Sermon notes of Pastor Mark Downey
January 24, 2016
Scripture Reading: Revelation 3:1-6
We are creatures of habit sometimes moreso than creatures of God. The first thing most people do when they wake up in the morning is to wake up, stretching, yawning and other bodily functions. Then you shuffle to the kitchen to get a pot of coffee going in order to wake up and smell the coffee, which is also a euphemism used to tell someone that they are wrong about one thing or another and need to pay attention to what is really happening. I woke up last week to a smoke alarm blipping; there was no fire, it's just that the batteries were low. It got my attention and I was immediately focused to correct the situation. Most people wake up to their routines and are not yet focused on what is really happening. Their only alarm is their alarm clock and you turn it off as it so rudely interrupts a dream you were having. The body and mind are activated to get out of bed. But, how long does it take to charge your spiritual batteries? What if our habitual routine of things were preceded by something completely different. What if the Holy Spirit took charge right off the battery of life before the demands of body and mind. This is what is called a paradigm shift, a change from one way of thinking to another. Let's suppose that the first thing we do, the first minute of waking from sleep, whether laying down or sitting on the edge of your bed, your eyes are open and you contemplate the invisible presence of God and your second thought is that this could be the day that He makes His presence visible. Quite a profound prospect don't you think? As a result of the silent meditation, even if it's for one minute, your first contact of the day is with the mind of God, not your own mind. The paradigm for the rest of the day is that your spiritual batteries are charged and you're ready to face the day with divine insight. The semi-dry sleep in the corner of your eye has been preempted; we are now new creatures in Christ having our priorities in alignment with the Holy Spirit, that will be with you for the rest of the day.
Most people are so confused they don't know whether to vote for clown 1 or clown 2 or clown 3. Therefore, we must reconsider our vote and de-vote our time to Jesus Christ. Every four years I beat the drum of 'Jesus Christ for President' and 2016 will again remind people that He is our King; you want more of the same old same old? Then vote! Last Monday I was watching the news and the nooze media was making a big deal about Trump making a big mistake quoting the Bible at Liberty University; they said he “bungled,” flubbed,” “misquoted,” and “screwed up.” Finally, they show the video of Trump turning to Scripture saying, “We're going to protect Christianity. I can say that. I don't have to be politically correct," he said. “Two Corinthians, 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame… is that the one you like?” “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” I thought, I think that's right and looked it up and it was. So what was the big deal? He said two instead of second Corinthians. Can you believe the utter pettiness of these media whores and Christian college students who are persuaded more by the traditions of man twittering “it's second Corinthians!”? We all know from the Christogenea New Testament that the original manuscripts depicted books of the Bible by letters not numbers until the KJV changed that for whatever reason. It was Corinthians A and B.
I have an anecdote that illustrates the problem of White Christian America. A gentleman was approaching a stoplight just as it was turning yellow. We've all been there; either accelerate, gunning the gas to beat the red light in a mediocre intersection or slowing down and stopping at the crosswalk. Well, there was a woman right behind him, tailgating him, who was furious that he didn't go for it; honking her horn and screaming at the top of her lungs in frustration, missing her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cellphone and makeup in the process. As she was still in the middle of her ranting and raving, she heard a little tap on the window and turned to see the face of a very stern looking policeman. The officer ordered her out of the car with her hands up. He checked for weapons and then cuffed her, taking her to the jail where she was fingerprinted, took her mug shot and put her in a holding cell. A couple hours later, a cop came to her cell and opened the door and she was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects. He said, “I'm very sorry for this mistake, but you see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping the guy off in front of you and cussing a blue streak and I noticed the bumper stickers 'What would Jesus do,' 'Follow me to Sunday school,' the 'Choose Life' license plate holder and a chrome-plated fish emblem on the trunk... so naturally, I thought you had stolen the car.” Pastor Sheldon Emry once said that judeo-Christians are Christians one day of the week and that for only an hour or two and the other six days they act like jews. Churchians will have a tirade if you say “two Corinthians,” as if they went to the Harvard Divinity School and yet their theology consists of about six sound bytes: 1. God loves everybody 2. John 3:16 3. Are you born again? 4. Judge not, lest you also be judged 5. Are you saved? and 6. Jesus was a jew. There's probably more, but it doesn't make any difference because they don't have a clue about what they are talking about.
What does any of the aforementioned have to do with prophecy? What am I getting at today? Well, in a previous lesson, I described two kinds of people (listed in Luke 21:26, 28); those whose hearts fail them for fear of current events and those who are overjoyed at the signs of the times. One can be excited over either perspective and thus exciting times we live in. The point, prophetically, is that there will be many Christians who are not very Christian in their thoughts or actions. From my opening paragraph, I entertained the thought that when we make the transition from the subconscious to the conscious mind, from sleep to being awake, that we spontaneously and automatically surrender our will to the will of God by contemplating His presence. Sleep, in the Bible, is an allegory for death and death is associated with darkness. Being awake, on the other hand, relates to life and life is likened to light. “Can you see the light?” is most difficult for the spiritually blind to answer affirmatively while in spiritual darkness. But, we do wrestle “against the rulers of darkness... against spiritual wickedness” (Eph. 6:12) and we do so with a torch. In other words, we should not let things slide that pass as Christian when they contradict Christ. “For anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” Eph. 5:14. “Therefore” what says? Isaiah 60:1-2, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.”
This tells me that the invisible God of Israel can be seen and was prophetically manifested in Jesus Christ. The prophecy for us today is that the church gets the Light, we get it, we understand it, and we illuminate the Kingdom of God with it. “When every knee shall bow” is perhaps the time when the light of the sun is no longer needed, for every Israelite shines like a torch. Remember Moses glowed when he came down from Sinai? Jacob shall be a fire and Joseph a flame (Ob. 1:18). In the first chapter of John, he compares the Word (verse 1) with light (v. 5). The Ephesian church got the light and was not supposed to go back to bed and sleep, but rather to rise, as if from the grave, and shine that light unto the people of Israel. Living saints are sometimes among dead sinners and it behooves them to arise above the darkness that does not comprehend Christ. Here's the deal, if we stay in bed with the paganized, bastardized, ritualized and commercialized church, it becomes a dangerous infection and all the more harder to come out of. Christian Identity is not impervious to the subtleties of this shade. But, when the mind of a sinner “abstains from all appearance of evil” and wakes up to Christ, comes out of apostasy, has the mentality of separating from evil (or that which spoils), then the believer is well pleasing in the eyes of God, and He promises to receive those who come to Him. All of this follows here as an encouragement, which is in the form of light. We are, in turn, made light, by reflecting the Word. I did a series called 'The Shining Light of Glory' and in that study I recounted the cliché 'where there's smoke there's fire; and where's there's fire, there's light.' There will be times when we encounter smoke and mirrors, the deceptions of the world, but then God promises us a baptism of fire, which will purge the dross and impurities of our mind, so that we are faced with the stark reality of Truth. And we can either be freed by it or stay imprisoned. We are not Christ, but we are a mirror of Christ. Christ emphasized to Peter three times to “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17), because they not only need it for sustaining life, but to generate even more light, generating an expectation of fresh light for the amazing grace and mercy through the blood of Christ.
We don't have to sacrifice animals anymore; we need no new prophecies; we don't need for the Law and prophets to be dormant anymore; we need only His Light and that “bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16) that activates the New Covenant, which we can wake up to every morning, because it's already in our heart and mind. A covenant is a contract and only God can keep His Word with His covenant people, whether it's conditional or unconditional, which means we don't have to do anything but agree with God and surrender the illusion of our so called free will. There is nothing we can do to create grace, because it is unmerited favor, and it can only come from God. That's how great the God of Israel is. Which is probably why the Lord gets so upset at Israel, when we start to play God and determine our own salvational destiny. Churchianity is forever trying to build a better mouse trap to quicken the Second Coming of Christ, by way of rites and rituals to repetitious chants and mantras, none of which are commanded to Israel for her deliverance from Babylon.
Nor is it a pathway to Salvation, because “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” Eph. 2:8. Faith is proactive, it is not sedentary. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” James 1:22. “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we were among you for your benefit” I Thes. 1:5. This is the difference between lip service and truly serving God and mankind. There must be trillions of “Hail Mary's” and not one of them made the end zone or will they prevail in the end times. When Peter asked in Act 2:38, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?,” the context was that they had witnessed the prophetic Messiah who God “raised up” (v. 32) and now sits at the right hand of power (Acts 2:34; Mt. 26:64). What we can do, and should do, and are instructed to do is to proclaim the Good News that Divine Grace is now within our grasp if we change/repent our old man to a new man in Christ, immersing ourselves, not in ritual waters, but the fount of life that forgives us our sins.
When we run the race of faith as the New Testament metaphor calls it, we don't win the race by talking, we win it by running. There's a time to talk, a time to walk and a time to get in the race and run as if your life depended on it; and it does. If any biped had the wherewithal to run this race, then God would not have created “a chosen generation [race], a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” I Peter 2:9. The believer is required to endure unto the end and that means to finish the competition a winner. But, to endure suggests hardships, to keep our vision in focus, to keep the Law, to grow in grace, to fight a good fight, to work for what is right. Here's the prize: “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world; Hold firmly to the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn't run or labor in vain” Philippians 2:15-16. Our reward of eternal life is affected by what we do now, from the moment we wake up to the time we retire at night. “For you are all sons of light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us keep awake and be sober” I Thes. 5:5-6.
The emphasis of today's commentary on prophecy is that there will be some who endure the race and receive their prize, whereas others will not sacrifice their time to the training and exercise it takes to run and therefore will not cross the finish line, seeking a softer easier way. “And you will be hated by everyone because of My authority. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered” Mark 13:13. In Rev. 3:1-6 John is prophesying to the church in Sardis and says, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Remember, then, what you have received and heard. Keep it and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know the hour when I will come upon you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Matthew Henry helps us understand what these verses mean:
“The Lord Jesus is He that hath the Holy Spirit with all his powers, graces, and operations. Hypocrisy, and lamentable decay in religion, are sins charged upon Sardis, by One who knew that church well, and all her works. Outward things appeared well to men, but there was only the form of godliness, not the power... Whenever we are off our watch, we lose ground. Thy works are hollow and empty; prayers are not filled up with holy desires, alms-deeds not filled up with true charity, sabbaths not filled up with suitable devotion of soul to God... Christ enforces his counsel with a dreadful threatening if it should be despised. Yet our blessed Lord does not leave this sinful people without some encouragement. He makes honourable mention of the faithful remnant in Sardis, he makes a gracious promise to them. He that overcometh shall be clothed in white raiment; the purity of grace shall be rewarded with the perfect purity of glory. Christ has his book of life, a register of all who shall inherit eternal life; the book of remembrance of all who live to God, and keep up the life and power of godliness in evil times.”
The deeper I get into this study, it's becoming more apparent that it's not just two kinds of people who are fearful and fearless, but much, much more than that. It's those who are prepared and unprepared, repentant and unrepentant, selfish and unselfish, obedient and disobedient, believers and unbelievers etc. There are many parables that have distinct classes of winners and losers such as: The Two Sons in Mt. 21:28-32; The Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31; The Wheat and the Tares in Mt. 13; The Ten Virgins Mt. 25:1-13 etc. These parables were given to the lost sheep of the house of Israel in the 1st century, because much of the Old Testament was twisted by a priestcraft that had no inspiration from God and pontificated a self-serving agenda. Christ specifically gave the parables to the White race and not the jews. They were meant, if understood correctly, to be an encouragement for our future from a Kinsman Redeemer. They were cloaked in a language that the enemy could not comprehend, because it took from Scripture, God's plan for the ages; which they took centuries later to obfuscate and manipulate, called the Masoretic Text. Our people are again in a state of blindness, discarding the Old Testament, thinking that Salvation started in the New Testament and thus have no real appreciation of the parables of the Kingdom of God.
One such parable has spawned an entire satanic Rapture industry, having no biblical foundation whatsoever. And that is the parable of 'the one taken and one left behind' found in Mt. 24:40 and Luke 17:35. The former says, “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” The latter says, “Two women shall be grinding together [some versions add 'at the mill,' to clarify that it was grain they were grinding]; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.” If we look at the context in Matthew, he's talking about what happened in Noah's day. Do our politically correct people really want to know what was happening back then? It was miscegenation and homosexuality! The flood took away the wicked and left Noah's family safely behind. And this parable is a repeat performance in which the wicked will be destroyed again. Political correctness is the speech of those who are terrified by what might happen if they spoke the truth. Isn't that sad?
In Luke, the Disciples asked Christ in verse 37... “where” did they go i.e. the wicked, not the ones left behind, because they remained where they were. Jesus told them, “Wherever the body is, there also shall the eagles be gathered together.” Some translators have vultures instead of eagles, because stereotypically these scavengers gather together around a body, a dead body that is. Words for animals in the Bible, when used as a metaphor, are usually representing their character. Therefore, the woman taken is the jewish carcass which will be eliminated from the world, not as some suppose, the body of Christ, which remains in the world after it is purified of all iniquity and that which offends, being gathered under the noble wings of an eagle. It could be either predator, but the vulture has such a negative character that it is appropriate for picking the flesh off the bones of jews. The point is: we are warned through parables and prophecy to watch and be ready so that the “sudden destruction” that is coming will not take us by surprise, as it was in the days of Noah.
Fundamentalist author of fiction, Tim LaHaye, has made millions of dollars based on a simplistic misinterpretation of “left behind,” which has even been made into a movie by the same title, as if one should shudder at the thought of not being raptured and left behind in an apocalyptic and barren earth. It may sound great to believe that one will be living in a mansion in Heaven with streets paved in gold while people that don't buy his malarkey will be stranded and destitute, but it is patently a lie. The worldwide apostasy will be so rotten that it is compared to “a cage for every unclean and hateful bird” Rev. 18:2. It just may be that the religious cesspool of Babylon will be cannibalized by the Pharisee-minded clergy that not only hate God, but their fellow antichrists. The barbarians at the gate are the profit prophets of usury banking and combines religion with economics. The inescapable prison of the Mystery Religions is that it feeds on itself, a black hole of perpetual sleep, a nightmare of worthless dialectics. We, on the other hand, feed the sheep, plant the seed, and stay awake.
“The wickedness of this Babylon was very great; she had forsaken the true God, and set up idols, and had drawn all sorts of men into spiritual adultery, and by her wealth and luxury kept them in her interest. The spiritual merchandise, by which multitudes have wickedly lived in wealth, by the sins and follies of mankind, seems principally intended. Fair warning is given to all that expect mercy from God, that they should not only come out of this Babylon, but assist in her destruction” - Matthew Henry.
Let me give you another witness in parable form as to the principle of two classes and, in essence, the spiritual warfare between Jacob-Israel and Esau-Edom i.e. the White race and mongrel jews, because it fits in perfectly with today's topic, for lack of a better term, the battle of good and evil. I speak of The Ten Virgins in Mt. 25:1-13 (CNT).
“At that time the kingdom of the heavens shall be like ten virgins, who taking their own lamps went out for a meeting with the bridegroom. Now five of them were fools and five wise: for the fools taking their lamps did not take for themselves oil, but the wise took oil in the vessels with their lamps. And with the bridegroom delaying they all had gotten drowsy and slept. Then there came a cry at midnight: ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come for a meeting with him!’ Then all those virgins arose and prepared their own lamps. And the fools said to the wise: ‘Give to us some of your oil, because our lamps are extinguished!’ But the wise replied saying ‘Never! By no means would it be sufficient for us and for you! Rather you must go to the dealers and buy it for yourselves!’ But upon their having departed to buy it the bridegroom came, and those who were ready entered in with him into the wedding-feast and shut the door. Then later the rest of the virgins also came, saying ‘Master, master! Open for us!’ But responding he said ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you!’ Therefore you must be alert, because you know not the day nor the hour!”
As Christians, we profess to honor the coming of Christ, the bridegroom, to set up the Kingdom. The “ten virgins” are the northern ten tribes of Israel who went into the Assyrian captivity, forgetting their identity and heritage, but Christ did not forget whom He would come for and redeem. The three tribes of the southern house of Israel did not misplace their identity, albeit just as corrupt, went into the Babylonian captivity and most of them lost their virginity adhering to a new concept called “the traditions of the elders” (Mt.15:2), which Christ rebuked; and later became judaism. There would be figurative virgins in Judea who would become His Disciples and their respective tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi were with the ten tribes before Jerusalem fell to Babylon. So this end time prophecy pertains exclusively to the racially pure Adamic race, all of whom were waiting for the bridegroom; they all had good intentions, but according to this prophecy, it was a long wait, 2000 years and counting! As time rolled by, they started nodding off and began to fall asleep. It's not that they lost interest, but rather their eyelids were like lead weights; they were running out of gas to run the race; their spiritual batteries were low. Even Peter and the Disciples went to sleep at Gethsemane and yet Jesus understood by saying, “the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:40-41). Paul understood the problem; in Romans 1:21-22 he says, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
Why did they need oil in their lamps? This represents grace, which none of us can have enough of. The lamps were obviously needed to go meet the bridegroom at night. The lamps were our profession of faith. The hour came when they had to take up their lamps to go to the marriage ceremony and. once there, are admitted. But, by the time the virgins with no oil in their lamps got there, the door was closed. By the time they got there, the race was over. Those with oil had enough light to see how to get there and quickly; they crossed the finish line, walked through the open door after so many years of training and preparation and planting the seeds of the Good News, they now could reap what they had sown. The wise were now the beautiful bride arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints (Rev. 19:8). The marriage commences the Kingdom whereby the union of Christ (the head of the ecclesia) with the body of Christ (the ecclesia) are combined to judge the world. The startling truth revealed in this prophecy is that only half of Israel will be awake and ready for the coming of the King. There are two groups of wise and foolish virgins. The foolish half let the oil run out; the spiritual batteries went uncharged and thus no life and no readiness. What greater love would warn us so many times to get our house in order?
What shall we do? Grace is unmerited favor, but we're given it free of charge; it was paid for at the Cross. It is therefore, incumbent upon us to believe what matters. What matters is our faith and faith without works is death. What do we work for? We work for the prize, which is eternal life in the Kingdom and if we governed our lives according to Christ, then we will govern with Christ. And after this life of laboring, we enter into His rest. In the meantime, we are commanded to be overcomers and that means defeating the old man. Prior to the physical return of Christ, there will be overcomers, which means the paradigm is coming before the Second Coming. It is the New Covenant coming out of its hybernation; it is God's people coming out of Mystery Babylon.
I choose today's Scripture reading from Rev. 3, a prophecy to the church in Sardis, because Christian Identity is a lot like that ecclesia of Israelites, representing the Remnant of grace in a time of church idolatry. Like Elijah, who thought he was all alone, refusing to bow the knee to Baal according to the decrees of Hillary Jezebel; as God reassured him that there were 7000 others like him; they were just spread out and scattered. I might be stepping on some toes, but Sardis had a name or reputation similar to a 'dead man walking' as if alive; not a very good testimony of a community that's supposed to lead in overcoming. In our community of Identity Christians, we all come from different family backgrounds and vocational experiences, but we all have an identical responsibility as true Israel. According to John's prophecy of Sardis, which is stereotypical of all ages, some moreso than others, the overcomers had the solution for what to do. and it was very simply to wake up from being spiritually dead. If watchmen fall asleep while on guard duty, those whom he protects might be invaded by alien forces. Others citizens might be in peril by following the example of the sleeping watchman. This was a prophecy of breaking away from the worship of men and can be seen in the Protestant Reformation.
Although the Protestants elevated grace to a great extent, they still did not comprehend its full significance under the New Covenant. Their understanding of grace was incomplete, mostly because they did not know the foundational principle of the New Covenant, that it is based upon God’s vow to man, rather than man’s vow to God. God said, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16) and that thought alone separates us from all other religions.
So when men choose by their own will to follow God, it is a “works” that compromises grace, because they are then obligated to fulfill their own vow to God, rather than the other way around with God fulfilling His promises to His people.
The Protestants abolished many of the “works” that the Roman church required for salvation, but they failed to address the root of those works i.e. man’s will. In other words, they chopped down the tree of works, but they failed to pull it up by its roots. They retained the idea that man’s will is what extends saving grace to us. But this is the nature of the Old Covenant, which cannot save anyone. Christ makes a serious threat to the Sardis church, saying that if they do not wake up and finish the course laid before them, He would “come like a thief” and thieves come at night while men sleep. This was the warning to 'the called out ones' in Sardis, which was dead and needed to wake up if they didn't want to be plundered, shaken and possibly even killed on the Day of the Lord. Many Christians today, think they will be raptured and live forever in multicultural bliss, not understanding the prophesies at all. They do not realize that they are in danger, because the watchmen are asleep, and those who are awake are far and few between.
The implication is that those who are awake will not be surprised; they will have enough oil in their lamps to see what lurks in the darkest corners. These folks have not stained their clothes with the Mogen David wine of Babylon's fornication, drunken on the blood of the saints, because the Remnant has overcome the world. They have followed Christ and His instructions, not as works per se, but as the guardians of grace. When Jesus said, “Go and sin no more” He didn't mean to suggest that it was a work that would nullify grace. The difference between the Lord's work and works of the flesh is idolatry and idols are from the heart. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” Jer. 17:9-10. In other words, God judges what is called for, what is right and what works for Him. Clearly, the prophecy to Sardis indicates that very few were walking in clean garments, that is, living in accord with God's Laws, as opposed to living legalistically by the traditions of man, that makes the Word of none effect.
Not all believers will be overcomers. Believing is only step two; step one is to read so that you can get to step three, to obey. The warnings to do other than read, believe and obey are clear. Those who do not read, have no advantage over those who cannot read; believing overcomes fear; obeying is hearing the voice of God and faith comes from hearing. “And this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith” I John 5:4. “He that overcometh... I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father” Rev. 3:5. This is a subtle hint that those who are not concerned with overcoming, that revel in the world and discount God, will have their names blotted out of the book of life and will have no advocate at the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11).
During the most poignant hour before Jesus is arrested, He pleads with His Disciples to keep watch and pray. His desire was to involve the Disciples even in the most bitter moment of God’s redemption narrative. God also wants to include you in what He is doing. He wants to involve you in something special; He said, “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13), meaning the Holy Spirit is manifested in every man for the common good of Israel (I Cor. 12:7) to be about our Father's business, opposed to those who make merchandise of God, and as everyone has received the gift of a manifest destiny, so let him minister the same and perpetuate the Good News “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (I Peter 4:10). Before that fateful night in the garden of Gethsemane “in the fourth watch of the night [Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea” (Mt. 14:25). Being close to Peter and desiring to encourage faith, Jesus urges the precocious Disciple to come out and walk on the water with Him. What a tremendous, miraculous moment at about 3:00AM. Imagine if Peter and the other Disciples rolled over and went back to sleep.
We all know the story of Jesus and His Disciples in a boat at sea during a raging storm (Mark 4:35-41) and this time it was Christ who was peacefully getting some shut eye. To conclude today's message I would like to curate Rembrandt's famous 1633 masterpiece painting The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.
Just looking at the painting for a few minutes you begin to feel the wind whipping your face and dramatic waves splashing you with cold water. I've been in a similar situation off the coast of L.A. in a 20 foot Boston Whaler in ten foot swells and it didn't take long before I lost my lunch. I would have been like the Disciples, not exactly in the mood for taking a nap under these circumstances. This painting gives each of us a way to project ourselves into the drama and to pray for our own unique needs. What you see is probably different than what others may see; it's something personal in relation to the narrative. “Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a pillow. The disciples woke him up, shouting, Master! Don't You care that we're going to die?" We see in the painting that each person in the boat is reacting in their own unique way to the storm and you just might identify with one or more at different times in your life. The man at the bow is definitely a professional fisherman, a leader and maybe this is a fun adventure for him while he trims the front sail. Three of the men are working frantically to fix the main sail and are probably professionals as well. A huge wave is pounding a distressed man on the left in the middle with his hand on his head and he's hanging on for dear life. Most of the crew seem afraid, but especially the man on the right side of the boat. He is crouched over and looking with dread at the enormous wave that is swamping the boat. We can almost feel him trembling with anxiety. And leaning over the side of the boat, a man in red, looks like he's nauseous and ready to puke. Two disciples appear angry at Jesus for sleeping in their storm; one shakes Him awake and the other raises his voice, “Do you care if we're going to die?” On the lower left of the boat is a man in white that is easy to miss. His back is faced to us. He’s sitting still and alone. He seems to be separated from the frightening storm and the chaos going on around him in the boat. There seems to be a shadowy figure that he’s looking at. Is he having a vision? Is it an angel? A man in a blue shirt on the left side of the boat near the back is standing and holding onto a guy wire. His other hand is on his forehead as he stares blankly out at the dark sea. Maybe he’s having an emotional meltdown and is completely lost. It's almost as if he is looking to us. He’s close to Jesus but he’s not looking at Him. No one is looking at Jesus, except the two angry Disciples and the Disciple kneeling at Jesus’ feet. Only the kneeling Disciple is looking at Jesus with trust and reverence, signifying his faith in the Lord Jesus in the midst of the terrible storm. There's one more person and he appears to be the captain of the boat, steering the rudder and trying to control the situation.
How could Jesus be so relaxed when everybody else was in danger? He wasn't just in the storm, He was in the Kingdom of God. He was at peace no matter what happened. This is the hidden miracle of the story, verse 39, “And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, Hush, be still. And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.” And then He said to His Disciples... “Why are you so afraid?” There's a bit of humor in that question. The Disciples must have been looking at each other, just repeating, “wow, did you see that?, wow, like we almost died, why were we so scared out of our wits?” And then they must have realized that they were standing next to the Son of God who had the power over nature. They asked, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (v.41). And do you know what? We're standing right next to Him also and as soon as we wake up in the morning, if we got our heads screwed on right, we will be at peace for the rest of the day come what may. Don't let fear rain on your parade. We're marching to Zion... the beautiful city of God.
In Rembrandt's painting there is an opening in the sky and the light is breaking through and radiating Jesus and He's the only one that is looking at the heavens. And more importantly, we can see the Cross in the mast of the boat, which survives the storm. May it save you from the storms of life. And remember the next time you approach a stoplight and it's turning yellow... it will eventually turn green.