Gordon Darragh resumed the ‘Seven’ series, focusing on the shortest account of a sign in John’s gospel: John 6:16-21.
Gordon posed the question: Have you ever thought of the church as a boat? This is not a new idea: the concept of the church as a boat has been seen in many traditional church buildings where the central feature is the ‘nave’, a term derived from the Latin word for ‘ship’ or ‘boat’ (navis).
The symbol in John ch.6 is not so much a Noah’s ark image of the church being a safe place to keep us afloat in the world – or even a lifeboat setting out to rescue the perishing – but a reminder that, whatever the world may throw at the church, Jesus is Lord. He is ruler not just of nature but of history, and he is present with his disciples in their distress.
There are two parts to this sign reflected in these two questions:
- Do you ever think God has abandoned you?
- How do you know Jesus can bring you safely home?
There are many examples of this feeling of abandonment by God in scripture, including Job, Isaiah, Elijah and even King David, who wrote:
Today, too, life in a broken world is often really hard. Consider, for example,
- the depression that simply will not lift
- the illness that is not relieved
- the opposition that will not relent
- the prayer that, for all your pleading, remains unanswered
If the message of the Bible does not speak to long-term suffering, it is of very little use to a suffering world. If you wonder if God has God abandoned you, here are two things to remember:
1. Don’t be surprised; you are in step with the church around the world.
Peter wrote to the churches:
He was writing about the persecution under the emperor Nero, who used Christians to light the imperial gardens at night, but his letter was saying (and says to us today): “Don’t be surprised. God uses trials to make you more like Christ, and there is a future reward for all who persevere.” If you’re having a hard time as a follower of Jesus – you are in step with the worldwide church.
2. Jesus is praying for you. As Jesus sent his disciples across the lake – where did he go? He went up the mountain to pray! Have you ever heard someone praying for you? It is a wonderful thing to know that others are bringing our needs to the Father – asking Him to give us what we need in tough times. How much more so to know that Jesus is praying for us too!
Jesus is Lord over the storm and what this sign tells us is that Jesus is able to control those hidden depths and dangers in our lives that threaten to overwhelm us.
Life is not always a walk in the park. We know that storms come upon us that can carry us away. And the message from this sign is that, while Jesus can calm those storms, there are also times where he will come to us in the torment and lead us through it. It may not go away, but he promises to pilot you through the more extreme circumstances.
Jesus did not part the sea and take the disciples back to the shore through dry land. Instead, he guided them through the stormy waters.
Will you let him lead you?