Faith Not Fear
Matthew Lesson #084
July 12, 2015
“Father, we’re thankful that we have Your Word to guide and direct us. We’re thankful for all that you have provided for us in Your Word, and that as we study Your Word, we come to understand Who You are, who we are, and how we can have a relationship with You, how we can determine our eternal destiny by an understanding and belief in who Jesus Christ is and what He did for us on the Cross.
Father, we’re thankful that we have the promise of Your Word, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Now Father as we study this morning, may we be challenged as we reflect upon Your Word in the lessons that are there, and that God the Holy Spirit would drive these ideas and the teaching of the words of Scripture deep within our souls.
We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bible with me to Matthew 14, and this morning we’re going to look at an episode in the life of Christ that emphasizes the on-going faith or trust of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s interesting that in this example, as in many examples, the contrast with faith is fear because I think that fear is the basic orientation of our sin nature.
Going back to the fall of Adam in Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sinned and were in the garden, they heard the sound of the Lord God coming to visit them as He did every day. When they heard that, they were afraid, and they ran and hid, and God nevertheless sought them out. It’s a great example of how God takes the initiative in grace to seek us out and to make the gospel known to us in one way or another.
We see the same thing emphasized in this episode. For if we look at this episode where the disciples are traveling by boat across the Sea of Galilee, that they come into a storm, their lives are in jeopardy, the boat’s in jeopardy, and the Lord is not with them.
But the Lord comes to them in the midst of that trial seeking them, demonstrating that He’s always fully aware of what is going on in their lives, and He is the one who can provide the true ultimate solution for the problem.
Now this is an account that is given to us in not only the Gospel of Matthew, but also the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John. This is the longest account though in Matthew, and of the three accounts that are given in the Gospels, this is the only one that mentions Peter. The other two just talk about the Lord Jesus Christ coming to the disciples at night while they are on the Sea of Galilee as He is walking upon the water.
There’s a connection from this event to the one before that we need to pay some attention to. The previous event is the feeding of the 5,000, and it is at that event that Jesus again is showing that He has the ability to supply the needs of His people, of Israel.
Now when we look at this section, as we’ve seen in our study in Matthew, there is at the beginning of Matthew the presentation of the King. Jesus is presented as the future King of Israel—that He is the One that is coming to offer the Kingdom.
John the Baptist’s message was repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near or at hand, and then when Jesus came on the scene, Jesus’ message at the beginning was repent for the Kingdom is near. When He sent His disciples out, He sent them to the House of Israel and the House of Judah with the same message, “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” because the Old Testament had predicted that God would send a figure identified as the “Anointed One” or the Mashiach.
Hebrew Mashiach means the anointed one. The Greek form of that word is CHRISTOS, so Christ isn’t Jesus’ last name. Christ is His title. He is Yeshua ha-Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.
So Jesus is presented as the Messiah, and He gives all the confirming miracles in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that He is indeed the Messiah. He’s able to heal the sick. He’s able to forgive sins. He’s able to heal leapers. He gives sight to the blind. He casts out demons.
Initially, He is welcomed by the people. But then as we have read through Matthew, we see that there’s sort of a gradual and increasingly negative tone and reaction, especially from the religious leaders.
This reaches a crescendo when we come to Matthew 12, and when Jesus casts a demon out of a man, they accused Him of doing it in the power of Beelzebub. Beelzebub was just another Jewish title, derogatory title, for Satan.
So they are saying that He’s not the Messiah, He just gets His power from the Devil. He is in league with the Devil, and He is not at all the Messiah.
At that point, Jesus said that they had now enacted what now would be an unforgivable, irreversible sin. It’s not a sin that meant that they were all going to go to the Lake of Fire, but that it was irreversible in that the consequences now were set in stone, and the nation Israel would go out under judgment, which is what happens in AD 70 when the Roman armies destroyed Israel and destroyed the Second Temple.
At that point there’s this huge shift that takes place in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Up to that point He’s offering the kingdom, His miracles are in public, He’s going out on to the highways and byways, He’s traveling from village to village presenting the offer of the kingdom.
But from that point on, things go more private. He teaches those who come to Him, only performs miracles in His own settings when people, again, come to Him. And there is increasing opposition from the religious leaders.
The shift that takes place also involves, instead of proclaiming the Kingdom which is never offered again, He is training The Twelve, He’s teaching the disciples.
So in Matthew 13, He began to talk in parables, and we have that long chapter in Matthew 13, 58 verses, where He goes through a series of parables to describe what will happen now that Israel has rejected the offer of the kingdom—that the kingdom will be postponed, and there will be an intervening age.
We’re not living in the Kingdom in any way shape or form today.
The Kingdom cannot come into being until Jesus returns the second time and establishes the kingdom in Israel. It will occur when the Jewish people turn to Him as their Messiah and welcome Him, and this will come at the end of the time that is referred to as the Tribulation, or Daniel’s 70th Week, referring to the prophecy in Daniel 9 describing when that event would take place in terms of the structure of God’s timing for Israel.
So from the point of His rejection, Jesus begins to train The Twelve. He taught them what would happen because the Kingdom was being postponed, and that there would be an intervening age.
That intervening age isn’t identical or synonymous with the present Church Age. It began at that point, which was about two years into Jesus’ ministry, and it extends through Daniel’s 70th Week—or the Tribulation.
Then we came to the beginning of this chapter when Matthew inserts a flashback related to Herod the tetrarch, who is Herod Antipas. In verse 1 he said, “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus, and said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead…’ ”
Herod is scared to death because he thinks John the Baptist has come back to haunt him because of the horrible decision he made to follow the whims of his wife’s daughter to have John the Baptist beheaded or decapitated. So we see also a hint there in the way Matthew organizes his material of rising political opposition to Jesus, not just the religious opposition of Matthew 12, but this is also indicating political opposition to Jesus.
At that time Jesus decides to leave. Now in order to understand a little bit about this chapter, we have to understand some basic geography of Israel.
Down in the south you have Jerusalem. Then in the north you have the most prominent geographical site—which is the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is on the Jordan River which comes down from the north and then flows out of the southern part of the Sea of Galilee as it flows down towards the Dead Sea.
All these events take place around the Sea of Galilee. As we look at the Sea of Galilee, just a couple of things I’m going to point out topographically is you see on this relief map that it’s surrounded by mountains and high ground. That creates a certain interesting dynamic on the Sea of Galilee because especially in the evening, and the way the wind shifts and the temperature variance that takes place off the Sea of Galilee, storms can come up very suddenly and can be very, very violent.
Now to orient us, we’re going to start here at Tiberias and move clockwise. Tiberias was a Roman city that was never visited by our Lord Jesus Christ that we know of. Just as you go north of there is the town of Magdala which is now being excavated, and this was the home town of Mary Magdalene.
You go a little further, and you come to Gennesaret, or as it’s called Nof Ginosar. Those of you who have been to Israel with me have been to Nof Ginosar. We stayed there on the last trip. There’s a kibbutz there. There is also an interesting exhibit in a museum there of a 1st century fishing boat that was miraculously recovered from the bottom of the Sea of Galilee.
In the late 80s there was a terrible drought, and the Sea of Galilee receded so much that they discovered this ancient fishing boat embedded in the bottom—in the muck—in the bottom of the Sea of Galilee. They very hurriedly had to put together a team and the technology and everything to recover this vessel and to bring it out of the mud. Any exposure to the air, and it would begin to rot immediately and begin to come apart, so they had to cover it.
It was just a remarkable story, but that’s Gennesaret. This is where the disciples will end up at the end of this episode. They’re going to arrive at this location at Gennesaret.
Here’s Capernaum. This was Jesus’ home town—not his home town, but where He was living at this particular time. This was Peter’s home town.
Then we cross over the north side of the Sea of Galilee and come to Bethsaida. There are actually two locations, two different Bethsaidas; but this is the one that is referred to here. This is more than likely the location of where the feeding of the 5,000 took place.
Here’s another map that is more of a three-dimensional type map. Again, we see the Sea of Galilee. We see the location here of Tabgha on this map. That’s the traditional location for the feeding of the 5,000. They have a church there of the Loaves and the Fishes, but that is unlikely to have been the location.
Here we have Capernaum. Then we have Bethsaida Galilee located right here where the Jordan came into the Sea of Galilee, and then there’s another Bethsaida Julius located to the north of there, and so sometimes people get those two things a little bit confused.
Now you’ve got the geography in mind, and you have the picture of what’s taking place. What we’re going to see is that after feeding the 5,000 in this location here on the plain of Bethsaida, Jesus is going to go somewhere in this vicinity, probably between Capernaum and Bethsaida, and He’s going to go into the hills alone, and He’s going to send the disciples back.
This was only about maybe a 13–14 mile sail from Bethsaida over to Capernaum when this event takes place. This storm comes up on the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus is away from them up in the mountains. So this gives you an idea of what the geography is all about.
Now in Matthew 14:22 we read, “Immediately…” A couple of times in this story Matthew uses this term “immediately” indicating how sudden things are happening. This takes place right after the feeding of the 5,000, and interestingly enough, after they had fed the 5,000—the 5,000 only refers to the men, and there were many others there, many women and children, so many people believe it was somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000—and when He finished with the feeding of them—He started, remember, with five loaves and two fish, and—He ends with twelve baskets filled with fragments.
Now the number “12” is significant because that’s the number of the tribes of Israel. There’s a point that’s being made there: that Jesus is sufficient to provide the needs for Israel and for all of Israel, and provide more than enough.
When that evening ended, everybody had eaten. It’s time to go home. And immediately, we’re told Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side while He sent the multitudes away. Now that’s why I took some time looking at that map. We have to understand where they’re getting in the boat and where the other side is.
The verb that is used here, when it says, “Jesus made the disciples get into the boat,” is important because it is a word that indicates that He is giving them an order. This is somewhat distinct. He is sending them out into the Sea of Galilee, and it shows that He has purpose and a design. This is not just, “Well, guys, I want to be alone, so you guys go your way, and I’m going to go my way.” There is something specific that is going on here, and that Jesus is going to take them through another training event.
What had happened with the feeding of the 5,000 was He was teaching them—remember as I pointed out when we went through it the last time: nobody saw Jesus perform the miracle.
Jesus is up there in the center of the crowd, and the baskets are brought, and He’s distributing it to the disciples, and the disciples are the ones who are taking the bread and the fish out to the people.
This is a picture of how it will be in the coming age—that Jesus is the Head of the church, and it is the disciples and the leaders of the church who will minister to the people. It is Jesus Who will provide a perfect, sufficient amount of food, spiritual food for the masses.
He is the one Who is in charge. And He’s compelling them. He’s forcing them to go in the boat.
Now this is interesting because as we look at the other gospel accounts, there are several times when Jesus, it’s recorded, that Jesus goes off by Himself. But this is the only time that Matthew emphasizes that. Usually, Jesus is accompanied by two or three of the other disciples, but here He is going off completely by Himself, and there’s a reason and purpose for that.
He is compelling them to go out onto the lake; and they are going to go from Bethsaida up here, and they’re going to go across to Capernaum. Now what they are going to encounter is storms. They’re going to encounter waves and wind, and they are going to become very much afraid. They will face that which they cannot control, and they will be at the point of where they could lose their boat, their livelihood, they could even lose their lives. This storm will threaten their very existence.
What we learn from this is that God is often going to direct us purposely into challenging situations, situations where it may cost us our health, it may cost us our financial reserves, it may cost us our freedom, and it may cost us our lives, but God is in control. And this kind of thing is stated several times in Scripture.
For example, in John 16:33, Jesus told the disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation—that’s a statement of fact—You will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” In other words, take courage, be strong, because I have overcome the world.
In 1 Peter 4:12 Peter, who has gone through this particular test plus many others said, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you—or to test you—as though some strange thing happened to you.”
1 Corinthians 10:13. Now these are great verses to jot down and to memorize because in the coming days and years, we may face some fiery trials, and you’re not going to have your Bible handy. You may not have your iPad or your iPhone handy, and you’re going to have to have the Word hidden in your heart. So these are important verses to have memorized.
I Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
James 1:2–4, “My brother, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,”—see, again, we have this idea of joy and courage and strength when we face testing. The natural reaction is fear, but the Word of God says don’t be afraid, have joy, have courage, be strong.
James 1:2, “Count it all joy when you encounter various trials because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and endurance will have its maturing work.” That’s the idea of perfect there. It is that which God uses to bring us to maturity—“…that you may be perfect—or mature—and complete, lacking in nothing.”
So this is a pattern. God is using this in order to teach us and to train us and to mature us.
In 2 Timothy 3:12 we read a promise, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly…will be persecuted.” All those who desire to grow to maturity in Jesus Christ will be persecuted.
Jesus knows that we have to learn. The only way we’re going to learn to trust Him is to be put in situations where everything is stripped away and we have no choice but to depend upon Him.
So we read in verse 23, “And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.”
He sends them off in their boat. He puts them in their boat. This is a picture in the top left corner of what is called “the Jesus Boat”. This first century fishing vessel is housed in the museum there at Nof Ginosar. They’ve rebuilt a replica of it that is on the ground as well, and this gives you an idea of the size of this fishing boat that Jesus and His disciples were in.
They’re going to take off from the far shore over here and come over to the near shore here across the Sea of Galilee. So it’s not far, and they would be expected to make that trip in just a couple of hours. But when this storm comes up, they can’t make any progress. The waves come up, and they are going to be stuck out in the middle, not up close to shore.
In verse 23 we read, “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.” So they should have already departed. It’s late in the afternoon, early evening, dusk is coming. They set out in the boat, and they are alone.
This is a picture also of what happens to us in our lives. The Lord Jesus Christ has ascended to Heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father. He has not left us completely alone, but He has given us a Helper, God the Holy Spirit, Who indwells and fills believers and to strengthen us through His Word.
But the Lord is gone, just as it was with the disciples. He’s away from them. They can’t see Him. They don’t know where He is. When the storm comes up, they don’t even pray for Him to come and rescue them.
But what we see is He’s totally and completely aware of what they’re going through. There’s no surprise, and without any prayer request from them to come and give them aid, the Lord takes the initiative to go out, to seek them out, and to provide assistance for them.
Then we read in verse 24, “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.”
Jesus had designed this situation from the start as a training exercise, a simulation drill, in order to prepare the disciples for what is going to come: that here they’re facing the waves and the opposition from the sea, from nature, from creation.
But the Lord Jesus Christ knows that in the future they are going to face opposition from people. They’re going to face opposition from governments. They’re going to face as well more and more difficult situations just from living in creation.
As Paul noted many times, he was shipwrecked. He traveled by foot on hundreds of miles of Roman highways. And throughout that time, he was subject to attacks from bandits and from other groups, and he had to learn how to trust the Lord.
That is the same for us, as we go through life. We’re going to encounter various trials, as James says, and we have to be prepared in order to handle those trials.
So the Lord makes them go alone, and He puts them in an interesting position. Of the disciples, almost half of them had a fishing background. Most of them came from areas around the Sea of Galilee, and they would have been very familiar with boats and especially Peter, James, John, and Andrew, who were all together in a fishing business, would have been quite professional.
So God is testing them not at a point where they are incompetent, but He’s testing them at a point where they would think they’re exceptionally competent, and they don’t really need God’s help.
What God has to do for most of us in our lives is not to teach us how He will sustain us in our areas of weakness, but how He will sustain us when we think we can do it on our own without His assistance.
Of the 35 miracles that are recorded in Scripture, seven of them have to do with fish or the sea, or with boats. This, of course, shows that He is teaching these fishermen, these professional fishermen, that they have absolutely no sufficiency, no ability in themselves.
He’s teaching them that He’s the One Who’s in charge, He is directing things, He’s overseeing the circumstances of their life, even though He is not present. Even though He is not perceptible to them, He is teaching them as He says in Matthew 28:20, He said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
So the Lord is overseeing this situation, and as the waves come up and as the wind opposes them, and they are unable to make any forward progress, then the Lord is going to come and rescue them.
We’re told in verse 25, “Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.”
The fourth watch, according to Roman time, was between 3 AM and 6 AM. We don’t know whether it’s at the beginning or at the end of that time frame. The fact that they can see Him perhaps suggests that it’s nearer the end of the time frame, and maybe it’s early light from the coming dawn which enables them to see Him on the water. But the text doesn’t make a point of that. He just states that Jesus comes to them walking on the water.
We do know that the time of the year was Spring, near Passover, so it’s following the vernal equinox. So it would be getting light just a little bit earlier.
What we see here is Jesus knew exactly where they were, just as He knows exactly where we are. Jesus knew exactly what they were encountering, just as He knows exactly what we encounter. He comes to them in their time of need. He does not desert them. In their darkest hour, He is ready and able to take care of their situation, just as He knows our deepest heartaches and our most difficult problems, and He is the One who sustains us, and He is the One who is able to take care of us.
Verse 26, “And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea—they didn’t say, ‘Oh! There’s the Lord!’—they were troubled”—that’s an interesting word there. They are troubled. It’s the Greek word, TARASSO. It can be an extreme form of agitation where it could go as far as to indicate that they were terrified, which is possible.
They are saying it is a phantasm. It’s a ghost. And the Greek word there is PHANTASMA. It’s not PNEUMA for spirit. It is the word meaning just an apparition. They don’t think it’s real. And the result is that they are afraid.
As I pointed out earlier, fear is the core emotion generated by our arrogance because we know at the core of our being that we are not self-sufficient. As much as arrogance seeks to convince us that we are self-sufficient and that we can sustain ourselves, the problem is that we can’t.
So at the very core of our being we have this existential fear, and 1 John tells us that perfect love casts out fear. The only way that we can deal with the fear that’s at the core of our being is by coming face-to-face with the love of God as expressed at the Cross. “That God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
As we look at what’s happening here, we see that just as Adam and Eve ran from God (because when God shows up, they don’t trust Him; they think God is going to “be out to get us;” God is going to punish us), and so they ran, and they hid. This is often the way it is for us.
When God takes us through a difficult situation or some trial, it’s not what we want. We want our life to be calm and peaceful and everything to go our way. But as soon as we turn a corner and there’s opposition, there’s somebody who is maltreating us, or there are negative circumstances, or we have problems financially, or we have problems with other circumstances—then our initial response is, “Well, God’s going to do it to me again.” We want to blame God for our problems.
God takes us through these circumstances and situations not to “get” us, but in order to prepare us, to mature us, to teach us to trust in Him and not to be afraid.
As soon as they see Jesus, they’re scared to death! God’s showing up, and we’re afraid. There’s no hint that they’re praying, or they’re having any kind of positive response to the Lord.
Immediately—notice there’s that word again—immediately, as soon as they see Him and they’re afraid, He counters that. He says, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
There are three things that are said here. It’s very interesting, and your translation is probably not correct.
1. The first thing that He says is not, “Be of good cheer.” That sounds like, “Be happy.” It sounds sort of like what James says, “Count it all joy,” but that’s not what the Greek text says. The Greek uses the verb THARSEO which means be confident or courageous.
In other words, Jesus is saying be strong, be confident, take heart, be courageous, don’t fold in the midst of the test, don’t cave in, don’t be a wimp, be strong, be courageous. It’s a very positive response. They’re pushing the panic button, and Jesus is saying take courage, be strong!
2. The second thing He says—and these are stated very quickly—the next thing He says is the core issue. He doesn’t say, “It is I” as the New King James translates it. He uses a very distinctive phrase. He uses the Greek phrase EGO EIMI.
EGO EIMI is the Greek translation of the name for God in the Old Testament, Yahweh. The name Yahweh comes from the Hebrew verb hayah meaning “to be.” It’s the “self-existent one.” So that phrase becomes a claim of deity.
In fact, in the Gospel of John, Jesus uses it a number of times to emphasize that He is God. In fact in one confrontation with the Pharisees where He had talked about that Abraham had looked forward to see His day, the Pharisees said, “You’re a young man. How would you know what Abraham looked forward to?” He said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (EGO EIMI)—a claim to deity.
They understood it that way because the text said they reached down for stones to stone Him for blasphemy.
Jesus says the same thing here. He say, “Be strong, I am.” Why should they be strong? Because Jesus is God. Jesus is in control. Jesus is the one Who controls the waves and the storms and the sea.
3. The next thing He says is, “Do not be afraid.”
Now there are over 350 times that this idea where we are told not to be afraid or not to worry, not to be anxious, not to be troubled—are mentioned in the Scripture. The actual phrase or translation “fear not” is used some 10 times.
The phrase “do not be afraid” is used some 48 times, and then there are various other ways in which it’s expressed for a total of—depending on what you’re looking at and how you’re counting it—over 350 times. That’s amazing!
God tells us over and over again not to be afraid. He addresses that core existential emotion from our arrogant sin nature, don’t be afraid. trust in Him.
Here are some promises. You can write these down and memorize them later. These are important verses to learn:
Isaiah 41 is a great chapter. He’s addressing Israel in terms of the realization of their future judgment. He says, “Fear not, for I am with you,” Isaiah 41:10.
That was one of the first promises I learned when I was six or seven years old. At night and it’s dark in the house, and little kids worry about the boogey man or whatever is in the house, I memorized that verse, and I would say it over and over again before I went to sleep.
Isaiah 41:10, and then just three verses later, “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, Fear not, I will help you.”
Again in Isaiah 41:14 we read, “Fear not, you worm Jacob.” Again He’s telling them don’t be a weenie, be strong, fear not!
Then we have his provision and promise to Abraham, “Do not be afraid Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
To Moses He said in Exodus 14:13, “Do not be afraid—this at the time of the crossing of the Red Sea. Their backs are to the Red Sea. The Egyptian chariots are coming down upon them, and he says, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”—Excuse me, Moses is talking to the people, he says, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today.”
In Joshua several times we have the reiteration of this promise. In Joshua 1:9 we have the promise, “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Jesus reiterates that in Matthew 28, where He says, “Lo I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”
Because God is always with us, we can take courage and be strong.
In John 14:27 Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”—that is don’t give in to fear in your thinking.
In 1 Peter 3:14 Peter says, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake”—and trust me, believer, we’re living in a world today when you may be suffering for righteousness’ sake.
There are already examples of people who have lost their job, lost their business, they’ve been threatened with jail, they’ve been given enormous fines, all because they have taken a stand for the truth of God’s Word. They haven’t sought to hurt anybody or harm anybody, but they must follow their convictions.
We all thought we had the legal right under the first amendment for the free exercise of our religion wherever we are, but what is happening in our culture is that we are being pressured now to conform. We can have the free exercise of our religion in the four walls of the church, but if you take it out to your place of business, and you say, “No I won’t do that because it violates my religious beliefs,” then you’re going to lose your job.
My question is how many of you have the guts to do it? How many of you are so in debt that you can’t handle it? How many of you have so many things going on in your life that you’re going to say, “Well, it’s not really going to matter. I don’t have to take a stand on this. It’s not that big a deal.”
You start compromising on the little things now, then when it comes time for big decisions, you will have already determined which way you’re going to go, because as you set your course in little minor compromises, then later on it becomes easier for the large compromises.
Peter says, “Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’ ” The Scripture says a lot to us about not being afraid.
Now as the Lord is walking up on the boat, Peter answers Him and says, “Lord, it’s you! Command me to come to You on the water.”
I don’t know whether he’s talking before he can think, but He says, “That’s really cool! I want to walk on the water too! I know He can let me do it!” So he immediately takes off.
“The Lord says, ‘Come.’ And when Peter came out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.”
It’s interesting, as I was looking for an image to use on this particular slide, most images all focus on Peter going under the water, but he walks on the water for a while. For five, ten, maybe 15, 20 feet!
As he’s walking out to the Lord, he is trusting in the Lord. Then all of a sudden out of the corner of his eye, he sees a wave coming along, and he shifts his gaze away from the Lord and on to the water. The lesson here is that we have to keep our focus on the Lord and not on the circumstances.
The circumstances are always going to appear overwhelming. They are always going to appear to be beyond our control. And guess what? They are beyond our control. So what are we supposed to do? Put our focus and attention on the Lord.
I want you to watch what Jesus does. As Peter sees the wind coming and the waves, he’s afraid, and he begins to sink. What’s the Lord doing? Nothing yet. Then Peter says, “Lord, save me!”
A-ah! There’s the issue. He calls out to the Lord, cries out, “Lord, deliver me! And immediately”—haven’t we seen that word like twice before already? “Immediately the Lord reaches out His hand and catches him.”
See, the Lord is always ready to sustain us. He’s always ready to provide for us and to protect us. He is our safety net. He’s the only real safety net we have; not social security, not welfare, not the government. The safety net is the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s the one Who provides for us. He challenges Peter, and He says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The reason we like this story is because this is us. We look at the Lord, and we say, “I’m going to trust Him, and then as soon as the first opposition, the first trial, the first difficulty comes along, what do we do? We take our eyes off of the Lord, and we start worrying, we start becoming anxious, we start putting all of our focus upon the problem and not on Jesus Christ as the solution, and we immediately start to sink.
But the Lord knows that, and He’s always ready to reach out and grab us and sustain us. We just have to turn back to Him. A lot of times we get dizzy. Returning to the Lord, and then to the circumstances and back to the Lord so fast we just want to pass out. Some of you have had that experience. I know I have. So the Lord says, “Why did you doubt? ” Focus on Him. And then look at what happens.
In verse 33, “Then those who were in the boat came and”—well, I left a verse out. Look at verse 32, “And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.”
Now you probably read through that way too fast. They got in the boat. Now how far away from the boat do you think they were? 10, 15, 20 ft. probably. They got in the boat, so what did they have to do? They had to walk back to the boat. You think Jesus was carrying Peter? No. I think they were walking together.
What do you think Peter was looking at? His eyes were glued on the Lord. He didn’t for a nanosecond look anywhere else. They went back to the boat, and his focus was right on the Lord, and they walked back and got into the boat. And immediately the wind ceased.
When we learn the lesson, often the Lord ends the test, ends the problem. He’s the one Who brought it into existence in the first place to train us, and when the lesson is over with, it’s time to move on to the next situation. It’s difficult to trust Him, but Job who lost everything said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
The result is in verse 33—that they worshipped Him. They worshipped Him. That means they recognized He’s the Creator, and they are obedient to Him. It doesn’t mean they sang. It means they worshipped Him. They bowed down in obedience to Him recognizing His authority in their life and their worship consisted in their recognition of Who He is. They said, “Truly You are the Son of God.” So they understood that.
Now later on in Matthew 16, Peter is going to make this declaration again. That’s the one we usually think of when Jesus says, “Well, Peter, who do people say that I am?” Peter says, “Well, some say that You are Elijah, some say this, but who are You? You’re the Son of God.”
The disciples are gradually coming to a recognition of Who He is. This isn’t a full-bore recognition like Peter has down the road, and that’s the way it is for many people—is they only gradually come to understand Who Jesus is.
There are many people who are unbelievers who say, “Well, I’m not so sure about this Christianity thing.” But the more they study, the more they read, the more they hear, the more they come to an incremental understanding of the truth of the Bible, they finally get to the point where they have that full-bore recognition that Jesus is the Son of God.
They recognize this like a new baby might recognize his parents, but a one year old doesn’t appreciate his parents like a 10 year old does. A 10 year old doesn’t appreciate his parents like a 25 year old does or a 45 year old. As you grow and mature, you appreciate them more and more, except for the period of time between about fourteen and 21, and during that time you don’t think they’re very bright at all, and suddenly somewhere in there, they get really smart all over again.
As you think about this maybe at a later time, read through Psalm 29, which emphasizes the power and the authority of God as the sovereign Creator.
Now as we close, the point for the believer is this: This is a training lesson. God takes us through a lot of training lessons, and the training is that we can do nothing apart from Him.
In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine you are the branches. He who abides in Me—that is on-going fellowship with God, enjoying that relationship with Him—He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing.”
That’s the lesson for the disciples—that no matter what skill they may think they have, no matter what ability and experience they have, it is that dependence day-by-day on the Lord Jesus Christ, walking by the Holy Spirit that gives us strength.
We’re going to face difficulty. We’re going to face opposition. We may even face persecution. Job said, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” We need to prepare for it, and the only way to prepare for it is to study the Word of God and internalize it so we can face whatever comes our way.
If you’re not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, this is your opportunity to recognize who He is in terms of what He claimed to be. He claimed to be God. He claimed to be the Promised Messiah from the Old Testament, the fulfillment of prophecy related to Israel, the One who would come to pay the penalty for sin, the One of Whom John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The issue is not your sin, the issue is trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word this morning, to be reminded of Who You are and what You do for us, the way You oversee our lives, the way You are the Head of the church, currently sitting at the right hand of God the Father—oversee the church, oversee our lives, training us and teaching us, that You might bring us to maturity, that You might bring us to a position where we can rule and reign with You in the future Kingdom.
Father, we pray that if there’s anyone here this morning that’s unsure of their salvation or uncertain of their eternal destiny, that they would take this opportunity to make that sure and certain.
Jesus Christ died on the Cross for your sins. At the instant that He paid those penalties, sin’s not the issue anymore. The sin penalty is paid for. The issue is what do you think about Jesus Christ? The answer is clear. If we believe on Him, if we believe that He was telling the truth when He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me,” then at that instant we have eternal life, and it can never, ever be taken from us.
Now Father, we pray that you would challenge us with what we’ve heard, what we’ve learned this morning, and that we may apply it in our lives. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”