There is an account in the Book of Matthew where Jesus walked on the water to the boat where the disciples were. There are a lot of nuggets in this story. Let’s explore a few of them!
The back story is when Jesus had just heard that Herod had beheaded His cousin John the Baptist. Jesus was ministering in the towns of the Galilee when He heard the news. Matthew 14:13 says “When Jesus heard it, He withdrew from there privately in a boat to a solitary place. But when the crowds heard of it, they followed Him [by land] on foot from the towns.” Jesus knows what it’s like to experience the loss of a family member. He had to take some time to grieve in the middle of His ministry work. When life deals us a hard blow, it’s ok to get alone and process it all. The people weren’t aware of His pain, they just knew He was the answer to their unsolvable problems. He had the power to change their lives. So they followed Him on foot from all the towns in the area. He is STILL the answer to our unsolvable problems!
After His time of grieving, He goes back to the shore and finds the crowds waiting for Him. Is He frustrated? Is He aggravated at their persistence? No He’s not. Matthew 14:14 says, “When He went ashore and saw a great throng of people, He had compassion (pity and deep sympathy) for them and cured their sick.” In spite of His own loss, He was able to have deep sympathy for those people. They weren’t considered a pain in the neck by Him at all. He welcomed them and wanted to help them no matter what He was personally going through. What kind of love is this? It’s Agape love; the same love we are to exhibit to those around us.
The “great throng” numbered around 5,000 people. Jesus ministered to them into the evening and it was an area that was very rural, so there these people are at night with no food. The disciples wanted to send them away into the towns to get their meals for the night, but Jesus told them to feed them. Matthew 14:15-18 says, “When evening came, the disciples came to Him and said, This is a remote and barren place, and the day is now over; send the throngs away into the villages to buy food for themselves. Jesus said, They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat. They said to Him, We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish. He said, Bring them here to Me.” Notice what Jesus said when they presented the problem to Him. He said, “YOU feed them.” His expectation was for the disciples to have enough faith to feed 5000 men plus women and children! They just weren’t “there” yet, so Jesus graciously said, “bring them to Me.” That is so like Him. He meets us where we are in our faith journey and adds enough to help us through.
After that He had the disciples bring Him the bread and fish and He blessed it and began handing out the pieces to the disciples who then distributed it to all those people. Amazing! Matthew 14:19-21 says, “Then He ordered the crowds to recline on the grass; and He took the five loaves and two fish, and, looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and blessed and broke the loaves and handed the pieces to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve [small hand] baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate about 5,000 men, not including women and children.” What did Jesus do? It says He looked up to heaven; He acknowledged the source of the miracle. Then He gave thanks. He applied His faith in believing it was already done and He thanked His Father for the miracle already. He blessed it, He spoke the blessing of multiplication over the food through the words of His mouth. Finally He acted on His faith and began to break off pieces and pass them out to the disciples. The baskets never emptied while He was breaking off pieces. It never ran out. The blessing did not fail and the full needs of the people were met and there was no more need. Then He stopped. In addition to that, there was 12 baskets full of leftover! Jesus demonstrated how to operate in real faith in this miracle. Remember, He fully expected the disciples to do this!
Think about Jesus’ day so far. He lost a beloved relative in John the Baptist, He spent time grieving over him, then He spent the whole day healing the sick of everyone who brought their people to Him for healing, and then He supernaturally fed over 5,000 people with leftovers out of five loaves of bread and two fish! That’s a lot of supernatural energy expended by Jesus. What did He do now? He wanted to meet with His Father up in the hills. After everybody left to go to their homes, He told the disciples to get into the boat and head to the other side of the lake. He didn’t get into the boat with them. Instead He climbed into the hills to be alone with His Father. Matthew 14:22-23 says, “Then He directed the disciples to get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent away the crowds. And after He had dismissed the multitudes, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. When it was evening, He was still there alone.” Think about this scenario. Jesus’ purpose is to go to the other side of the lake to minister, yet He tells the disciples to go before Him in their only boat. They were probably wondering how He was going to meet them there! His priority was spending time in prayer to His Father. We all have a “ministry” to the Lord in some capacity but we must always make prayer a priority no matter how tired we are or how much is on our plate yet to do. Prayer is our “charging station.” Just like we have to refuel our cars to get on down the road, we must also recharge in prayer to continue our journey with God.
Jesus was there praying until the fourth watch of the night, which is 3:00AM to 6:00AM. He was there from the evening until the fourth watch! He was not concerned about how far the disciples were away from Him. He knew He was going to the other side of the lake no matter if He had a boat or not! Matthew 14:14-25 says, “But the boat was by this time out on the sea, many furlongs [a furlong is one-eighth of a mile] distant from the land, beaten and tossed by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch [between 3:00-6:00 a.m.] of the night, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea.” Here Jesus is, after spending the whole day ministering; giving out of Himself to others; walking on the water! It is physically impossible to walk on water. It defies physics, yet because of His time spent in prayer and the level of faith He had, He knew His God was the God of the impossible!
What were the disciples doing? They were trying to keep the boat from sinking. They were trying to get to the other side of the lake like their Master had commanded them to do. Isn’t that what we face too? We are just trying to do what Jesus asked us to do yet we have all these storms raging around us. The Sea of Galilee is thirteen miles across and the Bible says they were “many furlongs” out. This would put them smack in the middle of the lake. Not only does Jesus walk on the water, but He walks several miles on the water to get to the disciples! Naturally, the disciples weren’t expecting to see Him walking on the water so they though it was a ghost or something. After all, who walks on top of the water and doesn’t sink? Matthew 14:26-27 says, “And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and said, It is a ghost! And they screamed out with fright. But instantly He spoke to them, saying, Take courage! I AM! Stop being afraid!” Can you imagine the sight of Jesus in the middle of the night on the water? Let’s be honest, we would be afraid too. What does He say to their fright? “Take courage! I AM! Stop being afraid!” First He encourages them to face the supernatural. Then He tells them who HE IS. He is the great I AM! The All-sufficient One! Finally, He admonishes them to not be afraid. Fear not is spoken by God and the holy angels three hundred and sixty-five times throughout the Bible! It’s important because fear is the opposite of faith. You cannot operate in real faith if you are afraid!
The disciples are now facing their Master who is out on the water supernaturally and they are afraid. Jesus has told them He is the God of the impossible and to not be afraid. So what does Peter do? You have to love Peter. He says, “if it’s You, Lord.” Matthew 14:28-29 says, “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 he came toward Jesus.” This in itself is so supernatural and should be such a faith-builder for us! Peter says “if it’s You, Lord” to throw out a fleece for Him. What else is He going to say? So He says Come! It’s Him so He tells Peter to come on out on the water with Him! He really does expect us to live supernaturally like He did because that is what shows the lost who He is. Peter sometimes gets a bad rap because He sank, but at least he had the guts to get out of the boat!
Peter is brave enough to get out of the boat in the middle of a raging sea storm and actually walks on the water heading towards Jesus. What happens next? He takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to sink. Matthew 14:30 says, “But when he perceived and felt the strong wind, he was frightened, and as he began to sink, he cried out, Lord, save me [from death]!” Peter was doing great until he let his surrounding circumstances influence him. He “perceived” and he “felt,” which are soulish emotions. The soul doesn’t operate in faith, the spirit does. He let the natural world back in and he began to sink. Sometimes our external circumstances are so overwhelming, we can’t see past the waves to lock eyes with Jesus and be in faith. But if we can do it, we CAN walk on the water all the way with Him. Where was He heading? To the other side of the lake where His real purpose is waiting.
Here Peter is now sinking in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a raging storm. He was probably thinking how in the world he got himself into this predicament! Don’t we all have that thought when we find ourselves in a sticky situation? He’s crying out for Jesus to help him out of this mess and what does Jesus do? He instantly reaches out to him to save him. Isn’t that the way He is? He is always ready to help us even when our faith fails. It’s better to at least get out of the boat than to sit there and watch others do it. Matthew 14:31 says, “Instantly Jesus reached out His hand and caught and held him, saying to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Why did Jesus say “O you of little faith?” Think about the level of miracles that Peter has personally witnessed so far in Jesus’ earthly ministry. He has seen the deaf healed, devils cast out and the multitudes supernaturally fed just that very day. Jesus actually expected His disciples to have faith. He still expects His disciples to have faith today. Peter could have walked with Jesus all the way across the lake if he wouldn’t have doubted. I have no doubt about that.
Jesus gets Peter back into the boat where it’s safe and He gets in with the disciples and the seas calm down. After all this, then the rest of the disciples kneel before Him and worship Him and acknowledge that He is the Son of God. They finally believe who He says He is. They would have never believed if they had not been witnessing the supernatural lifestyle that Jesus was living. Matthew 14:32-33 says, “And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat knelt and worshiped Him, saying, Truly You are the Son of God!” In today’s world, people don’t believe the Bible or even the preaching of the Gospel. Jesus preached the Gospel, but with signs and wonders following His words. Just talking in this age of unbelief isn’t going to move people. Look at the disciples. They had been seeing miracle after miracle but it was only when Jesus walked on the water and the wind ceased that they believe in His diety. Think how difficult it is for a lost person to believe? We must demonstrate God’s power through signs and wonders to show the reality of our God.
What happened when they got to the other side of the lake? Jesus continued to minister to everyone who wanted Him. Matthew 14:34-36 says, “And when they had crossed over to the other side, they went ashore at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent around into all the surrounding country and brought to Him all who were sick and begged Him to let them merely touch the fringe of His garment; and as many as touched it were perfectly restored.” Wow, what faith these people exhibited in Him! How did they get to this level of expectation? This was the area where the demoniac(s) were and where Jesus cast out Legion from them and they went into the swine and the swine ran into the sea and drowned. At that time, Jesus had destroyed their industry by letting the demons enter the swine and they ran Him out of the area. What changed? The man who was delivered wanted to go with Jesus and follow Him, but Jesus told him to go back into town and tell everyone what happened to him. He did just that and the people saw the supernatural miracle that had happened. They were all now able to go without fear of the demoniac attacking them. So when Jesus came back, and He came back, they were ready for Him! What a great seed He planted when the man was delivered from Legion. He walked on the water to bring in an even greater harvest for His Father.
When we dare to get out of the boat; our comfort zone, and walk on the water with Jesus, there is something awesome on the other side of the lake so dare to get out of the boat!
Last year the Lord gave me lyrics to a song, but I had no tune. My spiritual daughter, Heather, is a talented composer and I asked her to put the lyrics to a tune and she did. The song is called “Out on the Water.” It’s an upbeat faith-building song that I’m sharing here to encourage you to dare to believe in the supernatural power of the Name and the Blood of Jesus, which is your victory as a disciple of Jesus Christ! Take a listen to the song and be blessed!
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