Sun, Jul 25, 2021

Christ is Praying for You

John 6:1-21 by Doug Gunkelman
John 6:1-21
Duration:18 mins

We might assume the storms would have stopped. Jesus was on the earth, after all. He made the planet. He invented storm systems. He created the whole idea of atmosphere, wind, and rain. We might assume, for the time he was on his earth, that the world would have been storm-free, that God would have suspended the laws of nature and spared his Son the discomfort of slashing rains and howling winds.

Or at the very least we might suppose that Jesus would have walked around in a bubble. Like the one the pope uses when he drives through the crowds. Encircle our Savior with a protective shield so he doesn't get soaked, cold, afraid, or windswept. Jesus should be spared the storms of life.

And so should we. Lingering among the unspoken expectations of the Christian heart is this: Now that I belong to God, I get a pass on the tribulations of life. I get a bubble. Others face storms. I live to help them. But face my own? No way.

To follow Jesus is to live a storm-free life, right?

That expectation crashes quickly on the rocks of reality. The truth of the matter is this: life comes with storms. Jesus assures us, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). Storms will come to you, to me. They even came to Jesus' first disciples. "Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. . . . Later that night . . . the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it" (Matt. 14:22-24; John 6:16-21),

Sometimes we create our own storms. We drink too much liquor or borrow too much money or hang out with the wrong crowd. We find ourselves in a storm of our own making.

This wasn't the case with the disciples. They were on the storm-tossed sea because Christ told them to be there. "Jesus made the disciples get into the boat." This wasn't Jonah seeking to escape God; these were disciples seeking to obey Jesus. These are missionaries who move overseas, only to have their support evaporate. These are business leaders who take the high road, only to see their efforts outbid by dishonest competitors. This is the couple who honors God in marriage, only to have an empty crib. This is the student who prepares, only to fall short on the exam. These are disciples who launch a boat as Jesus instructed, only to sail headfirst into a tempest. Storms come to the obedient.

And they come with a punch. "The boat was already a consider able distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it" (v. 24).

Cool air surrounding the mountains east of the sea mixes with the warm tropical air near the water. The result is a tempest. Storms can be fierce on the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus dismissed the disciples at the evening hour. "When they had rowed about three or four miles" (John 6:19), the storm hit. Evening became night, night became windy and rainy, and before long their boat was riding the raging roller coaster of the Galilean Sea. The five-mile trip should've taken not much more than an hour, but by the fourth watch (three o'clock to six o'clock in the morning) the disciples were still far from the shore.

They deserve credit. They did not turn around and go back to the shore; they persisted in obedience. They kept digging the oars into the water and pulling the craft across the sea.

But they fought a losing battle. The storm left them too far from the shore, too long in the struggle, and too small in the waves.

Let's climb into the boat with them. Look at their rain-splattered faces. What do you see? Fear, for sure. Doubt? Absolutely. You may even hear a question shouted over the wind. "Anyone know where Jesus is?"

The question is not recorded in the text, but it was surely asked. It is today. When a ferocious storm pounces on obedient disciples, where in the world is Jesus?

The answer is clear and surprising: praying.

Jesus had gone "up on a mountainside by himself to pray" (Matt. 14:23). There is no indication that he did anything else. He didn't eat. He didn't chat. He didn't sleep. He prayed. Jesus was so intent in prayer that he persisted even though his robe was soaked, and his hair was matted. After he'd served all day, he prayed all night. He felt the gale-force winds and the skin-stinging rain. He, too, was in the storm, but still he prayed.

Or should we say he was in the storm, so he prayed? Was the storm the reason for his intercession? Do his actions here describe his first course of action: to pray for his followers? During storms he is "at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us" (Rom. 8:34).

The Greek word in this verse that is translated "interceding" is a stout verb. It carries the sense of making specific requests or petitions before someone. Festus, governor of Judea, used the Greek word for intercede when he spoke to the king about the apostle Paul. "King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer" (Acts 25:24)

Biblically speaking, this is what intercessors do. They bring passionate and specific requests before God.

Ponder this promise: Jesus, right now, at this moment, in the midst of your storm, is interceding for you. The King of the universe is speaking on your behalf. He is calling out to the heavenly Father. He is urging the help of the Holy Spirit. He is advocating for a special blessing to be sent your way. You do not fight the wind and waves alone. It's not up to you to find a solution. You have the mightiest Prince and the holiest Advocate standing up for you. When Stephen was about to be martyred for his faith. he "gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God's right hand" (Acts 7:55 NLT).

Jesus stood up for Stephen.

Ever had anyone stand up for you? The answer is yes. Jesus stands at this very moment, offering intercession on your behalf.

"Grant Mary the strength to face this interview!"

"Issue to Tom the wisdom necessary to be a good father!"

"Defeat the devil, who seeks to rob Allison of her sleep!"

"Where is Jesus?" Peter and crew may have asked.

"Where is Jesus?" the bedridden, the enfeebled, the impoverished, the overstressed, the isolated ask.

Where is he? He is in the presence of God, praying for us.

He says to you what he said to Peter. Knowing the apostle was about to be severely tested by Satan, Jesus assured him, "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail" (Luke 22:32 NKJV).

Jesus prayed for Peter. He stood up for Stephen. He promises to pray and stand up for you. "Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them" (Heb. 7:25).

When we forget to pray, he remembers to pray.

When we are full of doubt, he is full of faith.

Where we are unworthy to be heard, he is ever worthy to be heard.

Jesus is the sinless and perfect high priest. When he speaks, all of heaven listens.

Unshakable hope is the firstborn offspring of this promise. We'd like to know the future, but we don't. We long to see the road ahead, but we can't. We'd prefer to have every question answered, but Jesus has, instead, chosen to tell us this much: "l will pray you through the storm."

Are the prayers of Jesus answered? Of course.

Will you make it through this storm? I think you know the answer. A person might object. If Jesus was praying. why did the storm even happen? Wouldn't an interceding Jesus guarantee a storm-free life? My answer: absolutely! That storm-free life will be inaugurated in the eternal kingdom. Between now and then, since this is a fallen world and since the devil still stirs doubt and fear, we can count on storms. But we can also count on the presence and prayers of Christ in the midst of them.

Chris experienced a storm when he was nine years old. He was diagnosed with a case of mononucleosis. The doctor ordered him to stay indoors for the entire summer. Chris was a rambunctious, athletic, outgoing kid. To be told to spend a summer indoors. No Little League baseball, fishing trips, or bike rides? Might as well trap an eagle in a birdcage.

This was a nine-year-old's version of a tempest.

Chris’s dad was a man of faith. He resolved to find something good in the quarantine. He sold guitars in his drugstore and wasn't a half-bad guitarist himself. So, he gave Chris a guitar. Each morning he taught his son a new chord or technique and told him to practice it all day. Chris did. Turns out, he had a knack for playing the guitar. By the end of the summer. Chris was playing Willie Nelson tunes and beginning to write some songs of his own.

Within a few years he was leading worship in churches. Within a few decades he was regarded as the "most sung songwriter in the world.” Perhaps you've heard some of his music: “How Great Is Our God”, “Holy Is the Lord”, "Jesus Messiah."

I can't help but think that Jesus was praying for nine-year-old

Chris Tomlin. We’ll be singing one of his songs shortly.

The devil's best attempts to discourage us fall victim to God's resolve to shape us. What Satan intends for evil; Jesus will use for good. Satan's attempts to destroy us will actually develop our faith. Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Can you imagine the assurance this intercession brings? Tyler Sullivan can. When he was an eleven-year-old elementary school student, he skipped a day of class.

He played hooky, not in order to be out with friends or watch television; he missed school so he could meet the president of the United States.

Barack Obama was visiting Tyler's hometown of Golden Valley, Minnesota. His father had introduced the president at an event. After the speech when Tyler met the president, Obama realized that Tyler was missing school. He asked an aide to fetch him a card with presidential letterhead. He asked for the name of Tyler's teacher. He then wrote a note: "Please excuse Tyler. He was with me. Barack Obama, the president."

I'm thinking the teacher read the note and granted the request. It’s not every day the president speaks up on behalf of a kid.

But every day Jesus speaks up for you. "He always lives to intercede for us." (Heb. 7:25). For People of the Promise, Jesus is praying. In the midst of your storm, he is praying for you.

And through the mist of your storm, he is coming. "Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost’ they said and cried out in fear" (Matt. 14:25-26).

Jesus became the answer to his own prayer.

He turned the water into a walkway. He who made the Red Sea become two walls for Moses and made the iron ax-head swim for Elisha, transformed the water of Galilee into a level path and came walking to the apostles in the storm.

The followers panicked. They never expected to see Jesus in the squall.

Neither did Nika Maples. She thought she was all alone. Lupus had ravaged her body, slurred her speech, and blurred her sight. She could not walk, sit up, or move.

She could eat only the smallest of bites. She breathed in gasps and spurts. Sleep came stubbornly if at all. The doctors were bewildered, and Nika2s family was terrified. She was only twenty years old, and her body was shutting down.

By the time she was admitted into the ICU of a hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, doctors were beginning to fear for her survival. On one particularly difficult night, she couldn't sleep at all. She knew she would rest better if someone held her hand. But since she couldn't speak, she had no way to ask for comfort. Her mother was in the room, but Nika could tell by her breathing that she had dozed off. Nika began to pray: God, I need You. I cant go to sleep tonight . . . Will you please send someone to hold my hand? I can't tell anyone what I need, can't ask anyone. Will you please just tell Mom or a nurse or somebody to hold my hand?

Minutes passed slowly. The rotating mattress rolled her onto her side and then returned her to her back. As it did, someone walked into the room.

"The scent of his skin was unfamiliar, but clearly there were soft masculine tones. His steps made no noise; Mother did not even stir. . . . [He] took my right hand, holding it warmly. I tried to open my eyes but could not".

Nika drifted off to sleep. When she awoke, he was still holding her hand. Her mother slept across the room. Nika tried again to open her eyes to see her new friend. This time she succeeded. Through blurred vision she looked. No one was there. At that moment, the pressure on her hand was gone.

She is convinced Christ was with her. Based on my hospital experience last summer when I walked with Jesus, I know Christ was with her as he was with me.

He did for her what he did for the disciples. He came for her in the storm. He came for me in the storm.

His followers called him a ghost, but Jesus still came. Peter’s faith became fear, but Jesus still walked on the water. The winds howled and raged, but Jesus was not distracted from his mission. He stayed on course until his point was made: he is sovereign over all storms. The disciples, for the first time in Scripture, worshiped him.

“Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt. 14:33).

With a stilled boat as their altar and beating hearts as their liturgy, they worshiped Jesus.

May you and I do the same.

We have much to be thankful for this morning as we join with parents Austin and Alyssa in welcoming Remington into our Lord’s family in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. We pray that we fulfill our responsibilities to raise and nurture Remington in the Christian faith.