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Today, we come to one of the most famous miracles Jesus ever did. Read the following in Matthew 14:22-36, “Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that His disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while He sent the people home. (23) After sending them home, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. Night fell while He was there alone. (24) Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. (25) About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. (26) When the disciples saw Him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” (27) But Jesus spoke to them at once.“Don’t be afraid,” He said. “Take courage. I am here!” (28) Then Peter called to Him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to You, walking on the water.” (29) “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. (30) But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. (31) Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt Me?” (32) When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. (33) Then the disciples worshiped Him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed. (34) After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. (35) When the people recognized Jesus, the news of His arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. (36) They begged Him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of His robe, and all who touched Him were healed” (ESV).

I’ve heard for years, “If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat.” It is also the title of a book by Christian author John Ortberg. When we come to our story and miracle today, Jesus invited Peter to step out of the boat and come walk on the water with Him, Jesus invites us as well. We like it safe. We like control. We do not like stepping out in faith with such uncertainties and unknowns.

Christian author and pastor John Ortberg says that is always a consistent pattern God uses when He pushes us to show Him that kind of faith (John Ortberg, If You Want To Walk on Water, You’ve Got To Get Out of the Boat, Kindle Edition, p. 10).

  1. First, there is always a call. God asks an ordinary person to engage in an act of extraordinary trust, that of getting out of the boat. 
  2. There is always fear. God has an inextinguishable habit of asking people to do things that are scary to them. It may be a fear of inadequacy (“I am slow of speech and slow of tongue,” Moses said.) It may be a fear of failure (“The land we explored devours those who live in it,” cried the spies sent out to the Promised Land). It may even be a fear of God (“For I knew you were a hard man, seeking to reap where you did not sow,” claimed the servant in Jesus’ parable). But one way or another, there will be fear. 
  3. There is always reassurance. God promises his presence (“The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior!” an angel assures Gideon who had certainly never been addressed by that title before). God also promises to give whatever gifts are needed to fulfill His assignment (“I will help you to speak, and teach you what to say” he tells Moses who had forgotten his Egyptian ). 
  4. There is always a decision. Sometimes, as with Moses and Gideon, people say yes to God’s call. Sometimes, as with the ten frightened spies or the rich young ruler who spoke with Jesus, they say no. But always people must decide.
  5. There is always a changed life. Those who say yes to God’s call don’t walk the walk perfectly—not by a long shot. But because they say yes to God, they learn and grow even from their failures. And they become part of his actions to redeem the world.

In Matthew 14:22, it says “Jesus insisted that His disciples get back into the boat . . .” The Greek New Testament word translated as “insisted” [ἀναγκάζω, anagkazo] is a very strong word. It suggests Jesus’ own disciples did not want to leave Him and were reluctant to leave Him. It even suggests they may have argued with Him about this, but He forced them to do it. We saw previously after feeding the 5,000 men — not counting the women and children — the people attempted to force Jesus to establish His earthly kingdom and He refused. Instead, He went up to the hills to be alone to pray. If it had been you and me, we might have thought, “Well, it’s about time everyone else sees and believes what we see and believes.” 

At this point they had been following Jesus for 2 years living from hand to mouth. And now the crowd was fired up and they would now have their positions on thrones in His earthly kingdom. Jesus knew He had to quench such thinking and this is probably why He forced them to get in the boat while He went to pray because He already knew what was about to happen in today’s Scripture reading.

As expert fishermen, they knew the boat trip would be brief crossing the upper northern tip on the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. They did not want to leave Jesus and we can understand why. As expert fishermen, maybe they sensed a storm was coming and they did not want to be out in a boat in the darkness of night on this sea. Many had died on this sea when storms caught them in similar situations. By ordering His disciples, this showed His divine authority. By refusing to give-in to the people’s demands, Jesus showed His divine authority. 

I love what John MacArthur says about this here (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, “Matthew,” p. 437).

"Jesus has authority over the destinies of all men, including their final judgment (John 5:22). He has authority over all the supernatural world, including the evil world of satan and his demonic fallen angels (Mark 1:27). He has authority over the holy angels, whom He could at any time have summoned to His aid (Matt. 26:53). The crowds who heard Him deliver the Sermon on the Mount recognized that “He was teaching them as one having authority”  (Matt. 7:29). When He sent the twelve out on their first mission, He delegated to them part of His own “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness” (Matt. 10:1). And in His Great Commission He declared to the eleven who remained, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18).

If you remember, Jesus is still grieving the murder of John the Baptizer and He has been wanting to get some alone time to grieve and pray. Well, the disciples obey Jesus and began their journey across the sea at night and we read this in verse 24, “Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves” (ESV). We actually learn how far they were from land — a stadia. The words translated as “far away” is the Greek New Testament word [στάδιον, stadion], which was about 1/8th mile. John’s Gospel is a little more precise in John 16:19, “When they had rowed about three or four miles (I.e., 25-30 stadia), they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened” (ESV).

So, how could a 1-2 mile distance from shore turn into 3- 4 miles — the force of the wind pushing them further and further away from shore. Remember, all they have are sails, oars and their constellations — which are hidden by the dark storm clouds. So, if we put ourselves in their shoes, they were probably already upset with Jesus — disappointed that He did not seize the moment to establish His earthly kingdom and this added to their confusion and frustration. In a similar storm in Matthew 8, Jesus had said this to His disciples in Matthew 8:26, “And He said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” (ESV). So, where was their faith?

Jesus knew what was happening to them. William Barclay says Jews divided the night into four watches: 

“Watches—6 pm to 9 pm, 9 pm to 12 midnight, 12 midnight to 3 am, and 3 am to 6 am. So at 3 am, Jesus, walking on the high ground at the north of the lake, clearly saw the boat fighting with the waves, and came down to the shore to help” (William Barclay, The New Daily Bible Series, “Matthew,” p. 122).

This is the fourth watch — which means what should have been less than 30 minutes has turned into a nine (9) hour struggle to survive on the Sea of Galilee. They are exhausted and worn out — precisely where Jesus wanted them to be. Obviously Jesus waited a long time to come to them. Just like John’s Gospel records, Jesus took a long time to come when He heard Lazarus had died. As God in human flesh, Jesus could have just spoken the word and the storm would have subsided.

And what appeared to be them that Jesus had forgot all about them, was not true. That is the point of Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (ESV) and Hebrews 4:13, “And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (ESV).

For years I have heard people talk about “walking with the Lord” which is a good thing, but what do you do when the Lord intentionally puts you in a storm where you fear for your life. It’s like the old hymn we sing, “Wherever He leads I’ll follow.” Would you? Most Christians won’t. We will continue this on Tuesday in part 2.

Questions to Consider

  1. In what storms in your life did you think Jesus had forgotten all about you and why?
  2. What would you say has been the darkest days of your life and why?
  3. What is God calling you to do that creates paralyzing fear in you and why?
  4. How long have you been following Jesus and would you say that you are following Him more or less or about the same today? Why?
  5. These were expert fishermen who found themselves helpless to overcome this storm. Meaning, nothing in their combined knowledge and experiences could help them. You have to imagine they kept sharing ideas and what to do and the more they did, the worse things got for them. When have you attempted to solve problems or issues and they only got worse? Why didn’t you cry out to Jesus first? What did you learn from this?
  6. What is the next step of faith Jesus is backing you to take with Him?
  7. What is a scripture verse you can claim that will encourage you to do this?

Scripture to Meditate On: Psalm 18:2, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my Deliverer, my God, my Rock, in whom I take refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my Stronghold” (ESV).

Prayer to Pray: “Dear Jesus, I really want to take the next step of faith with You. Please help me do that. Jesus, I will pray what the father said to Jesus about healing his child in Mark 9:24, `Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ Lord, please help my unbelief. Jesus, this faith thing is tough — it’s worse than any storm, but You have the power to calm any storm and I will trust You. In Jesus’ name, Amen!”

I love you!,  Pastor Kelly


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