Nicodemus sees him as a teacher from God, but then Jesus sets the record straight, the woman at the well says that Jesus cannot be the messiah, or could he. . . the Jews at the temple after Jesus heals the paralytic are angered at the presumption of Jesus' claims to be God, and now in this chapter the Jesus feeds the crowd with a miracle, and the people want to make him king, want to make him an earthly leader, make him the highest of what human beings can be, but Jesus reacts again, they just do not get it do they. Not a teacher, not a king, I am the Son of God, I am the Word that has become flesh, I am Immanuel, I am the light of the world, but the people did not see the light, they preferred the darkness instead. . . again we see the theme repeating itself, they want to make him king but he is so much more than any mere king because he can walk on water. He embodies all of the Old Testament descriptions of God. . . for God has a great and strong history with water: dividing the waters from the waters when he created the world, placing his firmament in the sky to separate the waters from the waters permanently, dividing the waters again with the land, so that all of the creatures of the world could have a place to live. . . and then when His people were standing between the Pharaoh and the waters, he split the waters with hands, and the Israelites crossed over on dry land. God is our defender and our protector, as we said in the Call to Worship this morning, and he reigns forever. As Erick read from Job:
     He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength
—who has resisted him, and succeeded?—
5     he who removes mountains, and they do not know it,
when he overturns them in his anger;
6     who shakes the earth out of its place,
and its pillars tremble;
7     who commands the sun, and it does not rise;
who seals up the stars;
8     who alone stretched out the heavens
and trampled the waves of the Sea;[2]

John's gospel is clear with his claim on just who Jesus is, and Jesus' miracle of walking on the water proclaims it as well, as do his word. We have heard Jesus say before, do not be afraid. It is almost a constant from him in the course of the four gospel accounts, but this is the first time that Jesus speaks these words in John's gospel, which is important, but not nearly as important as his other words. Jesus also says "It is I", which misses something in English. In Greek it is rendered, "ego emi" I am. . . and this also marks the second time so far that Jesus gives one of his 24 I am statements. The first was to the woman at the well, when he was proclaiming himself to her as the Son of God, and now he does the same walking on the water here. It's important because I am of course is the closest translation you can have of the name of God.
What does it mean to make Jesus less than God? Why does Jesus here constantly press the issue? Why are we so stubborn to make him do so? What is the danger, because there must be some, Jesus is always correcting. He corrects the lowly and starved, and he corrects those who are against him.. We often think that even a little bit of Jesus is good for someone? Are we wrong?




[1]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Jn 6:16-24). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
[2]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Job 9:4-8). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.