Are We Willing To Get Out Of The Boat?
Matthew 14: 22 – 33
Once there was a tourist who was taking a tour of biblical sites, when he came to a beach on the Sea of Galilee, he saw a boat and a sign advertising, “FREE BOAT RIDE TO THE EXACT PLACE WHERE JESUS AND PETER WALKED ON WATER!!!”
He boarded the boat and enjoyed the ride to the middle of the lake where the boat captain stopped the boat and announced that this was the spot where they had walked on the water.
After spending a few minutes at that spot, the tourist said to the boat captain, “Ok, I’ve seen enough, I’m ready to back to shore.”
The boat captain pointing to the sign, said, “The boat ride to the exact place where Jesus and Peter walked on the water was free, but the ride back to shore is not free, it will cost you $50 for the ride back to shore.”
The tourist, shocked by the charge, exclaimed, “No wonder Peter got out and walked!”
Today we are going to examine this moment in Peter’s life when he walked on the water.
We all know that he didn’t walk on the water because the boat captain was going to charge him too much for the trip back to shore.
But why did he walk on the water? And, how did he walk on the water?
And most importantly, what did he learn from the experience and what can we learn from it?
Interestingly enough, Matthew’s is the only Gospel that tells the story of Peter walking on the water.
The Gospels of Mark and John both tell the story of Jesus walking on the water, but neither of them mention Peter’s stroll.
All of the Gospels record what happened right before this incident.
Let’s give a little bit of background for the story.
Jesus had compassion on the crowds and healed their sick and fed them – the Bible tells us there were 5000 men, not counting women and children, so the crowd may have been 10 to 15 thousand strong.
Amazed by all that Jesus had done and was doing, the crowd wanted to make him their king.
They wanted Jesus to be their great political hero.
They believed that the Messiah would come and do what Moses had done, bring them bread from heaven and free them from bondage.
But Jesus knew better and had better plans.
Let’s pick up the story in our text for this morning’s lesson Matthew 14: 22 – 33
Starting in verse 22 we read
22 Immediately Jesus [a]made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.
Here we see Jesus spending time in prayer.
Jesus loved to pray and Jesus needed to pray – and somehow we think we can get by without it!
So the disciples did what Jesus had told them to do – they got in a boat and began to cross the lake, but then things took a turn for the worse.
The Bible tells us in 24 thru 25
When evening came, he was there alone, 24 But the boat was now [b]in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.
25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.
The Sea of Galilee was notorious for how quickly the storms could come and go.
But the storm that the disciples found themselves in would not subside.
The disciples had been struggling against the wind and the rain many exhausting hours and were still stuck in the middle of the lake, drenched, weary, chilled to the bone, and wondering if they would make it to shore alive.
Before we move on in the story, let’s camp here for a moment and consider a few important truths about the storms in our lives.
Let’s start with this question: Were the disciples “in the will of God, or out of the will of God” when they encountered this storm?
Did the storm take the disciples by surprise? Absolutely! (They didn’t have a weather app)
Did the storm take Jesus by surprise? Absolutely Not.
So, why did Jesus tell them to get in a boat and cross the lake when He knew a storm was coming?
Do you think there were some lessons they needed to learn that could only be learned in the midst of a storm?
Sometimes the storms we face are the result of our disobedience and God’s correction and discipline.
Other times, the storms we face come not because we have been disobedient or are out of God’s will, but because we have been obedient and we are in God’s will.
Another thing to keep in mind about the storms we face have to do with God’s knowledge.
While Jesus was in prayer on the mountain, do you think He was aware of what the disciples were experiencing in the storm?
I believe Jesus knew and could see exactly where they were and what they were going through.
But,If Jesus knew, then why didn’t He come to their rescue sooner?
I trust that Jesus came to their rescue at precisely the very best time and not a moment before.
Even though we can’t always see God in the midst of our storms, we can trust that God sees us and that God has a plan for our rescue.
Let’s turn our attention back to the story.
Let’s see what happened when Jesus showed up.
Verses 25 – 27 of our text tell us :
25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
Put yourself in the boat with the disciples, experiencing what they were experiencing.
How do you think you would have responded when you saw a figure walking on the water in the midst of a storm in the middle of the lake and in the middle of the night?
Do you think you might cry out in fear saying, “It’s a ghost!”?
Obviously, the disciples were wrong in their assessment, but it wasn’t a bad guess.
Had any of them ever seen a person walk on water, whether the water was calm or stormy? I doubt it.
I doubt that any one of us, had we been there, would have said, “What’s the matter with you guys, it’s not a ghost, it’s none other than Jesus walking on the water.”
Jesus then immediately said to them, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.”
The phrase, “Do not fear,” in various combinations, occurs in the Bible at least 64 times.
And the words are always delivered by God or God’s representative to people who are facing hard times or are about to be asked to do something beyond their abilities.
Would you have felt better once you knew it was Jesus who was miraculously walking on the water toward you?
I would have felt much better – I would have immediately thought, “Praise God, Jesus is here to rescue us! We are going to live! What a relief! Thank you, Lord!”
The very last thing I would have been thinking is what Peter must have been thinking.
When Peter realized it was Jesus, he immediately saw an incredible opportunity.
Verses 28 and 29 of our text tell us :
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
When Peter said, “Lord, if it is you” the Greek could also be translated, “Lord, since it is you.”
There was no doubt in Peter’s mind who it was that was walking on the water.
Peter was declaring, “Since it is You, Lord, then give me permission to come to you on the water. Speak the Word, Lord, and I’ll do what You’re doing.”
Did you notice that none of the other disciples said, “Yeah, Jesus, if it is you, then I want to walk on water with you and Peter?”
Amazingly, Jesus agreed to Peter’s request and uttered the single command, “Come,” and so, Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on the water.
In that moment, Peter experienced the suspending of all the laws of physics which state the impossibility of a human being walking on the water – because of the rules of weight and displacement – and stuff like that.
And so for a moment or two, there were two people, Jesus and Peter, who were walking on the water!
Peter got to do the amazing thing that Jesus was doing.
And as far as we know, there has never been anyone else who ever walked on the water – unless they knew where the rocks and stumps were.
Over the years, some people have criticized Peter and reacted negatively to what Peter did.
Some have said that Peter was conceited and was trying to be a show off – “Hey look at me, Mom, no hands!”
Others have criticized Peter saying he was impulsive and headstrong and foolish for even wanting to walk on water.
But it is important for us to notice that there is nothing in the text that even remotely suggests that Peter was wrong for wanting to walk on the water.
And on this occasion, Peter was not being impulsive, reckless or disrespectful.
Had Peter just hopped out of the boat without asking for permission, then we might conclude he had been impulsive, reckless and rude, and even foolish.
But Peter asked for permission and then waited for permission to be granted.
If Jesus had said, “No,” then I’m sure Peter would have stayed in the boat.
But Jesus didn’t say, “No,” rather, Jesus said, “Come on.”
At that moment, the smartest thing Peter could do was get out of the boat.
Once Jesus commanded that Peter come, then he had better obey, and he did obey.
And so, Peter got out of the boat - how can anyone criticize him for that?
In some respects, I wish the story ended right there...Peter walked on the water, period!
But the story doesn’t end there – we all know what happened next.
The Bible says in verse of our text: 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
Peter was fully walking on the water...walking away from the boat...walking toward Jesus.
Everything was going great, then came the “but” – “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid.”
Everything went just fine until Peter took his focus off Jesus, and began to focus on the storm.
How long did it take for Peter to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus? Only a second!
Keep in mind that the storm never stopped raging while Peter walked on the water.
The wind was still blowing and the waves were tossing the boat about and the rain was coming down in sheets.
Many old time ministers define faith as “concentration on Jesus.”
That is a great definition – how easy is it for us to be distracted by life and the storms and challenges of life, and when we do our faith can waver.
But when, through faith, we concentrate on Jesus and focus on Him, then we can have peace and power, even when the storm rages around us.
Just because we focus on Christ does not mean that the wind and waves are going to stop.
Peter began to sink into the water, but when it happened, he immediately cried out for Jesus to help him.
Do you think Peter was a swimmer?
I’m sure Peter was a pretty good swimmer, he had spent his life around or on the water, but isn’t it interesting that he didn’t attempt to swim.
His first thought wasn’t, “I can handle this, or do it on my own,” rather his first thought was to pray and ask for help.
Peter prayed one of the shortest prayers in the Bible, “Lord, save me.”
Sometimes there isn’t time for a long prayer – like when you are about to drown.
Prayers don’t need to be long or detailed – they just need to be sincere and specific.
No sooner than the words were spoken, Jesus’ help arrived.
Verses 31 – 33 of our text
31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
33 Then those who were in the boat [f]came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
Jesus didn’t rebuke Peter because he wanted to walk on the water, but He did rebuke him for his lack of faith.
Peter had the faith to get out of the boat, but then didn’t have the faith to sustain him.
There’s a difference between short faith and long faith, or shallow faith and deep faith.
But in spite of Peter’s lack of faith, Jesus was willing to help him.
While Jesus continued to stand on the water, He took hold of Peter and pulled him back up on top of the water and together they walked over and got into the boat.
Jesus used this teachable moment with Peter and the other disciples.
And the moment they were back in the boat the wind and rain subsided and those in the boat worshiped Jesus.
Those who had been in the boat had watched the whole scene unfold, and we can only imagine how they watched with their jaws dropped and their eyes as big as saucers.
They had never seen anything like this before, and they knew that Jesus was like no other – He truly was the Son of God.
As we bring this sermon to a close, I want to focus our attention on two lessons to put into practice.
The first lesson is: To Walk on Water, You Must Get Out of the Boat
This is a simple and obvious lesson, but one we often overlook – You will never walk on water as long as you stay in the boat.
A person can’t be in the boat and out of the boat at the same time – a choice must be made.
It was Helen Keller who said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all.”
Those words would ring true coming from anyone, but they are especially meaningful coming from Helen Keller.
Born blind and deaf, she somehow found a way out of her darkness into the world around her.
Her story is one of the most inspiring of the 20th century.
Let’s apply her statement to our spiritual walk with God – [Spiritual] “life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all.”
To walk with God is to walk by faith – and to walk by faith requires risk and stepping into the unknown.
When we look at the men and women of faith in the Bible, we see that faith required them to be risk-takers who weren’t afraid to lay it all on the line for God.
Think of the steps of faith that were required by God’s faithful ones:
By faith, Abraham stepped on the journey to Canaan, and much later lifted the knife to sacrifice Isaac.
By faith, Moses stood before Pharoah, and Esther stood unannounced before the king.
By faith, David accepted the challenge from Goliath the giant.
By faith, Daniel refused to defile himself with the king’s food.
None of those folks would have been able to be used by God if they had not by faith stepped out of the boat, so to speak.
We must give credit to Peter for being willing to do what no one else was willing to do.
Today’s story was not about Bartholomew walking on water, because he stayed in the boat
It was not the story of Matthew walking on the water, because Matthew stayed in the boat.
It was not the story of John, or James walking on the water, they stayed in the boat.
As long as we stay in the boat, we will never sink, but we will also never walk on the water.
What aspect of the Christian life have you lacked the faith to be able to step out of the boat and try?
If we are never willing to take a chance and step out of the boat, then we will never walk on water and discover what living by faith is all about.
The second lesson is: To Continue to Walk on Water, You Must Stay Connected to the Lord
Once we allow faith to cause us to step out of the boat, we must allow faith to keep us connected to the Lord.
We can’t walk on water by our own wisdom or power, rather we can only do so by God’s wisdom and power.
The same is true with the Christian life, we cannot continue to do God’s will without God’s wisdom and power.
The second we take our eyes off of Jesus and begin to focus on the world around us, or on our own thinking and strength within us, we will sink.
The only way to keep our eyes on Jesus and to remain connected to the Lord is through a day by day walk with God in Scripture, prayer, fellowship and worship.
A good way to illustrate this is to consider why so many small planes crash compared to so many big ones.
The reason isn’t bad equipment, rather it is inexperienced or undisciplined pilots.
Inexperienced and undisciplined pilots refuse to trust in and obey their instruments.
When they fail to trust in and obey their instruments, then they are in trouble.
They may think the altitude of the plane is increasing, even though their instruments say otherwise.
They may believe the plane is actually turning (banking), when the instruments say it’s not.
A pilot explained, “You wouldn’t have nearly as many small planes crash if those pilots blindly and faithfully believed their instrument panel rather than accepting information that is coming to them through their senses.”
Think of all the Christians who have crashed because they stopped trusting the Lord.
We wouldn’t have nearly as many crashes spiritually if we stopped accepting information from our senses and from the wind and the waves of circumstances and from the world.
If we simply ignored all other input except the input from our instrument panel – The Word of God and the Spirit of God, then we will safely make it through the storms and challenges of life and ministry and be able to do things that otherwise seem impossible.
So, let’s live the adventure.
Let’s step out of the boat, obeying the command to walk by faith.
Let’s not play it safe like the disciples who stayed in the boat, but let’s be like Peter who took a risk and walked on water and 2000 years later we are still talking about it.
But unlike Peter, we don’t have to sink, if we will keep walking by faith, keeping our eyes on the Lord.
I pray that we will be great risk-takers for the kingdom of God.
I pray that God will help us shake ourselves loose from the security of staying in the boat.
And I pray that God will help us continue to walk on the waters of faith because we trust in God’s power and wisdom to uphold us.
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