Get Out of the Boat :: By Sean Gooding

Matthew chapter 14:22-33 (continued)

“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 the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He 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 Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him 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 He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “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 worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’”

Last time we looked at the account of the “Feeding of the 5000.” We saw the responsibility we have as the Lord’s servants to take care of the needs of the people around us. We explored the power of being a servant and our call to be servants to each other in the family of God and especially to the unsaved masses around us. Today we will look at another famous account in the life and ministry of Jesus as He walked this earth, come with me to a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee during a storm in the wee hours of the morning.

This is a familiar account to anyone who has been in church for a long time. This is one of the most popular Bible stories ever told and there are many of you that will approach this lesson with rolled eyes and maybe a hint of familiarity that leads us all to complacency when handling the Word of God.

I offer that this is the defining moment in the life of the apostle Peter. And it stands as a defining moment in our lives as well. This is a picture of how the Christian life is and how we should approach it. I love the apostle Peter; he is a very clear picture of who we are and who we can be in Jesus. He is a reminder to us that failure is not the end; often it is the beginning of a walk with Jesus that will change lives for eternity.  We will fail, Jesus is there to catch us and make our failures His victory.

Jesus Finally Gets Away, Verses 22-23

When we began our look at the ‘Feeding of the 5000’ Jesus was trying to get away for some solitude to mourn the death of His cousin and friend, John the Baptist. Well the people did not let Him get away they followed Him resulting in the previous encounter.  But the people are fed, they have been sent home and it is now into the evening and they are all gone.  Jesus sends the disciples away in a boat into the Sea of Galilee and He goes off by himself to mourn.

Here we learn a couple of very important lesson about the Lord and how He deals with us. First Jesus sent the disciples away into the Sea of Galilee knowing that there would be a storm. This is hard for us to fathom since we, as protective parents, try to shield our kids from danger. The thought of sending them out into danger deliberately is foreign to most of us. But it is important to notice that in verse 22 we are told that Jesus “made His disciples get in the boat.”

This was a deliberate act on His part.  God will allow you to get into situations that are stormy, in fact if we are to take the Bible at face value God will actually send you out into the storm. The sea was calm when they left or they would not have launched, but the storm lurked out in the midst of the sea. God of course had the power to stop the storm before they even got into the boat. He had the power to warn them ahead of time that there was going to be a storm and give them the chance to sail around the storm.  But, God simply put them in the path of the storm. Or maybe consider this; what if God sent the storm to them?

There are things in your life that are storms, deaths, job losses, family stress, illness, a wayward child, financial stresses and a myriad of things that can come our way.  These things come to us not because of sin or failure but simply that God allows it.  In fact these men had just left a great victory and maybe some of them still had baskets of food left over from the “feeding of the 5000” with them.

They actually still had the evidence of God’s great power in their sights.  And it is at this time that they are tested and put into the storm.  God is an awesome teacher and one who never stops teaching.  He is constantly challenging us if we want to be challenged. In John 6:60-70 we find that once Jesus begins some hard lesson on being true disciples that a lot of his followers leave Him and just the 12 men and a few women as we learn in other accounts are left, He asks them why they are staying and we have these famous words from Peter:

“But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Once we have come to this point and we understand and accept who Jesus is, and we choose to stay with Him, we then give Him license to transform us into His image.  This is what storms are for.  They come to humble us, magnify God, build faith and create in us, the image of Christ.

Secondly we learn that it may seem that Jesus/God has abandoned us in the storms of life. It may seem that God has gone off and left us to fend for ourselves but make no mistake God/Jesus knows exactly where you are and at the right time, the time that brings Him the most glory and humbles us the most, Jesus will show us. He shows up walking above the storm, walking on it and showing that He is unfazed by our circumstanced and is in fact, in control of all of our circumstances.

Don’t Be Afraid, Verse 27

Wow, that is easy for Jesus to say, He already knows what is going to happen. There is a legend going around that the phrase ‘don’t be afraid’ and its derivatives are mentioned 365 times in the Bible. If you have ever watched the movie Facing the Giants you would have heard that.

I will admit that I have done searches on that phrase mentioned in the movie and I was not able to find the reference 365 times. However we are told here by Jesus not to be afraid. Do not be afraid in the storms of life and when we appear to be engulfed in turmoil and strife. We should not let our circumstance betray our trust in God’s ability, God’s power and God’s promises.

When we are in the storms of life and we will be, this is a given and once the initial shock of the diagnosis is gone, or the death has passed or whatever happens has happened then we need to let our trust in the Word of God begin to take over. This is where the power of constant and consistent Bible reading and study is essential.

The only way to fight fear and despair is with the Word of God. It takes the power of the Word of God to stand in the midst of life’s storms. It also bring us to a point where we either have to trust in God’s promises or not, but storms do not allow us to sit on the fence. God is God or He is not; if He is God, then He is God in the storm and more importantly the God of the storm. Do not be afraid.

In verse 32 the storm stops as soon as Jesus is in the boat and the men are humbled and confess that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the ultimate goal of the storms in our lives to magnify God and bring us into a right understanding of who Jesus is.  Storms are there to BENEFIT us, not destroy us.

Peter Walks on Water, Verses 28-29

Peter walked on water!!!!  I am going to bet you that he never forgot that ever in his life.  He was a fisherman when Jesus found Him and he had spent his entire life on a boat, but never had he walked on water.  But that night Peter walked on water.  But there was something ever more important for us.

Peter got out of the boat. The other 11 did not. When I was a kid I heard so much about Peter’s lack of faith and how he sank. Yes he did. and we should not miss that but what was MOST important was that Peter got out of the boat and he actually walked on water on the way to Jesus and he walked on water on the way back to the boat, notice verse 32, “when they got back to the boat.”

He did something that none of the others did.  He stepped out in faith even in the face of pure and real logic.  He stepped out in faith in the midst of a storm; he, for a brief moment that would set the tone for the rest of his life in Jesus, saw Jesus and not the storm. Of course we also recall Peter was the one who denied Jesus on the night before the crucifixion. But we often forget that it was this same Peter that Jesus went and called back into leadership in John 20.

This was the same Peter that drew a sword and charged a Roman guard to try to deliver Jesus from being arrested, John 18: 10-11. Imagine that this fisherman was charging a Roman troop by himself to deliver Jesus. Don’t tell me that walking on water did not change his life. Yes his understanding of God’s plan needed a bit of refining and he needed to let God be god.  But there is no question that Peter was the leader of the NT church in Israel after Jesus ascended and he was the leader for a long time.  Did he still have failures? Yes he did.  But Peter led.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather be the guy out in the water who walked a few steps and then sank than the 11 in the boat who never knew what it was like to walk on water. I want to be that guy that when Jesus is looking for a leader He will come and touch me on the shoulder. I want to have the faith to charge an obviously bigger enemy and to be out numbered but to trust Jesus so much I just pull out my sword and head into the battle.

Call me rash, Peter was. We need this kind of boldness today in our churches we need some men and women who step out of their boats into the middle of stormy seas and even if they sink, they will forever change the course of their lives. They will be able to look back and know that Jesus is the Son of God and that in Him, by Him and with Him they can walk on water, conquer the enemy, survive the storm and be triumphant in this life.  Come let us walk on water together with Jesus.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 35-39).