Jesus Cares
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Jesus Cares

Mark 6:45–56  (ID: 2722)

As we read the familiar story of Jesus walking on the water, we must not lose sight of the Gospel message. This story’s message is far more significant than a simple reassurance that we don’t need to worry during troubling times. Alistair Begg shows us that the main point of the text reveals who the Lord Jesus Christ is and how He came to save His people.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Mark, Volume 3

Prophet, Shepherd, Healer, and Provider Mark 6:6–8:21 Series ID: 14103

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me to the Gospel of Mark and to chapter 6—page 712 in the church Bibles, if you would like to make use of one. Mark 6:45:

“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.

“When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He 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. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.

“Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

“When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.”


And now, Father, we pray for your help as we turn to the Scriptures together, that our minds may think clearly and our wills may be constrained by your truth and that we might be revolutionized as a result of hearing from you through the Bible. For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Keeping Our Bearings

It’s almost twelve months since we began our studies in the Gospel of Mark, and every so often along the way, it’s important for us to make sure that we are not losing our bearings. I say that first of all to myself, as the one who has the privilege of teaching my way through the book, but also to ensure that we understand that together.

Every so often we read in the news of a search and rescue team that has been dispatched because people have found themselves in difficulty or even in danger as a result of having lost their bearings. And in the same way, in studying the Bible, if we do not keep our minds about us, and if we do not keep the foundational elements of biblical interpretation before us, it will be possible for us to read the Bible, to consider it together, and even to benefit from it, but actually to not enjoy that which is there for us to understand, because, frankly, we’ve lost our bearings.

Now, I want to take a moment just to reinforce this by saying first of all that it is essential that we keep in mind that we’re studying a Gospel. You say, “Well, there’s nothing like stating the obvious, is there?” Well, no, I make no apology for that at all. What we have here in Mark, as in Matthew and Luke and in John, is the record, as provided by Mark, of the story of Jesus, the Jesus of history. And Mark has recorded for us from his perspective the birth and the life and the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And Mark, more so than some of the other Gospel writers, begins by making sure that his readers understand that what he is now telling his readers in this Gospel is that which is hinged upon all that the Old Testament was expecting, so that when Jesus in Mark chapter 1 stands to declare the good news of God, he begins Mark 1:15 by saying, “The time is fulfilled.”[1] The NIV has “The time has come.” That’s not a very good translation, because the word there is actually for fulfillment. And what Mark is pointing out is that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that was expected in the Old Testament—that Jesus is the sum and substance of the gospel, the good news; he is the Messiah; he is the Son of God. And as he unfolds this narrative, this is his central theme.

Now, I mention this again this morning because when we began about a year ago, we acknowledged before one another that when it comes to sharing Christ, nothing will seal our lips or tie our tongues quicker than a loss of confidence in the truth and the relevance and the power of the gospel. In other words, if we lose our bearings in relationship to the nature of the gospel itself, while having as our purpose statement “to see unbelieving people become the committed followers of Jesus Christ,” we will discover that there is a gap that inevitably occurs between what we have affirmed as an expectation and yet what we are losing sight of and confidence in in relationship to the gospel itself.

If you’re still tracking with me: what Mark is doing is pointing to the fact that Jesus is the Christ, that he is the Messiah, that he is the one promised in the Old Testament. And it is important for us to keep this in mind as we study the various bits and pieces of the narrative. It’s important to keep this in mind when we are reflecting on the feeding of the five thousand, as last time, or when we come to an incident such as Jesus here walking on the water out to his disciples—an incident which some of us have actually known for a very long time, have considered it in Sunday School, and have heard numerous sermons on it. And some of us may be coming to it for the very first time and saying, “Well, this is a remarkable thing. Why would Mark be telling us something like this?”

Now, this is what we need to understand: that the reason Mark is recording these incidents is in order that we might get a full-orbed picture of the identity of Jesus. You will remember, the people have been asking—in Mark chapter [8] it’s recorded for us—“Well, who actually is Jesus?” The people were saying all kinds of things: “He’s a prophet.” Some people said, “He’s a reincarnation of Elijah,” and so on.[2] And that question, if you like, is hanging in the air, and that question was foremost in the minds of the earliest readers of this Gospel—individuals who had been told about Jesus of Nazareth, but they were unsure as to his identity, and many of their friends who were following this Jesus were actually being persecuted on account of their commitment to Jesus. And so it is imperative that as they read the record of Mark, that they’re getting an understanding of who Jesus is and what Mark is doing.

History cannot be understood without the Bible to interpret it.

So, the incident of Jesus walking on the water or the feeding of the five thousand, these things are not there so that we can “find ourselves in the passage.” There is a real danger in studying particularly familiar passages like this that we study our Bibles as if we were sitting with our children or our grandchildren with that book Where’s Waldo?, where the whole point of every page is to try and find Waldo. And if we’re not careful, when we study the Bible, because we’re so me-oriented, our whole expectation is “Now, I’ve got to read this passage of the Bible and find out where I am in it. ’Cause I’ve got to be in it. Because I, you know, I have to be in it.” So we look at it in terms of who we are and where we are, and then we define ourselves in relationship to that. That is not why it’s here.

What Mark is doing is introducing his readers to the one who fulfills all of history, to the one who in his death secures reconciliation between God in his holiness and man in his sin and, in the fulfilling all of history, then introduces us to him so that our lives might be defined in relationship to him. To him. To he who can feed the five thousand. To he who walks on water. To he who is the Messiah. To he who is God incarnate.

So in other words, the whole thing is about Christ. And once we discover who Jesus is and then we discover who we are, then we make the wonderful discovery of our lives being defined in relationship to him—as opposed to, for example, there are all kinds of sermons that I probably have preached as well on this particular passage which goes something along the lines of “The disciples were in a dreadful mess, and some of you are probably in a dreadful mess, too, today. Well, aren’t you excited that we’ve got a passage for people in a dreadful mess? So, here you go.” And it’s all very true. But it’s not what Mark is doing. He didn’t write that so that we could do that with it. It is all part of a bigger picture.

History—yes, history—cannot be understood without the Bible to interpret it. History can’t be understood without the Bible to interpret it. You think about the things that you and I have both read and listened to and seen in the week since we were last together—the issues of contemporary history, the reflections on a decade gone, the anticipations of all that is before us. Don’t you find yourself recoiling from the false optimism of so much of it? Don’t you find yourself saying that this crass materialism really doesn’t make sense of things? Do you really finish reading the morning newspaper, fold it back up, and put it beside your chair, and say to yourself, “You know, I think I’ll just walk around my house for a little bit and sing, ‘[You]’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time.’[3] I feel so much better now having done that—everybody, the explanations of the last decade and the explication of where I am today and where I’m going tomorrow…”

No, I don’t feel like that at all. And if I didn’t have my Bible, I don’t know what I would do. Because the Bible tackles history straight on, and the Bible says that history is flawed—that there is a fundamental flaw in history; that we are broken; that lives are broken, nations are broken, families are broken. And the Bible says, “And this is why we’re broken.” And therefore, when you read the Gospel, you read the account of someone who has come to deal with the fundamental flaw of history—and not just history in big terms but your history and my history. ’Cause my history as a person is a history of being broken, is a history of being flawed, is a history of being in the wrong, is a history of trying to fix myself. And I need to be introduced to somebody—somebody—who is able to deal with that brokenness.

Now, what Mark is doing in giving to us this tremendous story… He says as he begins it, “Here is where the good news of Jesus of Nazareth begins. The story starts right here.”[4] And he wants us to understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament expectations. And he’s moving slowly and steadily to the cross, so that he can show that the biblical storyline is a storyline which says, “The events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth—a real man in real time and space—the events concerning the life and death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth are the key to your history and to understanding all of history. Because in Jesus, God has dealt with this fundamental flaw.”

Now, that’s what I mean about keeping your bearings. That, I think you can understand, is something much larger than you just having a little sermonette this morning that says, “You know, you might have been up against it this week. Well, you should be encouraged to know the disciples were up against it, and they got out of it, and you’ll get out of it too.”

That’s true! That’s fine! But that’s easy. I can preach those sermons without even waking up in the morning. And you can listen to them without even using your mind. But if you want to think, and you want to say, “What are we considering here?”—what we’re considering is the fact that Mark sits down, he takes the eyewitness accounts, and he says, “I’m going to write this down so that people will know that God was, in Christ, ‘reconciling the world to himself’[5]—that what is happening here in this drama of Jesus of Nazareth is something about which the world needs to know. It is good news.”

Why do the nations rage? Why do the peoples “imagine a vain thing”?[6] Why are things as goofed up as they are? Go to any era of history. I was just reading Ian Wilson yesterday, the English intellectual and historian, on the period leading up to 1953, which was the year after I was born. I wanted to find out what was going on and why it was so wonderful by the time I arrived, but the fact of the matter is, when you read that, you find yourself saying, “If I don’t have a Bible to deal with this, I don’t know what to make of it at all, tell you the honest truth.”

Okay? So that’s the introduction finished. We’re done with the introduction. Now we’ll get to the text. Okay? Someone said, “Well, I’m glad that part’s over.” You might not be. This might be a little worse.

Why the Sudden Departure?

So, verse 45, “immediately” Jesus decides that everybody’s going to have to leave. I found myself just pausing then and saying, “Why the sudden departure?” “Why the sudden departure?” You might have thought that given the success of the moment and the impact on the disciples, that there could have been a reason to stay for a while and perhaps have a picnic—because they were going to have a retreat anyway, remember? And the retreat had been interrupted by the arrival of the crowd. And Jesus could have sent the crowd away and stayed with his disciples, but he chooses not to.

And there’s a matter of some urgency in this. The language that Mark uses conveys that. Jesus didn’t suggest to his disciples that they might like to go off for a little boat ride, but it says that he “made his disciples get into the boat”: “This isn’t a suggestion, fellows. Get in the boat, and do so immediately, and go on ahead to Bethsaida.” And he then “dismissed the crowd”: “Okay, you folks can leave now.” And after leaving them, then he would go up and pray.

I think the answer to the sudden departure is found when we read John’s record of the feeding of the five thousand. You can read it for yourself in John chapter 6, right around verse 14 or so. And John says at the end of the feeding of the five thousand, “the people … began to say” to one another, “‘Surely this is the Prophet [of God].’” In other words, they were putting the Old Testament together with this drama that was now conveyed in Jesus, and they said, “Why don’t we just get him now and make him a king?”

And it says there in John—John says, “And Jesus, knowing that they were interested in coming and making him a king by force, slipped out and left them on their own.”[7] Because it would be counterproductive, ’cause they were thinking wrongly about him. They were thinking in external terms about the overturn of the authorities so that their lives would get a little better, so that things would be fixed, so that “we wouldn’t have to deal with these dreadful Romans.” And Jesus wasn’t about to have himself lifted up on the shoulders of a group like this, because it was such a wrong way of thinking.

There was going to have to come a time when he would explain to them that the way of the Messiah was going to be the way of suffering. It was going to be the way of a donkey; it wasn’t going to be the way of a white charger. It was going to be the way of ignominy and of pain. And they had no concept of that, any more than the number of people in contemporary Western culture have a concept of it either. And I meet people on a daily basis, virtually, who think that religion is a key to them somehow or another triumphing over all of the external factors: “If we could only get a little bit more into this, we could fix that,” and so on, “and we’d be glad to have Jesus as a king there.” If you asked them, say, “Would you like Jesus to be a King who reigns on your heart, who controls your sex life and your finances and your marriage and your studies?”—“Oh no, I wouldn’t like to have a king like that. No, I’d just like to make sure that I have health and wealth and security and America gets back to the way it should be. If I could have a king to take care of that, that would be wonderful.” I’m tempted to say, “You had a king that could have taken care of that.” But that’s another question of history. That was just a little historical joke. Okay?

If Jesus went up onto a mountainside to pray, don’t let’s miss the challenge that is contained in that example. How slow we find ourselves to seize upon the opportunities of communion with our heavenly Father, who bids us come and meet with him, whose ear is ever open to our cry, who knows our names, who remembers that we are frail people. If the incarnate God communed with his Father in this way, it’s amazing how slow I am to do the same.

Straining at the Oars

Well, that was what I wrote first of all: “Why the sudden departure?” I think that’s probably the answer. And then I wrote down simply “straining at the oars.” Because “straining at the oars” is this picture of these characters out in the boat in the middle of the lake. The events of the afternoon have been swallowed up by the darkness. Jesus, at the vantage point in the hillside, presumably is able to look down and see his followers up against it, “the wind … against them.” If you’ve ever rode in any kind of inclement weather or been on a boat where somebody was doing that, you realize it’s just almost like an exercise in futility, depending on how strong the winds and the waves are. You just about break your arms off, and you’re not going anywhere. It’s like you’re just stationary. And Jesus looks down, and the wind is against them, and he finds them there.

I don’t imagine—and I don’t want to do a disservice to the disciples—but I don’t imagine that they were all in the boat just having a wonderful time. I can’t imagine that Peter said, “You know, why don’t we have a chorus of ‘The Wind beneath My Wings’?” So they’re singing to Jesus, “Did you ever know that you’re my hero?”[8] And I don’t think so. I think they’re probably saying, “You know, the last time we had a circumstance like this, Jesus was here, but he was asleep. Now we’re up against it again, and he’s not even here, you know. He left us. We’re separated from him.”

Well, actually, it’s true. They were not there… you will notice, their predicament was not on account of their disobedience. And it certainly could appear to them that they had been forgotten. But in actual fact, they had not been forgotten, as they’re about to discover quite dramatically. And it is a good reminder to us as well to counteract the notion that as long as you’re obedient, that everything will be hunky dory—you know, if you’re obedient, then, you know, you hardly even need to row at all; the boat almost rows for you; but if you’re disobedient, you’ll find yourself really straining at the oars. No. In actual fact, they were in the predicament they were in because they were obedient.

That’s an important lesson to learn. Because it saves us from the notion—and it’s a spurious notion, but it’s a common notion. I just saw somebody on television a couple nights ago speaking to a crowd of about twenty-five thousand people in an arena, and the person was explaining that “You know, if you will just sow the seeds of your faith into this deposit bank here, there is no limit to where you’re going to go.” It’s quite fascinating, because just as I was watching this clown on television, I received a text message to say that one of my member’s brothers had been killed in a car crash at the age of fifty-two—somebody who was a pastor to the impoverished people of Austin, Texas. So I said, “Well, wait a minute. What did this guy do? And what is this fellow doing?”

No, you must choose for yourselves, because you’re sensible people, but I’m staying with William Cowper and the sentiments of the hymn we just sang:

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.[9]

And so it is that with the wind against them, when the hour is at its darkest, after he has observed them, presumably for some time, Jesus shows up about three o’clock in the morning, for that would be the beginning of “the fourth watch of the night,” between three and six, before the dawn. And it’s always darkest before the dawn. And into the darkness of their experience he comes, and he speaks to them.

But he comes walking on water. This week I was walking around singing that song, the old song, “Here Comes Jesus.” Remember that we used to sing? “See him walking on the water.” And I said… I don’t know where that song went. But it doesn’t sound that good now, as I reflect on it, but anyway… “He’ll [pick] you up and … [cause] you to stand.”[10] I can’t remember the words from there, but I was thinking along those lines, because it’s such a remarkable thing, isn’t it?

See what Mark is doing? He’s saying, “This Jesus that I want you to believe in—this Jesus, who is the embodiment of the good news—he feeds people with five loaves and two fish, and he comes, and he walks on the water. He is the Lord of creation. He is the King of glory. There is no other god like this God. All the gods of the nations are idols. They are nothing. They can see, but they can’t hear. They can’t speak. This Jesus,” he says, “if you would believe in this Jesus, this is the Jesus. He comes into the darkness of their experience, and he doesn’t give them a lecture, but he speaks to them.”

And if his readers, Mark’s readers, knew their Bible, they would know that this is one of the pictures of God in the Old Testament. Job 9:8: “[God] alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.” There’s no way out of this, loved ones. We’re stuck. If you’re going to be a Christian and you’re going to be a Bible-believing Christian, you’re going to have to face the fact that your friends and neighbors will say to you, “Why are you so stuck and vehement about this Jesus thing? I mean, why can’t you acknowledge that other people have done great things, other people have said great things, that there are other ways to resolve the issues of a broken humanity, that there are countless people who are viewing it in different ways?”

And the answer that we have to give to that is: Jesus has not left us that option. When we read the Gospels, we’re either dealing with absolute truth or the greatest hoax that has ever been foisted on humanity. There’s no middle ground. So if Jesus is the person as revealed to us in the Gospels, he is like no one else, and no one else is like him. He’s

 the Word of God the Father
From before the world began;
Every star and every planet
Has been fashioned by [his] hand.[11]

It would be a surprise if he didn’t come walking on the water, wouldn’t it?

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Well,” you say, “well, what about that little phrase ‘He was about to pass by them’?” That can stall most home Bible study groups for at least two pots of coffee: “Well, I think he was going over to…” Shh!

If you think about the fact that Mark is writing from eyewitness reports and you read that phrase not in terms of the intention of Jesus but the perspective of the disciples, then it won’t trouble you at all, if you put it in the first person. So if you imagine that Peter is giving to Mark, who’s writing down a Gospel—Mark says to Peter, for example, “Hey, what was the deal after the feeding of the five thousand with that thing where you were in the boat with the waves and the straining at the oars?” And Peter says, “Oh, well, I can tell you.” He says, “We were out there, and we were straining at the oars, and in the darkness, all of a sudden, we saw this strange figure walking towards us, and frankly, we thought it was a ghost. And it was actually about to pass by us, until we shouted out.”

And so Mark writes it down: “They were in the boat, and they saw the person. They thought it was a ghost, and he was about to pass by”—from the perspective of the disciples, not from the perspective of Jesus. He didn’t come out in order to pass by. Now, you go and read all the commentaries, and you’ll find that the people say, “Well, the reason he was passing by is he went to pass by, just a sort of fake, because he wants you to call out to him so that he won’t pass by. So, he’s passing by, but not really.” I don’t think so. I don’t think so. You do with it what you want. It’s not a main thing and a plain thing.

And not only did Jesus speak to them; he got “into the boat with them.” He got “into the boat with them.” I can’t resist the opportunity just to say: Isn’t this wonderful, how Jesus deals with us? Nobody else can actually get into our circumstances with us. Our wives, our kids—there’s not a person in the world can fully understand us. “Who knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of a man that is in him?”[12] And our circumstance is up against it, whatever it might be, and Jesus comes, and he speaks in kindness. He doesn’t give them a lecture: “You fellows should have known better than this.” No. “It’s me. Don’t be afraid. Take courage.” And he got in beside them, “and the wind died down.”

That’s one of the reasons I love the line in Townend’s hymn “There Is a Hope”: “When the world has plunged me in its deepest pit, I find the Savior there.”[13] When we’re at our most broken, when we find ourselves in the darkest of the hours, when our need is the greatest, he comes and intervenes.

Look Out!

Now, the explanation in verse 52 for the fearfulness and confusion and amazement is because “they had[n’t] understood about the loaves.” They had hard hearts. What an amazing thing this is! Jesus had just had “the people sit down … on the green grass.” The Shepherd of Israel had provided for them. But apparently, the disciples had seen it as something that was marvelous, but they didn’t get the meaning of it at all. Are we to believe that they saw such a dramatic display of the power of the Lord Jesus Christ and then felt somehow or another that he was going to desert them in the next instance?

I wonder, do you find yourself saying, “If I’d been there for the feeding of the five thousand, I certainly wouldn’t have been amazed or terrified. I would have been at the front of the boat going, ‘I’m sure it’s Jesus, walking on the water. He’s coming to see us!’” I don’t think so.

Now, it may be you’re a very special person. Not me. What I wrote in my notes was this: “Look out, Begg.” In my scribbles, “Look out!” Why? Here is a reminder of how close you can be to the action and still have meager faith and a stony heart. Here is a reminder of how close you can be to the unfolding story of who Jesus is. You can preach it, you can hear it, you can teach it, you can sing it, you can engage in it and still find that your faith is meager and your heart is stony. There is a warning in this—a vital warning.

And so, I imagine that when the wind died down and they finally crossed over to land at Gennesaret and to anchor there, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was a fairly quiet journey—sort of sheepish, just like, “Well, do you want to get the rope, or shall I get the rope?” You know, after you’ve had, you know, like… Well, you know that kind of thing, where you’ve made a complete hash of it, and then you have to be quiet for a while, and then, when you start back into engaging again, you can’t say like, “Oh, I do worship thee,” but you’d say, like, “Would you like a sandwich?” or “Can I help you with the rope?” or whatever else. You know, you understand. Maybe you don’t understand. That’s okay, so far.

All I’m saying is I imagine that when Jesus sat in the boat, there wasn’t a lot of chattering going on. “The wind died down. They were completely amazed.” They looked at one another and must have said, “Golly, we gotta be the worst group of disciples that the world has ever seen.”

Do you ever feel like you might’ve been part of the worst group of disciples? I do. That’s why I love the fact that Jesus gets right down, you see. He doesn’t come and do what I’m tempted to do with people who let me down: “Well, goodness gracious, I mean, didn’t I just show you? What’s the problem with you?” He didn’t come and say, “I fed the five thousand, and you goofballs are out here doing this?” No, he said, “Hey, guys, take courage. It’s me. Don’t be afraid. I’ve got your back. I have you covered. I love you. I chose you. I’ll get you safely there.” That’s how God deals with us. There’s no shepherd like this Shepherd. There’s no king like this.

And when they finally anchor the boat and the people recognize Jesus, it all starts all over again. And in the villages and the towns and the countryside, look what happens: the people are coming from all over the place. And there is another sermon here, and I’ll just give you the outline of it, and you can preach it somewhere else when you have an opportunity. But what happens in these instances is this: first of all, there’s a recognition of Jesus; secondly, there’s a realization of people’s need of Jesus; thirdly, there is a belief that Jesus can actually meet that need; and fourthly, there is a willingness to grasp the opportunity. Right?

Jesus is the Lord of creation. He is the King of glory. He is the Savior of those who trust in him.

So, first of all, they recognize who Jesus is. You’ll never come to Jesus and know him as your Lord and King and Savior unless you recognize who he is. He’s not here to ride in your trunk. He’s not here to add to the sum of your total happiness. He’s not here simply to cure your addictions and to fill your life with expectations and hopes and dreams. He’s here in order to reconcile the world to himself.[14] He’s here in order to deal with God’s problem, and God’s problem is how he, as a holy God, can justify sinners and allow them into his heaven. And the answer to that problem is in the person and work of Jesus. So when we talk about recognizing Jesus, we’re not simply recognizing that there was a Jesus of Nazareth. We’re saying that we recognize that Jesus is this person. He is the Lord of creation. He is the King of glory. He is the Savior of those who trust in him.

And then the realization of need. There was nobody taken and put on a mat just because they wanted to lie around on a mat. They went there because they knew they needed him. You’ll never know Jesus until you need him. Say, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe, I don’t know.” Hey, forget it.

Thirdly, they believed that Jesus could meet their need. Do you?

And then, fourthly, they came and they asked him to. That actually is the gospel, isn’t it? That’s what Mark is telling us in the whole story: that Jesus hasn’t come primarily to deal with our perceived needs—“How can I live a better life? How can I overcome my addictions? How can I make sense of my existence?” Coming to know Jesus may include all of these, but if you come to Jesus for that reason, you’ll never know him as he has made himself known. Because

He didn’t come to judge the world, He didn’t come to blame,
He didn’t only come to seek; it was to save He came;
And when we call him Saviour, then we call Him by His name.[15]

Savior from what? Savior from my addictions? Savior from my marriage? Savior from my financial insecurities? No! Savior from my turned-in-upon-myself-ness. Savior from my warpedness. Savior from my brokenness. Savior from my sin. Savior from my rebellion. And when I come to him in that vein, then I discover that the God who takes care of that endemic and fundamental issue is the God who is more than able and willing to cope with all of my perceived and realistic needs.

You see, the good news is really good news. It would be a shame to trivialize it—and that’s why I began as I did and finish as I do—to trivialize it in some way, as if… You know, it’s kind of like the kind of preaching that basically says, “You know, I know a lot of you are cold. Why don’t you get a rug and put it over your knees and just feel better about yourselves? You know, it’s cold out there in more ways than one, and you’re straining at the oars, and, you know, just lay your oars down,” or whatever it might be, you know. Someone says, “Well, that’s good.” Well, it is good, and it’s true. But that’s to trivialize the vastness of what Mark is conveying.

You see, the Buddhas are everywhere. You can just pick them up and carry them around with you and rub their tummy. But Jesus is ascended to the right hand of the Father, and from there he comes to judge the world. And in between then and now, the cross stands as the opportunity for us to come to him with our history and ask him to forgive us for our mess and to start a whole new history. And that’s what Jesus does.

I’ve tried watching Lost again—the fifth series, or whatever else it is. I’m about to go insane. I tell my wife, “I am not clever enough for this,” ’cause every time I turn around it says, “Thirty years previous,” “Three years later,” “Thirty years beyond.” I said, “What time is it? What is it? What is it? Where is it? What’s…” And then said, “Thirty years before.” I said, “It couldn’t be thirty years before! They didn’t have Jeeps thirty years before.” She goes, “No, you just don’t understand.” What?

But isn’t it interesting? What are they monkeying with? Time travel. Moving through time, turning back time. Fate, determinism: whether there’s anything you can do that alters things, whether you’re held in the grip of blind forces. And that’s why I say you’re not going to be able to make sense of your world, nor even your television programs, unless you come to know your Bible, unless you come to know Christ, who is introduced to us in the Bible, and unless we bow down before him as our Lord and our King.

Well, thank you for your patience.

Gracious God, look upon us in your mercy, we pray. Save us from our ourselves and our sin. Come and reign in our lives. Rule over us. Deal with our brokenness. Forgive us for trivializing the wonder of your dealings with us. And so, help us to honor you in the entirety of who and what you are as we go into another week. For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

[1] Mark 1:15 (KJV).

[2] Mark 8:27–29 (paraphrased).

[3] Paul McCartney and John Lennon, “Getting Better” (1967).

[4] Mark 1:1 (paraphrased).

[5] 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NIV 1984).

[6] Psalm 2:1 (KJV).

[7] John 6:15 (paraphrased).

[8] Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar, “Wind beneath My Wings” (1982).

[9] William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” (1774).

[10] Cordelia Spitzer, “Here Comes Jesus” (1971).

[11] Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, “Across the Lands” (2002).

[12] 1 Corinthians 2:11 (paraphrased).

[13] Stuart Townend and Mark Edwards, “There Is a Hope” (2007).

[14] See 2 Corinthians 5:19.

[15] Dora Greenwell, “A Good Confession,” in Songs of Salvation (London, 1874), 27.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.