The Fourth Watch

This weekend we were in Toledo with Mom and Dad. They get up for the early adult Sunday School. Dave runs the class, and I always enjoy Dave's classes, so we went along. The text was Matthew 14:22-34:

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night 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.

But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

"Come," he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.


This has long been one of my favorite stories, but Sunday brought to light new things in this familiar tale.

The key was in verse 22:

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.

There's something in there that I hadn't thought of before. Jesus, being God, knew what was coming. He knew that He was sending them out on the lake, straight into a storm. Alone.

Meanwhile, He went to spend some quality time with Dad. Hours, he prayed on the mountain, while the disciples headed strait into a storm. Not until the fourth watch, which, acording to the online parallel Bible, was after 3 AM, did Jesus come to them.

We like to think of Jesus as one who rescues, saves us from harm, but here he send the disciples straight into danger. The question is why? Why would He send them into danger? Why would have them face it alone and what does it tell us about God?

It seems clear that Jesus sees opportunity in the storm. Opportunity to teach the disciples of His power. Opportunity to put things in perspective for them, to help them see the storms that seem to loom large from God's perspective. That opportunity is great enough that not only will he refuse to shelter the disciples from it, he sends them right into it's midst. And he's content to wait and have them battle that storm for hours before strolling in to join them.

What this tells us about our God is at once shocking, scary and comforting.

The shocking and scary part is that God isn't concerned with sheltering us from pain and hardship. In fact, it's just the opposite. For the opportunity for growth presented by trials, he will lead us right into them, and let us fight with them for some time before coming to our aid.

The comforting part is that He knows exactly what He's doing. He can see what lies on the other side of the storm, we cannot. He know that we will emerge stronger and closer to Him in the end. Once Jesus appeared, the disciples weren't focused on the storm anymore. And once he got in the boat, they had a perspective on Him that no lesson on shore could ever deliver.

The comfort is that the fourth watch comes, and with it Jesus, in ways that we couldn't see Him otherwise.

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Doing some house cleaning and found this near complete post that never got published from about a year ago. It should have been posted then. There were two other things that came to light during last Sunday's class on Matthew... Read More

13 Comments

That's a great insight. Jesus sent them into the storm knowing they would be frightened, and that they would learn from the experience. Thanks for sharing this.

Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

I've had to pray a lot the last few days in the morning cause stuff was going bad and I was getting mad and frustrated. After praying the afternoons seemed to have gone better, at least for me.

You know me, always the naysayer: why assume Jesus knew what would happen with any precision? If he was truly human, this state comes with some fairly severe limits on one's knowledge. I believe Jesus had a general sense of his calling and the general arc of his ministry (including some intuition that it would end tragically), but I don't believe he had full foreknowledge of all the minutia. If he did, then the suffering of the cross would have been meaningless. Everything about the last few hours of his life tells me he wasn't sure what was about to happen, that he desperately longed to be spared what he feared ("take this cup from me"), and that he had deep doubts, at the end, about God's provision for him ("father, why have you forsaken me?").

Don't deny him is full humanity by equipping him for unlimited deity. He was an enigmatic mixture of the two, and I sense he wasn't even sure of the balance until after Sunday morning.

Mark 6:48-49 adds another scary detail: "He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost.

Whether He sent them into the storm or not, I can't say ... but while they were in the middle of a life-threatening storm, He left them with the impression that he was going to walk right past them.

I draw the same conclusion, Doug: "The shocking and scary part is that God isn't concerned with sheltering us from pain and hardship. In fact, it's just the opposite."

'doc - You make some good points. Perhaps He did not know, specifically, what He was sending them into. I think that what Keith points out does support the idea that God is quite willing to send us into, or at least allow us to pass through, storms that shape our character and give us an opportunity to draw near to Him. Not only that, but when He is aware that we are in the midst of one, he will leave us in it.

But as you point out, not only was He human, he was God. He did have the ability to see into the future, sometimes very specifically. Consider:

  • He knew when it was his time and when it was not. He set out for Jerusalem resolutely when it was, and wasn't concerned with the threats on his life.
  • He knew that one of the 12 would be tray him. Not only that, but he knew who it would be and when.
  • He knew that Pete would deny him and when.
I'm sure here are more examples, these are just what came to mind. Perhaps he did not know exactly what a lie ahead for them, but I think there is evidence that he could have known. Assuming that helps my argument anyway. :-D

The blending of His humanity and deity is a mysterious thing indeed.

That is a cool thought.

Thanks for sharing this lesson...It is always a great treat to contemplate the Divine Unique Quality that Jesus has in his person, as both Man and God; as both Created and Creator; but even more so, as Begotten!

Once again, we MUST turn to the scripture to form our opinions on the matter of Christ and the will of God. This question of "allowance" or "intended" suffering is not as enigmatic as it seems. We know from the book of Hebrews that we are to consider hardship as discipline from the Father, and more so, the mark of our legitimacy as HIS sons. We also know that the Father "…makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45) We all suffer hardship, it is just a matter of faith. It had to be Jesus' faith that this whole thing was going down, just as it was Peter's faith that Jesus was in charge of the whole thing (referring to the walking on water.) There can be little doubt that Jesus knew that he was sending them into a storm, because Jesus is the Word (John 1), and the Word teaches that they went into a storm and he walked on water. We can't doubt that Jesus in his "humanness" knew how he was going to die, because if anything, HE knew the scripture of the Old Testament, which in detail talked about his death. In fact, his mentioning of God forsaking Him is in fact NOT "Father…" but "My God, My God, why have you…". This difference is crucial. Jesus was expressing His faith as he said this, because he was in fact quoting scripture. Psalm 22 is the telling of Jesus' death, and the first line is "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" This wasn't a literal question, or even rhetorical. Jesus knew full well why he was doing what he was doing, and that was to fulfill scripture; more specifically, Psalm 22. Jesus, dying as a human with the sin of the world on His shoulders, is quoting scripture, thus, acknowledging his divine purpose. There are other Old Testament scriptures detailing Jesus' death, and half the fun is looking for them. I hope this sheds some light…

Meanwhile, I like that perspective, thanks for sharing.

There can be little doubt that Jesus knew that he was sending them into a storm, because Jesus is the Word (John 1), and the Word teaches that they went into a storm and he walked on water.

If we're going to use circular appeals to authority, there can also be little doubt that Mohammed is the one true prophet, since the Koran says it to be so and the Koran was revealed to him by God Himself.

I don't mean this disrespectfully, merely to point out that your argument would carry little sway with anyone who doesn't already agree with you.

I believe that we must consider the scripture to be a source of information about Jesus' life, but not the only source. We must also consider the fact that that source was written decades after his death by his followers, who were quite devoted to him and may have embellished the story somewhat, either intentionally (in keeping with the literary practice at the time--the gospels were religious documents, full of metaphor, symbolism, and parable, not dry documentaries) or unintentionally (due to the vagaries of human memory).

Clearly this means I see the scripture as a human document, not a divine one. But it is still central to the Christian faith as the most detailed existing record of the founding of this faith.

Clearly this means I see the scripture as a human document, not a divine one. But it is still central to the Christian faith as the most detailed existing record of the founding of this faith.

I can appreciate your argument. It seems sound to somebody who doesn't believe that the bible is inspired. To me, your argument that scripture is a human document doesn't seem to be based on fact (I tried to say that non-insultingly). Not only is the New Testament (and the Old Testament) proved to be the most reliable ancient documents in our history, meaning, there is overwhelming evidences the scripture is consistent. Is there variances in the different accounts? Sure, but that doesn't mean these things didn't happen. In fact, the Apostle John, the last of the Gospels to be written, says that there isn't enough books that could be written to hold all that Jesus did; meaning to me that what we have doesn't even scratch the surface. Recalling the details later, as Apostles and Prophets (Matthew and John are Apostles, and Mark and Luke are prophetic) the Holy Spirit made the testimony through them. To deny the scripture as inspired is to deny the Holy Spirit. Please be careful because Jesus warns us of this type of mind set. I don't want to get into apologetics concerning scripture on Doug's site. If you are really interested, go to my site, and you can find my email on the tag bar. However, one would also have to dismiss all of the scripture as inspired, all of it. This may not be difficult for you to do; I have family members who think as you do. The difference is that scripture lived out, and the current evidences of the result of obedience to it, can be as reliable as my own testimony. I can personally testify that the congruency of scripture, applied to my life, as a witness, is in fact true. This would mean that I would have to provide testimony and specific examples, of which I am willing to do. God made promises through Jesus, and those promises come true when obeying his commands, as promised. Further more, the bible has much to say regarding the existence of Christ in His placement in time. Christ's as Spirit, through whom all of creation was made, then Christ in the flesh. Also, there are a number of times that Christ appears in the Old Testament. Abraham and the prophet Daniel both witnessed Christ. He lived before, at, and after creation. He is the beginning of everything in the universe, and through Him, all things will cease to exist; all things not eternal that is. As I live and breathe, so does the word stand inspired, for I am a living testimony to the truth of its promises; as are all who live according to the Spirit. I have such strong conviction because my family has very similar views as you. I have had to either believe that the scripture is inspired, or not. Then, as the years pass by in my faith, I see these things, promised by Christ/God, come true.

As far as Mohammad is concerned, that is an interesting point. The problem is that there are none who testify the resurrection of Mohammad; as there were to Christ. Although there were those who testified concerning Mohammad, the congruency of the Koran, of what I know about it, to the Teachings of Abraham and his promise, are not fulfilled though Islam. I know that there are similarities in the Koran and the New Testament, but they clash in their teachings, and have no congruency, thus only one could be inspired by God's Spirit. I'm not saying they aren't spiritually inspired, they may be, but not by God's spirit, according to the witness of Moses and his testimony, through out the prophets and into the New Testament.

Believe it or not, this is not even apologetics to the scripture, this is just my opinion based on my life.

Sorry Doug…

P.

P - No need to apologize, I'm happy to see a little healthy debate in a comment thread. Just be nice to each other, but go right ahead.

I would like to challenge you to take a good look at virusdoc's thoughts. He and I are not in the same place on these things, but I've learned a lot from his perspective over the years.

Just because he calls the Bible a human document, does not eliminate divine intervention or influence. Certainly God could have moved and inspired these men to write what they've written and others to record and save it throughout history. He could have been leading the translations over the years as well, keeping His story alive and consistent throughout history. However, you would also agree that men have distorted that document for their own purposes, either through simple misinterpretation or by generating entire translations of scripture, leaving out the parts they didn't like. Thomas Jefferson had a Bible that left all the miracles out because he couldn't believe they actually happened. So God isn't protecting the Bible from human influence today, why would we assume that He did from day one?

Some insist that every last word and sentence was inspired to be exactly as they are, that every last story happened literally as written and as we understand them today. However, in the culture of the first century these stories may have been commonly understood in a very different light. I can't speak to this precisely as I'm not studied on the subject, but I can imagine that they would have written these things down as made sense to them, in their culture. Taking them in the context of 21st century America and saying that they have to mean what we naturally assume them to say, literally, is potentially a dangerous move. Maybe we understand as they did, maybe we don't.

I think Virusdoc's other point is valuable as well. We cannot keep referring to the Bible for evidence that the Bible is true or valid. Peter challenged us in 1 Peter 3:15 to be prepared to give an answer for our hope in the gospel, and we should. But simply saying that we need to believe in the Bible because it's true and Jesus said so, isn't convincing to anyone that doesn't have faith in the Bible already. I have a great respect for your faith and the depth of your convictions. I would challenge you - how do you describe and defend your faith to one with no faith in the Bible whatsoever? Could you do so with minimal Bible references? If not, how would you reach and influence such a person?

One of the things you said above was There can be little doubt that Jesus knew that he was sending them into a storm, because Jesus is the Word (John 1), and the Word teaches that they went into a storm and he walked on water.. Not to be harsh, but I don't see that proves anything. John 1 is a metaphorical section. Jesus isn't literally the word, nor is the word necessarily the Bible as we understand it today. There can be little doubt that the Bible is a book or that Jesus lived, but there can be plenty of doubt beyond that. Jesus as God? The Bible inspired? No way to prove either, we only have faith and that faith must be nurtured and grown. We can have faith and we can act on that faith, but we must be willing to have that faith questioned. If it falls when questioned, it falls, and we can recover with a stronger, more secure faith based on knowledge and sound arguments.

My words are pointed, and I say these things in love, brother. I believe that many persons with a deep and passionate faith such as yours have the ability to do profound things for God. They can inspire the rest of us who find faith a little harder to come by and need a little convincing. However, if that faith is held blindly, with out question, it can become a club used to beat non-believers with. I've seen many who believe so passionately that they have no room for any other view nor patience enough to explain their position. It's just true and you need to believe it because it is. I know that isn't your desire, and that is why I've said what I have.

I hope my words don't offend, that was not my intent. I actually thing that you and Virusdoc could learn something from one another. Perhaps I'm speaking out of line here (forgive me if that's so, 'doc), but I think his scientific training has made it difficult to accept the miracles of the Bible at face value. A great flood, walking on water, surviving the fiery furnace and all the healing of Jesus are hard to explain scientifically. It can be easier, like Jefferson, to explain them away rather than stretching one's faith to incorporate them. Who can say the truth of what actually happened? Maybe they are all metaphor, maybe they're completely factual. We may only know in the fullness of time when we meet our God, but getting that right isn't' essential for our salvation or faith.

A smart man (maybe you know him, 'doc :-D) once told me that he thought that God was a like a great mosaic, with each of us standing on one tile. We can only see the tile we are on and a bit of the ones surrounding. The only way to get a clearer picture of God's vastness is to get together and compare notes. The two of you are standing on very different tiles and trying your best to see God from the other's perspective can enrich each of your faith.

I know that my faith is stronger today from each of yours and many other men who I didn't see completely eye to eye with.

However, if that faith is held blindly, with out question, it can become a club used to beat non-believers with. I've seen many who believe so passionately that they have no room for any other view nor patience enough to explain their position. It's just true and you need to believe it because it is. I know that isn't your desire, and that is why I've said what I have.

I hope that I haven't done this. I do not intend to, in anyway, use religion as a club. And by all means, please don't think that an opinion other than mine is hurting my pride or feelings. Although I have plenty of both, I'm a big guy who can take care of himself, and not easily offended or insulted, and quite slow to have temper. That being said, I also want to encourage you to look at my words closer also. Please, in my response, I only meant to share my convictions, based on my life, and how God has worked in my life. Using other means outside of the bible can hardly be effective when arguing or defending the bible itself. I say this because that is the only source for our faith to even exist. Now, the literary culture of the second and third centuries was basically chaotic. It was the Council of Nicene that was forced by Constantine to canonize scripture, so that all the factions of Christianity could unite. In fact, there were probably more different belief systems in the second and third centuries than there are now! Not only were there the Epistles and Gospels, but there were multiple gospels, and multiple letters to choose from. The council of multiple bishops from churches all over the both western and soon to be eastern churches was there, to determine what was inspired. They were on a limited time schedule, and limited patience from Constantine. This is where faith must enter. Either God used these men to carry HIS message on to further generations, or it was completely their own choice. Did God work through them or didn't he? Then, moreover, how reliable were any of these documents? Did they just find the most congruent documents? Did they just rely on history as they knew it? (It has been suggested that there was a written history of the church during these two or three century that is no longer available, perhaps in the Vatican somewhere?) On a personal confession, I have more faith in the first four books of the New Testament than I do the rest of it. Sometimes, without subjugation, Paul seems to contradict Jesus. I would even say that there is a certain amount of opinion in there somewhere. I do not believe that the bible is infallible in all of its every word. In our church, they can't even decide which translation to use. Albeit that there are translations that are completely corrupt. I appreciate the fact that the bible was written by humans, and that there is the human element in it. But that just furthers the glory of God. Jesus was and is the word. Jesus was 100% human—and 100% God. He was divinely unique in his existence. The circular nature of my argument of Jesus knowing his every move and result does seem flawed, after hearing you both. However, there was certain insights allowed to Christ, and thus, I presumed; to my own detriment.

How do you prove God, Jesus, the inspiration of scripture without the bible? That is a good question. We know what the bible says: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." I suppose, in MY faith, this means that we all have reason to believe there is a God, simply because we, along with creation, exist. There are volumes of apologetics concerning this topic; regarding the intrinsic values of the Macro-to-Micro verse existing because of a cosmic accident, or vise versa, how can something so fantastic be created by a "Thing"? I generally am quite aware of the intellectual's difficulty in finding faith in the scripture. I don't have the mind of a scientist, but the mind of an artist. Totally different in nature, but I'm not unaware of the scientist need for evidences. I also understand the differences between egoism and egotism; further more, still not evidences of the bible being inspired.

Clearly this means I see the scripture as a human document, not a divine one. But it is still central to the Christian faith as the most detailed existing record of the founding of this faith.

This is true to the point that the bible as we know it is the most RELIABLE existing record of the founding of this faith. Yes there are records of Jesus outside the bible, but historically, they have not had the attention that the canonized scripture has had. The presumption that the Christian Bible is not divine means that there is little room in thinking that Christianity is divine., nor Jesus himself. You may not see it that way, but that is what it seems to me. Also, we could even argue the definition of divine.

If you are interested, there are several recommendations I have for intellectuals seeking evidences for Christianity, assuming you are interested in that in the first place.

http://www.amazon.com/Evidence-Demands-Questions-Challenging-Christians/dp/0785242198/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-4832573-3257655?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182196674&sr=1-1

&

http://www.amazon.com/True-reasonable-Douglas-Jacoby/dp/1884553222/ref=sr_1_1/002-4832573-3257655?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182196780&sr=1-1

These two books are excellent for those who demand evidence, who have an open heart, as it seems 'doc that you do. You may have already read them…I suppose that if the testimony of a person, and reasonable evidences presented are not convincing, the perhaps religion is just not your thing. I must warn you however, Jesus will still hold you accountable for your response to HIS teachings and obedience to HIS will. Not said to offend, just said in love.

I hope that you take what I say with the encouragement that I do not seek to prove ME right, only that the gospel is true. I DO believe in the miracles of the bible, only because of my own faith in how Jesus has interacted in my life. I have zero doubt about the existence of Jesus, the life of Jesus, the miracles of Jesus, the miracles of Moses, the prophets, and the apostles; not only I, but my brothers who knew the apostles and carried their work on. As I read the letter of the pre-Nicene fathers I see them quoting Paul's letters as scripture, and not only that, but all of what is canonized. One of the methods of choosing what to canonize, was in the writings of the early church scholars; in fact, almost the entire New Testament can be reconstructed through the writings of the early Christians.

I also know that the bible, if it is divine and really inspired, requires a certain amount of response, and we can hide our hearts behind our intellectual demands. Sometimes when we want to not reveal our own fears and transgressions, and find that our emotional addictions to these vices are stronger than our want to live the difficulty of righteousness (until the joy of a righteous life lived is in existence, it seems easier to live more accordingly to our human nature, and not divine potential), we find reasons to not do what is right, according to the Spirit of God.

I argue, then, where do you find divinity, if you find it at all? Do you suppose all faith's find equality in the fact that they are a man made invention, quested to fill an emotional void or compensate for fear of death? Do you suppose that we want "god" so bad that we invent Him, or "it"? Do you suppose that religion is for the weak in mind and spirit, or perhaps an excuse to divide and conquer the weak of will by those who seek power and corruption? Perhaps not, but I know those who do, and they started out questioning the divinity if the scripture. It is a narrow path with steep slants on both sides.

IF the scripture is not divine, then I am in love with something non-divine, and am willing to die for it. Perhaps that can be seen as a tragedy (again I have no where else to turn other than the bible, being the originator of my faith), however, the scripture does say that the cross is foolishness to those who are not believers. So, do I understand perhaps what it is that you are saying? In my own way, the only way I know how, I suppose I do.

I actually thing that you and Virusdoc could learn something from one another. Perhaps I'm speaking out of line here (forgive me if that's so, 'doc), but I think his scientific training has made it difficult to accept the miracles of the Bible at face value. A great flood, walking on water, surviving the fiery furnace and all the healing of Jesus are hard to explain scientifically. It can be easier, like Jefferson, to explain them away rather than stretching one's faith to incorporate them. Who can say the truth of what actually happened? Maybe they are all metaphor, maybe they're completely factual. We may only know in the fullness of time when we meet our God, but getting that right isn't' essential for our salvation or faith.

I re-read your post and wanted to further comment. (It is summer and I have much time on my hands. I won't be as wordy in the fall, so please indulge me.) The nature and reasoning of a miracle is that the laws of nature/physics/gravity/reason are broken, so that the supernatural interruption in our understanding of God is confirmed to be true. In other words, if God has something new to tell us, he does it through a man, with a following miracle. Noah's flood, the sacrifice of Isaac, the parting of the Red Sea, the withdrawing of the Jordan are all precursors and forbearing of the cross of Christ. Our faith as Christians, known by our ONLY source of faith, the bible, and our means of Conversion/join Christ on the cross, is fulfilled through repentance and baptism. Healings and other supernatural occurrences accompanied all this revelation. I think that even if somebody who was not open to having a personal, touching, endearing, relationship with GOD—through Christ and his commands and teachings—would still not let the miracles affect or effect them. Many people saw what Jesus did, and still did not convert. There is an interesting teaching of Jesus where he talks of seed falling to the ground. Some of the seed grows quickly, and then dies, some never comes to fruition, and some stays for a while, then dies, then some falls on good soil and grows well. This is a description of the hearts of mankind and their relationship with the word. I don't know how much bible, Doug, you read anymore, or have faith in literal truths mention by Christ, but I have a little of all four kinds of seed fall on my heart. Sometimes the scripture stands strong, sometimes I think that it is Just As Much MAN as it is INSPIRED. Then, I'll look at some parts and think that it is pure symbolism. But, I have no question that it is truth, and the Will of God expressed. I don't think that there should be a pat, un-budged understanding of scripture in our lives, because our relationship with the bible will almost always be reflective or our faith in God himself. Our relationship with the bible changes over the years, converted and to the unconverted. I take issue when you say that getting it right, in whether miracles are metaphor or real, is not essential to our faith. I completely disagree. They are the seal of approval of God on his revealing his Will to mankind. They are necessary in order to have faith in the bible. I would say that doubting whether the miracles were literal is reflective of knowing whether the teachings or commands are literal. Although there are core, essential rules from God to be found, that most people can accept—the golden rule for example—there are challenging requirements from Christ that are harder to accept, and it is through his literal miracles that testify to his validity in the Creator. God made the heavens and the earth. Miracles go out of creations laws, in order to prove the will of God. That's the point. Plus, as Christians, we are commanded to believe the miracles (Matthew 10:38), but that is meant for you and not Virusdoc. Anyway, thanks for letting me share my faith. It is exercising muscles that haven't been used in a while.



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