The Twentieth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana. He cleansed the Jerusalem temple of the merchants and money-changers who profaned it. He healed a nobleman’s son, and then while in Jerusalem to celebrate a feast of the Jews, Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. In all of these miracles, Jesus has demonstrated that he is the word made flesh and the Son of God who has come into the world to grant eternal life, raise those dead in sin, and create faith (trust) that he is the redeemer and Messiah promised throughout the Old Testament. When a large crowd followed Jesus out into a barren wilderness east of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus miraculously turned five barley loaves and two small fish into a meal which fed well over five thousand people. In this dramatic miracle, Jesus shows himself to be a new Moses leading the people of God in a New Exodus. And then later that same night, Jesus will miraculously walk across the Sea of Galilee in the midst of a storm and join his disciples. Jesus is not only the New Moses, he is Lord of the sea. He feeds the multitudes and calms the storm. The one who tells us “it is I, do not be afraid,” is continuing to reveal just who he is and what he has come to do.
As we continue our series on the Gospel of John, we are working our way through the 6th chapter of John, one of the richest and most theologically profound passages in all the Bible. Since the chapter is packed with important doctrines, it would not be good to rush through the entire chapter in one sermon–after all chapter 6 has 71 verses. To most effectively cover this ground, I have broken the passage into six small sections. Last time, we covered the first fifteen verses of John 6–the account of Jesus miraculously feeding well over five thousand people out in the wilderness east of the Sea of Galilee. This is the fifth of seven miraculous signs in John’s Gospel which confirm Jesus’ identity as the word made flesh and the Son of God. In this sermon, we will be looking at the second miracle recorded in John 6 (Jesus walking on the water as the disciples attempt to cross the Sea of Galilee by boat), and which, like the feeding of the five thousand, helps set the stage for the lengthy discourse which follows.
Next time, Lord willing, we will take up the first part of the so-called “bread of life” discourse which runs from John 6:22-58 (although we will touch briefly on the introductory portion of the discourse this time). We will spend three Sundays going through the details of the discourse, before we look at the consequence of Jesus’ teaching–our Lord says a number of things in this passage which were so difficult for the crowds to accept that many of his followers turned their back on Jesus and walked away (vv. 59-71). Throughout this chapter (in both miracles, as well as in the details of the discourse) Jesus repeatedly places himself at the center of Israel’s history, and either alludes to, or directly identifies himself with the great turning points in Israel’s history. The passage is remarkable and well worth our time and attention.
As we saw last time, in John 6:1, the scene shifts from Jerusalem back to the region of the Galilee. By this point in his ministry, Jesus is attracting larger and larger crowds who are now following him everywhere he goes. Many people see in Jesus a miracle-worker who can help them with their most desperate needs–they seek healing for themselves or for their loved ones, or deliverance from demonic oppression. But others see in Jesus’ miracle working power and willingness to confront the Jewish religious leadership someone fit to lead an insurrection against the hated Romans who occupied the Jewish homeland. Now, wherever Jesus goes, word about his arrival spreads, and as we see in John 6, Jesus is unable to shake these large crowds, or find solitude to rest and to pray.
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