H.G. Bosch couldn’t believe it. How could a 400 foot tall iceberg keep bulling its way south right into the teeth of a stiff head wind? Against thundering surf?
The answer (warning: here comes a parable) lies beneath the surface; 90% of an iceberg’s mass is below the water line. According to a ship’s officer that Bosch queried, the icebergs he saw were in the Labrador Current – a massive ocean highway headed relentlessly south. As the current goes, so goes the iceberg.
Isn’t life just like that? (I told you there was a parable.) On the surface, some people seem so in control of themselves. They seem to have life all figured out … until tragedy arrives. Until the storm builds and life kicks them in the teeth.
Then they’re revealed for what they really were all along. Dead inside, like Jesus’ reference to the Pharisees, “whitewashed tombs”… sparkling outside, foul inside.
But others keep cruising into stiff head winds and crushing surf. Their values are a constant, refusing to change with the weather. They have character. They relentlessly track toward God, no matter how loudly the dogs of contemporary culture bark.
Jesus was such a man. He knew that anyone who marries the spirit of his times will soon be a widower. He knew he had to do his Father’s will even if it hurt, even if it killed him. Where did he find such courage? Watch as it unfolds.
Notice how Matthew describes this major event in Jesus’ prayer life:
Jesus had just started the last year of his earthly work. The religious professionals stirred a passionate opposition to him, and it was growing more hateful.
John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, was beheaded. His death sent aftershocks through Jesus’ camp. How would the Master deal with it?
He got into a boat and headed for a solitary place so he could pray (Matthew 14:13). But he couldn’t avoid the crowds. They followed him from all over Galilee, swarming by the thousands to intercept him as he landed on the other shore.
When he saw them he couldn’t refuse. Compassion impelled him to heal the sick. He even spent the whole day with them. By evening they needed food, so he took five loaves and two fish and fed all 5,000 people.
But then the situation grew more intense; the crowd wanted to take Jesus to Jerusalem and make him Jewish king by force of arms (John 6:15). After all, who’d make a better king? Who wouldn’t want a king who could raise fallen warriors back to life and feed whole armies with one ration? Why not attack the Romans in Jerusalem and make Jesus king by force?
With the tension at a snapping point, Jesus ordered his disciples into the boat and sent them back across the Sea of Galilee. He dismissed the crowds before anything could come of their heady plan.
Finally, after a whole day’s interruptions, Jesus headed for a quiet place to pray.
“After he had dismissed them, he went up a mountainside by himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:23 NIV)
In spite of the turmoil, the opposition and even his successes with the crowds, Jesus spent that whole night praying. And then he walked on the water. Like the iceberg charging into the face of stiff winds and waves, Jesus’ power lay below the surface … in his prayer life.
(Excerpted from chapter 7 of Why God Waits For You To Pray by Keith Roberts).