Matt. 14:22-23-Jesus sends the disciples on ahead…across the lake…intending to join them, later. He dismisses the crowds. Then He goes alone “to the mountain by Himself to pray”. Surely, if the Son of Man found it necessary to go aside and spend time with the Father in prayer…then we too should do the same. Is it any wonder, due to the fact that so few Christians spend both quality and quantity time in prayer, that there seems to be so little of the power of God in the life of today’s church?
Matt. 14:24-Some time later Jesus decides to rejoin the disciples…it is the “fourth watch of the night” (between 3-6 a.m.). The disciples are already “a long distance from the land”. On top of that…”the boat was…battered by waves; for the wind was contrary”. The word “battered” literally means to be “tortured, harassed, distressed”. These were some serious waves that were crashing against the boat. The wind was “contrary”…meaning that it was blowing them in the opposite direction that they were trying to go. All of this gives the scene a feeling of panic, and fear, and uncertainty.
Matt. 14:25-26-Then, with an almost serene note, John simply writes of Jesus, “…He came to them, walking on the sea”. But serenity is not what the disciples felt. If it wasn’t bad enough that the physical world seemed to be determined to destroy them…now the spiritual world is attacking them as well. They saw Jesus and said, “It is a ghost! And they cried out for fear.” The Greek word for “fear” is “phobos” (from which we get the English word “phobia”) and the word “ghost” is “fantasma”…it means “appearance, or apparition”.
Matt. 14:27-Jesus quickly speaks and tells them to not be afraid…but to have courage.
Matt. 14:28-31-Peter thought that he recognized Jesus and tells Him that if it really is Him…command him to come to Him on the water. Why would Peter make this request? Perhaps he thought that to do so Jesus would stop the storm…because once he started walking towards Jesus it was the “wind” (there are actually two words here in the Greek that are translated by one word “wind” in the English: the first word means “wind”, and the second means “forcible, strong, or mighty”) that captured his attention (the word “seeing” is a participle, meaning that his attention became focused on it…he couldn’t stop looking at it)…and it made him afraid. Or, it could be that Peter thought that the safest place to be in this raging storm was not in the boat, but next to Jesus. It was just getting there that proved to be difficult. So, Peter began to sink. He cried out for Jesus to save him…and immediately He did. Notice that Peter made two requests of Jesus…call me to You…and, save me!
It was Peter, not Jesus, who initiated his walk on the water. Jesus just agreed to Peter’s response. Could it be that He was teaching the disciples a lesson? Jesus was on His way to the boat and eventually, once He reached it the “wind stopped” (:32). If Peter had just remained in the boat he would have been safe. In verse 22, Jesus had put the disciples into the boat and told them to go ahead to the “other side” of the lake. Would Jesus have told them to do that if He knew that it was not going to happen, that they wouldn’t make it…that they were going to sink in the storm. No. He was well aware that the storm was coming and that He would walk to them on the water and save them. For the disciples, this was an exercise of faith. Jesus had just shown them His power over nature by feeding 5,000 men (plus women and children) with five loaves and two fish. Here is the lesson, the key: would their faith be transferable…would they recognize that His power was not limited to fish and chips…but extended over all of the natural world, as well? We know this is what He intended for them to learn because not long after this incident (16:8-10), Jesus would refer back to it and ask the disciples if they remembered it and if it had made any difference in their faith. Sadly, it must not have made much difference because in that conversation He would again say, “You men of little faith” (16:8). Notice that Jesus says here, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (:31). The word “doubt” comes from a root word that means “twice, again”…in other words, “you start to do something, but then stop and do it differently; you start to respond in faith, but then stop and waiver”…you do something twice, two different ways. When Jesus says “little faith”…He is not speaking of the size of their faith…but, of their understanding of the size of that in which they placed their faith. Their faith should have grown, increased through the miracle of the fish and bread…but it hadn’t. Their faith was small…because their understanding of Him was still small. The size (ability) of faith is not determined by our ability to have faith…but by the ability of the object of that faith, the One in whom we place faith. We tend to think of the quality of our faith as being determined by its origin…but God says the quality of our faith is determined by its object. I could have incredible faith, huge faith, undeterred faith that my neighbor John could make me walk on water. But I would sink, none-the-less. Because John does not have that ability, no matter how much faith I put in him. It’s not my faith that makes the difference. It’s the one that I put my faith in. For just a moment, Peter was focused solely on Jesus and His ability…to walk on the water. And he did it. Then, suddenly, his eyes were turned back to the wind and he began to question which was stronger (had more ability), the wind, or Jesus…and he began to sink. Could it be that when Peter first started walking on the water it was because he trusted in Jesus to make it possible…faith in Him. But then, when he began to see the waves he thought that it was not possible for him to walk on the water…his faith had now turned back to himself. His faith had initially been placed in Jesus…then his faith turned back to his ability to be faithful. And yet, he calls out to Jesus to save him. His faith had grown…but only to a limited degree. He had faith that Jesus could walk on the water and save him when he began to sink...he just wasn’t quite ready to fully believe that Jesus could make him walk on the water and be safe from the wind.
Matt. 14:32-33-Jesus pulls Peter into the boat and the wind stops. Now the light begins to come on and the faith in Jesus of the disciples expands. They say, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Their understanding of just Who He is…has grown. But they still have so much more to learn.
Matt. 14:34-36-“Gennesaret” was northwest of the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus arrived the people began to bring their sick to Him from all over that area. Their faith in Him was such that they believed if they just touched his coat they would be healed.
Prayer: Lord, help my faith in You to grow, and mature. Help each experience of faith that I have with You to be added to the sum-total of the understanding that I have of You…and You will grow greater, and more powerful, and wonderful in my understanding each and every day. Then, my faith will be in You and Your ability…not in faith, itself; not in my ability to be faithful.