This year, I am teaching the book of Matthew and I am constantly amazed at the lessons that I continue to learn about God each time I read the Scripture. Tonight I was teaching Chapter 14, which includes the story of the feeding of the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, as well as the story of Peter walking on water.
There is another story about the disciples on the water earlier in the Gospels, and that is the antecedent to the story tonight. In the first instance, Jesus and the disciples are crossing the water and a storm comes up. Jesus is asleep and is awakened by the disciples who are concerned that they are going to be cast overboard and drown. In fact, in the original Greek, the language is very graphic. According to the translation, the waves are so strong that they are going straight up in the air and then crashing down into the boat. Jesus calms the water and the wind and His companions marvel at this person who can control nature. It’s a great story.
The story in Matthew 14 has several noteworthy differences. First of all, unlike the first time, Jesus is not in the boat with the disciples. In fact, He sent them off hours earlier and they are now in the fourth watch of the night; somewhere between 3 am and daylight. That means that they have been in the boat since right after feeding the 5000 and they are far out to sea.
When Jesus comes across the water, the disciples at first think that they are seeing a ghost, or a spirit. But Jesus reassures them and Peter calls out to Jesus. Jesus bids Peter to “come” to Him and Peter steps out of the boat, walking on the water, just like Jesus. However, and we don’t know how far he got, Peter suffers a crisis of faith and begins to doubt. He starts to sink, cries out to Jesus with the shortest prayer in the Bible, “Lord, save me!” and together Jesus and Peter climb into the boat. I wonder how far Peter got before he began to sink, and furthermore, I wonder if after Jesus took Peter’s arm, Peter walked back to the boat with the Savior…
After everyone is safely in the boat, the disciples proclaim that Jesus is truly the Son of God. In other words, a sure affirmation of the deity of Jesus, unlike the last time when the disciples still questioned who this was who is able to control nature.
But the point that I want to make here is that in both the stories about boats, storms and water, the disciples are concerned about their safety. And if you notice, Jesus uses the thing that terrifies the disciples the most to build a bridge to them and build their faith in Him. It is a totally awesome story and one that we can learn lessons from.
For example, the disciples were not be corrected for being disobedient to Jesus. Rather, Jesus was using this illustration to strengthen their faith. In other words, He created a storm of perfection – something that would reinforce the faith of His disciples and draw them closer to Him. And He used the very water that scared them to make His point. How awesome is that…
And that’s how it is with us. Many times Jesus builds His relationship with us by creating storms of perfection in our lives as well. It would be wrong to think that all the storms in our lives are storms of correction – things that we have been disobedient about and that God finds it necessary to correct us.
But this story in Matthew really gives us a reason to believe that Jesus is interested in being a stronger presence in our lives. The verse for tonight is from Is. 43:2-3, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” So God will be with us and will not let us get harmed in the process. That’s the best news that we can hear – God is with us! Always!
My encouragement tonight is to let you know that God wants to make sure that He draws you closer to Him. And sometimes, although that may be scary, God will never hurt you, but every once in a while he may correct you. My prayer is that you will recognize those things in your life that cast doubt on your faith and that God will use those very illustrations to provide you with storms of perfection that will result in a closer walk with the Lord of Creation – even if you don’t walk on water… Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…