Mark 6:48 (NAS): about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.
I remember preaching this passage in bible college; a young man just learning to preach. I still remember my points. The first was, “Jesus sees your struggle.” My reasoning was that Jesus, from the mountain, could see the disciple, in the middle of the lake, struggling at the oars during the darkest watch of the night.
My second point was, “Jesus can reach you no matter where you are.” I chose this point because the raging sea did not stop Jesus from coming to the disciples. He he came to them walking on the very thing that was causing their struggle. As you might imagine that point went over very well.
My third point was , “Jesus intends for you to make it to the other side of whatever you’re going through.” This I chose because the passage said that Jesus intended to pass them by. He only stopped because they saw Him and cried out in fear. That point was also well received. It appealed to our deepest need in difficulty; assurance. It would have been a great sermon, if it had only been right.
By right I mean, true to the intending meaning of the text. All three of the points I believe are true. They simply don’t come from the meaning of the passage. The biggest problem with the sermon was that, in an effort to be relevant, I minimized the most important point. He walked on the sea. How did I miss that? Who walks on water? I had reduced it to a metaphor.
If you were on a cruise ship in the Caribbean during a storm, and a man approaches the ship walking on the sea, is the message you share when you get home, “he can reach you no matter where you are?” I don’t think so. The clear message is, “this is someone you must know.” The clear purpose of this passage is to get the reader to consider deeply who this Jesus is. Who is this who can see in darkness and who dares step out on the sea; and walk. What manner of man is He? The answer to that question may save your life.
As I said earlier, I was young and learning to preach. And that was partly the problem. I was learning to preach before I had learned how to get meaning. I was learning the act, without knowing how to get the content. If that isn’t the proverbial cart before the horse. Just as Paul urged young Timothy, we are called to preach the word. But the emphasis in that passage is on the content and not the act.
You may be wondering what harm was there in preaching my three points, if they were true. The answer is easy. It’s not the meaning of the passage. And because it’s not the meaning, my audience did not hear what the Lord wanted them to hear when He moved the author to pen these particular words. They heard from me, but they didn’t hear from Him. And in that, there is much harm.