|CONNECTING THE DOTS
Series: The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Twenty
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
July 15, 2018
As we come together before God’s word, if you are able, please stand and read with me our passage for this morning.
Immediately He [Jesus] made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. And after He had taken leave of them, He went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and He was alone on the land.
And He saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified.
But immediately He spoke to them an said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized Him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard He was.
And wherever He came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored Him that they might touch even the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
How many of you have done one of these? The purpose of which is what?
Connect the dots and see what the picture looks like.
As we walk through what Mark records here we need to be looking for the dots. Dots that we’ll point out as we go through this together. Dots that when we start to connect the dots - all those connections will help us to see Jesus better and what it means for us to see more clearly Who He is.
At the risk of seemingly wandering off on a rabbit trail - we need to make sure we’re tracking on just how significant dots in Scripture really are.
Years ago I read about a pastor who had a kitten that had climbed up a tree in his backyard and then this kitten was afraid to come down. The pastor tried everything to get the kitten to come down. But, nothing worked. The tree was not sturdy enough to climb.
So the pastor decided that if he tied a rope to the tree and tied the other end to his car and slowly drove away he could pull the tree over just far enough so he could reach up and get the kitten.
Which he did. Constantly checking his progress in the car. Until he got to the point where he figured if he went just a little bit further, the tree would be bent just enough for him to reach the kitten. But as he moved the car forward just a little bit more the rope broke. The tree went “booing!” and the kitten instantly sailed through the air out of sight.
The pastor felt terrible. He walked all over the neighborhood asking people if they’d seen a little kitten. No one had. So this poor pastor finally gave up and went home.
A few days later he was at the grocery store where he met a lady from the church. He happened to look into her shopping cart and was amazed to see cat food. Amazed because this woman hated cats. She had a reputation for hating cats. So the pastor asked her, “Why are you buying cat food when you hate cats so much?”
Well, this lady told the pastor how her little girl had been begging her for a cat. But, of course this mother kept saying no. Then a few days before, the child had begged again, so the mother - exasperated - finally told her little girl, “Well, if God gives you a cat, I’ll let you keep it.”
She told the pastor, “I watched my child go out in the yard, get down on her knees, and ask God for a cat. And really, Pastor, you won’t believe this. But, I saw it with my own eyes. A kitten suddenly came flying out of the blue sky, with its paws outspread, and landed right in front of her.”
You can decide if that’s a true story or not. But, all that to say that God does things in ways we don’t understand. One huge reason for that is because don’t get God.
So getting God and getting the how and why God does things is beyond us. And yet - God desires for us to get Him and to live in relationship with Him - trusting Him with all we are.
Which is why the dots are so important. Because every dot is an illustration - a description - an insight - God revealing to us something about Himself in the real time of where we do life - which we do get.
When we understand about the dots we will never read Scripture the same way again. Even Leviticus. Because - Genesis to Revelation - the Bible is full of dots just waiting to be connected. The more you read the more you see the dots and the more excited you will get about God and your relationship with Him.
I am the God of your forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Who choose you and redeemed you out of bondage in Egypt. How many times have we read that? Those are dots that tell us about the God who is love Who chooses to lavish His love on a people and to covenant in relationship with them and to rescue and redeem them.
Plagues and floods and famines and earthquakes and locusts on a rampage are illustrations of God’s character - like His justness and righteousness. Fire and smoke and thunder taking off the top of a mountain and God providing quail and manna and water and God’s people passing through a sea or a river and God taking out armies and are all illustrations - dots - of Who God is.
The commandments written by God and placed in the Ark of the Covenant - the Tabernacle and the Temple and all of those instructions on how to build all that - so many cubits by so many cubits. And on and on and on. All those are dots. Connect them up and we start to see a clearer picture in real time of the beyond our understanding God Who loves us.
When you read Scripture go on a scavenger hunt for dots and ask God to help you process more of Who He is and how greatly He desire for you to know Him. It’s life changing to see and connect the dots.
Which is what Jesus has been trying to do for His disciples. Connect the dots to understand more of Who He is. It’s what Mark is doing here for His readers. Helping us to see more clearly who Jesus is and what it means for us to see that for ourselves. The more dots that get connected and we will never see Jesus the same way again.
Coming to Mark 6 - starting at verse 45. First - Some Background - verses 45 to 47 - what’s been going on and what’s going on.
We’re picking up where we left on last Sunday. Which was the feeding of the… 5,000 plus. Maybe 10,000 if we include women and children along with the men.
Jesus taking 5 really small loaves of really cheap bread and 2 probably way over salted small fish and feeding 10,000 people to the point where they all are stuffed full and Jesus providing doggy baskets of left-over bread for the disciples. A total God thing.
John - in his gospel account - John tells us that the crowd - after the feeding - they were so fired up about Jesus that they were ready to seize Jesus and force Him to be their king. Ironic in that He was. But they wanted Him to be king in the way they wanted Him to be king and not for the King of kings and Lord of lords that He really is.
So “immediately” - verse 45 - as that’s happening - before the crowd can get ahold of Jesus - Jesus tells His disciples to get back into their boat and go to the other side - start rowing towards Bethsaida - and Jesus dismisses the crowd. Sends them away before they can get themselves into trouble.
Where that takes place is important for us to understand.
The feeding of the 5,000 plus we believe took place on the Plain of Bethsaida - which looks like this and is northeast or so of the town of Bethsaida - which looks like this. Jesus is telling His disciples to get in the boat - which was probably east of town on the shore - and start rowing west along the shore towards Bethsaida.
Down in verse 53 we find that where they’re actually rowing towards - their final destination - what Mark tells us is “the other side” -is actually the town of Gennesaret. Which is on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Located here and it looks like this.
Bethsaida to Gennesaret is about 9 miles. A bit of a hike but doable. Jesus walking - the disciples rowing - they probably expected to connect up with Jesus in Gennesaret the next day.
That’s the background. Mark tells us that when the evening came - meaning it was about 6:00 and getting darker - the disciples are in the boat out on the sea and Jesus is alone on the land.
Verses 48 to 52 are What Happens Next. Kind of like Facebook. “And you won’t believe what happens next…”
Mark tells us that Jesus - seeing the disciples - saw that the disciples were making headway painfully. A Greek word that means it was pure torture.
The surface of the Sea of Galilee is almost 700 feet below sea level in a deep rift between the Arabian Desert and the Mediterranean Sea. The wind whips down through the valleys onto the sea and churns up the water into a nightmare for small boats. Even today boaters are warned to remained docked because of the potential winds.
Matthew records that they were a long ways from the shore. Meaning that they were getting blown off course. John tells us that they had only rowed about 3 to 4 miles. Meaning they weren’t making much progress.
Mark tells us that it was about the fourth watch. The Romans divided the night into 4 watches which were the times a Roman guard would stand watch. First watch. Second watch. Third watch. The fourth watch was from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Really early. Not quite daylight yet.
Potentially for maybe 9 plus hours the disciples have been rowing against this wind - possibly moving more sideways than forward - and they’ve made only about 3 or 4 miles of progress. That’s painful - torturous. If not down right discouraging.
Mark records that as they’re rowing against the wind - in the darkness they see Jesus - who’s calmly walking by on the water intending to pass by them. Seemingly indifferent to what they’re going through.
The disciples are totally freaked out by this. Terrified is a word that means gut level physically and psychologically - totally out of our minds - terrified. Who wouldn’t be? If this account wasn’t so familiar to us - if we’d of been there - we’d be freaked out too. Yes?
The disciples are seeing Jesus. But because they hadn’t read Mark’s gospel yet - and since nobody walks on water - and it is pretty dark out there - in their thinking they’re seeing a ghost.
To which Jesus - immediately - reassures them “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
“Take heart” translates a Greek word that a military commander might use in battle to encourage the troops to keep going. Don’t retreat. Don’t give up. Don’t surrender.
Why? Because “It is I.”
Then Jesus climbs over the gunwales and gets into the boat with the disciples. And immediately the wind ceases.
Which means it just ceases. Instant calm. Placid - smooth - able to steer a straight course to Gennesaret - not painful rowing - ceased.
Let’s pause and make sure we’re seeing the dots.
Dot number one is Sight.
Jesus - up on the mountain - which is maybe two miles inland - and Jesus sees the disciples 3 to 4 miles out to see. Meaning Jesus is seeing 7 miles in the dark. Dark enough that when Jesus walks out right next to them it’s so dark that they don’t recognize Him.
Even with tri-focals I’m seeing maybe a mile - in daylight?
Jesus sees what’s going on in our lives - what we struggle with - what we’re rowing against - what terrifies us. Jesus is omniscient. God. Who is compassionate towards us.
Dot number two is Time.
The Hebrews divided the night into three watches. But Mark is writing to Romans. Mark uses a breakdown of time that the Hebrews would have understood - but that’s focused on the Romans understanding what’s going on. God speaking through Mark - all Scripture is inspired by God - God speaking through Mark to the world.
The Bible has dots that are for different cultures.
Jesus is God Who loves the whole world. Who desires for all men to be saved. Who sends His apostles to all peoples beginning in Jerusalem and to the most remote parts of the world - even Merced.
Dot number three is Jesus Walking On Water.
In the Old Testament nobody walks on water except God. Jesus is doing something only God does. God Who is the Creator and sustainer of it all. Who has authority over His creation and uses it for His purposes. (Job 9:8; 38:16; Psalm 77:19; Isaiah 43:16)
Dot number four is Jesus Passing By.
Passing by doesn’t mean that Jesus was indifferent to what the disciples were going through. “Hey guys. See you in Gennesaret. Have fun rowing.”
Mark is describing the impression given to those in the boat.
To “pass by” is something that God does repeatedly in the Old Testament. God shields Moses and passes by but allows Moses to see His glory - to reassure Moses that He really is there. God passes by and allows His people to glimpse His glory in order to reassure them of His presence. (Exodus 33:12-23).
Jesus is passing by is Jesus doing the God thing. God testifying to His disciples that He is there with them.
Dot number five is The Phantom. The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost.
Let’s be careful. These guys were seasoned fisherman who made their living on the Sea of Galilee. They’d probably seen a lot of strange things and probably didn’t fear much. But what they saw they saw as a supernatural unknown presence passing by them - that drove them to terror.
The Jews were not generally given to superstition But they did have a healthy appreciation for the spiritual realm.
The Greek word translated here as “ghost” is “phantasma” - think fantasia or phantom. What is a physical vision that reveals what is spiritual. What goes beyond human understanding. It’s a word that rarely gets used but it describes the visual manifestation of God’s supernatural presence.
Think fire and smoke and thunder on Mount Sinai or the cloud entering the Tabernacle. Visual demonstrations of the presence of God.
So the disciples aren’t terrified because they think they’re seeing a disembodied spirit of some dead person. They’re terrified because they think they’re seeing a divine manifestation - a foreshadowing of their doom. Meaning with all that wind all those waves they’re going to be fish food.
But the phantom is Jesus - who is God in the visual flesh blood of our humanity who is passing by His disciples. Who has totally different reason for being out there walking on the water.
Dot number six is What Jesus Said.
Jesus calling His disciples to courage - “take heart” is based on His telling them “It is I.”
In Greek that’s two words. “Ego Emi.” Literally “I Am.” Which the disciples would have been clearly understood as Jesus referring to Himself as the “I Am” - the One true God Himself. (Exodus 3:14).
Taking that one step further. The transliteration of “I Am” from Hebrew to English - as best as we can tell - is Yahweh. Yahweh is the name that God uses to speak specifically of His covenant relationship and promises to His people. It is an intensely personal name. Yahweh Who redeems His people. Yahweh Who delivers them from bondage in Egypt.
The name Jesus comes from the Greek form of the Hebrew “yeshua” - which combines the name of God “Yahweh” with the word “yasa” - to help - to deliver - to save.
Meaning it all points to Jesus - to the cross - to God’s work of redemption. God delivering His people even today. Same God. Same promise. Same plan. Same presence. Now and forever. “I am and forever shall be with you.”
“Take heart. Do not be afraid. It is I.”
Dot number seven is The Wind Ceases.
Not because Jesus rebukes the wind or commands it to cease. Which we’ve seen Him do as a “Here’s a dot” demonstration of His authority. Back when they all were on a field trip.
Here - as Jesus gets in the boat - it just ceases.
Which is no less a visible demonstration of the divine authority of Jesus. God Who is in the boat. Verses the total inadequacy of humans struggling against the wind - for hours - going sideways at best.
Jesus - God - Who turns an impossible situation into an amazing teachable moment.
Mark tells us that the disciples - as they’re experiencing all this - the disciples were “astounded.” Meaning they were trying to process all of what they were experiencing and seeing and their minds were just spinning without the gears engaging. Nothing’s connecting. They’re clueless. Totally blown away. Pun intended.
In verse 52 Mark tells us the reason they were astounded was because - two reasons - first: They didn’t understand about the loaves - the feeding of the 5,000 plus. And second: Their hearts were hardened.
The word for “understand” - as in they didn’t - the word for understand literally means “to bring together.” - to connect things together. Meaning they were astounded because they weren’t connecting the dots.
Just the seven dots that are here are huge. But Jesus has been dropping dots all over the place that Mark has been recording since we started looking at Mark back in chapter 1.
Jesus turning water into wine demonstrating His divine compassion for people.
Jesus teaching and demonstrating His divine authority over the Scriptures.
Jesus forgiving sins and miraculously proving His divine authority to do so.
Jesus healing people demonstrating His divine authority over disease.
Jesus raising the dead demonstrating His divine authority over death.
Jesus casting out demons demonstrating His divine authority over Satan and the realm of evil.
Jesus calming the storm demonstrating His divine authority over creation.
Jesus sending His disciples out under His authority and demonstrating what He can divinely do through His apostles.
Jesus feeding thousands - doing the impossible in order to demonstrate that He is the divine Good Shepherd of His people. And Jesus involving His disciples in the distribution of those loaves and fishes in order to help them to connect the dots.
The disciples should have been understanding - connecting the dots of all of that - and understanding more clearly Who Jesus is. The God in our humanity. The Shepherd of His people. Able to do what is humanly impossible because He is the one true God. The with divine authority Messiah - our Savior. That is totally trustworthy. That we need to trust with our lives.
They were astounded because they missed the connection.
Second - they were astounded because they’re hearts were hardened.
“Hardened” translates a word that means rock hard impervious and impenetrable. At the heart level they were stoned.
Let’s be careful that we’re not throwing the disciples under the bus.
The disciples hadn’t read Mark’s account. They’re living it.
The disciples didn’t completely understand the incarnation - Jesus being fully God and fully man. Like we totally get that ourselves.
The Jews didn’t expect God to enter into humanity and humble Himself - even die in our place - sacrificing Himself for us.
They never thought that their Messiah would be God in human flesh. That just wasn’t part of their theology. Which was behind a lot of the conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus. The Pharisees - hearts hardened - Jesus didn’t fit their version of Who the Messiah would be.
And we have 2,000 plus years of theological minds and teachers and commentators who have explained in complete clarity - or at least they’ve tried - we have all of that knowledge just a click away.
And we’re not the ones who are dripping wet at 6 a.m. on a dark sea having rowed sideways against the wind for 9 hours.
So, we need to cut the disciples some slack here.
But the meaning of their hearts being hardened is that they were struggling to get past all that. What they’d been raised with. What they’d been taught. What they’d experienced with God up to the point that they’d met Jesus. The opinions of their family and friends. Whatever cultural expectations they had going on - peer pressure.
Seeing is… believing. But sometimes we struggle in how we respond to what our eyes are showing us because there are other things going on in our minds and hearts.
They were astounded because they didn’t understand about the loaves and their hearts were hardened. Meaning that - even with everything that Jesus had been demonstrating for them - all the dots - they weren’t going there with God because God didn’t fit their limited human understanding of Who God is and how God does what God does.
Verses 53 to 55 are The Post-Credit Scene. Like after the credits at Marvel movie. What’s here is a clue as to how all this fits together and what’s coming next.
When Jesus and the disciples finally arrive at Gennesaret - as they’re getting out of the boat - immediately Jesus is recognized and people start running all over the place bringing people to where Jesus is in order to get healed.
Mark records - in verse 56 - that they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged Jesus to let them touch even the fringe of His garment in order to be healed.
The marketplace is a dot. The marketplace was the “agora” which was the center of town. Where goods were traded and sold and politics discussed and disputes settled or not - and speeches given. The center of the community. Jesus being in the center of the community - His people - responding with compassion and divine authority over disease.
“Fringe” is another dot that we don’t want to miss. Fringe translates a Greek word that can also be translated “tassels.” Tassels are like fringes on the edges of clothing. Little hanging stringy things.
After God delivered His people out of bondage in Egypt and after God gives to His people the Ten Commandments. Which is God freeing His people and establishing a loving covenant relationship with them. God committing Himself to compassionately care for His people.
In order to help His people remember Who it was Who delivered them and Who loves them - God Who has committed Himself to compassionately care for them - in order to help His people remember that, God instructs His people to wear tassels or fringes on their clothing.
Clothing being a pretty much we wear clothing every day thing. When God’s people saw the tassels on their clothing - every day they would - connect the dots - understand and remember the God of the covenant and seek to live obedience to Him.
Jesus in the midst of His people who are seeking to touch even the fringes of His garment is a beautiful illustration of God and His people. God’s people reaching out to God and God - the God of the Covenant - Yahweh - Yeshua - compassionately caring for His people.
The people in Gennesaret should have picked up on that. The disciples should have picked up on that. It is how all this fits together in showing us Who God is where God is going.
That’s huge. Isn’t it? Just connecting a few of the dots. God gets it - the needs of His people. God’s got a plan that included Moses and the people back then and even us to day.
God is holy. God is faithful. God is compassionate. God is sovereign. He’s working His redemption plan in history. Just like in Egypt - God is going to deliver His people.
God has a plan for history. God through Jesus. God enters into our suffering - our bondage - our desolation - the filth of this world - giving to us a life with Him now and forever. A place with Him that goes beyond whatever we can possibly imagine.
And we can look back on that. But the dots are here. It’s coming. A reality for us to marvel at.
Processing all that…
Chuck Swindoll in his commentary on this passage - Swindoll shares this insight: “Throughout the Lord’s ministry, He proved Himself trustworthy to the disciples. Time and again, they saw their Master turn impossible situations into divine victories. And they also learned that they were powerless apart from His delegated authority or power. He used these experiences to help them cultivate an abiding trust in Him. And He gave them multiple opportunities to put their faith into action. Unfortunately, they frequently failed.” (1)
Question: These days, what does it look like for you to connect the dots?
One crucial part of that is seeing the dots that need to be connected.
Those of you that have been reading through the Bible since last September - who should be at Luke 10-12 - that’s the way to see the dots. You can’t see the dot in Scripture if you’re not reading in God’s word.
As we’re reading we need to be looking for clues that God drops into His word to help us grab onto the dots or how they connect. Because God wants us to get this.
Statements like: “So you will remember” or “because of this...” or “so that you will...” or “know that...” or “This was because of…” or “This was so that…”
There’s lots of summary statements and punch lines. Those are there to help us see and connect the dots. We need to be reading and looking for them and praying and asking God to point them out to us and to help us connect all that up.
Something else that’s crucial is seeing how the dots connect to us.
It was in July 1965 that I made my decision to trust Jesus as my Savior. I don’t know the exact day so a few years back as I was writing out the ways I’d seen God working in my life and I chose July 15th - middle of the month - as my spiritual birthday.
I’ve tried to write down the ways - over the years - that I’ve seen God at work in my life. And looking at Scripture and seeing the dots and how they connect I see that same God at work in me today. And that’s huge. To realize that the living God of Scripture works in the same ways in my life.
So when I’m up against whatever I’m up against - rowing against the wind - or trying to understand what to do - which happens to all of us - right? Putting all that together - God’s word revealing Who He is and real time seeing Him at work - all that is a taking heart courage - mind settling - connecting the dots seeing Jesus - I can trust Jesus with this faith inspiring reality.
So, these days, what does that look like for you? How are the dots connecting and what steps are you taking to see the dots and seek God’s help in connecting them?
Second question: Where is your heart hardened towards God? Heart level stoned.
Sometimes we see the connections. We’re just afraid of what that picture shows us. The implications. What needs to change. The commitment required.
Which happens to all of us.
Maybe because of stuff we’ve been through - background or wrong stuff we’ve been taught or peer pressure or family connections or people or stuff going on at church or whatever might be keeping us focused elsewhere besides God - what’s keeping us back from being all in trusting Him with our life.
Where do you need to go heart level soft towards God? Where Who He is and how He desires to work in and through you is pressing in to your heart and you’re responding with faith and obedience towards Him?
1. Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016), page 178.
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.