Sinking Without Jesus | Matthew 14:22-33
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 14:22–14:33
Good Morning! We are in a series on the book of Matthew; the Gospel account revealing Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This series has been titled the Revelation of the King as the section we will be looking at (chapters 14-20). Jesus teaches, Jesus heals, Jesus performs miracles, but above all Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord, in all that he does he is revealing Himself to the world. Jesus is also savior of his people, he will consistently point his people to the height of his mission, the cross. As he reveals his identity through miracles sometimes this is to individuals through healings and casting out demons, sometime this is to his disciples. Two weeks ago we saw Jesus show his great power as a king who provides, and great compassion as a savior who’s heart breaks for His people as he miraculously feeds crowds of thousands of people with a few loaves and fishes. These are common, and in many cases very needy, people who have left what little they have to seek healing from Jesus. Religious and social elites have rejected and opposed Jesus message of repentance. Things have grown so hostile Jesus continues his mission in desolate places and yet his fame, influence, and people’s desire to be near him only grows. Today’s verses pick up right after the first time Jesus miraculously feeds thousands and the crowd begins to understand how amazing what he has done is and they respond.
Matthew 14:22-33 22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Matt 14:22 | Jesus Sends
There wasn’t much time for Jesus or the disciples to enjoy the post-game celebration after the miraculous feeding of the five thousand men. It says Jesus “Immediately” sent the disciples on to the next mission (Mark says it was to Bethsaida) Not only did he send them he “made them get on the boat”. There must have been some reluctance on the disciple’s part. “Jesus this is great! Everyone loves you (and by extension us) let’s hang out here.” There was a sense of urgency in Jesus sending the disciples, and then Jesus goes to be in solitude. Why did he send them away? Matthew doesn’t tell us. But John’s Gospel does.
John 6:15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
Jesus has just preformed a miracle in feeding everyone and these powerless, hurting, marginalized, and formerly hungry people quickly transition from satisfaction to ambition. “If he can keep us feed what else can he do for us?!” Maybe we don’t have to be subject to the unstable Herod’s or the foreign pagan emperors of Rome, we can have our independence from tyranny! They want to take Jesus’ power and make him a king by violent force. Jesus knows his kingdom will not be established or defined by the violence his followers are able to inflict on others, but rather the violence Jesus is able to endure by others on the Cross. Jesus also knows his disciples desire for significance and power. He doesn’t want them around to see or be caught up in the ground swell of a possible rebellion. Victory by force isn’t the mission, being satisfied and sustained by Jesus is. It’s time to move on to the next mission. There are people on the other side of the lake that need to be healed. Starting a peasant army and overthrowing Herod or Rome is not on the agenda, healing is. Immediately he MAKES the disciples get in the boat and leave. Jesus is serious. This is not the fight, not the time. The crowd is dismissed “Go back! The final battle is not now.” We are then reminded Jesus is fully human. He needed to recharge, pray, connect with God the Father. This was a regular rhythm for Jesus. When he is ready to move he is alone on land while the disciples are out to sea.
Matt 14:24 | Struggling Without Jesus
We see in the other gospels they are 3-4 miles out from shore. The had left shortly after the meal near the end of the day and it’s now 10-12 hours later and that is all the progress they’ve made. Why? The wind was against them. Mark’s version of this episode says “they were making headway painfully”
Earlier (Matt Ch 8) when Jesus was with them on the boat on mission and a storm came, Jesus was sleeping, they woke him up, and he calmed the storm with a word, and they made it through. This time they’re in the boat alone, without Jesus. How are they doing without Jesus? Not well, struggling, yet still striving. We have an ability on our own to make some progress to make things look a little (or sometimes a lot better) but it will be painful, it will be a slow slog, it will seem unproductive and it will not ultimately lead us to where we are called to go. We can put great effort in and it can still easily lead us off course. When it says how far they have travelled and you look at the distance they needed to travel you realize they were no longer going the direction they were called to. They were stuck in the middle. They have been straining, and rowing and working from the evening through the middle of the night. It’s early, early in the morning. It’s been hours, they are exhausted, discouraged. When you stay in that state too long with no help, no rest, no encouragement you begin to let fear set in. Fear the storm will overwhelm, fear you’ll never make it, worse a fear Jesus has called you to a place of destruction and you begin to think God isn’t good all of the time. The disciples have forgotten the mission Jesus called them too, they’re only thinking of their immediate survival, they are afraid. Fear shapes how you see things and leads you to perceive things in ways that are not reality; causing you to make rash judgments and decisions that can lead to destruction.
Marques Cooper, UW Football player who lived in my fraternity, in 2009 when fishing in the gulf of Mexico of Florida with 3 other men (all football players) there was a storm, their boat capsized in the afternoon, and the four of them clung to the hull, they all struggled to stay on top of the hull. But there were constant 6 foot waves crashing in and at points the boat was chest deep under water. They were there for 2 days but after a day of fighting the 2 of the men gave up and separated from the boat. 24 hours later a 3rd guy became non responsive and let go of the boat 6 hours before the Coast Guard arrived to rescue Nick Schuyler the lone survivor. The investigation and interview with Nick pointed to them suffering from hypothermia. The wind was against them their environment was so hostile they couldn’t survive, they couldn’t hold on. These were physically strong men with floatation devices but they were no match against the crushing power of a raging sea with no concern for their safety. At certain points it doesn’t matter how strong you are. You are simply not sufficient to overcome all your circumstances when the wind and waves are against you. There are things worth being scared about. Some storms do rage overwhelmingly and can destroy us if we’re left to our own.
Matt 14:25-27 | Jesus arrives, Jesus Declares
Remember Jesus sent the disciples in to the boat. They were obedient, yet they faced great difficulty, if left alone they’ll be overwhelmed. Jesus sees them out there from the hill top. He knows how this is going to go down. It appears for a while Jesus was willing to let them endure and struggle on their own. It’s also interesting it doesn’t say they cried out to him. It just says they were having a hard time. I wonder, these are experienced fisher men if they thought “we’ve been in tough spots before, if we all pull together I am sure we can make it through on our own strength. We don’t need Jesus we just need each other, and each other to try harder and we will prevail. No! There is one reason this story isn’t called, the disciples die in a boating accident. It’s the direct presence and intervention of the God of the Universe in Jesus Christ. They’ve struggled long enough, they are beginning to grow weary. It’s early in the next morning (between 3-6am) things look dire. We don’t know if they cried out to Jesus in that moment or not, but we do know Jesus knew they needed him and he comes down off the mountain and out into the sea in miraculous fashion. How do they respond? More fear! They terrified without Jesus and terrified to see Jesus. Why?
We don’t like to think God is that great so when something amazing, unexplainable, or miraculous happens we’re will even come up with ridiculous conclusions to explain what we see that take glory from God by escribing credit to something much lesser than an all mighty and powerful God. These guys quickly come to a conclusion Jesus is a ghost not God. Yes we’ve seen Jesus do some amazing things before, even the day before in feeding people, but we’re not completely sure he’s actually God. Any other explanation will do.
This is Advent where we anticipate the arrival of baby King Jesus. Jesus is here, coming off the throne of Heaven, coming into the storm of the world, to save, to bring peace, and we’d rather reject the doctrine of the virgin birth, stories of angels coming to shepherd sand distant wise men directed by the stars because it seems too great. We like humble Jesus in a manger, and we like feeding Jesus when we’re hungry, but this is the mighty Son of God showing his disciples he has physical command and dominion over all of creation. It all submits to him even the water will hold firm at his will. Jesus is full man AND Jesus is fully God!
Colossians 1:15-17 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Even the surface of the water can be held together at the pressure of his feet by the command of his will. Jesus actions here are important but so are his words. He speaks “Take Heart” (Literally have courage) “it is I” When Jesus says “it is I” the Greek translation is “I AM” The same thing Moses heard in Exodus 3:14 when God in the burning bush says to Moses “Iam who I am” This isn’t a ghost this is GOD!!! Multiple times in the Matthew Jesus says some version of “Don’t be afraid”. It’s great to be told in difficulty not to be afraid, but it always begs the question why not be afraid? The answer is because Jesus is here with you.
Isaiah 43:1-2 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah 43:10-11 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11 I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.
Matt 14:28-29 | Jesus Calls
This is where Matthew gives more details then either John or Mark. He is the only one to mention Peter. Why? We need to know what it looks like when Jesus is training His disciples. Peter has great zeal, he believes Jesus can do amazing things and isn’t afraid to ask Jesus for amazing things. He sees the great work Jesus is doing and he wants a part of it! Peter is showing great faith here. “Jesus it doesn’t matter how rough the water is, how strong the wind is, if it’s really you Jesus, if you’re really God call me out of what little façade I have of safety on this rickety boat and bring me to where you are!” The sea is scary but there is no safer place then precisely where you are called to be. Jesus has called Peter out of the boat and he gets to experience something spectacular! IAM called a nation out of slavery and destruction leading them through the divided waters of the Red Sea. Jesus is IAM and he calls Peter out of a boat to walk above the waters of the Sea of Galilee. Peter steps out on faith, trusting Jesus and it’s amazing! Peter believes great things about Jesus! Peter shows great courage in stepping out? How many of us just stay on the boat? Jesus is there calling but we’d rather pretend everything is safe (or safer) where we are.
Matt 14:30 | Sinking Without Jesus
Let’s not be too hard on Peter. He stepped out, he took a risk trusting Jesus. But soon he began to remember how rough things look and feel and he forgets how great Jesus is to overcome all. Put simply, he lost focus on Jesus as he “saw the wind” and began to fear. He waivered as he thought the wind was bigger and more powerful then Jesus. His perception as wrapped. He felt the wind, and the spray, it’s dark. The water is deep. And yet he’s so close to Jesus he still begins to sink. Why do we sink? We sink because we become so focused on our circumstances we forget about Jesus. Here is Jesus doing a mighty work and we’re still worried about the storm. There is an old hymn I’ve mediated on many times when things seem good and when they seem bad. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” Peter has lost sight of Jesus and yet when he beings to sink he shows great faith yet again. He doesn’t swim back to the boat. He doesn’t curse the wind for blowing or the water for not holding him up. They’re acting as they’re supposed too, we shouldn’t be surprised when we face adversity in a broken, dangerous world. Most importantly you don’t see Peter curing Jesus for calling him out of the boat. Instead he cries out to Jesus. Lord save me!
Psalm 69:1-3 Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. 3 I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
The moment of waiting is over. Are you actually waiting for God. Have you been crying out to him? Or have you been just rowing harder on your own or with a few others? Faith in Jesus begins when we recognize the hopeless of our condition and recognize we can’t possible save ourselves. In WWII, former Olympic runner, Louis Zamperini was an officer in a B-24 bomber on a search and rescue mission when their plane had mechanical difficulty and crashed in to the Pacific Ocean, as the plane fell further underwater Louis was trapped and cried out to the Lord to save him. His straps came undone, he came out and made it to the surface, only to spend the next 47 days protected on a raft in shark infested waters being shot at by Japanese planes with 2 other survivors. When we don’t sink it’s because Jesus saves!
Matthew 14:31 | Jesus Saves
Immediately! That how salvation works. (hmmm let me let him struggle a bit….) Jesus isn’t Kate Winslet in Titanic. Jesus is right here, he’s already come out off the mountain, he’s already come out to the sea he’s already called you to come to him. He grabs us in an instant!
Jesus lifts him up, not his faith. Yet this is was a huge step of faith. He cried out to the only one who could save him. Peter wasn’t saved by his great faith, he was saved by Jesus great authority. Jesus admonishes Peter. “Even when the storm is raging and you’re out of the boat, don’t doubt what I’ve called you too.”
We need to be a church full of Peter’s! Willing to follow Jesus, obediently getting out of our boats, even when things look risky at best and terrifying at worse. When we do get out and start walking the path Jesus has for us and begin to feel the wind and the waves we take our fear and cry out to Jesus who we know is right there. Knowing there is no safer place to be then precisely where Jesus has called us to be. He’ll never leave or forsake.
Matt 14:32-33 | Jesus in the boat.
In Jesus we worship a God who is in the boat with us! He doesn’t leave the disciples he telsl us to go and make disciples reminding us he is with us always! We worship because of who he is. He is the Son of God!
When you see Jesus work to save other it cause you to praise and worship Him more and more. The disciples saw Peter fail, Jesus save and the reaction was to praise and worship Jesus more. What if Peter hadn’t failed. Then the story would have been Peter’s faith is great! Instead it is when our faith fails Jesus saves. He saves by getting in the boat with us understanding our struggles, he saves by getting up on the Cross suffering the storm of God’s wrath we deserve for our sin in our place. He saves sinking into a tomb and raising again with the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit so we could be empowered with a new life where we can’t help but worship Jesus and spread the news that Jesus is the Son of God. Trust Jesus!
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.