Good morning. If you would, open your Bibles to Matthew 14. If you don’t have a Bible with you, one can be found in the pew rack in front of you. And if you use one of the church Bibles, Matthew 14 can be found on page 820. This morning we’re going to consider the account of Jesus walking on the water, which is found in verses 22 through 33. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, this would be a familiar account to you. It’s also recorded in the gospels of Mark and John. Just to put a little context to this passage, this event occurs immediately after the feeding of the five thousand men with two fish and five loaves of bread. With that being said, let’s pray together and we’ll read the Word of God.
Father God, we’re coming to You this morning; we are about to read Your Word and Your Word will be preached. Lord, we pray that You will show us glorious truths in this portion of Your holy Gospel. And we pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.
Matthew chapter 14, beginning in verse 22. Remember, this is the Word of God:
"Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night, he came to them, walking on the sea. 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. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.' And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.' He said, ‘Come.' So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.' Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?' And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.'"
The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord stands forever. Amen.
Years ago, before the wonderful technology that is Google Maps for our phones, Wendy and I took a trip to Miami. We flew into Miami and rented a car and then checked into a hotel not too far from the airport. We decided to go get back into the car and drive around, explore the area a little bit. And before too long, we were lost. Now we’ve all been in new cities and get turned around; you’ve got to find your way out. But when I tell you that we were lost, what I’m confessing to you is that is the most lost I have ever been in my entire life. We were driving into parts of town where every street sign and storefront sign was in Spanish, which neither Wendy nor I speak Spanish. And we were so turned around that at one point I saw a plane in the distance that looked like it was descending and I said, “We’re going to go that direction. The airport must be over there and our hotel is close to the airport.” She kind of gave me a little like, “That’s the plan?” and that’s the best I had! And it didn’t go too much better; we stayed lost for quite a while!
Being lost is not fun. It leaves us confused, maybe even scared. On this particular account, the disciples are out in the sea and they’re not exactly lost – they know the sea – but they are definitely off course. But they’re not just physically off course, as we’ll look at in the passage this morning, they are spiritually off course. But what we’re going to look at this morning, is we’ll learn that Jesus is always working for us even when we get off course. So I’m going to give us three “P”s this morning to try to help us with this passage. The first is that we want to remember that Jesus prays; Jesus prays. Secondly, Jesus pursues. And finally, Jesus is worthy of our praise. So Jesus prays in verses 22 and 23; Jesus pursues in verses 24 through 31; Jesus is worthy of our praise, verses 32 and 33.
So let’s begin with verse 22. “Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” Jesus had had a full day of ministry. His day started that morning by getting the news about the death of John the Baptist. He had gone out to a desolate place, no doubt grieved by this news, but the crowds found out and they came out. And they started to follow Him. And He saw the crowd and He had compassion on them. And He started healing the sick and teaching and preaching to them. I suspect that by the end of this day, Jesus was exhausted. So He did the thing He needed to do the most, and that is to get alone so He could spend time in prayer.
We don’t know for sure what Jesus was praying about, but it’s a good guess that He was interceding for His people, maybe on behalf of His disciples. After all, they’re a faithful group, they’ve been following Him now for about a year-and-a-half in His ministry, but they’ve struggled to always understand Jesus. Perhaps He’s praying for the crowd that He’s been with on this particular day. In John’s account of this gospel, he tells us that they wanted to make Him King. But they wanted to make Him King for all the wrong reasons. Jesus had been healing the sick and had been providing food for them, and they wanted to keep Jesus around because He was going to do good things for them. But that’s not the terms that Jesus is going to be King on. Again, we don’t know for sure what Jesus was praying about, but we do know that Jesus felt the need to pray and He was serious about praying. Notice that Jesus dismissed this crowd in the evening after He had fed them dinner and He went to pray.
Then we're told that He comes walking on the water to the disciples during the fourth watch. That's the Roman way of telling time and that would be somewhere between 3 am and 6 am. So Jesus has been praying for a long time; maybe as much as nine hours. We can learn much about Jesus in the Bible through Jesus' prayer life. We learn that Jesus prayed for others. Matthew 19:13, "Then, little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them." We learn that Jesus prayed with others. Luke 9:28, "Jesus took Peter, John, and James with Him and went up onto a mountain to pray." We know that Jesus prayed alone. We see that in our text this morning. We also read in Luke 5:16, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Jesus prayed short prayers and He prayed long prayers. The Lord's Prayer is a great short prayer, easy to memorize, full of wisdom for us. But also, Jesus went to dedicate long periods of time to pray. Again, He prayed a long time on this night.
Jesus taught persistence in prayer. Luke 18:1, “Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Jesus is still praying even now in heaven. Hebrews 7:25, “Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Or Romans 8:34, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died, more than that, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God who indeed is interceding for us.” The Lord Jesus is still praying for us today.
The point is, prayer is the engine of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ praying assures us that He is able to complete the work the Father has sent Him to accomplish. Prayer is a key part of the Christian experience. Matthew Henry once said, “You may as soon find a living man who does not breathe as a living Christian who does not pray.” Jesus breathed, Jesus prayed – that’s the way He went about His ministry. If prayer was necessary for Jesus, how much more for us? The disciples forgot Jesus was even then praying for them. It should bring you comfort and assurance when you find yourself lost to know that the Lord is praying for you. So that’s the first thing this morning. It’s that Jesus is praying.
But Jesus is doing more than just praying; Jesus is pursuing you. Look at verse 24 with me. "But the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night, he came to them, walking on the sea. 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. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.'" Jesus came walking right out onto the water to them. And when they see Him, they are terrified. We read that they cried out in fear. They are really scared. Why are they so scared when they see Jesus walking towards them?
Well, I think we get an answer to that when we look at Mark's account of this gospel. Mark says this. "Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.' And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased and they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.'" The disciples completely missed the work Jesus was doing for them during the feeding of the five thousand. The disciples got into the boat and instead of looking at each other in amazement saying, "What in the world just happened there? How did Jesus just feed five thousand men with two fish and fives loaves of bread? That's amazing! He's amazing!" Instead of doing that, you get the sense that they just kind of got in the boat and shrugged their shoulders and said, "Who knew a little bit of fish and bread could go so far?" and just completely missed the picture. Instead of focusing on the God-Man, Jesus, and making much of Jesus, they just went about their merry way.
Jesus though, He was not going to let them get by with this. Jesus did yet another miracle. This time He came walking out to the water towards the boat, a boat that had only traveled a few miles in the last nine hours. Yes, the disciples had missed the point about the feeding of the five thousand, but Jesus was not going to let them miss this. This was going to be a walk to remember.
I think I was ten years old when this happened and I've told this to the session before but I think it's helpful for us this morning. I think I was then when this happened. It was Christmas morning, and like every Christmas morning when I was a boy, I woke up early and I woke up excited. And I suspect my heart was still beating out of my chest with excitement when five to ten minutes in of enjoying all the euphoria that is Christmas morning and looking at all my new gifts, dad said to my older brother and myself that we needed to go down the basement and out the back door to bring in some logs for the fireplace. You know, I heard that and I was distraught. What awful timing! "Can't we wait?" we said in unison. "No," dad said. "It's time to go get it now." So off to the basement we went, muttering under our breath about our terrible plight here in life that we found ourselves in. "Why do we have to go do this? After all, Dad didn't get anything for Christmas. He should go and get the logs!" Total despair I tell you! But we hustled right along and emerged each with an armful of logs. I still remember my mom's face of disbelief. Had she heard us complaining when we were going down the steps? My dad, who at that time was playing with my little sister, looked up and he too had a shocked look on his face. And as we put the logs on the hearth, dad declared that we needed yet more firewood. "Unbelievable!" I thought to myself. As we went back down to the basement for a second time, that's when I saw it. The brand new pool table, right in the middle of the basement – a pool table that we literally had to walk around to go outside and to come back in! We never noticed it! How could that be?
We were so focused on ourselves we failed to see the wonderful gift that was right there in front of us.
Just like dad sent us back down to the basement to see what he had done for us, Jesus did another miracle for the disciples and He walked on the water. If they had paid attention to Jesus for who He really is – the God-Man, the one who has compassion on His people and provides for His people, the one who can do miracles in the feeding, the one who can be counted on to always care for His people – if they had seen this then they would have not been afraid when they saw Him coming. In fact, if they had really understood who Jesus is and how much He cares, instead of being afraid when He shows up they would have been looking for Him; they would have been counting on His appearing.
Jesus Cares at All Times
Jesus cares for His people at all times. No matter what you're going through right now in your life, you as a Christian can know that Jesus can be trusted. "How can you know that?" you might ask. "After all, this problem I have in my life right now, it's really big; it's really scary." Well, remember, Jesus pursued you when you were dead in your sins. You, a sinner, with no hope of saving yourself, certain for an eternity in hell because that is actually what your sin is worth, have no hope but in Jesus. He actually brought about the reconciliation between you and God. God demands nothing short of a blood sacrifice for the atonement and forgiveness of sins. That's exactly what Jesus does for you. You do not have enough sacrifice to offer, but Jesus does. He pays all your debt at the cross of Calvary. You might think Jesus has left you and forgotten you in the storm in your life right now, but He hasn't. Jesus didn't save you from your sin so He could forget about you. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. Christian, "who shall separate you from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Amen!
Now Jesus’ timing isn’t always our timing. Right? The disciples were, indeed, out in the storm for many hours. And Jesus let them be in the storm. He let them be in the storm so they could know that He was their God. When trouble comes, often our first reaction is to ask Jesus to take the trouble away, but the first thing we should do is look to Jesus. The disciples were focusing on the storm and not on Jesus. Friends, the call is for you to be focusing on Jesus and not the scary things in your life. When the disciples see Jesus, they cry out and they’re scared. Jesus tells them to take heart. And He says, “It is I.” But what He’s really saying there is, “I AM.” He’s using the same phraseology that God used to identify Himself to Moses. He’s showing His deity to His disciples. He’s showing His deity for a purpose. He’s assuring them that He can handle what they’re going through. Friends, when you are afraid, look to Jesus. He has you. He has you.
He Comes for Us
Peter gets a glimpse of this. Doesn’t he? Look with me at verse 28. “And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus, but when he saw the wind he was afraid. And beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand, took hold of him saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” Peter sees Jesus for who He really is. He sees that He is God over all. He sees that He is worthy to be trusted and he hops out of the boat and actually starts walking on the water towards Jesus. All the disciples should have hopped out of the boat and walked on the water to Him. We should hop out of our boats of fear and walk to Jesus. He is a safe place. He can be trusted. But alas, Peter once again began to see the wind and he grew afraid and the Lord had to rescue him. Friends, don’t doubt the Lord. He is able to sustain you when you are afraid. He’s able to deal with your troubles. Jesus is a relentless pursuer of His people. Just as He came for His disciples, He comes for us.
Jesus is Worthy of Our Praise
Knowing that leads us to our last "P" – Jesus is worthy of our praise. Look with me at verse 32. "And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased and those in the boat worshiped him saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God!'" John Piper once wrote, "People are starving for the grandeur of God and the vast majority do not know it. The majesty of God is an unknown cure for what troubles the soul." Once Jesus had saved Peter, they climbed in the boat and immediately the tempest stopped. Think about that for just a moment. Again, for may like nine hours they'd been fighting the storm, and as soon as Jesus arrives in the boat, it's over! In fact, John, in his gospel account of this, gives us even a little more detail. Not only did the storm stop, but John adds that immediately they were on the land on the other side where they were headed. Notice how the disciples respond when they see Jesus for who He really is. They start to worship. They praised God. They profess that Jesus really is the Son of God. They're professing that Jesus really is God Himself.
What the disciples needed most on this night was to see Jesus in all His glory, to get a glimpse of His majesty, for behold, when they see it, they are changed. They’re no longer tired sailors; they are amazed worshipers. When we are lost, when we are scared, when we don’t know what else to do, it should drive us to worship. Psalm 34 verse 8 says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” See, when we praise God, more happens in our soul than just giving proper recognition to God for being wonderful. When we are properly worshiping Jesus, we are being renewed inwardly by the Holy Spirit. We are being transformed and made more like Christ Himself. This happens when we look into the face of Jesus and we see glory staring back at us. Seeing Jesus high and lifted up should be our goal. Striving to see Jesus in all His eternal majesty should make us fall face first and worship.
B.B. Warfield said, “A Calvinist is the man who has seen God and who, having seen God in His glory, is on the one hand filled with a sense of his own unworthiness to stand in God’s sight as a creature and much more as a sinner, and on the other hand, with adoring wonder that nevertheless this God is a God who receives sinners.” On this day, on this lake, the disciples were Calvinists. They saw the glory of Jesus and they were stunned. They were in awe and all they could do is worship. They felt their unworthiness and knew for certain that Jesus was worthy of their worship. The incredible God who is full of power and majesty, who could feed the five thousand and walked on the water and calmed the storm, also hung on the tree and died for your sins and raised from the dead victoriously over the grave and He is worthy of your praise. Seeing and savoring this glory is the goal of our salvation.
I know in a little bit you’ll gather for Sunday dinner and you’ll talk about what you thought of the sermon and how the preacher did. That’s a regular Sunday event. I get that! But, the question that we should ask every Sunday is, “How did I do with my worship today? How did I do with my worship today?” That’s the real question. There’s more to our worship than just Sundays, obviously. We should be men and women who want to praise God every day. Is your life marked by being a person of praise? Friends, when we see Jesus for who He is – our Creator, our Sustainer, our Savior – we should worship. Every day we need to go back to Jesus and praise Him for the grace in our lives. When we do that, we won’t be lost.
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for this look at Your Word. Thank You for being a God that we can trust. Lord, I pray that as You pursue us we will turn right around and we will worship You and we will worship You well. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.
© 2019 First Presbyterian Church.
This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.
Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.
To view recordings of our entire services, visit our Facebook page.