DO NOT BE AFRAID

Matt. 14:27 – But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

As we have often noted, the miracles of Jesus were real but they each carried a sermon that penetrates the circumstances of our lives. This story contains one of the most well known miracles that Jesus performed. It happened the night after the feeding of the multitudes when the disciples were caught in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a storm. It seems that they were rapidly losing their courage thinking maybe this could be the end of the line for them when Jesus suddenly appeared walking on water. This was a miracle that would not be forgotten anytime soon, it carried significant applications in many parts of their lives. Here is how Ellicott describes the application of this miracle.

“Be of good cheer; it is I be not afraid.—The accuracy with which the words are given by St. John, as well as by St. Matthew and St. Mark, shows the impression which the incident made on the minds of the disciples. To hear the familiar tones and the cheering words was enough, even amid the howling of the winds and the dashing of the waves, to give them confidence and hope. We can scarcely doubt that in after years that moment came back to their recollection, invested for them, as it has since been for the Church at large, with something of a symbolic character. Often the sky became dark, and the waves of the troublesome world were rough, and the blasts of persecution beat on them, and the ark of Christ’s Church was tossed on the waters, and they were wearied and spent with rowing. They thought themselves abandoned, and then in the dim twilight they would see or feel once again the tokens of His presence. He was coming to them through the storm. “Be of good cheer” became the watchword of their lives.”

Maybe you find yourself today in the middle of a storm. What makes matters worse is it seems that the Lord is nowhere to be found. Take courage, don’t be afraid. I’ve heard that Jesus is often seen in the midst of a storm. Who knows, this storm may be the beginning of a season of miracles in your life. Just when you thought all hope was gone, there He is, walking on the waves, calling out your name.

INSTANTLY

Jn.6:21 – Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.

I think this twenty four hour period was one of the most amazing in the ministry of Jesus. It started with teaching and healing the sick, moved on to the feeding of the multitudes, then on to a time of intercession, next it was walking on water, and then supernatural transport to the other side of the lake. To top things off, Jesus began to teach that day about His body and His blood, there was surely no turning back now. The Lord was literally giving His followers a taste of the world He came from and was preparing to return to. In His message that day He taught about heavenly bread and heavenly sustenance. Too often, we are fixated on this world only, the Lord was turning the gaze of His followers to the other world. Here are some thoughts from the New International Bible Commentary.

“The last lines in particular are dramatized in the strange statement of verse 21 that when the disciples tried to take Jesus aboard, immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. The whole scene has a supernatural quality about it, like a resurrection appearance. Jesus assures the disciples that he really is the person they have known all along, yet his presence–and, for a moment, theirs–is elusive, transcending time and space. He does not so much enter their world–the boat and the storm on the lake–as give them a glimpse and a taste, however fleeting, of his world. The disciples’ reaction is not expressed. As soon as they reach shore, they drop out of the story until at least verse 60. It is left to the reader to sense the mystery of what has happened and to wait for the explanation that only Jesus’ words (and they only in part) will later provide.”

Our tendency is to look at our lack of food or the storms that are about to sink our boat. Jesus was showing us to fix our gaze on heavenly food and the Maker of storms. The creator of all things was in there midst that day. he was displaying His glory through an amazing twenty four hours of miracles. The good news, He is still in our midst and is still the Bread that comes from heaven and the One who commands storms.

FOOD FOR MY SOUL

John 6:35 – And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

We are so accustomed to the physical world that it is very hard to recognize the spiritual realm. Those that become aware of the spiritual world are often considered radical or some sort of weirdo. Jesus had just performed a great miracle the day before. He fed thousands of people with five barley loaves and two small fish. He is trying to share with these followers that the miracle was a picture or image of a spiritual reality. There was a message behind the miracle. He was saying there was another kind of food and another kind of hunger. He was the living bread that comes down from heaven. This was a greater miracle than even the manna that lasted for forty years. Jesus was speaking about food for the soul. Here is how Luther describes this verse.

“Out of the mass of powerful words in the holy Scripture there is almost no stronger word that Christ is a bread and meal given by God, and that whoever eats this bread lives forever and becomes content, no longer hungering or thirsting. . . . It is a settled point that here in this chapter the Lord is speaking about spiritual food, for he himself explains it as the hunger and thirst of the soul. The soul wants to live forever, to not be cursed, to have a merciful God, to be able to stand before the wrath and judgment of God, to not be condemned by sin and the law or go to hell. Those are the soul’s desires. It is a spiritual thirst and hunger, for which we need a spiritual meal and drink. And so the Holy Spirit comes and says, “If you do not want to die or be damned, then come to Christ, believe in him and cling to him. Eat this spiritual meal, believe in Christ, that is the most important thing.”

So what kind of food are you fixated on? Can you only see the physical world and the physical needs that we have? That’s why this crowd wanted to make Jesus king. They were stuck on an earthly kingdom. Jesus was about far more than that. He was introducing food for our inner man; the kind that satisfies us forever.

MIRACLES EVERY DAY

Jn.6:11 – And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.

We live in a world that is part of God’s continual flow of miracles. Paul says that the Lord upholds everything by the word of His power. He is holding together galaxies and solar systems and has been since the day they were created. In our minuscule world called planet earth He displays His miracle power constantly. He holds the oceans in place and balances the ecological systems of the world. He feeds all of the fish, insects, and animals; and of course He feeds and sustains the human population every day.

When Jesus was on earth, He displayed His glory in His miracles. He turned water into wine and He fed the multitudes with a five loaves and two fish. These unusual miracles are really no different than the ones that satisfy and sustain each of us every day. Here is how Augustine describes the feeding off the multitudes.

“For certainly the government of the whole world is a greater miracle than the satisfying of five thousand men with five loaves; and yet no man wonders at the former; but the latter men wonder at, not because it is greater, but because it is rare. For who even now feeds the whole world, but He who creates the cornfield from a few grains? He therefore created as God creates. For, whence He multiplies the produce of the fields from a few grains, from the same source He multiplied in His hands the five loaves. The power, indeed, was in the hands of Christ; but those five loaves were as seeds, not indeed committed to the earth, but multiplied by Him who made the earth. In this miracle, then, there is that brought near to the senses, whereby the mind should be roused to attention, there is exhibited to the eyes, whereon the understanding should be exercised, that we might admire the invisible God through His visible works…”

As long as the earth remains the sun will rise and set and seed time and harvest will be used to feed the planet. From time to time the Lord will break into the natural flow of His normal system of provision with a display of power like He did when He fed the multitudes. If you need a miracle, today might just be your day.

TOUCHING THE UNTOUCHABLE

Matt.8:1-3 – When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean. And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

I love the miracles of Jesus. Here we see Jesus touching someone no one else would touch. Lepers were outcasts. Their disease was a scourge leaving the sick unclean, not allowed to interact with anyone. The lonliness and rejection had to be as miserable as leprosy itself. No one would touch a leper because of the religious implications as well as fear of the disease itself. That is no one but Jesus. His touch cleansed the leper and had no effect on Jesus. Here is Barclay’s comment on this miracle.

“There is the healing of the leper. Here we see Jesus touching the untouchable. The leper was banished from the society of men; to touch him, and even to approach him, was to break the Law. Here we see the man who was kept at arm’s length by all men wrapped around with pity and the compassion of the love of God.”

That’s what all of the Lord’s miracles were about, His compassion for hurting people. He was moved by this man’s sickness as well as his lonliness. His touch was the touch of compassion. Here is a thought from Spurgeon on this leper’s struggle to be made whole.

“He could not live in the city, but he might be found on the mount, in the outskirts of the crowd, where he would hear that gracious voice; and he came and “worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean,” in which I detect no unbelief, but rather a very strong faith. “If thou dost but will, I can be made clean”…. Christ’s grace, which usually wrought at once, in an instant, wrought for ever — the man was cleansed, never to be sick again; cured perfectly; the leprosy was cleansed.”

So maybe you feel like this rejected, untouchable leper in today’s story. You may be rejected by family and friends but never by the Lord. No matter how filthy your life has become, one touch from the Lord and you will be totally clean. Just draw near and call out to Him. You will be surprised at His sudden response.

THE LAND OF THE LIVING

John 5:24 ¶ “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

The miracles of Jesus give us a glimpse into the eternal world. In John 5 Jesus healed a man who had apparently been lame for 38 years. His sickness had caused him to live a life of misery. I guess you could say he lived in the world of death. As Jesus began to share His word after the miracle something becomes amazingly clear, sickness is part of the curse of death on mankind. Jesus came to give us life. The lame man tasted the edge of the resurrection life in his miracle. This life was made very clear when Jesus conquered sickness and death once and for all at His resurrection. All of His followers will experience that resurrection at His coming. In Jesus’ ministry we see glimpses of His Resurrection power. Today, that power is being poured out on all the earth. Here is how Adam Clarke described the implications of this miracle in the words of Jesus.

“Death is the country where every Christ-less soul lives. The man who knows not God lives a dying life, or a living death; but he who believes in the Son of God passes over from the empire of death, to the empire of life. Reader! thou wast born in death: hast thou yet changed the place of thy natural residence? Remember that to live in sin is to live in death; and those who live and die thus shall die eternally.”

When we believe the Words of the Lord we are translated from the world of death into the world of life. We no longer live in the country that was so familiar to us in the past. The life of God has entered into us we and we have joined the land of the living. As you walk in this new life don’t be surprised if miracles and healings follow after you. This is just a confirmation that the new world has already begun. Sickness is only the results of death. Healing is a glimpse into Resurrection life. Today, as you read His word, listen carefully for His voice. His voice brings us into the land of the living.

STEP ON IN

John 5:2-4 – Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.

I love to see the collision of the natural world and the spiritual world. That’s what we see at the Pool of Bethesda. As rumor had it, sporadically an angel would stir the waters by the sheep gate and the first sick person who stepped in after this stirring would be healed. As a result, there was always a crowd of miserable people camped out by the pool. So in order to receive a miracle this way, you had to believe it (or you wouldn’t be there in the first place) and you had to be first in when the waters began to swirl. I’m sure there were many people in those days who didn’t believe in the angel water. Just like today, something is going on at that place on Airline Highway in New Orleans, but many wouldn’t dare be seen in those swirling Pentecostal waters. Nevertheless, the spiritual world is still invading and colliding with the natural world. Only those who believe it, wait on the Lord, and step on in, and are able to receive their miracle. Here is how Matthew Henry described the Pool of Bethesda.

“A miraculous limitation of the virtue as to the persons cured: He that first stepped in had the benefit; that is, he or they that stepped in immediately were cured, not those that lingered and came in afterwards. This teaches us to observe and improve our opportunities, and to look about us, that we slip not a season which may never return. The angel stirred the waters, but left the diseased to themselves to get in. God has put virtue into the scriptures and ordinances, for he would have healed us; but, if we do not make a due improvement of them, it is our own fault, we would not be healed.”

Today, the Spirit of God is being poured out continually, we don’t have to wait on an angel. Jesus is standing by the pool, the gathering of His believers, asking the age old question, “Do you want to be made whole?” If so, just step on in and leave the rest to the Lord.

HUMILITY – PERSEVERANCE – AND THE HEALING POWER OF GOD

Jn.4:46,47 – Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.

One of the big obstacles to receiving a miracle is our pride. Humility is the breeding ground of miracles. This royal official who worked in Herod’s regime was willing to risk his job, fortune, and reputation to see his son made whole. He came to the conclusion that the power of God was more valuable than his prestige. Secondly, he was willing to go 20 miles on foot to get a miracle for his son. I can’t begin to tell you the number of people who have told me they love what God is doing at Victory, they just don’t want to cross the bridge. You just have to make some choices in life, what you value always comes out in what you do, not so much in what you say. Here is how Barclay describes this scene.

“Here is a courtier who came to a carpenter. The Greek is basilikos which could even mean that he was a petty king; but it is used for a royal official and he was a man of high standing at the court of Herod. Jesus on the other hand had no greater status than that of the village carpenter of Nazareth. Further, Jesus was in Cana and this man lived in Capernaum, almost twenty miles away….. There could be no more improbable scene in the world than an important court official hastening twenty miles to beg a favor from a village carpenter. First and foremost, this courtier swallowed his pride. He was in need, and neither convention nor custom stopped him bringing his need to Christ. His action would cause a sensation but he did not care what people said so long as he obtained the help he so much wanted. If we want the help which Christ can give we must be humble enough to swallow our pride and not care what any man may say.”

So maybe you need a miracle or someone you love needs a miracle. I guess we all have to ask the question, just how much do I want it? If a miracle is what you need what people think or the inconvenience of driving to church and enduring the worship and preaching should pale in comparison to the longing for God’s intervention in your life.

THE TOUCH THAT HEALS

Lk.8:43,44 – A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.

Lots of people were in the meetings that day, it even says in one account that Jesus was being thronged by the crowds. Sounds like pushing and shoving and touching but who was really touching Jesus? Suddenly Jesus was stopped in His tracks, “Who touched Me”, He exclaimed. Someone had touched Him with the touch of faith and was immediately healed. What does this story say to us today? Is it possible that many who attend church never really “touch Christ”? They sing the songs, pray their prayers, listen to the preaching, and take communion but really never touch Jesus. There was something different about the lady with the hemorrhage that day. It wasn’t that she was sick that made her different, she was ready to receive her touch. Here is how J.C. Ryle describes this scene.

“We are told in these verses that “many people followed” our Lord, “and thronged him.” But we are only told of one person who “came in the press behind,” and touched Him with faith and was healed. Many followed Jesus from curiosity, and derived no benefit from Him. One, and only one, followed under a deep sense of her need, and of our Savior’s power to relieve her, and that one received a mighty blessing. We see the same thing going on continually in the Church of Christ at the present day. Multitudes go to our places of worship, and fill our pews. Hundreds come up to the Lord’s table, and receive the bread and wine. But of all these worshipers and communicants, how few really obtain anything from Christ! Fashion, custom, ritual, habit, the love of excitement, or an itching ear, are the true motives of the vast majority. There are but few here and there who touch Christ by faith, and go home ‘in peace’.”

What brought you to church this Sunday? Did you come out of routine or duty or did you come expecting a touch from the Lord? How will your touch come? It could be from reading a scripture, His presence in a song, a word spoken from the minister, or even through the laying on of hands in the prayer line. There are many ways you can touch the hem of His garment, one touch can change your world.

FINALLY DONE

Mk.5:25,26 – A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.

Are you done yet? Not sure what I mean? What I am saying is have you finally figured out that our human limitations can only go so far. Many times, like the poor woman with the twelve year hemorrhage, our problems are beyond our ability to fix. This is a great picture of humans trying to fix their basic sin problem. There is nothing we can do to fix ourselves, we are spiritually bankrupt until that moment of divine intervention. We may have struggled for years, maybe even twelve years. We may have depleted all our resources trying to fix what is broken. Only when we are finally done and begin to look to Christ are we on our way to recovery. Here is how J. C. Ryle describes this woman’s plight.

“Many a man has spent sorrowful years in search of peace with God, and failed to find it. He has gone to earthly remedies and obtained no relief. He has wearied himself in going from place to place, and church to church, and has felt after all “nothing bettered, but rather worse.” But at last he has found rest. And where has he found it? He has found it, where this woman found hers, in Jesus Christ. He has ceased from his own works. He has stopped looking to his own endeavors and doings for relief. He has come to Christ Himself, as a humble sinner, and committed himself to His mercy. At once the burden has fallen from off his shoulders. Heaviness is turned to joy, and anxiety to peace. One touch of real faith can do more for the soul than a hundred self-imposed austerities. One look at Jesus is more efficacious than years of sack-cloth and ashes. May we never forget this to our dying day!”

It’s funny, the moment we come to that conclusion of our utter helplessness, then and then only are we ready for a miracle. In that moment we look away from ourselves and other human remedies and look to the Lord. That’s when we are ready for the touch that changes everything.