wishful walking upon THE WATER

Scripture To Consider:
“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on a mountain by Himself to pray. And when evening had come, Jesus was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night [darkest before dawn] Jesus went to them, walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear.”

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So, Jesus said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when Peter saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink Peter cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to Peter, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshipped Jesus, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.'”

“When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent out into all that surrounding region, and brought to Him all who were sick, and begged Jesus that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well.” Matthew 14.22-36

Something To Consider:
It could be difficult to imagine a more beautiful sheet of water than that which is known as the Sea of Galilee. Of course, it is not a sea but a lovely inland lake. It is only about thirteen miles in length and seven miles in breadth. Its clear water is supplied and again drained by the Jordan River. It lays six hundred and fifty feet below the level of the sea, and to the north the summit of Mount Hermon can be seen, which is clad in perpetual snows. Because of such a situation, great currents of air frequently roll down from the surrounding hills and sweep the surface of the lake with sudden and fierce storms.

It was in such a tempest that the disciples were found on that night when Jesus was seen walking toward them upon the surface of the tempestuous water. This was a striking and marvelous miracle. Many have denied its reality. There is no reason, however, for doubt. It is attested to by Mark and John in their perspective gospels. In neither of these accounts, however, does the form of Jesus appear more majestic and more kingly than here in Matthew’s gospel.

Jesus had commanded His followers to precede Him across the lake while He remained to dismiss the multitudes which He had fed with five loaves of bread and two small fish. At nightfall Jesus had gone up on the hillside to pray. In the deepening darkness the disciples were faced by a raging wind. During the long hours they struggled wearily at the oars and with little progress.

Suddenly they saw Jesus drawing near walking upon the sea. His appearance awakened more terror than the storm and they cried out for fear of His being a ghost; but His reply was, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” His words brought relief and confidence in the midst of chaos and the contrary winds. So, Peter asked permission to come to His Master likewise walking upon the water, by requesting, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So, Jesus answered, “Come.”

Matthew alone recorded this incident of the faith and failure of Peter. He tells us of his bold attempt, of his rising fear, his peril, his rescue, and his return to the boat with Jesus, and then described the stilling of the storm and the worship offered to Jesus as the Son of God. The whole picture reveals the One whom Matthew continually paints as the universal King, the Ruler of all nature, all situations and circumstances, even those well beyond our human control.

It is not strange that so striking a story has been interpreted by Christians as symbolizing their own spiritual experiences. It certainly is true that obedience to Christ does not secure freedom from the storms and tempests and trials of life. Jesus had commanded the disciples to cross the sea for He knew that it would be better for them than to remain among the crowds who had, as John declared, such wrong conceptions of His person and work. The place of storm and trial is often the place of greatest moral security. And that is something for true believers to consider!

Something Else To Consider:
It is also true that the followers of Christ can always believe in His presence amidst the darkest night and the most horrific storms. This is perhaps the supreme lesson in this story. At first the Lord may not be recognized; the form in which He comes may even increase our fear, but His Word however voiced brings hope and even in the midnight and against the contrary wind driven tempest, the assurance of His presence brings both confidence and the peace that passes all understanding.

The experience of Peter may illustrate how faith can triumph over all obstacles, how doubt brings disaster, and how Jesus is always ready to save. It was not mere pride and presumption which led Peter to attempt to walk on the sea; it was simply the response of his faith to the Word and example of His Lord. Peter was not rebuked by Jesus for his request but for his unbelief which was brought about by Peter’s looking more intently upon the boisterous wind of adversity than looking intently upon Jesus.

Today our Lord does not correct His followers for trying to imitate His moral purity or for endeavoring to walk as He walked, but He does grieve at our imperfect faith. It is when we take our eyes off of Him and think of our own weakness, and worry about our temptations, that we are imperiled and endangered into sinking into the sea of disbelief. Jesus must regret our doubt and fear, but as we put our trust in Him, He stretches forth His hand and by a single touch He grants us strength to walk safely by His side.

The Christian life is a continual triumph over natural tendencies, which attempt to draw us downward and drown us in the sea of contrary worldly winds. To really walk with Christ Jesus in holiness and purity, and love and grace, is a continual miracle. Jesus does not rebuke us for attempting too much, but for trusting Him too little. And even when our imperfect faith has brought us to a position of peril or of shame, He is ready to both rescue and to relieve us in our need.

In reviewing this surprising miracle which Matthew has given in such fullness, it has not been unusual to find a symbol of the truth concerning the rejected and returning King whom Matthew is ever throwing into such bold and brilliant light. As Jesus fed the five thousand plus and then went up into the mountain to intercede for His disciples and then came walking on the waves to rescue them and bring them peace, so Christ having offered Himself to the world as the bread of life, has ascended unto the throne of heaven to intercede for us.

And so Jesus will come again. Even now He may be drawing near. Even in the midst of all the earth’s turmoil and distress of nations He may be planning His majestic approach. And when He appears the night will end, and all the storms will cease. At that glorious moment, no longer will we be shaken by the many contrary worldly winds of adversity. At that triumphal appearing of Jesus, if we endure, as true believers we will be forever strengthened in our faith as we are found looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.

The obvious purpose of this miracle was to relieve the disciples from fear and danger, and to give them ground for a larger trust in their Master. Surely, the closing paragraph of our Scripture to consider is an accurate and up to date picture of the present ministry of Jesus in the earth today. Amid the thronging multitudes of suffering men, women, and young people, Jesus is standing, a present unseen but real, full of compassion Redeemer and ready to relieve the moral and spiritual ills of those who put forth their hand of faith; even though their trust is weak, and they touch but the border or hem of His garment, as many as touch Him are healed.

Something More To Consider:
Some might ask, does Jesus command His followers to enter circumstances and situations that will shake them and their faith due to contrary worldly winds and waves? From our text and from other biblical texts the answer appears to be a resounding yes! At least it appears that Jesus allows winds and waves of adversity to test our faith, increase our faith, and to test our willingness to remain faithful. It may be easy to assume that the disciples thought Jesus had forsaken them in their hour of need. Would it be fair to assume we are at times guilty of the same misconception?

And yet, as the story of their lives eventually unfolds, we find their faith in Jesus did increase because of the various contrary worldly winds and waves that unsuspectedly and suddenly crashed upon the shores of their lives. Can we say the same has occurred in our own lives? Can we yet claim that we have truly learned the lessons of a lifetime concerning our being shaken but also strengthened by worldly winds and waves?

For in all honesty, how often and how many times has Jesus stretched forth His hands, His help, His provision, and His presence in our direction in our time of distress and desperation? Speaking for myself, the times are innumerable! I am often ashamed at my continued lack of faith, and yet, as the years pass by so quickly, I have been extremely fortunate to have as precious memories, those most difficult days, weeks, months, and years of pain, suffering, and difficult moments. And never once have I ever been forsaken or forgotten by my God!

A Few Final Words:
Peter’s cry for help came in the form of one of the shortest New Testament prayers, “Lord, save me.” And immediately Jesus rescued Peter and restored his little faith! And yet, Jesus spoke a deserved but most kind rebuke, by asking Peter, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” To be fair to Peter, how often do we hear these words of Jesus echoing in our own conscience in moments of failing faith? How many times have we sheepishly climbed back in the boat, the ark of safety in Jesus, soaking wet and shaken from the contrary worldly winds and waves of everyday life on earth as pilgrims simply passing through?

And yet, are we always made perfectly whole? Yes, we are always made whole spiritually. Are we always made whole physically? This side of eternal life, the answer appears to be no, not always, at least not now! Will that spiritual reality check cause us as true Christians to be shaken beyond hope and help, shaken beyond crying out, “Lord, save me”, from the despair that often accompanies contrary worldly winds and waves? Or will we, you and I, continue to reach out in overcoming enduring to the end faith in our own attempt to touch Jesus and have our spiritual needs met?

In Closing:
If we are found touching Jesus, or at least looking unto Jesus, we will find Him defending us with His life and reputation as we will see in our next Scripture to consider, Jesus defending His disciples. Wishfully walking upon the water is one thing but being shaken and yet strengthened in our spiritual walk with Christ is a totally different and eternally rewarding treasure.

Let’s Pray:
Our Father in heaven, thank You for Your lessons of a lifetime concerning wishful walking upon the water and being shaken in order to be strengthened in our faith. Bring these tremendous encouraging episodes to our minds and hearts in our own moments of earthly crisis. Allow us to take these living images for our own in order to strengthen our resolve to be found by You looking unto Jesus our most rewarding example while enduring to the end of this age or our lives. In Him Always, Amen!

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