Reframing Power | John 6:16-21
Topic: Gospel Passage: John 6:16–6:21
Introduction | Where is there truly power?
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work,Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are continuing our series REFRAMING JESUS: Portraits of Glory from John’s Gospel.In Reframing Jesus, our desire isn’t to reinvent Jesus into someone He is not or make Jesus into an image we are more comfortable with. Instead, we seek to have our portrait of Jesus reframed by John’s Gospel to see Him as accurately and glorious as possible.
What is Power? How do we interact with power? Not the type of power that comes from authority (although that matters) The power to endure in the midst of difficult circumstances. The power to overcome obstacles to the joy we seek. The power to move us from places of distress to places of rest. We can experience power when it’s exercised to make change or brought to bear on a situation. We can also experience power in the resistance we feel to the change we seek or the direction we want to go. The world will tell you much a about the nature of where power comes from and how it can be used, that can actually be counterproductive to knowing and experiencing true power. These include:
Power in yourself - You’ve been told your whole life from Disney to Star Wars where power is to be found, deep within yourself. You are powerful being, more powerful than you know, so just tap into that source and you’ll experience greatness or overcome challenges. This can work for a while if the scope is right, sometimes you have more strength than you realize, your limits are less than you think. But when you’re focused here, you will eventually be disappointed, because you’ll run into challenges or circumstances that are simply beyond your ability to willfully control or influence. So you began to look outside yourself…
Power in Community – This is closer to understanding power because at least you’re not claiming to be an army of one. If a bunch of us powerful people get together and expend great effort an energy we can accomplish anything, because we’re better together! Team work, makes the dream work! This can give us a false confidence because while we’re all “powerful” we are also flawed and finite. We can thing more of us together can simply mask what is lacking in us individually. There is even some Christianization of this idea that if we’re simply unified than we can overcome anything. There is truth to this, we are better and able to accomplish more together than separated, but there will still be times we hit a more powerful force.
Power in the World/Nature- We believe individually and collectively that we have so much influence and power over the environment that what we do has some great impact when the weather, nature, they world environment tells us over and over you, I, we, are not as powerful as we think. Forces come against us that are simply not able to be navigated or negotiate no matter how hard we try individually or collectively. It’s when we face these challenges, these storm where we begin to see how power-less we really are.
In our powerlessness we need to look beyond ourselves, beyond community, and beyond the forces of this world to the God who created this world, who made a people, and who made and knows each of us individually. In those moments what we need most is not more power in ourselves or from others but the presence of the one who is truly powerful in and over every circumstance. In Jesus we are Reframing Power.
PART I | Reframing Source of Power | John 6:15-18
John 6:15-18 |15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.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.
Jesus has just finished an amazing sign of feeding nearly 20k people with little more than a kids lunchable with so much left over there was an abundance. It was truly a miracle of Jesus power and provision meeting people in a time and place of great need. But there wasn’t much time for Jesus or the disciples to enjoy the post-game celebration after this sign, because of the reaction of the crowd. Because they wanted to make Him King by force. Jesus has just preformed a miracle in feeding everyone and these powerless, hurting, marginalized, and formerly hungry people quickly transition from satisfaction to ambition. “If he can keep us feed what else can he do for us?!” Maybe we don’t have to be subject to the unstable Herod’s or the foreign pagan emperors of Rome, we can have our independence from tyranny! They want to take Jesus’ power and make him a king by violent force. Jesus knows his kingdom will not be established or defined by the violence his followers are able to inflict on others, but rather the violence Jesus is able to endure by others on the Cross. Jesus also knows His disciples desire for significance and power. He doesn’t want them around to see or be caught up in the ground swell of a possible rebellion. Victory by force isn’t the mission, being satisfied and sustained by Jesus is. It’s time to move on to the next mission. There are people on the other side of the lake that need to be healed. Starting a peasant army and overthrowing Herod or Rome is not on the agenda, healing is. In Matthew’s account, it says Jesus “Immediately” sent the disciples on to the next mission. Immediately he MAKES the disciples get in the boat and leave. Jesus is serious. This is not the fight, not the time. Not only did he send them he “made them get on the boat”. There must have been some reluctance on the disciple’s part. “Jesus this is great! Everyone loves you (and by extension us) let’s hang out here.” Jesus was urgent sending the disciples.The crowd is dismissed “Go back! The final battle is not now.” Jesus goes to be in solitude. We are then reminded Jesus is fully human. He needed to recharge, pray, connect with God the Father. This was a regular rhythm for Jesus. While Jesus is experiencing serene solitude, the disciple are finding them struggling in a storm at sea. In Hebrew writings the sea was known as a place of great chaos and disorder, being in the Sea of Galilee, 600 ft below sea level with ever changing winds and is no different. At night alone in the boat is:
Dark (Jesus hadn’t come to them yet) Dark means you cannot see. Alone in the boat is disorientating with no light to guide them to shore, to understand what direction they’re going. When you are in a place that is dark, it means you can hear what is happening around you, can feel what’s happening but you have no warning if/when things are going to change for the better or the worse. You’re tense not knowing when/where the next challenge or obstacle is coming from. Most importantly, you don’t have a vision for shore, how long the storm is going to last, how much longer you’re going to have to endure. Hopeless. Where have you been in a situation where nothing was providing illumination? How did you feel or respond?
Difficult (Rough water) It’s hard enough to try to find your way in the dark, it’s even harder to get to where you’re going when things are difficult. This wasn’t smooth sailings this is rough, white caps, the boat is getting tossed around. You once felt anchored in strong we’re all in a boat together following what Jesus said, even after getting to experiencing Jesus power and provision that would have been faith building now they’re in a place of not only great need but of great difficulty that they can’t collectively overcome. When have you moved from a place of security and provision to great difficulty in seeming isolation?
Direct opposition – The reason there is such difficulty is presence of a strong wind blowing in opposition to where the disciples are seeking to progress to. They have a clear destination go from East to West, total distance of 6-7 miles this should be attainable in a short amount of time for experienced fishermen used to navigating these waters. However, even when you’re built for something, even when you have experience, endurance, and a community of others with experience around you, there are some forces that are too strong even for a team to overcome on their own. This wind is so strong it is keeping them from going to where they’ve been called to go. When you have faced direct opposition, even when you’ve been faithful and obedient to Jesus? When have you or your family faced a great challenge where the opposition seemed so strong or unrelenting? How did you do individually or collectively to overcome? When has the wind been winning for so long you don’t know how you don’t lose? Where do you need to cry out to Jesus?
How are they doing in this storm without Jesus? Not well, struggling, yet still striving. We’ll see shortly they’re 3-4 miles out from shore. The had left shortly after the meal near the end of the day and it’s now 10-12 hours later and that is all the progress they’ve made. Why? The wind was against them, they’re alone and powerless to make real progress. Mark’s version of this episode says “they were making headway painfully”.We have an ability on our own to make some progress to make things look a little (or sometimes a lot better) but it will be painful, it will be a slow slog, it will seem unproductive and it will not ultimately lead us to where we are called to go. We can put great effort in and it can still easily lead us off course. When it says how far they have travelled and you look at the distance they needed to travel you realize they were no longer going the direction they were called to. They were stuck in the middle.Where have you been in a place where you have been working so hard, so long, but things seem stuck?
They have been straining, and rowing and working from the evening through the middle of the night. It’s early, early in the morning. It’s been hours, they are exhausted, discouraged. When you stay in that state too long with no help, no rest, no encouragement you begin to let fear set in. Fear is the opposite of Hope, fear is a picture of the future where things are worse where Hope is a vision of things being better. For these disciples of Jesus, in darkness, difficulty, with direct opposition their fear is not ill rational. They’re not flailing around in the kiddy pool or overacting to calm conditions. These are experienced grown men, who are realistic about the condition they find themselves in, and have fear that is grounded in the truth of the circumstances and the long term implication if there is not relief. Effort, time, team work, it ain’t enough. They have legit fear. Fear the storm will overwhelm, fear you’ll never make it, fear of destruction.The disciples have forgotten the mission Jesus called them too, they’re only thinking of their immediate survival, they are afraid. Fear shapes how you see things and leads you to perceive things in ways that are not reality; causing you to make rash judgments and decisions that can lead to destruction.
Marques Cooper, UW Football player who lived in my fraternity, in 2009 when fishing in the gulf of Mexico of Florida with 3 other men (all football players) there was a storm, their boat capsized in the afternoon, and the four of them clung to the hull, they all struggled to stay on top of the hull. But there were constant 6 foot waves crashing in and at points the boat was chest deep under water. They were there for 2 days but after a day of fighting the 2 of the men gave up and separated from the boat. 24 hours later a 3rd guy became non-responsive and let go of the boat 6 hours before the Coast Guard arrived to rescue Nick Schuyler the lone survivor.The investigation and interview with Nick pointed to them suffering from hypothermia. The wind was against them, their environment was so hostile they couldn’t survive, they couldn’t hold on. These were physically strong men with floatation devices but they were no match against the crushing power of a raging sea with no concern for their safety.At certain points it doesn’t matter how strong you are. You are simply not sufficient to overcome all your circumstances when the wind and waves are against you. There are things worth being scared about. Some storms do rage overwhelmingly and can destroy us if we’re left to our own. But these disciples were not left alone…
PART II |Reframing Presence |John 6:19-20
John 6:19-20 | 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 frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.
Sometimes a worse a fear than survival can begin to sink in when you’re tired in the darkness and nothing is getting better.Where is God? Why is this happening? Are we forsaken or forgotten? We were just with Jesus, He told us to go over to the other side and now were stuck in the middle of a nasty storm. These are disciples and followers of Jesus not mere fans who like the free meal by the water. For disciples of Jesus there can be a fear Jesus has called you to a place of destruction and you begin to think God isn’t good all of the time.All this is happening while the disciple are being obedient to Jesus commands, following Him faithfully. This isn’t trail or difficulty as a result of disobedience, rebellion, sin or not being where you’re supposed to be, or doing what you’re called to do. This is all happening WHILE in line with Jesus direct commands. You need to know being a disciple of Jesus is not a storm free life. It is not without periods of darkness, difficulty or direct opposition even in obedience. Do not forget at time you’re in the storm you, may still precisely where Jesus has sent you to be.
Remember Jesus sent the disciples in to the boat. They were obedient, yet they faced great difficulty, if left alone they’ll be overwhelmed. Jesus hasn’t forgotten them, He hasn’t been waiting saying “let them squirm and struggle” Jesus knows precisely where they are and what they are going through. We don’t know why He would let them struggle like this, and we usually don’t know why it SEEMS like God is delaying to intervene, but Jesus has the certainty of what is going to happen next. He knows how this is going to go down. But at least for a while Jesus was willing to let them endure and struggle on their own. It’s also interesting it doesn’t say they cried out to him. It just says they were having a hard time. I wonder, these are experienced fisher men if they thought “we’ve been in tough spots before, if we all pull together I am sure we can make it through on our own strength. We don’t need Jesus we just need each other, and each other to try harder and we will prevail. No! There is one reason this story isn’t called, the disciples die in a boating accident. It’s the direct presence and intervention of the God of the Universe in Jesus Christ. They’ve struggled long enough, they are beginning to grow weary. It’s early in the next morning (between 3-6am) things look dire. We don’t know if they cried out to Jesus in that moment or not, but we do know Jesus knew they needed him and he comes down off the mountain and out into the sea in miraculous fashion. How do they respond? More fear! They terrified without Jesus and terrified to see Jesus. Why?
We don’t like to think God is that great so when something amazing, unexplainable, or miraculous happens we’re will even come up with ridiculous conclusions to explain what we see that take glory from God by escribing credit to something much lesser than an all mighty and powerful God. Other accounts say they thought Jesus was a ghost, not God. Yes, we’ve seen Jesus do some amazing things before, even the day before in feeding people, but we’re not completely sure he’s actually God. Any other explanation will do.
Jesus is here, Jesus is present. Jesus has come down from the mountain, just like He came off the throne of Heaven, coming into the storm of the world, to save, to bring peace, and does so with mighty power. We like humble Jesus in a manger, and we like feeding Jesus when we’re hungry, but this is the mighty Son of God showing his disciples he has physical command and dominion over all of creation. It all submits to him even the water will hold firm at his will.Jesus is full man AND Jesus is fully God! The HOW of Jesus arrival to the scene, He doesn’t swim like Phelps, He doesn’t magically teleport himself to the boat, He doesn’t’ even remove the guys from where they and bring them to His presence. No. He walks… ON the Sea.
Jesus is standing over the chaos and disorder and saying “I’m above it, I walk on it. I am powerful over it.” So you don’t have to fear it.” Jesus stands over that which causes fear. We’re in the storm, we’re in the darkness, we need Jesus to show up. No amount of effort on our part will make the storm go away, we need the power and presence of Jesus in the midst of the storm. It doesn’t matter how far Jesus seems away while we in the storm because we are never to far away from Jesus’ presence, power, and intervention. Jesus crosses a distance that seems insurmountable. He does so to meet us in the darkness and storm. To bring His peaceful and transforming presence by displaying His great Power over everything. Colossians 1:15-17 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Even the surface of the water can be held together at the pressure of his feet by the command of His will. Jesus actions here are important but so are his words. He speaks“Don’t be afraid” (Literally have courage) “it is I” When Jesus says “it is I” the Greek translation is “I AM” The same thing Moses heard in Exodus 3:14 when God in the burning bush says to Moses “Iam who I am” This isn’t a ghost this is GOD!!! Multiple times in the Bible is some version of “Don’t be afraid”, fear not, and it’s not because there isn’t things to be afraid of. It’s great to be told in difficulty not to be afraid, but it always begs the question why not be afraid? The answer is because Jesus is here with you in the storm and He’s powerful over it!
PART III | Reframing Arrival |John 6:21
John 6:14-15 | 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
We wonder when we’re going to get out of the storm. When Jesus shows up! Fear turns to worship, peace, joy at the arrival and reception of Jesus. We all need Jesus in our boat!Are you actually waiting for God? Have you been crying out to him? Or have you been just rowing harder on your own or with a few others? Faith in Jesus begins when we recognize the hopeless of our condition and recognize we can’t possible save ourselves. In Jesus we worship a God who is in the boat with us! He doesn’t leave the disciples he tells us to go and make disciples reminding us He is with us always! He is the one who is powerful, more than us individually, more than us collectively and more than the circumstances or powers against us! When you’re with Jesus you are precisely where you’re supposed to be. And Jesus always takes you where He wants you to go. Miracle or not on their own effort the best the disciples could do, even together, was stuck in the middle. Psalm 107:29-30 says God calms the storm and brings them to a desired haven. The needed Jesus, presence with them in Power to save them from destruction to a new life of mission with Him. He saves by getting in the boat with us understanding our struggles, he saves by getting up on the Cross suffering the storm of God’s wrath we deserve for our sin in our place. He saves sinking into a tomb and raising again with the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit so we could be empowered with a new life where we can’t help but worship Jesus and spread the news that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus takes us to where we were meant to go when we Trust Jesus.