23 February 1957 at Hsinchu, Taiwan.
Now, dear friends, I want to turn you to another part of the New Testament. This time it is in the gospel by Luke, in chapter 8, verses 22-25:
"Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him."
This little incident in the life of the Lord Jesus and His disciples is a parable. It is a parable of the story of the Church. I feel sure that the Apostle remembered the story years afterwards, because in a spiritual way this kind of thing happened to them more than once. We will come to that presently, but let us look at the story again.
What a lot there is in just five verses! There are eight things that I am going to note. I am not going to preach a sermon on every one of those eight things; if I did, we would be here all night. But I just want you to note what these eight things are.
First of all there is Jesus, and we want to recognise what Jesus signifies. Jesus represented that which is of God. Now of course we can say a lot about that, but you just try to get hold of that and remember it. I am quite sure you will all agree with that. Jesus always represented in this world what was of God. I don't think there was very much else in this world that was really of God. There certainly was not anything that was truly representing God. So we take the first thing: Jesus represents that which is of God in this world.
The second thing is the disciples. You notice Jesus Himself, and His disciples, and that the disciples represent the Church or they represent the people of God in this world. These disciples were the nucleus of the Church. The Church began with this, so here they represented the Church.
The third thing is the sea. Now I wonder if you know that in the Bible the sea always represents the world of man. I would like to take you to some places in the Bible to show you that, but again, we have got to save our time, and you will believe what I am saying even if you have not heard it before. The sea in the Bible is they type of the nations in the world. Well, now we have got three things, we have got that which represents God which is Jesus, we have got the Church, and we have got the nations of the world.
That leads us to the fourth thing. The Lord Jesus said to His Church, "Let us launch out into the nations of the world" for that is really what this means. I say that it was a parable. The last thing that the Lord Jesus said to these disciples was "Go ye into the world," so if the sea is a type of the nations of the world, and Jesus said, "I am with you always, let us go out into the nations of the world" and then it says they launched out. This of course represents the Church's voyage through the world in this dispensation. The Church is moving through this dispensation in the nations of the world.
Now we come to number five, and something begins to happen. A storm rises on the sea. What does this mean? Well, what was it for? I believe that the evil powers were behind this, perhaps you think that that is my imagination, but there is something that leads me to believe that. On one other occasion when this happened, or in another account of this, we have more words that Jesus spoke to the storm. We are told that Jesus said, "Peace be still," and when He used those words, He used exactly the same words that He used to the evil in the spirit. When He spoke to the evil spirit He said, "Be quiet and close your mouth". Now that is exactly what He said to the wind. So it seems to me that behind the storm were the evil powers.
What was the evil power trying to do? They were trying to attack and destroy that which was of God. Jesus is with His Church, so the evil powers were making an attack upon the Church in order to destroy Jesus. The storm, then, was in order to, if possible, withdraw what was of God in this world. I think that is all very simple, and all very great.
Now we go on to point six. Jesus is asleep in the boat. It does seem that Jesus had detached Himself from this whole situation. You remember in the other account that the disciples said, "Careth not Thou that we perish?" It seems as though Jesus has detached Himself and is not a bit concerned with this; He was asleep. Now how true that is in the history of the Church... so often when the Lord's people are having a bad time, it seems to them that the Lord does not care a bit; it almost seems that the Lord has left them alone. Well, that is point number six. Now we are getting on pretty quickly.
Point number seven: they came to Him and woke Him and He arises and rebukes the wind and the waves and there is a great calm. And then He says to them: "Where is thy faith?" So point number seven is that this was all intended by the Lord to find out where their faith was. I think Jesus was asleep, but I also think that He knew all that was happening, and He was not doing anything, just because He wanted to give them an opportunity of showing their faith. Did they really believe that He was the Son of God? If they had really believed that, they would not have been afraid that they would drown or that He would let them drown. All the demons in the universe can't destroy the Son, and all the demons in the universe can't destroy the Church. Did they believe that? Evidently they did not believe that. But that was the great lesson they have got to learn, and the meaning of the whole story is that the Lord Jesus is trying to teach them a lesson in that.
The next thing we see is that they made a new discovery of the Lord Jesus. You notice how it finishes, "and being afraid they marvelled, saying one to another, Who then is this that He commanded the water and wind, and they obeyed Him?" The outcome of the whole thing was that they made a new discovery of who the Lord Jesus is.
And now I would like to add an extra point, I noticed that the words that our brother Madsen spoke to us this noon in that wonderful prayer of our Lord just before He went to the cross, the Lord Jesus included these words, "While I was with them in the world, I kept them which Thou hast given me and not one of them perished". We can bring that into the story, "I kept them and not one of them perished".
Now we want to take that story out of the gospel by Luke and put it into Luke's second volume. You all know that Luke wrote two books, a first and a second volume. The first volume was this gospel about what Jesus began to do and to teach until the day that He was received up into heaven and then we begin the book of His Acts which is Luke's second volume. Luke tells us what Jesus went on to do after He was received up into heaven and this wonderful story is repeated in a spiritual way.
Jesus has come back in the person of the Holy Spirit. The Church is there on the day of Pentecost. Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, is with them. On that day, the Church is launched out into the nations and almost immediately a big storm begins in the nation. The wind and the waves are persecutions. It begins to beat on that Church. The sea of mankind, energised by the evil power, sets itself to destroy what is the Church, and the Church is thrown into the experience where its faith is greatly tried. The Apostle is thrown into prison; Stephen is martyred; Herod, the king, kills James, John's brother and then because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he took Peter also. The storm is on.
I think the Church was having a real testing of faith, and how they cried unto the Lord to help them! You have many occasions on which the Church was gathered to pray. They were evidently crying to the Lord in the incident of the storm. In one of their prayers they quoted the second Psalm. You remember the words, "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed".
Now you see that just proves that what I say is true. The sea represents the nations and the nations are in a state of a storm against the Lord and against His anointed. Well, the Church cried unto the Lord, and this time, their faith has been greatly tested; but how did it come out at the end? Well, Jesus proves quite equal to the situation each time, but the wonderful thing is that they always discover something more of how great the Lord is.
I wonder how these disciples felt when they got out of the boat on the other side? If you could answer the question, you know how you'd feel when you got to the other side. When we get on to the other shore in glory, I think we shall say what these disciples must have said, "Well, you know, it was a terrible experience, and I am afraid that I often felt I should never get to the other side, my faith seemed to be always getting down, but it was worth it and I am glad that I had all those experiences because they have led me to discover what a great Lord I have got. The very fact that we are on the other side, and no one has perished, proves that our Lord is greater than all the power that was against us."
Now we bring that story out from Luke's gospel and put it into the book of the Acts. It exactly explains what happened in the early time of the Church. The same thing has happened again and again in history, but we bring it right here into our own life. The Lord Jesus is with us, and He represents what is of God in the midst of us. We are His Church, we are here in this world, in the nations of mankind, and then the big storms that are going on today.
You people know something about that, the big storm that is raging against Jesus and His people in this world; the powers of evil are trying to destroy the testimony and the storm is in our life, but the Lord Jesus does not prevent the storm, He just seems to let the storm go on. And sometimes it seems as though He is quite detached, it seems as though He is far away and not a bit interested. Of course that is not true, but that is how it seems. Why did Jesus not prevent that storm from happening, why didn't He, when He got into the boat, pray: "Father, don't let this storm happen"? He knew all things and I think He knew that there would be a storm. Why do I think that? Because more than once He told His disciples that they would have a bad time. He said, "In the world you shall have tribulation". He told them that they would be persecuted for His Name's sake, and so He knew that there was going to be a storm when He got into that boat and He went to lay down and went to sleep. Why did He do that? First of all, that He might discover their faith.
It is a most important thing that we have faith in God, and the Lord allows these times of difficulties and adversities in order to bring out their faith. But He governs this whole thing, and His real object is that we might discover more of what a wonderful Lord He is! They just said, "Who is this, even the wind and the waves obey Him" so you see they made a new discovery of Him, and that is just what He wanted and that is why He allows our times of trouble. But it is a wonderful thing to remember that not one of them perished. We may sometimes think we are going to perish, but when we get over to the other side, not one will be missing. Jesus is equal to this whole situation.
Well, may the Lord make this a blessing to you and bring it out of the Bible and out of the story right into your own life and let it explain to you just what the Lord means in allowing you to have difficult times.