God Sightings (John 6:16-24)

How much of your life is routine? I’ve been asking around, and it seems that the number is probably about 95%. There are extraordinary moments – births and deaths, awards, and marriages – but most of life is spent on the mundane. We spend a lot more time waiting, preparing, traveling, and working than we spend doing the extraordinary.We’ve been looking at the seven signs or miracles in the book of John, and today’s is one I can relate to. Some of the other signs involve extraordinary events. I’ve never experienced them. I’ve never run out of wine at a wedding. I’ve never been paralyzed, or had a child healed from impending death. I’ve never had to feed a crowd of over ten thousand people. Those are all very extraordinary events.But I have been frustrated in my travels. Today’s sign is different from many of the others. It’s not even called a sign. It’s what happened in between stories. It’s about a group of guys who were traveling from point A to point B, and who had some problems on the way. It’s never called a sign. It’s miraculous, but it’s almost like this miracles is a byproduct. It’s what happened when life was taking place.If you have a Bible here, turn with me to John 6. We’re going to read the story. It may seem familiar because it’s so well known. It’s also similar to another event that took place in Jesus’ life, recorded in Matthew 8, in which Jesus calmed a storm. The story begins at the end of last week’s sign, as we read in verses 14 and 15: “When the people saw this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, ‘Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!’ Jesus saw that they were ready to take him by force and make him king, so he went higher into the hills alone.”Jesus had just finished feeding over ten thousand people with a small amount of food. After performing that miracle, he withdrew from the crowd. You could spend a whole morning thinking about this alone. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus withdrew to pray three times. Each time, it was to spend time with God tempted to abandon the mission God gave to him. Think about that for a minute. Jesus recognized the importance of intimacy with God when he was most tempted to abandon the mission God had given him.While Jesus prayed, he sent his disciples away by boat to Capernaum. This wasn’t a long trip, but the disciples would have wanted to cover the short distance between Bethsaida and Capernaum before sunset. If you’ve been to the Sea of Galilee, you know what it’s like there. It’s six hundred feet below sea level. It forms a cup-like depression among hills. At night, when the air cools, the wind can churn the lake. Let’s read what happened:

That evening his disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed out across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them as they rowed, and the sea grew very rough. They were three or four miles out when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified… (John 6:16-19)

I guess so! I watched a scary movie the other night. It was really good. I like to watch with the lights off. When the movie was done, and I turned off my TV, I noticed how dark it was. It didn’t take me a long time to turn the lights on. I can imagine how the disciples must have felt. The other Gospels tell us that it was the fourth watch, between 3 and 6 a.m. They had been traveling between 9 and 12 hours for what should have been a short trip. Their lives weren’t in danger, but they had been blown off course and were probably frustrated, tired, and irritable. Then they saw someone walking on the water. Sleep deprivation, frustration, and then somebody walking on water. I would have been terrified myself.The story continues in verse 20: “But he called out to them, ‘I am here! Don’t be afraid.’ Then they were eager to let him in, and immediately the boat arrived at their destination!” (John 6:20) Jesus called out, “I am here!” In the original, he said, “I am!” This could have been simply what it sounds like in English, but it was also God’s name. This may have had some deeper theological significance. He could have been revealing his identity as God to them. As soon as he entered the boat, the storm ended, and whether by miracle or simply because the storm was over, they soon arrived at their destination. And that’s the story.John never included a story by accident. He always had a purpose for what he chose to include. What’s the point of the story here?On one level, it’s here to explain how Jesus arrived without a boat. John 6:22 and 25 say:

The next morning, back across the lake, crowds began gathering on the shore, waiting to see Jesus. For they knew that he and his disciples had come over together and that the disciples had gone off in their boat, leaving him behind…When they arrived and found him, they asked, “Teacher, how did you get here?”

At the most basic level, it’s a description of how Jesus got from point A to point B when there didn’t seem to be a logical explanation.It also tells us something about who Jesus is. He is God over nature. He’s with us in all circumstances, in all of life.It brings to mind some Old Testament passages that talk about God. Job 9:8 says, “He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea.” Psalm 107:25-30 says:

He spoke, and the winds rose, stirring up the waves. Their ships were tossed to the heavens and sank again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’ end. ” LORD, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor!

For the Jewish person, it would have brought Moses to mind, and the most pivotal event in Jewish history, the Exodus. Moses led the nation through water on two occasions.Mark’s account of this story points us to something else that was taking place in this story. Let’s look at what Mark 6:48 says. “He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them…” (NIV)When you read this verse, you’re a bit puzzled. He was about to pass by them? He’s walking in the middle of the lake, and he’s just going to walk by, like he’s saying, “Hey guys, I’m just out for a walk. I’ll catch you on the other side.” Really? Is this what’s happening?”Pass by” refer to just passing by when it refers to you and me. When it refers to God, it can mean something different. Look at the following couple of passages:

The LORD replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, ‘the LORD,’ to you. (Exodus 33:19)”Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. (1 Kings 19:11)

When “pass by” refers to God, it usually means an epiphany – a revelation of God. It’s possible, even likely, that Mark uses this term to refer to say that Jesus was revealing himself as God. He self-disclosed his deity, and caused his glory to pass before the disciples. The message: Jesus is God. He’s visited us in the flesh. This man, the one who performs miracles and walks on water, is not just a man, not just a prophet. He’s God, and he’s showing us his glory.The disciples didn’t get it. Mark 6:51-52 says, “Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were astonished at what they saw. They still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the multiplied loaves, for their hearts were hard and they did not believe.”I wonder when God’s glory has passed before us, and we’ve been like the disciples. We haven’t seen the significance. It’s gone right over our heads. In fact, we may not even think God acts in this way anymore. We believe God showed his glory to the disciples, but we wonder if God even does this today. We miss all kinds of God sightings.Do you ever pray, and what you prayed for happens, and you say, “What a coincidence! I was just praying for that.” God answers prayer, and shows us his glory, but we miss it. We don’t even recognize his work in response to our prayers.Sometimes we see his nature reflected in creation. I’ve stood in Yosemite Park. You may have seen the Northern Lights. We’ve all had our breath taken away by God’s creation. Romans 1:20 says, “From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature.” Psalm 19 tells us that nature shows God’s glory. It’s possible to see and admire nature without responding in worship. God’s glory passes us by, and we miss it.Sometimes God shows his glory in worship. There have been times when the sense of his presence has been so palpable, it’s humbling. We sing, “Open the eyes of my heart,” and sometimes he does. It’s not always what we expect. When you read in the Bible that God showed his glory, it’s always a scary experience. God sometimes opens our eyes to his glory as we worship him, in private or with others. Sometimes we miss it.I said earlier that God sometimes shows us his glory when he answers prayer. Sometimes he shows us his glory when he doesn’t answer prayer. When the doctor says the c-word – cancer – and we have a peace that passes understanding, God has shown us his glory. When we stand in a funeral home visiting with others, and have lost someone close to us, and we’re filled with overwhelming grief and yet inexplicable strength, God has just shown his glory. Every one of us have seen God’s glory in one form or another. But we’ve also sometimes missed it, just like the disciples.Even if we’ve missed his glory in life, it’s on display in the Bible. John 1:14 says, “And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.” God has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. You can’t help but read about Jesus without seeing God’s glory, his unfailing love and faithfulness to us. We’ve seen his glory, but sometimes we’ve missed it.So let me ask you this question: when has God’s glory passed before you? When have you seen God at work in your life? When have you sensed his presence, his glory, like never before? Think about the times. God has been at work in your life. You may not even be a follower of Jesus Christ yet, but he’s been active in your life. You’ve seen his glory, even if you might have missed it.How have you responded? I know I’ve been like the disciples some of the time. His glory’s passed me by, but I haven’t recognized it until later. I haven’t stopped to acknowledge him and praise him. It’s time to go back over the times that Jesus has passed us by, and to praise him for how he’s been at work in our lives.John 6:21 says, “Then they were willing to take him into the boat” (NIV). I guess so. This almost seems like a gimme. What else would they do? Yet this is something some of us might not have done, at least not yet. We’ve seen God’s glory, but we haven’t asked him into our lives. It’s time to respond to God’s glory.Prayer

Praise for when he’s shown us his glory – when he’s been at work in our lives, as well as showing us his glory through ScripturePrayer to invite Jesus into our lives
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada