Walking on Water, Part 1

March 27, 2017

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.” Matthew 14:22-33

We sometimes forget when we open our Bibles and join the disciples in their boat on this dark and stormy night that it was only hours before (in Matthew 14:15-21) the disciples had witnessed and experienced something else extraordinary.

Earlier that same day, Jesus had taken five loaves of bread and two fishes and fed over 5,000 people with them…and there were entire baskets of food left over after everyone had eaten their full.

As the disciples clambered into the boat that evening, this must have been fresh on their minds. The account of this story in John 6 lets us know that although they saw it and experienced it, they didn’t really get it. They didn’t understand its significance. They didn’t understand fully yet just who their Master was and what He was getting ready to do.

They discussed and wondered at it together at length, I’m sure, as they picked up their oars and settled into their seats on the boat. Can you believe it? How did He do it? Did you see what happened?! Every time I gave away one basket of food, there appeared another in my hands!

Me too! I’ve never seen so much bread in my life. Do you think the people realized what was happening?

And then, What do you think it means?

Because isn’t that the question we find ourselves asking when we see God at work? When we experience the extravagant goodness and abundance of His provision? When we are given a taste of heaven? We too struggle to comprehend just who Jesus is and what His is getting ready to do.

As the minutes and hours passed, the boat made its way slowly out into the darkness of the lake. Some of the men rowed. A few of the men must have shifted to find a comfortable position to catch some sleep.

Their talking slowed and quietly petered out.

Silent now, each man pondered in his own heart the extraordinary events of the day until sleepiness muddled their thoughts.

What does it mean?

It was pitch black out in the middle of the great lake. The wind was picking up.

Dark clouds gathered and loomed overhead, hiding the light of the stars.

Peter, we can imagine, tried to doze; but he couldn’t sleep.

Bread and fish. Fish and bread. So much food!

What does it mean?

Why did God allow me to see this miracle and experience this wonder? ME. I’m just a fisherman. This is ridiculous.

If He is the One sent from God, what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to respond?

The wind began to howl. It pressed harder and harder against the boat. The old wooden boat creaked and groaned.

The little fishing boat was everything Peter knew – his past, his present, his future – all he was accustomed to. It was all tossing and quaking with that boat.

As the waves collided, Peter closed his eyes against the wet wind, letting it lash against his forehead and cheeks.

What does it mean?

He gripped the side of the boat.

The others were awake again now. Murmuring, frightened.

Their conversation changed.

If only the Master were here…

Why did He send us out here in the darkness alone?

They clutched their oars with one hand and clung with all their strength to the boat with the other hand, trying to steady themselves in the rocking little boat. The boat seemed so weak and vulnerable in the black, churning sea.

Where is He? Why did He leave us?

Peter grabbed an oar, too.

I can just imagine the nose of the boat jerking upward sharply and then careening back down.

Peter’s side collided with the rough boards of the boat. He bellowed out in pain.

With that blow, all remnants of thoughts surrounding the earlier events of the day flew away. Fear hijacked his brain.

All he could think of now were the tales…the tales he had heard from childhood about other boats full of fishermen that had set out on peaceful seas and been caught unaware by rising dark clouds…

Fearsome tales of seasoned fisherman who had been swept away forever by crashing waves and swallowed up by the deep darkness of unexpected storms…

The twelve men attacked the waves with their oars. They heaved their body weight this way and that, trying to counterbalance the effects of the giant waves. Every ounce of their physical and mental strength was poured into conquering the wind, into keeping their boat upright in the darkness.

But all their strength wasn’t enough.

Minutes went by, then hours. Trembling with exhaustion, they could barely hold on to their oars. They had gotten nowhere; and the dark, bitter storm gave no sign of relenting.

Throwing back his head, Peter sucked in a deep breath, inhaling the crashing spray of the waves. If anything, the wind was growing stronger.

We can’t make it.

He felt a sob of despair rising up in his throat as he stared out across the black water.

All is lost. This is the end.

He squinted, just then, because he thought he saw something moving on the water.

Like a shadow.

And then a silhouette appeared out in the deep darkness, walking along the tops of the waves.

It’s a spirit!

Twelve grown men screamed with terror.

But then, there was a voice.

Perhaps they were so afraid because they hadn’t thought to look for Him in the darkness…perhaps they had only imagined evil would be present with them in the darkness…

That voice!

They had spent hours and hours listening to that voice.

“Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

They recognized the beloved voice at once, and their spirits soared.

They were not alone.

His presence had found them in the storm!

And look at Him! Is He…? He is walking on water!

In that moment, for Peter, it had to have all came rushing back.

The bread, the fish. Every single event that had occurred to bring him to this moment in his life that he would never, ever forget: the moment he sat in the dark in a rocking boat in a raging storm and Jesus showed up…walking on the waves.

What does it mean?

This Man is…it’s HIM. All I want is to be in His presence and to do His will. Wherever He is and whatever He is doing, that is where I want to be and what I want to do.

He was near, but not near enough for Peter. Wind and deep, swirling water still separated them.

If Jesus used my rough and clumsy hands to serve bread to all those people in such a miraculous way, what else can He do through me?

In the churning and darkness, something wild and huge and unstoppable rose up in Peter’s heart. He felt as if he would explode with the force of it.

It was a feeling, but it was much more than a feeling. It was a seeing.

It was a decision. A vow. A battle cry.

It was faith.

“Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

So He said, “Come.”

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  • Fabian Shepard March 27, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    Many times I have been exactly like the disciples. I have forgotten my position in Christ. I have forgotten his provision. I have trembled in fear an I’ve even slipped into questions of my faith. However, our awesome God has always been patient with me and He has always shown me that he never left me, even when I tried to leave him.

    God bless you!