A little background might be helpful in understanding our Gospel lesson this morning. Everywhere Jesus went multitudes of people have been following Him. Now remember, Jesus just suffered the loss of John the Baptist, His disciples had just returned from the mission trip He had sent them on. And He had attempted to get away with them by
crossing the sea.
However, the crowds had followed them on foot and were waiting when they came ashore. Instead of turning them away or fleeing from them, Jesus had compassion for them and healed all the sick. Matthew tells us there were 5,000 men including women and children, so there were literally thousands of people present. When the first evening came,
about 3:00 pm, Jesus performed the miracle of feeding them with 5 loaves of bread and two fish.
Now the second evening arrives, which would be around sundown and instead of providing shelter for the night, Jesus commands the disciples to get into the boat and head for the other side of the sea. He also dismisses the crowds and sends them on their way. What happen to the ever so compassionate Christ? What is the urgency to dismiss the people and get the disciples out of there? The answer is found in John 6:15 “When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.”
You see the Jewish people were looking for the promised Messiah and would have accepted Jesus as that Messiah, except for one thing. He did not fit the mold, He did not fit their idea of what the Messiah should be and do. They wanted a Messiah that would lead a revolt to overthrow the Romans and re-establish Israel to a Davidic type kingdom. Isn’t that just what some people do today, accept Christ but only on their terms? Jesus alone again, goes up into the mountain to pray, to recharge His batteries, and to spend time with the Father.
Meanwhile, the disciples, who were only following the Lord’s command, are between 3 and 3 ½ miles from land and they encounter a fierce storm. This is also a symbolism for us Christians today. Just because we accept Christ as our Savior, just because we do what is right, doesn’t mean we are promised fair and clear weather for the rest of our lives. By following Christ we will also encounter rough seas in life. Fair weather will be ours in eternity.
Shortly after the death of their daughter Robin, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans met a pale little boy who stuck out his hand and said, “Howdy, pahdnah!” He had been abandoned in a Kentucky motel, and was physically and mentally disabled. Roy and Dale adopted him, calling him Sandy in honor of his hair. He was bright-eyed and good-natured.
During a Billy Graham Crusade, Sandy became a Christian. Roy and Dale enrolled him in military school and he loved it. At seventeen, he enlisted in the army “to prove myself.” Sandy worked hard and won respect. He was sent to Germany, and then volunteered for
Vietnam. “Put your faith in the Lord,” he wrote home, “because (as I have found out) he’s always around when you need him. All he asks in return is your devotion.” Then one day, Dale Evans, returning from a trip, was met at the airport. “It’s Sandy, Mom. He’s dead.” Sandy had returned from 26 days of maneuvers, dog-tired. His buddies had taken him out for the night, needling him to “prove you’re a man. ” Sandy, who couldn’t tolerate alcohol, had given in. They fed him hard liquor until he collapsed. He was found dead in his bunk the next morning. Dale Evans survived the sorrow only by drawing strength from Scripture, particularly from Job 13:15. “Tragedy in a Christian’s life is a refiner,” she wrote. “God has not promised an easy way, but peace at the center of the hard way. The clouds of sorrow have been heavy, but I have reached the point of no return in my Christian experience,
and with Job I can cry, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.’ ”
Sometime between 3 and 6 am, the fourth watch of the night, Jesus seeing the disciples in distress comes to them walking on the water. The disciples when they see Jesus are afraid and cry out. They think they are seeing some kind of a ghost! Can you just hear their teeth
chattering and their knees knocking? I don’t know about you but I think I would have been afraid myself. Isn’t that just like us though? When we are in the mist of the storms of life, we fail to recognize Jesus.
One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I’ll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame,
smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can’t see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that’s all that matters."
Jesus says; “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” It is literally translated from the Greek, “I am”, again giving indication that Jesus is God. No matter what the storms, no matter what the trials, Jesus is always there for us. Now Peter, hearing Jesus’ voice says “Lord, if it
is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus’ response was short and direct, “come.” Now don’t think Peter doubted that this was Jesus; instead see the great trust he showed for the Lord. Would you and I have stepped out of that boat?
Peter did exactly that he got up and stepped out on faith and was walking on the water. As long as he focused on the Lord, he walked but as soon as he turned his attention to the storm, he sank like a rock. That is just what we do so often isn’t it? We step right out on faith, doing God’s will. Answering God’s call for our lives, then the storms of life strike. Our children rebel, we lose our job, or we just feel that no matter what we do, we can’t get it right! We have looked away from the Lord and we also, sink like a rock – it is very important
that we remember to stay focused on our goal – to trust that God will see us through despite what is happening all around us.
A helicopter pilot who flew from an aircraft carrier in the Pacific told this story. "I was flying the helicopter back to the ship when a blinding fog rolled in. Flying at a low altitude, I knew that a single mistake would plunge my crew and me into the ocean. Worse yet, I was
experiencing a complete loss of balance – which is common for pilots flying by instruments. This loss of balance – known vertigo – was so bad that despite the instrument readings I was certain that I was lying on my side. For 15 minutes I flew the helicopter by its instruments, fighting the urge to turn it according to my feeling. When we finally broke safely through the fog, I was deeply thankful I had been trained to rely upon my instruments rather than on my
That is what people who live by faith do – they remember that feelings can be misleading, but the truths in God’s word are reliable, trustworthy, and consistent. Peter’s going down for the third count when he cries, “Lord, save me!” The Lord reaches without hesitation
and takes Peter by the hand. Oh yes, He gently rebuked him for his little faith and asked him why he doubted. Then He takes him to the boat and when they step in together the storm ceases and there is calm.
When we take a risk for the Lord, when we dare to do what is right, when we decide to go an extra mile – a mile that we need not walk but which Jesus tells us we can walk – He is right there to us to help us. We do not need to doubt the outcome. We do not need to fear the
adversity we encounter on the way.
The Christian life, like walking on water, is humanly impossible. It can only be lived by the power of the Holy Spirit. As long as we look away from every other object to Jesus only (Hebrews 12:2), we can experience a supernatural life. Like Peter who stepped out of the boat and walked on the water towards the Lord who had called him – we too can step out, and we really ought to step out, to respond to the Lord who bids us come to Him.
When we do power flows. When we do marvelous things happen. When we do we discover new things about our world and ourselves. We can risk, because we have a powerful Lord watching over us. We can trust, because we have a forgiving God caring for us. We can step out because we have a God who is sure to save.
Thanks be to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen