22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. 24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” 28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.
Here in Matthew 14, we come to the famous story of Peter walking on water. But in order to really understand the story we need to back up and look at the background context to the story. Jesus had just been told that John the Baptist, a close relative of his had been beheaded by Herod. When Jesus heard the news he got into a boat and left for a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. When Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped out of the boat he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Because it was getting late, the disciples wanted Jesus to send the people away, but Jesus had other plans and he miraculously fed over 5000 people with only 5 barley loaves and two fish. John 6:14 tells us that the people were very excited and said, “Surely this is the prophet who is to come into the world.” Verse 15 reveals that Jesus knew they wanted to stage a coup and make him king by force. They wanted a Messiah who would turn the nation of Israel into a world power. It’s here that we see first
- The courage of Christ in the chaos
We see this demonstrated in at least four ways, first
- He Calls and Commands.
Verse 22 says: “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd.” Jesus took charge and commanded his disciples to get into the boat. This word means to “compel by force.” The disciples didn’t want to leave this celebration because they didn’t want to miss out on what was about to happen. But Jesus knew that they would be influenced by all this flattery and so he got them out of there right away. Jesus recognizes that the people’s motives weren’t right and He knew that the disciples were not mature enough in their faith to handle all this attention. He had the courage to make a tough call to walk away from the flattery and attention, to step out of the unhealthy spotlight. He did this not only for Himself but also to protect His disciples from the poison of peer pressure. So let me ask you, what is your response to Christ’s commands? Sometimes Jesus commands don’t seem to make sense but will we follow them by faith and obey instead of object? Jesus called them away from the party for their own protection. Sometimes following Christ’s commands don’t seem very fun, but Jesus cares more about our faith than fun. It’s in these moments when His commands don’t seem to make sense that we need to obey by faith. Second:
- He prays.
Verse 23 tells us that the next thing Jesus did was to pray. I think He prayed for two reasons. First He was facing the same temptation He encountered with Satan in the wilderness when He was tempted to use His miraculous power to gain followers. So He called on His Father and reaffirmed His mission and marching orders. Second I believe He prays for his disciples because even after experiencing His miracles they were still in danger of missing the whole point. He also knew the storm they were sailing into. Hebrews 7:25 reminds us that Jesus is still interceding for His followers today: “He always lives to intercede for them.” Jesus knows the trials and temptations facing you, he knows all about the tempest that is trying to toss you around so that you will throw in the towel, and He is interceding for you so that you don’t flounder in your faith. When it feels like Jesus isn’t doing anything faith reminds us that he is faithfully interceding on our behalf. We can live courageous lives because we know that Christ is interceding powerfully in prayer. Third:
- He cares.
Verse 24 describes the boat being several miles from shore as it was buffeted by the wind and waves. The Greek word here literally means that they were “tormented” by the waves. This storm was so bad that the disciples, many of whom were professional sailors, were not only fearful but were fighting for their lives. Now Mark 6:48 gives us a powerful glimpse not only into the deity of Christ but also His care for His sheep. It says Jesus “saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them.” Now I want to remind you of a difficult fact, it was Jesus who commanded them to climb into the boat and sent them out into the storm. And we may be tempted to complain and ask what kind of a Savior sends His sheep into a storm, but let me ask you if He had left them on the shore would they have survived the pounding storm of popularity and pride? Or would they have floundered and fallen away? Sometimes we get angry with the Almighty and we wonder why He would let us go through these severe storms, but if He had left you where you were you would have been swallowed up and you would have drowned on dry ground. We may not like the sea storms that Jesus sends us into and we may be tempted to think that we would be safe on the shore, but sometimes the deadliest storms are where we think we are the safest. There are at least two kinds of storms that you will face in the Christian life.
- Storms of correction. Like Jonah, sometimes the storms of life are meant to get our attention and call our rebellious heart to repentance.
- Storms of perfection. Like the disciples, God allows these types of storms to build our character and to cause us to deepen our dependence upon Him so that we can flourish in faithfulness. If you let Him God will use the storms to strengthen your faith. Look there are only 2 outcomes either storms will strengthen or they will shatter your faith.
We can have courage in the midst of the chaos because we have a Savior who calls, intercedes, and cares. What about you, are you focused on the Savior or on the storm? Our courage is not based on the absence of chaos but because of Christ’s presence in the chaos.