‘Living with Uncertainty’ Meditations: 4. Led into Uncertainty by Jesus (1)
Mt 4:35 when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
Recap: We have been pursuing this idea of the uncertainty that comes with the storms of life and the certainty that Jesus Christ, the Son of God brings, but I finished the last study commenting that the experience the disciples had in a storm on the Sea of Galilee was brought about by Jesus, and so we pursue this thought that sometimes as Jesus leads us, he leads us into uncertainty – for a purpose!
Does Jesus know? The question must arise, did Jesus know what was immediately about to happen? Well Jesus taught, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working… I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” (Jn 5:17,19,20) In other words the Father initiates and the Son puts it into action, the Father knows and the Son follows. Now how much Jesus ‘knew’ about every coming situation is not made clear but from what he tells us here, wherever he went and whatever activity he initiated it was because he was following his Father’s leading. God is all-knowing, He knows everything so whether it was Father or Son ‘in the know’ the Godhead knows what is about to happen. That verse we’ve already recently quoted about Peter tells us that: “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” (Acts 2:23) So, whether by the foreknowledge of the Father and/or the Son, the activities we observe in the Gospel, we have to conclude, are not only God initiated, but they are initiated with a purpose. Let’s start looking at some challenging examples.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand: Have you ever wondered how Jesus and the disciples ended up in a) a lonely place, b) at the end of a day with, c) a very large hungry crowd? Well we read, “because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mk 6:31,32) That’s the practical reasoning that started this off but of course the people saw him going and followed him. So he has compassion on them, teaches them until “it was late in the day.” Too late to start thinking about going and searching for food. Jesus has brought about a crisis situation, a major need, and so he turns the problem over to the disciples. A contrived learning situation? It has to be!
So does Jesus lead us into times where our grace resources run low so that we will learn that in the midst of the uncertainty that comes with such times, he is our certainty, he is the one we can trust to provide whatever the circumstance demands? This instance suggests he does!
The Lake Experience: “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.” (Mk 6:45,46) This follows the amazing feeding of the five thousand we’ve just considered and we mentioned this before but let’s put it in fresh context. Having dismissed the crowd, Jesus purposefully sends his disciples off in their boat across the Sea of Galilee while he goes off to pray. In the middle of the night a strong wind is blowing against them making sailing impossible and rowing almost impossible. At this point if you were one of these very human disciples, I suspect you might have been fighting back negative thoughts about Jesus sending you into this situation – and where is he anyway? It may be exaggerating to say it was a storm but John adds, “and the waters grew rough.” (Jn 6:18) It was a tough situation and they were tired – and alone – if only Jesus had been with them! And then he was – at least someone or something was coming towards them across the water and they were terrified.
Does Jesus lead us into trying circumstances where we appear to be on our own? Does he seek to teach us lessons in this way? The record suggests he does! Two sets of trying circumstances that are linked and which create uncertainty. Let’s see two more.
More Trying Circumstances: The Sea of Galilee turned out to be a great classroom in which to teach the disciples. In what was probably an earlier incident the disciples, as we noted in a previous study, were on the lake in their boat with Jesus – who is asleep when a storm or at least a squall comes up and nearly swamps them. Jesus rebukes the elements and peace is restored to nature but not to the disciples! (Mk 4:37-41) And yes, Jesus had led them into this situation (v.35) surely knowing what was coming!
But it doesn’t stop there because “the other side” he had suggested (v.35) was in fact the area of the Gerasenes (5:1) and there is a welcoming party there, a seriously scary man (read Mk 5:3-5). So there they are, tired and shattered by their experience on the lake in the night, probably without any sleep and they are confronted by a raving lunatic, well a wild demoniac to be precise. How do you confront the powers of darkness when you are tired, jaded, don’t know how to put one foot in front of the other, and really would just prefer to lie down and go to sleep? The answer is let Jesus do it. But of course for you and me, we don’t have a physical Jesus with us, just his indwelling Holy Spirit. Did I just use the word ‘just’ as if to imply ‘only’? He is the same God that we’ve just been reading about. The only added dimension is that we have to learn to be sensitive to His presence and His leading in the same way that Jesus did. Then watch out!
And So? Well there are other stories to watch, which we’ll continue to do in the next study, but for now the big question has to be, how do I respond when the Lord either lets trying circumstances of the fallen world come, or even leads us into them? When resources appear to be too small, as with the feeding of the five thousand, and uncertainty about how to cope reigns, will we let Jesus provide? When the seas of life seem too rough to handle and Jesus seems asleep, will we learn to trust so when we do wake him up (turn to him in prayer) it isn’t in panic but calm realisation that he can calm storms? When we are confronted by evil will we refuse to let fear paralyse us but instead immediately turn to Jesus?
So, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (Jas 4:7,8) That is the wise order to be learnt: turning life over to God so we can resist the enemy as we rest in “the shelter of the Most High”, that we saw before(Psa 91:1). That delivers us from uncertainty into security. Hallelujah!