Summary: Peter exercises his faith and gets out of the boat to meet Jesus on the water. Finding peace in the midst of the storm comes with focusing on Jesus.
We are getting into that time of year where we start to pay a little more attention to the weather. We watch the sky a little closer when there are threats of storms in the area. We have an advantage today with all of the weather predicting tools, radar and the like. Storms to me are both fascinating and scary all wrapped up in one. I love the thunder and lightning but when the wind starts to come into play things can get interesting real quick. As a kid I was terrified of tornadoes.
I often wondered what it was like for the early settlers in the open plains when they didn’t have the forecasting abilities that we have today. There are times when a storm pops up seemingly out of nowhere and other times when you can see a storm coming.
I can remember a few years ago when we were vacationing in Wyoming and from our cabin we could see a storm coming across the hills. You could see a wall of rain and you could feel it coming. The wind picked up and I was busy trying to get dinner done over the fire and Missi and I were wondering if Tyler and Isabella were going to make it back on the four wheeler before things broke loose. As it got closer you knew it was going to hit you could even smell the rain before it began to fall. As it progressed towards us you could hear it coming and then a few sprinkles. As it began to rain the four wheeler came roaring down the hill just in time to beat the majority of the rain.
I’m sure you all have your storm stories as well. As a fisherman Peter would have had plenty of storm stories to tell. The Sea of Galilee was prone to storms. The climate around the sea is semi-tropical with warm moist air. The sea sits 680 feet below sea level and is surrounded by hills that can reach up to 2000 feet above sea level where the air is cool and dry. When these meet it can cause strong winds to come whipping down on the sea as they are funneled through the hills. They descend into the middle of the sea. The sea is only 200 feet at its deepest point and so there isn’t as much water to absorb that energy thus creating surprise violent storms.
It may have just been one of those circumstances that created the conditions for this storm that we are going to read about today in Matthew 14:22-33.
If you remember back a couple of weeks ago we started on Peter & Jesus. We talked about their first encounters. Jesus had Peter take him out in his boat so he could teach the people from the water and then he instructed Peter to let his nets down. Even though this is not when you traditionally did your fishing Peter obeyed Jesus and was rewarded with a catch, the likes of which he had never encountered before! When he got back to shore he realized that Jesus was something special and they he, Peter, was not. Jesus however called Peter along with others to follow him and that he would make them fishers of men.
Jesus has been teaching and healing and is getting quite a following. Just previous to this Jesus has fed the 5000. Think about this. 5000 is the number of men. If you add a spouse to each of them and one child you now have roughly 15,000 people. This is more than the population of Pella. Hilton Coliseum holds a little over 14,000 and Carver Hawkeye arena seats 15,400. It would be like feeding an arena full of people. I’ve been to Hawkeye basketball games and after a victory people are pretty lively. Imagine what this crowd that Jesus fed must have been like after this teaching and then being fed by him.
The disciples were probably bushed! Think of all of the servers they have at Hawkeye games to sell food to people. The disciples were attending to this large gathering and had gathered up all the leftovers. They had a busy and tiring day!
Disciples tended to stay with their teacher but the thought of getting away from everyone and getting a little head start on things was probably pretty attractive to the disciples. It probably didn’t take a lot of persuading to get them to go ahead.
This left Jesus with the task of dismissing the crowd. Maybe by the disciples taking off it was a signal to the crowds that it is over with – time to go home. In the book of John after Jesus feeds the 5000 the people began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world” and they intended to make Jesus king by force. Jesus knowing though that is wasn’t the right time or right way dismisses the crowd.