Toiling in Rowing

Toiling in Rowing

Thomas Wilkie

Scripture reading Mark 6: 45-51

Among the valuable lessons that we may learn from the many incidents in the life of our Lord recorded by the writers of the four Gospels, none are more valuable than those we gather from “The Night of Tempest” on the sea of Galilee. The Lord Jesus had fed the five thousand with the loaves and the fishes, typical of Himself as the Bread of God come down from heaven to give life unto the world. When the multitude had gone, “straightway He constrained His disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida.” Perhaps, the disciples faced that journey in separation from their Lord with reluctance, but His command and will were paramount, so in obedience, they embarked upon their journey. No harm will befall the believer where ever he may go if he obeys the command of His Master.

After the disciples had gone, then the Lord departed into a mountain to pray, for as the shadows of the night were falling, our blessed Lord longed for fellowship with His Father. There, in the quietness and solitude of some secluded spot among the hills, He enjoyed a sweet and close communion which gave strength and comfort to His heart.

The disciples, in obedience to their Master, embarked upon what proved to be a dangerous journey, for He had sent them into a storm. The expression “toiling in rowing” literally may be rendered “tormented in rowing.” The severity of the storm might have tempted them to turn back, but he had told them to go to the other side. The pathway of obedience is not without dangers; nevertheless, the assurance that we have One interceding for us while we brave the contrary winds on the sea of life, imparts a courage and a strength which are not natural. In this narrative we have a lovely picture of Christ’s ascension to heaven and of His High-priestly intercession on behalf of His own during the difficulties and the trials of their way.

Christ is Praying for Us

It was twilight (six o’clock) when the disciples left the shore, but owing to a strong headwind, they had toiled at the oars for nine hours, and the fourth watch of the night (three o’clock) found them endangered by a roaring sea. In a former experience in the ship the Master had fallen asleep during a storm, and they had awakened Him, saying, “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” On that occasion He had changed the storm into a great calm, for He was near to them, but now He seems so far away. Although absent from them and away in the mountains He, nevertheless, is deeply interested in them, and undoubtedly pours out His heart in intercession for them.

Beloved saints of God, when the winds of temptation and persecution blow against you, and the waves of affliction lash your little barque, take courage from the fact that there is a real Man in the glory Who braved the storms of life and death before you, and that He is there praying for you.

Knowing the biting winds of temptation soon to assail Peter, Jesus said to him, “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not.” The path of faith is often beset with perils, but Christ, through His ceaseless intercession, preserves us in the temptations of life. He says to all, “Cheer up, I am here; Have faith, not fear!”

“When stormy waves our barque assail,
And dangers cross life’s sea,
May this assuring thought prevail,
My Lord, He prays for me.”

He knows when the winds are contrary, and He surely will come to our aid in every time of need.

Christ’s Power Avails For Us

The adequacy of divine power is evident in the experience of Peter here. We admit that he uses a word that implies a secret doubt, “If it be Thou,” and we also admit that very frequently an ugly doubt intrudes into our seasons of trials. How often we question God’s voice, God’s ways, God’s will, and God’s loving wisdom! His word, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psa. 46:10) leaves no room for any “ifs” or “whys” in His gracious dealings with us. Faith can do the will of God; therefore, Peter, in simple confidence upon the permission of the Lord, did the impossible. He walked upon the water.

It became necessary that the Lord teach Peter that faith is not merely an initial act, but that faith must be maintained (v. 31). As long as his eyes were on Christ he made steady progress, but when he saw the waves, he began to sink; his faith gave place to fear. When we turn our eyes away from the Saviour, and fix them on the troubles and dangers around, we are apt to doubt His ability and distrust His faithfulness, and it is then we begin to sink. In times of trouble and fear, it is Christ Himself who is the source of relief to the despairing soul. We may begin to sink, but He will never let us drown. Peter’s prayer, “Lord save me, I perish,” brought immediate deliverance. Remember, dear saint of God, although the storm in your life seems to have hidden his face. He is as near to you as He was to Peter. Send up the cry to the Throne of Grace, “Lord same me,” and the power of Christ will bring deliverance to you. Trust in His unfailing promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5).

Christ’s Coming For Us

This scene in the life of our Lord is typical of the night of His absence, in which the Church is left to battle her way amid the storms of persecution, the night during which the risen Lord continues to watch her struggle and to intercede for her. Christ appeared to the anxious disciples at the fourth watch of the night, at the hour just preceding the dawn, and promptly He hushed the storm and piloted them safely to shore. We are in the darkest hour of the world’s midnight, the hour preceding His glorious appearing. Are you ever tempted to say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” Fear not! “In the fourth watch of the night,” when the darkness is thickest and the billows highest, “He that shall come, will come, and will not tarry. Before He comes in judgment, He will take his storm-tossed Church to be forever with Himself. Then that prophetic word will be brought to pass, “He maketh the storm a calm … so He bringeth them unto their desired haven” (Psa. 107:29). Then, as never before, we will praise the Lord for His goodness, and His wonderful works to the children of men. For His beloved people, beset around by stormy waves and billows of afflictions,

“O ‘twill be a glorious morrow
To a dark and stormy day!
When we smile upon our sorrow,
And the storms are passed away.”

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Trouble and perplexity drove me to prayer, and prayer drove trouble and perplexity away.