The short cut! — John 6:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 25, 2015
Why is it there is always a certain segment within society that is willing to take short cuts in life. Whether it is deliberately tearing through the underbrush instead of staying on the marked trail or trying to get by with the least amount of effort in order to get their job done, there are those who think the short cut is the best way. There are even those who think that by simply applying simple scriptural steps to their lives will insure them a short cut to God’s blessing. Nothing could further from the truth.
We discover here in John’s Gospel that there were those who thought they could take the spiritual short cut of making Jesus their king. And even some of Jesus’ own disciples were open to this proposition. Interestingly within the next few verses we discover Jesus taking a short cut of his own, but rather than trying to make life easier, he does so in order to teach his disciples whom they were to depend on in the storms of life. From what occurs we can find hope for our own lives and the danger of not depending on Jesus when the winds of life blow foul. Let’s discover what happened when Jesus took the short cut…
Here in Johns Gospel we find that…
I. There is no short cut to the king of Kings! (Vv. 14-15)
After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
1. There are God’s prophets and there are false prophets. God had told Moses, “If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.” (Deuteronomy 18:19-20 NIV) Why are folks so quick then to follow charlatans who claim they come from God and not judge them by their results? We find no shortage of prophetic phonies who claimed spiritual insight but have been proven incorrect in their prophecies; Joseph Smith (LDS), Charles Taze Russell (JW), Mary Baker Eddy (CS), or Ellen G. White (SDA) to name just a few. And here we discover the crowds who had just experienced Jesus’ miracle of feeding them wanting to make him their political and spiritual leader! “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.'” Of course they were referring to the prophet God tells Moses about several thousands of year before when he promised him, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18 NIV) God promised to give Israel another prophet even better than Moses who would have power over men and intimacy with God! However, “none would be like Moses until the Mediator of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ, came. Moses set the standard for every future prophet. Each prophet was to do his best to live up to the example of Moses until the One came who would introduce the New Covenant.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary) This prophet of God would be much more than a mere prophet, he would be the Messiah, the Savior of the world! John writes, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” Jesus knew they did not truly want a prophet of God, they wanted a king who would rescue them from their present Roman predicament. In this we discover that there is no short cut to the king of Kings!
EXAMPLE: James McConkey was a well-known Bible teacher in the early 20th century. While traveling through Europe, he went on a hike with a group of tourists in the awe-inspiring Swiss Alps. Their experienced guide led them cautiously through dangerous gorges and across treacherous ice fields. At one point he was leading the hikers on a wide detour to ensure their safety. One weary tourist, though, decided he would take a short-cut. He left the pathway and started out on his own. The guide raced after him, tackled him, and dragged him back to the path. Then he explained that the snow over which that tourist intended to walk was a thin crust of ice covering a giant crevasse. That short-cut would have meant a long and deadly plunge deep into the glacier. (Radio bible Class) There are no spiritual shortcuts in life, no easy believism, no easy way to God without faith in Jesus. There is no shortcut to the king of Kings!
We also soon discover that…
II. There is no shortcut through the storms of life! (Vv. 16-19)
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified.
1. Jesus had withdrawn to the mountainside to be by himself, away from the crowds of demanding people, and his disciples were left to their own devices. Perhaps he told them to go ahead, or maybe they decided on their own to head across the lake. I do not believe as some suggest that they did not know where Jesus was, John tells us otherwise, he was up on the mountain, alone. In fact, Mark relates in his Gospel that “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.” (Mark 6:45-46 NIV) And, we find here from John that “When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum.” They do as their Master, their Rabbi, instructed them. Mark tells us that “When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land.” (Mark 6:47 NIV) John states that “By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.” Again, Mark tells us that Jesus “saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake.” (Mark 6:48 NIV) John relates that the disciples “had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified.” Mark tells us that “when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost.” (Mark 6:49 NIV) There is no one who can walk on the surface of a stormy lake and they certainly did not expect Jesus to do so! And isn’t this the way we are as well? When the storms of life toss our little boat about we begin to fear for our lives and then when God sends us the way to calm the storm, we become afraid! Picture the scene, from out of the gloom, the rain, and the rough sea comes one lone figure walking on the water! Perfectly calm, secure in who he is, and headed straight for them! For those of us who are fearful of the storm, the wind, and the rains of life sinking our precious vessel, Jesus is near. The storm is but a breeze and the watery deep but concrete for the creator of the wind and the waves! In this moment of time we discover for ourselves that there is no short cut through the storms of life!
EXAMPLE: When our youth group years ago took a mission trip to Nebraska, we experienced the wonder of a huge thunder and lightning storm. We had parked out near a huge corn field as the thunder rolled and the lightning streaked across the sky. The youth were thrilled until one huge bolt boomed right overhead. I turned around and all of them were now huddled inside of our van! The storm had been exciting and fun until it affected them personally, then they feared for their lives! Sometimes we can view our lives the same way. We are just fine until it affects us personally. Far too often we try to gain a shortcut through life’s storms, but here in John’s Gospel we learn that there is no short cut through the storms of life!
And finally, we discover that…
III. The short cut is by faith in the one who calms the storm! (Vv. 20-21)
But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
1. Here in this final passage is a wonderful and delightful ending. It is more than the cavalry riding to the rescue at the last moment before the attack. It is more than the wizard showing up in the east when the hoards of the Dark Lord’s orcs are at Helm’s Deep’s door. This is the Messiah walking on the water to the rescue of his little flock! This is the one who would not be made king being the King of kings and Lord of lords and displaying all of his ability to rescue the perishing! So many want to row their own course in life. They want to do it their way and take no thought to their creator. And then when life throws wind, rain, the dark of night, and the wild waves rushing over the gunnels of their little leaking boat of life, they cry out, “Save me!” It is here in the wind, it is here in the rain, it is here in the shadows of being overwhelmed God has given us a lifeline, and his name is Jesus. He is the one who calmly says to the silly sailors who try to sail life’s seas without him, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Literally, “I am.” “I am” the one you can cling to, “I am” the one you can depend upon, “I am” the one to rescue you. John succinctly states that Jesus “said to them, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid.'” It was “Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” It is only when we are willing to get over our distrust or fear of Jesus that we can willingly take him into our lives. It is then we discover that he takes us safely to the far shore! Jesus later teaches his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me… I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1, 6 NIV) We find here in John that the short cut is by faith in the one who calms the storm!
EXAMPLE: Bill Crowder writes, “Eric Liddell, memorialized in the film Chariots of Fire, won a gold medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics before going to China as a missionary. Some years later, with the outbreak of World War II, Liddell sent his family to safety in Canada, but he remained in China. Soon Liddell and other foreign missionaries were interned in a Japanese detainment camp. After months of captivity, he developed what doctors feared was a brain tumor. Every Sunday afternoon a band would play near the hospital, so one day Liddell requested they play the hymn “Be Still, My Soul.” As he listened, I wonder if Eric pondered these words from the song: Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on / When we shall be forever with the Lord. / When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, / Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. / Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past / All safe and blessed we shall meet at last. That beautiful hymn, so comforting to Eric as he faced an illness that led to his death 3 days later, expresses a great reality of Scripture. In Psalm 46:10, David wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God.” In our darkest moments, we can rest, for our Lord conquered death on our behalf. Be still, and allow Him to calm your greatest fears.” The short cut is by faith in the one who calms the storm! (Our Daily Bread, November 3, 2013)
There is no short cut to the king of Kings! There is no short cut through the storms of life! The short cut is by faith in the one who calms the storm!
This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.