Matthew 14:22-33 Text vs. 25 “Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.”
Galilee is a mountainous area in northern Israel. It extends from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea east to the Jordan River Valley. And from the Lebanon border in the north to Mount Gilboa in the south. Israel’s largest freshwater lake is there. It’s the Sea of Galilee, 13 miles long and 7 miles wide. It runs into the Jordan River which empties into the Dead Sea 104 miles to the south at 1,300 feet below sea level, the lowest place on earth. Two-thirds of Jesus’ ministry was in the Galilee area. It’s where Jesus fed the 5,000 on a hillside. He cast out demons there. He healed the sick by the seaside. The Sea of Galilee played a major role in Biblical history.
And today’s lesson is there. It concerns a small boat on a stormy sea. We just read about it in Matthew’s Gospel. Last week, we learned how Jesus fed thousands of people on a Galilean hillside, way out in the country. Far from everything. He did it with just five loaves of bread and two little fish. Immediately after that, Jesus had His disciples get into a small boat and go ahead of Him to the east side of the Sea of Galilee to wait for Him while He sent the multitudes away. After He had done that, He went up on the mountain to pray by Himself. And when evening came, He was alone. And isn’t it like that with you sometimes? When you’re finally alone, you didn’t know why you phoned someone? Or went to visit someone who was sick? Or wrote a letter? Or sent a card? But later, you discovered it was to provide opportunity for a special miracle that had already been planned by God! Well, in our story today, the crowd wanted to make Jesus an earthly king. But that wasn’t God’s plan! So, Jesus found a solitary place to pray and seek God’s will. Oswald Chambers, in his book My Utmost for His Highest wrote, “the one controlling interest throughout our Lord’s life was, Jesus did not seek His own will, but the will of His Father who sent Him. Though He had joy and sorrow, success and failure, along the way, He never strayed from God’s purpose.”
So, let’s follow this story in Matthew’s Gospel about the little boat in which the disciples had gotten into that was now out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. A strong storm had come up. Just like it can out here on the Gulf of Mexico! Their boat was being tossed about by the waves. The Sea of Galilee had become a dangerous place to be. And if you’ve ever been in that kind of situation, you can get scared! Real fast! And you know, sometimes when Jesus sent you to do something for Him, you may have felt scared. Kinda’ like being tossed about by waves while visiting someone you hardly know. Talking with someone about their trouble. It’s an emotional wave. Like waves on shallow bodies of water known for dangerous storm waves. The Sea of Galilee is like that! It’s like the time you doubted yourself as a follower of Jesus. Yet, Jesus knew a storm was coming over you. The winds of false doctrine. The waves of temptation. Storms of mistreatment by others. But the Bible says, you must “Walk by faith! Not by sight”!
And in our lesson today, it was the middle of the night when Jesus went out to the disciples in the boat. Taking a shortcut, He walked upon the sea! That’s our text for today. “Shortly before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.” Now the fourth watch is the last part of the night. Between three and six in the morning. It’s called the last watch. The end of the night. The time when, when you’re in bed asleep and you wake up, roll over, look at the clock beside your bed and sigh deeply. It’s still dark outside! You can sleep another 2 hours! This story’s a good reminder that sometimes you have to go through most of the night before Jesus comes to you. He may come with a miracle. Maybe a supernatural event, like walking on water. But so often, Jesus comes into your life just before you lose hope. Because He wants to teach you faith! And when the disciples saw Him walking on the water that night, they were disturbed. They said, “It’s a ghost!” They cried out for fear. But that’s when you must realize something! God appears when people are most often afraid. Remember that! It was at Mount Sinai, and on the Sea of Galilee, where God revealed Himself to His most highly favored. And they thought Jesus was a ghost!
You, too, may think Jesus is somebody else. But remember, God comes to bless you! And when Jesus got near that boat, He immediately spoke to the disciples and said, “Be of good cheer! It is I. Do not be afraid.” When you seem to be all alone in your life, and in total darkness, because life is tossing you about, understand this! The One who loves you will come to your rescue, if “you walk by faith, not by sight”. That’s the King James version of the Bible from 2 Corinthians 5:7. It’s a good translation. But some modern translations read, “you live by faith, not by sight”. That’s better! When the Apostle Paul talked about the way Christians ‘walk’, he meant the way they lived their day-to-day life. So, it really isn’t about guidance in specific life situations, as it’s sometimes used. It means, God has much better things in store for you. If you feel upset by your own failings, or if your life’s become difficult, the good news is, they aren’t signs God doesn’t love you. Never think that! The apostle Paul had to put up with some pretty terrible problems. But he never lost heart! He was always of good courage, because he knew the situation he happened to be in wasn’t what God wanted for him in the end. Paul lived by faith. He knew one day he would live by sight. That’s when he would ‘be at home with the Lord’. He would get to see, and live, and be with Jesus every day. Forever! And if necessary, Jesus will take a shortcut to get to you as quickly as possible! That’s what He did when He walked out to that boat during that storm on the Sea of Galilee! What does living by faith mean? It means deciding what’s the controlling principle in your life! Is it luck? Or chance?
A man had just parked his car at his office when a lady came up to him and said, "That’s a nice car! But I wouldn’t want to drive it!" He was puzzled and asked, "Why not?" "Well" she said, "it’s green! And what’s more, the license plate numbers add up to 13!" Imagine that! Life governed by superstition! But some people do it! And it begs the question - what influences your life? Is it fate? Or, is it that you lack faith? Is it worldly fears? Or heavenly hopes? Whatever!
If you live your life by faith when trouble comes along, Jesus will find you. He will help you. He knew where that boat full of disciples was when they were in trouble on the stormy Sea of Galilee! Why shouldn’t He find you when you’re in your sea of trouble? Jesus knew faith and obedience must be expressed by a believer in new ways. For when Jesus invited Peter to walk on the water, He said, "Come." Peter got out of the boat. He walked on the water. Toward Jesus. Then, Peter looked down. He saw he actually was walking on water. And when he looked down, he couldn’t believe what he was doing! And he began to sink. He cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus reached out His hand and caught him and said, "You of little faith! Why did you doubt?"
A new experience in your life often requires you to have a higher level of faith and obedience. If you ever felt like Peter, let the Lord show you even greater things so you can venture out into uncharted waters. Relationships. Witnessing. Humility. God has made all things in life depend on faith. So, the person who has faith, will have everything. And whoever does not have faith, will have nothing.
In September 1853, a little three-masted clipper ship slipped quietly out of Liverpool England’s harbor with Hudson Taylor, a 21-year-old missionary aboard. He was headed to the Far East to a country that was just coming into Christian awareness. Just a few dozen missionaries were stationed there. By the time Taylor died a half-century later, China was viewed as the most fertile, and challenging of mission fields. Thousands volunteered annually to serve in China. But when Hudson Taylor went to China, the sailing vessel he was on neared the channel between the southern Malaysian Peninsula and the island of Sumatra. There was an urgent knock on Taylor’s stateroom door. He opened it. The Captain of the ship said, "Mr. Taylor, we have no wind. We’re drifting toward an island. The people there are heathen. I fear they are cannibals." Taylor asked, "What can I do?" The Captain said, "I understand you believe in God. I want you to pray for wind." "All right, Captain, I will. But first, you must set the sails", which means, “put the sails in a position to catch the wind that will cause the ship to move". Why that’s ridiculous! There’s not even the slightest breeze out there! Besides, the sailors will think I’m crazy." Finally, the Captain agreed and set the sails. Forty-five minutes later, the Captain returned to Taylor’s cabin and found the missionary still on his knees. "You can stop praying now. We’ve got more wind than we know what to do with!"
And that’s the way it should be with you! When you feel you’re in trouble. When you feel all is lost. When you feel your life is drifting. When you feel all alone and no one cares about you, ask Jesus come into your life! He knows where you are! He will put the wind back in the sails of your life. He will fill you so full of His Holy Spirit, you will safely reach the other shore, and be with Him, forever! Remember, once you’ve found Him, He will always find you. Wherever you may be! AMEN