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Walking by Faith
Read Mt. 14:22-33 – Perhaps the most memorable words in that story are the words of Jesus, said to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” . We are inclined to focus on the littleness of Peter’s faith. Certainly this is an important lesson from this story. Jesus said it. But a closer look reveals other lessons from this event.
I. The setting of the miracle: The events that precede the miracle teach us some things about Jesus and His mission.
A. After Jesus fed the 5,000, the multitude following Him desired to make Him king by force (Jn 6:15). Jesus dispersed the crowd and departed to the mountain alone. Possibly because Jesus did not want his disciples to be influenced by the crowd, he commanded them to get into a boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They obeyed Him.
1. A storm developed and they were soon caught in its fury. Did Jesus know what was happening to His disciples? Matt 14:24-25 – But the boat was now in the middle of the sea,* tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. 25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 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.
2. The night was divided into 4 watches or shifts. The 4th (and final) watch was from 3-6 a.m. It is possible that the disciples had been in the storm for 9 hours. The text tells us that they rowed the tossing boat 3 or 4 miles before they saw Jesus.(John 6:19) Why did Jesus wait? The lesson they were about to learn would come through the difficulty of the circumstance. Jesus is more interested in the spiritual than in the physical. Jesus was in control. We must never forget that as we wait for Him to do something.
II. “They cried out for fear” – There is no way the disciples could have expected to see Jesus “walking” to them. In a similar situation, He was in the boat with them and they simply woke Jesus up. But He is not with them – they are afraid. Matt 14:26-27 – And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” They interpret what they see as a ghost. But Jesus does not want them to be afraid. He attempts to calm their fears by telling them “It is I”. Was this enough to calm then down? Is it enough for us?
A. There is no reason for Jesus’ disciples to fear. He is not far from us. They had obeyed Him and launched out on to the sea. He would not forsake them for doing what He commanded. One commentator states: When believers are in the place of obedience they are in the place of safety, no matter what the circumstances. The place of security is not the place of favorable circumstance but the place of obedience to God’s will. (John MacArthur)
III. The Power Of Faith: Does it surprise you that Peter is the one who responds? Matt 14:28-29 8 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
A. Few men have shown greater faith than Peter did, when he crawled out of the boat and stepped on to the water! To step out of a boat when the water is calm requires faith enough.
B. Peter is sometimes faulted for things that reflect love, courage, and faith as much as brashness or cowardice.
1. Although he denied the Lord while in the courtyard during Jesus’ trial, he was nevertheless there, as close to Him as he could get. The rest of the disciples were nowhere to be found.
2. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter’s suggestion was unwise but it was prompted by sincere devotion: “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matt 17:4).
3. Peter did not resist Jesus’ washing his feet because of pride, but because of his deep humility. He could not conceive of His Lord washing the feet of anyone so unworthy. And when Jesus explained the significance of what He was doing, Peter said, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9).
C. Peter knew the fury and force of a storm on the water. He was not simply being impetuous here. He was walking by faith.
1. When Paul said we “walk by faith and not by sight“(2 Cor. 5:7), he was describing actions that grow out of confidence in God’s ability and willingness to overcome the circumstances.
2. Faith is not completed in the mind alone, but is the potent motivator of action. Thus Heb. 11:4 those who were examples of great faith were people who acted on their conviction. by faith Abel, Enoch, Noah, Moses obeyed God’ commands.
IV. The Source of Faith: Peter’s faith is not blind credulity. He had reasons for what he was contemplating. He did not get out of the boat without a reasonable confidence that he could walk on water. He said, “Lord, if it is you” (V. 28)
A. Peter’s confidence and action here is the cumulative result of what he had seen and heard.
1. Peter was first drawn to Christ when his brother (Andrew) said “we have found the Messiah” (Jn. 1:41). He concluded that Jesus was One worthy to follow through what was taught to him and confirmed by O.T. prophesy.
2. Peter, himself, had been given power by Jesus over unclean spirits and the ability to heal all kinds of diseases. (Mt. 10:1)
3. He had witnessed the feeding of the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. He had been assured through this that Jesus cared for others and himself.
4. He was watching Jesus walk on water. How could he not have faith that if the Lord commanded it, that he too could walk on water?
5. Your faith and trust in Jesus has sufficient basis. Jesus has, in so many ways, sufficiently demonstrated his divine wisdom, power and love. How can we ever doubt Him?
V. The Requirement of Faith: Peter did not just leap from the boat on impulse, thinking the Lord would surely want him to come to him. He asked permission, “Lord. . .command me to come to you on the water” (V. 28)
A. Peter sought Jesus’ word. He did not presume to know what Jesus desired, not what Jesus would empower him to do. Many in religion believe that God is “obligated” to sanction anything that they conclude is good to do. They do not look for God’s word on the matter.
1. Jesus said “come,” and he went. He acted by faith (i.e., belief in Jesus’ power and the authority of his command!) Faith requires positive instruction. Romans 10:17 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
VI. The Vulnerability of Faith – We can learn here that faith can fail. Peter, for a while, believed. But, “when he saw the wind was boisterous, he was afraid” (V. 30). Peter’s fear reappeared once he was out on the water. His initial faith in Jesus overcame the original fear. So this signaled a failure of his faith.
A. But we also see the consequence Of Peter’s failed faith. Matt 14:30… and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” Do you think Peter was in peril here? What happens if Jesus does not respond to his plea? Does it matter that he was walking successfully before?
1. When his faith failed he could no longer walk on water. The faith that Jesus required here was a constant faith that was evidenced in his willingness to keep his eyes on Jesus. This “saving” faith was not a once in a moment conviction, or even a “once in a moment” obedience. Blessings are conditioned upon a constant faith The bible teaches the security of Christians, but only as long as we walk by faith. 1 John 1:7 – 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
VII. The solution for a Failed Faith: Peter recognized he was sinking. The source of his fear (waves and wind) became even more threatening as he was sinking. But there was no hope unless he returns his attention to Jesus. He knew that the solution was not in himself.
A. “…Beginning to sink he cried out, saying ‘Lord save me!” This willingness to seek God’s help is at the heart of saving faith. This recognition of hopelessness is a vital part in our salvation. Those who are not drawn to God through a sense of helplessness (contriteness) will easily turn away from him.
B. O you of little faith, why did you doubt? Jesus rebukes Peter’s failure to continue to trust. This was a serious rebuke. Although Peter exercises faith, following Jesus’ commands will always test our faith and require a stronger faith. “It was not the violence of the winds, nor the raging of the waves, which endangered his life, but his littleness of faith.” (from Adam Clarke’s Commentary)
1. How much importance or urgency do you place on strengthening your faith in Jesus? Is your faith dynamic, or a well settled issue?
VIII. Conclusion: Matt 14:32-33 – And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
A. The moment He and Peter got into the boat with the other disciples, the wind stopped. It was as if the wind was simply waiting for the miracle to be finished; and when it had served its purpose, it stopped. Jesus was in control. John tells us that the boat immediately appeared at the shoreline.
B. Their amazement gave way to awe, and they worshipped Jesus. The miracle had produced its intended result. As faith is strengthened and the deliverance of God is experienced and recognized, we are compelled to worship God.
C. Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? If you have faith in Him, then you need to respond to your faith and obey Him.
“He that believes and is baptized will be saved.”