While this question may seem trite in the eyes of many today and even irrelevant among a certain non-believing set, it provides an interesting approach from beyond the sullied fray. So, really, what do you think Jesus would do? ◊
This year has certainly seen an unsettling confluence of first-time situations (pandemic), reactions, (economic and social lock down), and mandated global policies (social distancing and mask-wearing).
Then add a nationally broadcast cruel murder that unleashes pent up emotions, racial tensions and anger that yields to the worst of human instincts to rob, steal, destroy and even kill in seeking retaliation and justice.
Now add the political sparks of wide-ranging social views and a constant drone of main street and underground media megaphones blasting like WWII propaganda films.
It’s enough to make one want to run and hide. Or escape.
Or ask a cliché question like: What Would Jesus Do?
Well, What Would He Do?
As with last week’s take on Who Would Jesus Blame? I will not leave it as a trite and simple answer. Because the issue is deep and rich and deserving of substantive reassessment of oneself, the culture, and the very real problems across our land and across humanity.
It’s exactly the type of issue on which Jesus would weigh in with an opinion. In fact, He did it all the time when engaging with the mistreated and under-served as well as the sophisticated cultural and religious elites of His day.
I will use a popular story in the New Testament to highlight here the issues and speculate on His action plan and response.
It’s the story of the time when Jesus literally walked on the water to the disciples who were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.
What’s This Got to Do with Jesus Walking on Water?
Let’s first consider the New Testament text that’s found in extended form in Matthew 14 and in abbreviated form in Mark 6 and John 6:
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. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn 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.” (Matthew 14:22-22)
This event happens just after John the Baptist has been beheaded by the Jewish King Herod (see Matthew 13:1-12). Jesus withdraws to be alone but the crowds follow along the northern shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. It is here he spends time ministering to the crowds – As He went ashore He saw a great throng; and He had compassion on them, and healed their sick. (Matthew 13:14) It is that evening that Jesus feeds 5,000 people with the 5 loaves and 2 fish. Clearly Jesus is not a normal man!
Now here are 4 key points to note about what happens next:
1. God Leads – Disciples Follow – After the feeding of the 5,000, it is evening and Jesus made the disciples get into the boat. Jesus knew exactly what He was doing, but then again, He did nothing without God, the Father, leading and directing Him. After he had dismissed them (the crowds), he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. The disciples followed His instructions.
- Question: Are you following? Is God leading you? Do you pray? Are you following God or listening to others or the loudest voices or your own instincts?
2. Man Fears – Disciples are Afraid – When Jesus approached the boat by walking on the lake, the disciples understandably were terrified. They speculated on what was going on or what it could be – “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
- Question: Are you afraid? Are you fearful of the virus, the rioting, your finances? Do you speculate on what’s going to happen or what’s going on or who’s doing what?
3. Jesus Calls – Peter Listens – Jesus immediately responds, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Peter responds to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Peter responds with bold but wavering faith as he fears the wind and the waves. It’s alright though; he starts to sink, but Jesus saves him.
- Question: Are you listening to God? Are you responding to His call or to the calls of others who may be making things up as they go along? Notice that Peter responded; the other disciples did not.
4. Jesus is God – Do You Believe? – Even Peter, the man of little faith believes. After Jesus asks “Why do you doubt? Peter and the other disciples, upon witnessing the calming of the wind, acknowledge that “Truly you are the Son of God.”
- Question: Do you believe? Do you need further evidence like the multiplying of the loaves and fish enough to feed 5,000 people or to see Jesus walk on a lake to finally acknowledge that Jesus is God and God wants you?
Consider this: if every city, state, and federal leader, every policeman and law enforcement official, every protester, rioter and looter, every member of the professional media, and every individual around the world, were to act like these humble disciples and these hungry and hurting masses at the feet of Jesus and simply 1) follow His lead through prayer and listening, 2) surrender fears to Him, 3) proactively respond to His call, and 4) truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the world would be a significantly different place.
So what would Jesus do? He’d simply do what He’s already shown us.
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” – John 10:9-11