Summary: Keeping your focus (Eyes on Christ) in the midst of chaos.
You Can On Water
I read about an interesting scientific experiment conducted a while back. A group of behavioral Scientists put some rats in a tank of water. The tank had smooth sides so they could not escape or rest. The scientists observed the rats to see how long they would survive before drowning. The average time was 17 minutes.
Then, they repeated the experiment, but this time they "rescued" the rats just before the point of drowning. They dried them off and returned them to their cages.... Fed them, let them play for a few days, and repeated the drowning experiment. This time, the average survival time for these rats increased from 17 minutes to 36 hours! The scientists explained that phenomenon by pointing out, that the second time around, the rats had HOPE. They believed that they could survive this, because they had received a helping hand before.
In today’s passage Peter goes through a similar faith/hope building experience.
(Read Matthew 14:22-33)
A little of Peter's Background. Christ is walking along the shores, of the Sea of Galilee and he sees two fishermen casting their nets into the sea. Seeing them, He says, "Come, follow me and I will make you fisher's of men." And in Matthew 4:11 we read "At once they left their nets and followed him." One of those two fishermen is Simon Peter. Imagine those steps of faith Peter first made. A man, who Peter knows little about, asks him to follow him and he immediately drops his nets; his livelihood…his job, and obeys. Blind faith? Maybe but we don't know how much Peter has heard about Christ before this occasion. We can assume that he has heard of him. So, obedience? Definitely. But this step of faith is only the beginning, he takes another step of faith in Matthew 14, not fishing in the calm seas of the sea of Galilee, but in a storm.
In Matthew 9 Peter sees Christ interact with two blind men. After the interaction, their first sight is that of Jesus and they tell the everyone they find about it. In Matthew 14 Peter also sees Jesus, but then he focuses his eyes on the waves and the storm and begins to sink.
In Matt. 8:14 Christ visits the house of Peter's mother- in-law, who is lying in bed with a fever. Jesus reaches out his hand…and touches her, and immediately the fever leaves her and she rises up and begins to serve Jesus. In Matthew 14 Jesus will reach out his hand to Peter and Peter will also rise up and continue to serve Him.
In Matthew 8:23 Jesus is in a boat asleep while a furious storm heaps waves over the boat and Peter is among the disciples who fear for their lives. And Peter is amazed because Jesus rebukes the waves and the storm becomes completely calm. In Matthew 14 as soon as Jesus steps into the boat, the storm is calmed.
As Peter continues to follow Jesus, he sees Christ cast out demons, heal various diseases and illnesses, raise a young girl from the dead, and teach a great many truths about the Kingdom of God. But in today's passage Peter learns a truth that will take him one step closer to the greatest truth of all.
Where in Matthew 16:16 we read,
"Who do you say that I am?" Christ asks. And Peter will reply "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
But today we’re looking at Matthew 14.
Lets fill in some more background. News of Herod's murder of John the Baptist reaches Jesus and his followers. (John is the cousin of Jesus remember) So it’s with this news that Jesus withdraws to a solitary place, but the crowds follow him. It’s late and the multitude is hungry, so with five loaves and two fish, he feeds 5,000 people. Then after he feeds the crowd, he sends the disciples away, dismisses the crowd, and goes up into the hills, to pray.
But Jesus didn't just send the disciples away, Christ commands the disciples to cross the lake, at the exact time that a storm will blow in and we find the disciples in the boat, struggling to reach their destination, buffeted by waves. Scared to death again I’m sure. And then Jesus "went out to them walking on the lake." The disciples are terrified! It must be a ghost! But it’s not. Jesus identifies himself. Peter, seeing Christ walk on the water wants to draw near to him. So he asks Christ for permission to come to him across the water. Jesus says "Come on" and Peter steps out of the boat and begins to walk across the water. But the wind is howling and the waves are high, and for a brief moment, he takes his eyes off of Jesus and he begins to sink. "Lord, Save me" he cries out. And Jesus reaches out his hand and lifts him up.