Study in John’s Gospel. Presentation 18. Crisis of Commitment Chap 6v16-24. Presentation 18. Introduction.
Time and again, the newspapers are full of stories of governments in crisis. Not just western governments, or third world governments but governments from all around the world. Popular support can quickly slip away. Some crises take leaders by surprise and decisions they have taken are often lamented in their biographies. The ministry of Jesus was about to
reach a crisis point. It did not take him by
surprise nor did he regret the events
that precipitated it.
The sign miracles had gathered to Jesus a large popular following. For some, the miracles had authenticated Jesus’ claims and strengthened their faith. Others simply saw Jesus as a meal ticket; someone who could make their struggle through life that bit more comfortable. They thought that if they could make him king, and get rid of the Roman
occupying forces then life would be much easier.
Many people today want a convenience-God.
One whom they place in the
same category with a
dishwasher, microwave or
motor car. They want a God
who is around simply
to make their lives easier.
Knowing that the crowd intended to seize him and make him king, [6v15] Jesus responded to the crisis in a number of ways. First, by retreating to a mountain-top to pray. He remained there until 3.00 a.m. the following morning. Did he pray, for his own resolve to be strengthened?
The prospect of a crown without a cross must have been a powerful temptation! Did he pray for a response to his sign
miracles - with the spiritual realities they
represented in mind – so that some would avail
themselves of the salvation and spiritual life
Did Jesus also pray that some would
bind themselves to him in
Jesus second response to the crisis was to pack his disciples off into a fishing boat and to send them to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He did not want them to be incited by the revolutionary crowd. Later from his mountain vantage-point he saw his disciples toiling in the storm.
After 8 hours, they’d only travelled 3 miles! Were they
frightened? In an earlier incident, recorded in the other
gospels, [Mk 4.38-40] Jesus had slept through a violent
storm that had terrified them. They had wakened
Jesus and he had stood up and stilled that storm!
BUT he wasn’t in the boat this time!
Could they trust him to care even in his absence?
It is probable that the 12 baskets of food left over from feeding the crowd had been loaded onto the boat? If so, then they had a visible reminder of Jesus’ care. If he had cared for the crowd, who were comparative strangers, surely he could be trusted to care for his close companions? Here are a group of men who have grown in their trust. This violent storm did not hold the
same terrors as the previous one, they just keep on rowing!
Fear only asserted itself, when they saw the figure
of Jesus walking on the water - was he a ghost?
It is one thing to control the laws of laws of nature
- stilling a storm - but to suspend them altogether,
- walking on water - that was something else!
How did the disciples’ experience of the storm help deepen their commitment to Christ? First, they became aware of the fact that Jesus had been watching them as they struggled in the storm. They could not see him but he could see them and he was not oblivious to all that they were going through.
That is a valuable lesson for us to learn! Our
inability to see God in the storms of life does
not mean he is unmindful of what is going on.
He sees exactly what we are experiencing.
The Psalmist writes,
“he who watches over Israel will neither
slumber nor sleep” Ps 121v4.
A second truth learned in the storm is that Jesus is eager to come to the aid of his people. He does not watch our struggles with a kind of serene, unmoved detachment. He watches in order to help. When life becomes too burdensome for us or, when spiritual victory seems beyond our grasp there
he is at our side. Samuel Rutherford a famous Scottish
minister describes the matter quite helpfully:
‘The weightiest end of the cross of Christ, which is laid
upon you, lies on a strong Saviour’.
Remember too that the manner in which Jesus came
to his disciples’ aid made them initially uneasy.
And sometimes we too are not immediately
aware of Jesus’ help and support.
This unrecognised activity of God is captured in the well-known poem ‘Footprints in the Sand’ by Mary Stevenson:
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there
were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
Thirdly, the disciples learned that Jesus was able to bring them to the place he had sent them. Despite all of the difficulties that had hindered their progress Jesus cleared the obstacles cf. v21... Jesus is also able to get us to the place he has marked out for us in life, wherever that might be.
Gladys Aylward was convinced that God had called her
to work for him in China but no missionary society
would take her seriously… despite all the obstacles
She was confronted by she made her way to China
to do the work God had chosen her to do.
Where does Jesus want you to serve him? You may
not at this point in time know but you can be sure
that he will get you to the place of his choosing!
And what is true of the geographical locations in which God will place us in this life’s journey also holds good for the final destination of God’s people. The storms of life may at times make it difficult for us to focus on heaven. At times we may think that we are being blown off course but Jesus can be relied upon to bring his people into the safe harbour of heaven.
The third thing Jesus did in the crisis was affirm the purpose of his mission. The crowd, who had not come through the storm, persisted in seeking Jesus not out any sense of commitment to him but because they saw him as a ‘meal ticket’ cfv26… Jesus was seen as a convenience worker, who could meet their immediate need by constantly sending food in their direction!
But by focusing upon what we think our immediate
needs are we often fail to see that Jesus
is God’s unique solution to our
The crowd were looking for a second Moses, a historical replica. 1400 years previously Moses had been used by God to feed Israel in their wilderness wanderings. Each day manna appeared, ‘miraculously’. Physical appetites had been satisfied but only a day at a time. They were always hungry the next day!
The crowd following Jesus had failed to realise that it was spiritual satisfaction that Jesus wanted to make available to them. And it was ‘everlasting’ in nature. They had clearly not grasped the purpose of the sign miracle!
The crowd, who had sailed across the Sea of Galilee, had expended great effort to find Jesus ‘the food supplier’! Jesus counsels them not to work ‘for food that spoils but for food that would endure to eternal life’. The crowd claim they are ready to expend great effort, ‘just point us in the right direction!’Cf. v28… However, when Jesus pointed to the one thing God required - belief in him v29 - their enthusiasm waned. What they wanted was a miraculous supply of food on a daily basis. They simply could not see beyond their stomachs.
Many are dismissive of their spiritual appetite and they view God as a kind of commodities broker; someone with whom to strike a bargain. “We will give you our time, our energy our effort and work really hard, if you give us certain blessings!”
And God says, “You have missed the point, I can’t be bought.
My gifts are grace gifts and it is the hand of faith that receives
them. I am looking for trust, for a heart commitment to Jesus”
In the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 Naaman
reveals this bargaining approach which is so
common to the human heart by seeking to
buy a cure for his leprosy. He too had missed
the point that God’s gifts are grace gifts.
Finally, in v37-40 we see how Jesus found assurance in the crisis. ‘All that I give will come to you’. Was this particular truth impressed upon Jesus by the Father during his agonising prayer on the mount? What great assurance these words are to any work of God. People will inevitably drift away but those who have truly tasted the spiritual provision that Jesus brings have ‘been spoiled’ and have no appetite for anything else.
At the climax of the crisis in v 60 and 66… the majority of
seekers turn their back on Jesus and walk away.
They will not give themselves to a
They have no stomach for anything
other than the satisfaction of their
As Jesus grieved over that loss, as grieve he must, he turned to his closest companions and asked with what must have been real pathos in his voice, “You do not want to leave too, do you” v67. To which Peter made an enlightened reply, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe…”
Peter is saying, ‘Our spiritual appetites have been stirred
and you are the only one who can satisfy them.
We are hemmed in to you!’
Was Jesus surprised? Surely not.
Had not his Father said,
‘All that I give will come to you’.
Are we, like Peter, aware of the fact that thereis nowhere else to go for spiritual satisfaction? Are we hemmed into Jesus?
The storm into which the disciples were sent strengthened the heart commitment of these men.
God’s storms are designed to deepen our confidence in him and cause us to trust in Christ, who continues to pray for his people, not on a Galilean mountain but at the right hand of the Father.
Are you struggling with costly discipleship and tempted to throw in the towel? Jesus is praying for you with the assurance given him by the Father,
‘All that I give will come to you’.
Unfortunately, we often fail to listen for God’s voice. Let me illustrate.
The owner of an icehouse lost his pocket watch, a family heirloom, in the deep sawdust of the icehouse floor. He offered a reward for its safe return.
His men searched but with no success. They broke off
for lunch. As they left the building a boy entered and
after a few minutes came out holding the watch. When
asked how he had found it so quickly, when many others
had failed he said, “I just lay down in the sawdust and
listened, finally I heard the watch ticking.”
Many have lost their way spiritually. But if we are
still before God and listen very quietly he will speak
and make clear to us how to return to the path that he
has set out for us.