This is the manuscript that I referred to today at Shepparton Baptist Church. The title could well read Peter walks on water! Enjoy.
Bible reading Matthew 14:22-36 (NIV)
Jesus Walks on the Water
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
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.”
34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Introduction to sermon
Ok, confession time…who has ever tried to walk on water? You've been sitting beside a river and thought, Peter did it, so maybe I can. Or on a boat and looked at the water lapping the side of the boat and wondered what would happen if you thought “If I only keep my focus on Jesus I’ll be able to do it”. I did. Not the walking on water thing but the trying to walk on water thing. It didn’t go so well. Didn’t even get a moment of feeling like I was going to step on top. My feet got wet every time! I watched a Mythbuster episode where they tried running on water. They had seen a YouTube clip of someone running on water and wanted to see whether it was fake or real. It was a great episode but let’s just say that the outcome was predictable. Not one step on top of the water.
But, you know…walking on water isn’t really the goal is it?
The goal is to know that Jesus is with us in the midst of the storms of life. As we battle against the wind, the rain, the waves, we need to be looking out for Jesus. To choose to get out of a little fishing boat and not get distracted by what is around us.
Last week we took a look at the previous verses that talked about Jesus feeding the 5000, despite the weariness that the disciples and Jesus felt. We saw the miracles that Jesus performed. People were healed. They were fed. Yet, the disciples were still tired, weary, worn out. There was no rest for them. Immediately Jesus made them get into the boat….
I love the word immediately. It is used occasionally in Matthew (well twice here) but many more times in Mark. It gives us the sense of urgency that Jesus must have had. Immediately Jesus gets the disciples to get into the boat and go on to the other side. He knew how they were feeling. It’s almost like they just had to escape the madness. But Jesus doesn’t go with them. Instead, Jesus head on up to a mountainside to pray.
While Jesus was praying, that we find another very well know part of the disciples walk with Jesus. While they are in the boat, the storm comes, they fight against it all through the night. It wasn’t until the fourth watch that Jesus heads out to them. This fourth watch would have been somewhere between 3.00am and 6.00am. These disciples must have been absolutely wrecked! They had spent so much time watching the storm that they didn’t recognise Jesus walking toward them.
It came down to their focus. They were looking at the waves and the wind and didn’t recognise their teacher. Out of this whole story verse 27 is so important. Jesus says to them “Take Courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Jesus is not just telling them not to worry because he is there. He isn’t saying Hey! Don’t stress it’s me! Jesus! The wording that is used for it is the same wording that would get him crucified. It’s the same wording the God used when Moses asked God what His name was. It is the wording in Greek ego eimi. Or I am. Jesus is telling them quite plainly don’t be afraid. The Lord their God is there with them. Amongst this storm, amongst the fatigue and the fear, Jesus is telling them that He is God! There is a weight to this little sentence that is easy to miss.
The impetuous Peter believes him and asks Jesus to confirm that He is Jesus. Maybe Peter believed that this person on the water was God but didn’t quite believe that it was Jesus. Maybe Peter was a bit like us and needed to see something a little more concrete than just a ghost walking on the water. Whatever Peter’s motivation (anything we say is purely speculation isn’t it?), he asks Jesus to tell Him to come, which Jesus does. Peter could quite possibly be the only person who was not God to physically walk on the water. I haven’t seen it and I haven’t heard of others doing it and Mythbusters failed, so I have a feeling that he might just be. That’s pretty amazing isn’t it? What a way to confirm that Jesus is God. By allowing Peter to walk on water.
It must have been a great feeling. To be looking at Jesus, to be standing on top of the water, to be feeling as though you were the most important person to Jesus at that moment. Then suddenly, the wind and the waves come into Peter’s head again. He begins to sink. The good news is that Peter doesn’t wait until he is drowning to ask Jesus to save him. He does as he begins to sink. The other piece to the good news is that Jesus is right there to catch Him. He does that and they both head to the boat. They get in, the wind dies down and the other disciples begin to worship Him. It all seems to end on a very happy note. Just like a fairy tale, some would say. They lived happily ever after. That is until we read verses 35 and 36. It looks like the idea of solitude has been left behind. There are more people to be healed. The journey continues...
One thing I struggle with when I read these parts of the bible is that it portrays Jesus as out there on a mountain top praying while we are in dire straits. We also have this image of a God who is distant in heaven, don’t we? We quite often wonder when will God come and rescue me? The bit I struggle with is that I don’t consider Jesus as being distant. We are told that the Holy Spirit indwells us. The Holy Spirit, who is part of the trinity of God is inside of us right now! In many ways, we don’t need to wait for Jesus to come down from the mountain after praying, to walk on the water to us for us to take the risk of faith and get out of the boat. We can do it anytime because God indwells us through His spirit. It bears some thought doesn’t it? How often do we wait until we see God in action before we move? How often do we wait for God to come to us before we act?
For those who have chosen to follow Jesus, He has already walked on the water towards us and we have chosen to step out of the boat already! What we need to be doing is keeping our eyes on Him. We don’t need to say to Him if it is you Lord, tell me to come. We have already asked that of Him. Like the words in the song Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
We need to keep our eyes on Jesus through the storms of life. As we do that, the wind, the waves, the threats, the fear, the hopelessness all fade into inconsequence.
As we conclude this morning, let’s recognise the work of Jesus Christ around us. Sure there are storms all around us. We could probably write down half a dozen each without even giving it much thought. But as we battle these storms, let’s remember that as we keep our eyes on Jesus, he is already here with us through His Spirit and he is ready to stop us from drowning. In so many ways, we are already out of the boat. We are already walking on the water. If you are in the middle of a storm and can’t see Jesus, come and talk to me. If you are stuck in the boat, come and talk to me. Together we can lift up our eyes to the maker of heaven and earth and not be afraid.