H20 = Concrete
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 14:23b (Holman) When evening came, He was there alone.
Jesus prayed often and effectively, but is better known to us as having been a great preacher. The police who were sent to arrest Him explained why they came back empty handed, “No man ever spoke like this!” (John 7:46b).
Jesus was a powerful communicator, but evidently mightier in prayer. The Bible has no record of the Twelve ever asking Jesus to teach them how to preach.
But after hearing Jesus pray one day, they asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (LK 11:1). We should all want to learn to pray like Jesus, to be such prayer warriors that others want the fire we have, and regularly ask us to pray for them.
Jesus loved to be alone with the Father. The hours we invest in reading the Bible and in prayer may be the best hours we spend. One truth is sure; wanting to be alone with God and His Word gives evidence we truly are Christ-followers.
Prayer was Jesus’ respite. Don’t miss this precious, restful aspect of prayer. Too often our prayers are wholly consumed with supplications. Making requests is okay, but should not be the only emphasis in our praying. Prayer does get good things for us, but it also does good things to us. Often our only desire in prayer is to change God when His only desire is to change us, to quiet, calm, and soothe us.
The composer Haydn was discussing with two friends what they did to restore themselves mentally when exhausted. One mentioned wine, the other mentioned being with people, Haydn said he retired to his closet and prayed.
Our text says Jesus prayed in the evening. This is the time of day in which I have through the years done most of my structured praying. Many have found it a beneficial time to seek the Lord. After a day’s work has drained us, evening prayer gives us a chance to reflect on the day, to review its successes and failures.
Whatever time of day we choose, just be sure to choose a particular, regular time of day. This is hard to do. We live life in a mad rush. Our efforts to stay in a constant state of prayer are attacked repeatedly by interruptions and distractions.
Bill Hybels, Pastor of one of the USA’s largest churches, says our culture and era have produced one of the hardest times in history to be close with God.
In former days, missionaries could invest huge amounts of time in prayer and Bible study while riding a “slow boat to China.” When most USA Americans were farmers, they had time to pray and read when the crops were laid by.
This was true of my Grandpa Marshall. If he didn’t have to be in the fields, he read the Bible hours at a time. When he lay a corpse in his casket, Grandma did not think he looked natural. She had his Bible put in his hands, and then said he looked like himself. I wish people associated me that closely with the Bible.
Hybel’s claim is not an absolute–what about people who couldn’t read, and others who never held in their hands a page of the Bible?–but his underlying premise is irrefutable. We live in busy, hectic times. For us to serve God aright, we will have to find ways to slow our pace, and stop the world’s frenzied madness.
Matt. 14:24 But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the
waves, because the wind was against them.
Does it surprise us the 12 found this much trouble when they were precisely where God wanted them to be? Jesus Himself had told them to get in this boat.
We have no trouble understanding Jonah’s hurricane of trouble. Jonah disobeyed God, but the disciples were in perfect obedience, smack dab in the center of where Jesus meant for them to be when this storm exploded around them.
Don’t be surprised at life’s storms and troubles. In many ways we believers share the common lot of humanity. Adam’s sin left this world a mess for us all.
It is interesting to analyze Jesus’ take on this drama. He obviously felt the crowd’s applause was more dangerous than the storm’s fury. Even as believers, our perspective on life’s events can be very flawed. We often don’t know what people or which circumstances are most helpful for us. Kipling rightly called success and failure imposters. We often do not know which is which. This is one reason we must not chafe under life’s troubles. They are often the chastening of the Lord, sent to improve us. We are often clueless as to what helps or hurts most.
After Jesus fed the 5,000, the 12 felt they were in a suburb of Heaven. From their perspective, Jesus sent them into a suburb of perdition. They were wrong. In what they deemed a suburb of perdition they now experienced Heaven’s fullness.
Matt. 14:25 Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on
3 a.m. Wow. Jesus had prayed at least six hours. If I tried to pray that long at one time, I would lose focus or fall asleep. I wish I could pray like Jesus did.
3 a.m. Sad. The 12 had rowed at least six hours. The storm slowed them down. Troubles tend to do that to us. They can obsess us, and grind life to a halt.
Why did Jesus wait so long to show up? The same reason He delays with us. It takes time for us to exhaust our resources, to quit trusting in us, and start leaning on Him. As long as we think we can take care of ourselves, we tend to pray little. But when our boat is sinking, we appreciate His nearness more.
The Lord is never early, never late, always on time. At the precise moment He was needed most, Jesus prayed, “Father, I have to go. My friends need me.”
One reason He delayed was to begin teaching them He was with them even when He was physically absent from them. He needed to wean them from His physical presence. They would have to learn to enjoy His spiritual presence.
They were learning He could see them when they could not see Him. They never fell off His radar screen. Do we believe this about ourselves? Are we convinced He is watching us even when we feel He is not.
By every appearance, things were a mess. And then Jesus came, but not in a way they expected. He came walking on water. This defied all human reasoning. Egyptian hieroglyphics represented the impossible by a man walking on water.
Only God walks on water. “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8). We don’t know if He hardened water or defied gravity, but either way He demonstrated the power of a Creator over His creation.
God had defied gravity before, when He brought Enoch and Elijah directly into His presence. God had congealed water before. At the Red Sea, “the currents stood firm like a dam. The watery depths congealed in the heart of the sea” (EX 15:8b). At the Red Sea, He made water a wall. Here He made it a concrete sidewalk, The King’s Highway.
And what was He saying? He is able not only to calm the storm (MT 8:26), but to actually use it as a pathway into our lives. Whatever the stress, God is using it as a sidewalk into our existence. If I believed this, life would be simpler.
I’m a strange mix of faith and doubt. As I look to the past, I have a strong sense of faith in God’s sovereignty. I readily confess His signature in the storms.
If I could show this same level of faith when I look to the future, peace would be mine. My challenge is to believe before troubles come, not only after.