Wednesday, May 21, 2008
By Pastor Jim May
Matthew 14:22-32, "And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased."
Be instant, in season and out of season: that’s what Paul commanded Timothy to do while he served the Lord as a preacher of the gospel. In another place he says it this way; “… be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you why you have hope in the midst of a hopeless situation, and why can you maintain an attitude of meekness in an arrogant world, and why do you fear, or reverence your God, when no one else even believes that God exists, and would just as soon forget about him.”
Yet God’s people are caught off guard so often by the storms and troubles of life. One day we are on the mountaintop and how soon we forget that on all sides of the moutaintop, the road ahead must lead downward, often into the valley of troubles. The best that any of us can hope for in this life is that the moutaintops get higher and last longer and that the valleys aren’t quite as deep.
As we mature in Christ, the valleys tend to shallow out and we don’t seem to get quite as shaken by every little trouble that besets us. Sooner or later, the true Child of God learns that there is a Heavenly Father watching out for them, and that he will somehow work all things to their good in the end. That’s the reason for the great hope that we have.
On a number of occasions, the nation of Israel, God’s own chosen nation, would find themselves in a position of doubt and fear because they lost sight of the ability of God to work all things out for them. How soon we forget the miracles when the next sickness comes along. How soon we forget that God has always met our need when we get an unexpected layoff at work. How soon do we forget that it is God that supplies our needs; not the banker, nor the boss on the job.
But the closer we get to Jesus, the less anything bothers us; somehow, it’s going to be all right. I don’t know how. I don’t see how. I don’t understand God’s ways. But I’m his child and he cares for me so I’m refuse to worry about it.
Sometimes other people mistake the one who has a nonchalant attitude toward life’s troubles for being someone who doesn’t care what happens to their neighbors. Quite the opposite is often true. If you pray for someone, asking God to take care of them, then let God do it. Why worry, when you can’t change a thing on your own anyway? It’s all in God’s hands, so leave it there and keep moving on. In his time and in his way everything will be fine. So kick back, close your eyes and enjoy God’s provision, then don’t doubt him.
Many times we worry ourselves sick over nothing. Some people walk around through life with a thundercloud over their heads, just waiting for the lightning to strike. Sometimes it’s a lack of faith. At other times, it’s a lack of understanding. But most of the time worry is a spiritual condition that is the direct result of not being close enough to Jesus and not truly knowing him as the absolute Lord of your life.
That’s just how we find the disciples one night as they were out on the sea without Jesus.
These men were true disciples, hand-picked by the very Son of God. These were the “cream of the crop” of Israel, men who were willing to leave everything and everyone behind to follow Jesus and never look back. We aren’t talking about half-hearted people here. This was a group of men that knew what real commitment was all about.
They traveled the highways on foot with Jesus for 3 ½ years. They were with him for nearly every miracle and watched Jesus as he ministered to the people. They were there when he fed that 5000 and when he gave that Sermon on the Mount. But they never really understood who Jesus was. They were close enough to touch him, but didn’t get close enough to really know him for who he was.
There are a lot of good church folks who are like that. They’re always around, involved in a lot of what goes on at the church. They hang out with the preacher, and their brothers and sisters in the Lord. They’ve heard the Word preached so much that they could almost quote every word of every sermon the pastor has. And yet, they really don’t know who Jesus is. They touch him, and Jesus touches them from time to time, but they really don’t Jesus like they should.
After feeding the 5000, Jesus needed some time alone to pray. The fact that he was God in the flesh did not mean that his fleshly body couldn’t get tired or weak. He was a man in every way. After being thronged by the crowds for a long time, he needed time alone so he sent the disciples on ahead with a promise to meet them on the other side.
Now, just to make a point here. Don’t you think that if Jesus said I’ll see you on the other side, that it meant you were going to make it across? Of course we say that now, sitting on the other side, but the disciples didn’t grasp this point so quickly.
But don’t condemn them. How many times have we wondered if we would make it to the other side?
One Bible teacher says that Jesus had to get pretty strong with the disciples. After the great miracle of the loaves and fishes, the people were determined to make Jesus their King, but it wasn’t his time. The crowd continued to shout, to push and urge him onward so that he could cast off the Roman control; and it seems that even the disciples were getting in on the action. After all, they thought that Jesus was the Messiah, the Deliverer of Israel, the King who had come in the name of the Lord to cast off their bondage and usher in a new Kingdom Age. But it was all of the physical. They were still blind to much of the spiritual implications of what was going on behind the scenes.
So Jesus finally commanded them, “Get in the Boat. Get out of here. I need to be alone. I’ll meet you on the other side. Now Go, and hurry!” Jesus knew that man must have time alone with God. We must “Get apart with God, or we will come apart at the seams.”
Just a quick little side note here: I don’t know if you realize it or not, but by Jesus going up into the mountain to pray, he was actually driving the wedge deeper in separating himself from the teachings of the Pharisees.
According the beliefs of the Pharisees, no man could rise above anything to pray. He could not stand upon a high step, or anything else.
Their law said, “Let not a man stand "in a high place", and pray, but in a low place and pray; as it is said, "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord", quoting Psalms 130:1 as their reasons for the law. It I was their tradition, that a man may not stand, neither upon a throne, nor upon a footstool, nor in any high place and pray, because there are no high places before God.’’
Their rule went even further by trying to determine just exactly what was a high place and said, “ "A man may not stand in a place that is three hands high, or more, and pray, neither upon a bed, nor upon a seat, nor upon a throne.’’
Jesus was concerned about the Pharisee’s law, after all, he was the one who had wrote the Law, and was now fulfilling all of its requirements. He was the Living Word who spoke the world into existence and formed the mountains with his own hands. Why should he not to up and pray on one if he wanted to
The disciples got into the boat and shoved off, headed for Gennesaret, on the other side.
It was just about a seven mile journey. The Sea of Galilee is only 13 miles long and 7 miles wide at its longest and widest points. But at its deepest point it is only 150 feet deep.
The disciples set sail at nearly dark, going in direct obedience to the Lord himself. It wasn’t long before darkness fell. I don’t know if it was a clear night when they started but it soon turned stormy.
Some of you may have been out west where the wind comes howling across the desert plains. There’s not a tree in sight to slow it down and so the wind gets very strong. It can be perfectly calm one minute and then in 30 seconds you can have hurricane force winds whipping up the sand and dirt.
Isn’t that the way that life’s troubles come at you? There are commercials on TV right now for a certain insurance company that says, “Life comes at your fast. Are you prepared?’ Well, that’s my question for you tonight. Are you preparing now for the coming storms or will it catch you off guard again?
Strong winds began to blow. The outboard motor quickly flooded and wouldn’t start. The mainsail was ripped to shreds and all the oars were all that was left, but the winds were blowing them in the wrong direction and they couldn’t overcome them. Have you ever felt like your struggles in life were always going against the winds of reason?
While Jesus prayed, the winds kicked up. It was the darkest hour of the night, the 4th watch. A Hebrew day was measured from sunset to sunset. 24 hours divided into eight watches. NIGHT-TIME 1st Watch, Sunset to 9 p.m.. 2nd Watch, 9 p.m. to Midnight. 3rd Watch, Midnight to 3 am. 4th Watch, 3 am to Sunrise.
It was 3 AM or later. They had fought hard against the waves for a long time and were beginning to despair. I want to tell you that no matter how strong you are, if enough of the winds of trouble hit you in the face, there will come a point of desperation.
It’s 3 AM, it’s dark and stormy; the sea and wind had joined forces to create some very powerful waves and it looked like the ship was going down. The disciples were dead tired, having rowed, bailed water and worked all night. They were so tired that I can imagine they were to the point of hallucinated.
Soemtime after 3 AM, a man appears in between the waves, just out for a walk, enjoying a little barefoot surfing on the waves.
Now, out on the water, in the moonlight, things appear brighter at night than they do on the land, so this man walking on he water caused quite a stir on the boat. What could it be?
The Jews always have been a superstitious people, and the disciples were right there with the rest.
It’s a ghost! It’s the devil in the image of a man! It’s demonic spirits and ghosts of the night. God Jews stayed in at night. They didn’t go traveling around because it was just too easy to run into demons on the streets.
I wish some of us could learn that lesson. The devil’s crowd loves to work under the cover of darkness because their deeds are evil. But now, they are brazen enough to steal in broad daylight. Even so, it’s far worse in the darkness. How many of you would like to go strolling down Highland Road or Plank Road at 3 in the morning? Only if you have a death wish.
Here again, those good old Pharisees had a law that they all lived by and it said this, "it is forbidden a man to salute his friend in the night, for we are careful, lest "it should be a demon".’’
One of their superstitions evolved around a demon by the name of “Lilith” whose name meant , “night, or darkness.” Lilith was a she demon, that appeared only in the night. She had a human face, and would carry off young children, and kill them.
Perhaps the disciples thought that this apparition upon the waves was none other than Lilith herself, coming to take away one or more of them and drown them in the sea.
And so, like every one who sees a ghost in the night, they began to scream in fear and cry out for help.
Does this tell you anything about where their true relationship with the Lord was? Had they not learned that Perfect Love casts out fear and that Jesus was Love in its most perfect form? Had they not learned that faith destroys fear? Where was their faith? Did not they have the promise of reaching the other shore? Where was their belief? Did not they understand that all fear, not reverential fear, but emotional fear comes only from the devil?
The whole world lives in fear; fear of attacks, fear of economic failure; fear of sickness; fear of their neighbors; fear of running out of gas; fear of higher prices; fear of just about everything. But fear should not control the Child of God for we trust in him to bring us through it all, no matter what happens.
Proverbs 28:1, "The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion."
The good thing is that even when we cry out in fear and unbelief, Jesus hears us and comes to our rescue.
That’s what he did for the disciples. He spoke to them saying, “it’s okay fellows. I’m not a ghost, don’t be afraid. Don’t worry; be happy. Forget the waves and the wind and look at me; hear my voice.”
Even in the midst of great fear and grave danger, God still helps us to hear his still small voice speaking peace into our hearts and lives. Aren’t you glad you know him?
Then old Peter, the impulsive man that he was, said, “Jesus if that’s really you, can I walk on the water too?” Was this a test of the words of the ghost to see if it was a lie, or was it faith on Peter’s behalf?
Most of us would have said, “That’s of the devil. We shouldn’t step out into that water. It’s like committing suicide, and its tempting God.” I wonder how many miracles we have failed to see simply because we are afraid to step out in faith?
Jesus said, “Come” and Peter went. He stepped out of the boat and became the only man besides Jesus in recorded history to walk on the water. Oh that we could find that kind of reckless abandonment to the call of God and to faith in Jesus in our day and time!
I know that Peter soon discovered the waves, wind and danger around him. He took his eyes off of Jesus and immediately began to sink and would have drowned if Jesus had not lifted him up.
Let that be a lesson to us all. We must never forget that the only reason we have victory, and the only reason that we can walk with the Lord, is that we are upheld by the same power of God that helped Peter walk on the water.
And like Peter, when we take our eyes off of Jesus, and begin to focus in on the circumstances of life that are threatening to drown us in cares of life and worries about everything and everyone, it won’t be long until we are being inundated with those things and we are about to become fish bait.
When Jesus took hold of Peter’s hand and lifted him out of the water, they were instantly on the ship and the storm ceased in a moment’s time.
The Master of the wind had commanded the winds to cease. The sea bowed in calmness before its Maker. When the Prince of Peace speaks to your storm, it has to go.
Matthew 14:33, "Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God."
Then; after they were saved from the raging storm, after they had fought all night; after they had been taken in fear; after they had exhausted all hope – only then did they finally worship Jesus and confess that he was the Son of God, Lord of all Creation.
Will we ever learn to worship him before the trial begins, to trust him before the storms blow, and worship him with all our heart before we face the raging seas?
Perhaps this storm would never have come if the disciples had worshipped Jesus as God before hand. But even if it had, I believe they would have had a much greater faith to face the storm than what they had.
I believe that Jesus will deliver us from every storm of life. I believe that he is the Prince of Peace. But, if we refuse to worship him as Lord, then I’m afraid we’ll all wind up as fish bait.