The practical remark has often been made that many of the things which now frighten Christians and fill them with anxiety would cease to frighten them if they would endeavor to see the Lord Jesus in all, ordering every providence and overruling everything so that not a hair falls to the ground without Him. They are happy who can hear His voice through the thickest clouds and darkness, and above the loudest winds and storms, saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.” R.C. Ryle – Notes on the Gospel of John
Jesus Walks on the Water – Matthew 14:22-33
“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So, Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
This day had held for the disciples new revelations regarding their Lord. As they got into the boat and rowed toward Capernaum it was hard to stop talking about what they had seen. There were 5,000 men, plus women and children, and Jesus had fed them all! He fed them with nothing more than five loaves of bread and two fish, a lunch that a boy had brought with him. Not only did He feed them, there was plenty left over. The power Jesus seemed to command both thrilled and unnerved them. It was amazing for them to see the reactions of the many thousands. What went through their minds must have been thoughts of the Messianic Kingdom that they felt Jesus would proclaim and the uprising of the people at the command of the Conquering King Messiah against Roman rule. What might be their place in this Kingdom as members of the inner court, after all they were part of the inner circle. Yet, Jesus had dismissed the crowd, had gone off on His own and now they were on this boat and the wind and sea was rising fast. An onset of disappointment, confusion, frustration and fear must have begun to grip them.
Jesus had gone off to pray to His Heavenly Father. As the twelve struggled with nature and their personal anguish and confusion Jesus prayed. At the close of His earthly ministry, Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31-32). Peter and his fellow disciples were now being sifted. The Lord, however, was alone on the mountain in prayer to His Father. Although Scripture does not say, Jesus must have lifted them up in prayer. The twelve were chosen before time for the Father’s purpose. The twelve disciples were the constant object of Jesus’ concern, instruction, and training. It was upon their shoulders that the establishing of His church would soon fall, and He knew the time of their training for this task was short. On sending His disciples before Him to the other side He knew what was before them and He knew of their importance to the establishment of His church, so He prayed.
Jesus would not have abandoned them, He tested their faith.
Because of the darkness, the mist from the wind and waves, the fatigue from rowing, fear had gripped them. At one point they must have wondered why He sent them to certain death, the twelve, however, persevered. The situation to them was apparently hopeless and yet they were obeying what the Lord commanded. They persevered, yet, did they do so out of faith or because of a life and death necessity. It must have been even more agonizing since in a similar storm Jesus had merely to command: “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He had said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:39-41). This time their Lord was not with them. They need not have feared since Jesus knew of their situation long before it happened, and He did not have to rush away from prayer in order to be on time to help. The storm and the disciples were equally in His hands, and He knew in advance exactly what He would do with both. They need not have feared; the question again was “Have you still no faith?”
Through the gales of winds, the churning sea overpowering their boat, and their efforts to reach shore they saw a figure walking on the lake and their fear was further magnified. Why did it not occur to them it was Jesus and not a ghost as they surmised? Did they still have no faith? Yet, one seemed to have faith. Jesus calmed their fears by commanding them to “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Peter immediately replied “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replied “Come.”
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The wind had turned Peter’s eyes away from Jesus. A weak faith faltered when danger challenged his faith that Jesus would be his protector – his faith failed. Peter began to sink when his faith shifted, and his eyes turned from Jesus to the precariousness of his situation. Jesus, however caught his hand and rescued him. Jesus questioned his faith and questioned how Peter could doubt His power to save him.
Yes, Peter had an imperfect trust and faith in his Lord. Peter in his fear, however, called out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” and Jesus did. Peter’s circumstance had instinctively led him to cry out to Jesus. It quickly got Peter to stop looking to the world or himself as the source of truth and salvation and instead cry out to his Savior. When he did that Jesus pulled him back up. Through this Jesus had taught His disciples to trust in Him under all circumstances. They now proclaimed, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Eleven of these men would need this faith, this trust and the recognition that Jesus was truly the Son of God. Eleven of these men would face persecution and or death for following their Lord. Eleven of these men would be foundational in spreading the Gospel message through the known world and not falter in their allegiance to their Lord. The Lord Jesus provided that faith to them and they believed to death.
How is your faith?
J.C. Ryle “Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. Matthew”
“But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” — Matthew 8:26
True saving faith is often mingled with much weakness and infirmity. It is a humbling lesson, but a very wholesome one.
We are told of our Lord and His disciples crossing the sea of Galilee in a boat. A storm arises, and the boat is in danger of being filled with water, by the waves that beat over it. Meanwhile our Lord is asleep. The frightened disciples awake Him, and cry to Him for help. He hears their cry and stills the waters with a word, so that there is “a great calm.” At the same time, He gently reproves the anxiety of His disciples. “Why are ye fearful, 0 ye of little faith!”
What a vivid picture we have here of the hearts of thousands of believers! How many have faith and love enough to forsake all for Christ’s sake, and follow Him whithersoever He goes, and yet are full of fears in the hour of trial! How many have grace enough to turn to Jesus in every trouble, crying, “Lord save us,” and yet not grace enough to lie still, and believe in the darkest hour that all is well! Truly believers have reason indeed to be “clothed with humility.”
Let the prayer “Lord, increase our faith,” always form part of our daily petitions. We never perhaps know the weakness of our faith, until we are placed in the furnace of trial and anxiety. Blessed and happy is that person who finds by experience that his faith can stand the fire, and that he can say with Job, “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (Job 13:15.)
We have great reason to thank God that Jesus, our great High-priest, is very compassionate and tenderhearted. He knows our frame. He considers our infirmities. He does not cast off His people because of defects. He pities even those whom he reproves. The prayer even of “little faith” is heard, and gets an answer.
J.C. Ryle “Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. Matthew” 1870. (1816-1900)