A Lesson in Kingdom Life
One of the greatest mistakes American Christians commit, or maybe omit, regarding their relationship to the Holy Scriptures is their consistent failure to perceive the superlative intent immersed within its content – their failure to see the bottom line. We are all prone, because of our social conditioning, to primarily view the Bible merely as a space/time commentary regarding life on the earth in the here and now, which means we only see the humanity of the Scripture.
We read the Bible as we would read a self-help book, constantly perusing its stories of pathos, success, sin and victory in order to discover some method or process that will make us more successful, happy and fulfilled. And for good reason, because we are constantly being encouraged to use these stories as directives for our own personal good and prosperity, and I suppose there is some room for this application of the Scripture. But if that is all we see in the Bible, we miss its ultimate grandeur and majesty; we miss its primary message.
Not ascertaining the divine message of Scripture can happen in a number of ways, but most significant among them is our ignorant oversight of the inherent Kingdom intent for all divine revelation. Nothing in the sacred text was recorded casually or uneventfully. Everything in the Scripture is about God, His sovereignty and His glory, not about man and God’s desire to make him happy and rich.
Every jot and tittle of the sacred writ was sovereignly guarded and guided to disclose God’s Kingdom ideals. As a result, the Spirit of God directed the holy writers in such a way that guaranteed the faithful inculcation of His ultimate plan in all portions of the inspired text. In its history, its poetry, its prophecy, its parables, in the ministry of Christ, in the preaching of the Apostles, etc.; here a little, there a little, the Scriptures thoroughly exhibit God’s eternal plan for the earth.
Jesus Walks on the Water
There is a wonderfully unique experience in Christ’s earthly ministry that unveils a special aspect of this subject that I want to share with you. It can be read in a familiar account of Christ’s interaction with His apostles that is recorded in Matthew 14:22-32. Here, we see that Jesus told His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee, and upon their departure He sent away the multitude and went, by Himself, to a mountain to pray and remained there until evening.
In the meantime, the Sea had become angry with besetting winds and waves, and the disciples were caught in this tempest. Jesus knew of their plight – that they had not yet reached the other side, but did not go to them until the fourth watch of the night, sometime between 3:00 and 6:00 am. Isn’t that interesting? Moreover, when He came to them, He was walking on the Sea.
As He neared the little boat, they saw Him and became fearful because they thought He was a ghost. He spoke to them calmly, “Be of good cheer.” And immediately Peter asked if he could come to Him on the water. Jesus answered, “Come.” So, without hesitating Peter climbed out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus on the water. But the crashing of the waves distracted him, and becoming fearful he began to sink. He cried out. “Lord, save me!” And Jesus took him by the hand, and they got into the boat together.
There are many meaningful applications to be discerned from this experience. Generally, and most often, we only see or hear about the obvious – the physical miracle that Peter walked on the water, and that is, I admit, an astounding reality. But there is a Kingdom application being taught here that is far more important.
It is deeply intriguing that John used the figure of “water” as a reference for peoples, nations and tongues (Revelation 17: 15). More intriguing still, is the fact that these “people” were making war against the Lord and His chosen ones. But Jesus and His followers overcame them! He again walked on the waters! Could it be that our Lord is demonstrating to His disciples the only way His Kingdom work can be accomplished today? That our labor for Him is being conducted in alien, formidable surroundings and that the only way it can be successfully completed is through Him, by Him and with Him; that true Kingdom victory today can never be achieved by the arm of the flesh; that if we, for one minute, take our eyes off Him, we will sink in the waters around us? I think so.
It seems obvious that Jesus deliberately sent his disciples into the wild, unpredictable convulsions of the Sea to teach them a vital Kingdom reality, that Kingdom work on the present earth will inevitably be conducted in hostile settings, and that their success or failure is totally proportional to their association with, and reliance on, Jesus Christ.
Jesus, perfectly knowing the thoughts and intents of the human heart, knew that Peter would seek permission to come to Him on the waters, and therefore, the Apostle to whom He would soon entrust the keys of the Kingdom, would be given an unforgettable lesson in Kingdom context. So, when Peter asked to come to Jesus on the waters, He instantly said, “Come!”
There are a few passages of Scripture about which I must remind you that, I think, throw immense light on this subject. In the first place, it is significant that Satan took Jesus up on a very high mountain, and showed Him all of the kingdoms of the world, and said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomsoever I wish. If you will worship before me, all will be yours.” (Luke 4:5-6).
As you know, Jesus rebuked Satan with his Word and overcame all of his temptations. But, it seems, there are several clear facts mentioned here that tell us something about our present battle. Apparently, at the fall of Adam, earthly dominion was given to the devil causing terrible spiritual darkness to settle upon the earth that ultimately caused the kingdoms of the earth to become terribly influenced by the devil. As a result, the battle between light and darkness (God’s kingdom versus the devil’s kingdom) has raged ever since, and will continue to rage in a violent context until Jesus returns. This reality is further explained by the fact that the great dragon, also called the serpent of old, even the Devil and Satan, was cast out of heaven to the earth at his rebellion, and John said, “… he deceives the whole world…” (Revelation 12:7-9).
It is of further import that in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus indicated that a primary purpose for all prayer was that God’s will and kingdom come to the earth as it is in heaven. This tells us that the earth is presently out of balance with God’s kingdom principles. Moreover, Paul makes it very plain that the earth is held in the bondage of corruption, as are the bodies of men, even the redeemed, and will remain so until the revelation of the sons of God, when we receive the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:20-23). At this time, sin and its true cause will be removed from the earth forever.
But for now, Kingdom labor is conducted in an alien environment, a fact clearly demonstrated by Jesus permitting Peter to come to Him on the water. In effect, all true Kingdom work accomplished today is achieved in the same difficult context. It is difficult not because it is impossible, but because it can only be accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).
It is just as impossible for a man to walk on water as it is for men, without divine enablement, to do Kingdom work in this present world. Because true Kingdom work, which Paul said is work made of gold, silver and precious stones (and not wood, hay and stubble), is the only work that will endure the fire of Christ’s bema seat judgment of believers (1 Corinthians 3:9-15).
Moreover, it can never be accomplished through the ingenuity and wisdom of man-made religion. Everything accomplished by religion will be burned in His presence. This is also true, because in our present earthly context the hostilities are too forbidding to accomplish true Kingdom work, requiring that we be co-laborers with Christ, and further, because no man will be allowed to receive glory for true Kingdom work. Only Him!
It can, therefore, truly be said that, we are, in fact, laboring on the water. If we take our eyes off Him for a single second, we immediately begin to sink. So, what does this mean? It means, today, that all real Kingdom successes can only be achieved by a community of “water walkers”-by people who have crawled down out of their boat and committed themselves to a humanly impossible context. Sinking or walking is directly due to our relationship to Him.
G. Thomas Sharp