Summary: Peter - got out of the boat which is more than the other disciples ever did.
PETER – WALKING ON WATER
I once read on a church notice board the following:
Sunday AM Jesus walks on water
PM Searching for Jesus.
Somehow it seemed no one in that church had foreseen the confusing message their notice board was going to tell that day. Anyway this morning I want us in our series on Simon Peter to look at this very familiar story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. So turn with me to Matthew 14 and verses 22 following.
John the Baptist has just been beheaded and the disciples (some of whom were followers of John) have not had time to grieve for him. They are immediately plunged into feeding the 5000, gathering up the 12 baskets of fragments left over and trying now to quell a crowd of people who want to proclaim Jesus as king. In verse 22 we read that Jesus sends them on ahead of him in a boat. The greek is actually quite forceful – it tells us that he ‘compelled’ them to leave him and to go ahead in the boat to the other side of the lake. Then Matthew says that Jesus dismissed the people and went alone up the mountain to pray. You know we could ignore this verse, see it as just setting the context of the next episode in the gospel and yet it contains some very important lessons for us all this morning.
First – Jesus is genuinely concerned in the welfare of us his disciples. They need rest after all that has happened. So he sends them ahead, away from the crowd and the demands of people. He sends them ahead so that the demands of ministry which have drained them cannot exert pressure on them for a time. We all need to learn to take time out from people and the demands of others – especially those of you in ministry leadership here at HT. I think God did that for the leaders of our organisations last year when we had to close the organisations down for a number of months. It enabled you all to recharge batteries and to get away from the stress and strain of leadership for a prolonged period.
Secondly – they obey and in obeying they will in fact come face to face with a storm. Learn from that – obedience to the will, to the Word of God does not guarantee a quiet life. It may in fact lead us through a storm. But remember this also – the storm was not unforeseen by Christ. He was not being careless or care free with the life of his disciples. There was a lesson that they could learn only in the midst of that storm and we will come, I hope and pray, to understand that lesson before the end of this sermon.
Thirdly – Jesus had not forgotten them, even when he was praying. Look at verse 23. He went up a mountainside. Obviously because it enabled him to be alone to pray, but also because it enabled him to see the disciples in the boat rowing across the lake. Who was Jesus praying for? Himself, yes but I am also sure, from the example he set the disciples elsewhere in prayer, the disciples also. Friends learn an important lesson from Jesus here about ministry. You are most vulnerable after the miracle has happened. You are most vulnerable and need to seek the face of God in prayer immediately you have done something for the glory of God. It took me many years of ministry to learn all about being vulnerable, being drained and down, listening to the negative voice of satan immediately something had brought God glory. If Christ needed to seek his Father’s face in prayer immediately after feeding 5000 then how much more do we after the things we do for God’s glory.
WHO IS IT THAT COMES WALKING ON THE WATER?
Then in verse 24 we learn that the disciples are now caught in a storm. The wind has come up against them and their little boat is being buffeted about by the waves. They are struggling for all they are worth to keep the boat on course. Now in verse 25 Jesus comes walking on the water towards them. Matthew tells us it was the fourth watch of the night, that is about 3am. Mark 6.48 tells us that ‘He was about to pass them by.’ Matthew does not include this but it will help us to understand part of the purpose of this incident. What Mark tells us is that ‘Jesus was about to pass them by.’ Now our understanding of English means we assume he was going to walk past them – but that is not what this means at all. To ‘pass them by’ is in fact an OT phrase pointing to a self-revelation of God. When God wanted to reveal himself to Moses he hid him in the cleft of a rock and ‘made his glory pass by.’ The same happened with Elijah – God hid him in a cleft of a rock and ‘passed by.’ So Mark points us to the fact that the reason Jesus came walking on the water was to reveal who he was to the disciples. Let me read a verse to you from Job 9.8 – you see it is a self-revelation of God walking on water. Again turn to Psalm 107.23-29 and you will read there a prophetic psalm revealing this very incident.