Look with me at your Bible. We have the great joy again today of examining another section in the fourteenth chapter of Matthew. And I hope you’re noticing that we’re moving a little faster; we’re trying to get done before the Second Coming. But we’re having a great time in Matthew’s gospel, and we come at this juncture in our study to verses 22 through 33, one of the familiar, beloved, one of the very important events in the life of our Lord, in the life of the disciples, and in your life and mine as well. And to understand this marvelous event, I want to begin by drawing your attention to Matthew 14:33; that is the key verse in our text. “Then they that were in the boat came and worshiped him saying, ‘Of a truth, Thou art the Son of God.’”
Something happened here to convince them of that. And what happened was so convincing that the next day when the multitude which showed up for another free meal after the feeding the prior day, when the multitude all left, the disciples stayed. And Peter speaking for them said this: “We believe and are sure that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Now you can’t make any greater discovery than that. That is the greatest discovery you can make, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. Verse 33 is the first time they have ever said that. The Father said it at the baptism. The demons said it on the eastern shore of the sea, but the disciples have never said it before. And they have seen miracle upon miracle upon miracle. Healings, raising the dead, casting out demons. They have heard preaching and teaching without equal, and they’ve been hearing it for two years. And now they come to this monumental affirmation, which means that something very spectacular must have happened to cause such confidence and such surety as indicated by their testimony in verse 33, and the next day in John 6:69 and 70.
Now look at verse 33. And before we see what happened that caused them to be sure, let’s just examine the thought that they worshiped him, they worshiped him. That is a very, very essential reality in the New Testament. It tells us something very basic about Jesus Christ. It tells us that he is equal with God. In the Old Testament, God alone was to be worshiped. When God established the law by which man was to live, it began with, “Thou art to have no other gods. Only the true God, Jehovah God is to be worshiped.” That rang loud and clear through the monotheism of Jewish religion. One God and one God alone to be worshiped. However, in the New Testament, again and again and again and again we note that Jesus Christ also is to be worshiped, the simple conclusion then being that Jesus Christ is equal with God. And that is affirmed in the statement that he is the Son of God, that he is of the same essence as God.
If you look at the New Testament, you’ll see the mark of the worship of Christ planted everywhere. Looking in the Gospels, for example, we see the wise men worshiping him in Matthew 2. We find the leper worshiping him in Matthew 8. We find the Gentiles worshiping him in John 12. We find a Syrophoenician woman worshiping him in Matthew 15. We find a maniac out of the tombs worshiping him in Mark 5. We find a blind man worshiping him in John 5. We find the disciple worshiping him at his resurrection, worshiping him again in the mountain, Matthew 28, and worshiping at his ascension in Luke 24. If we look in the Epistles, we find in Hebrews chapter 1 that all the angels of God worship him. If we look in Philippians in the letter of Paul, we find that God demands that every creature on the earth, over the earth and under the earth bow the knee to worship Jesus Christ. If we go all the way to the consummation and the Revelation, we find him being worshiped by all those in glory in chapter 4, chapter 5, chapter 11, chapter 19. So that this theme sweeps its way through the Gospels, the Epistles, to the Revelation of the New Testament, that Jesus Christ is to be worshiped. And Paul writing to the Corinthians says in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If that is not done, let that man be anathema, or let him be accursed.” And so Jesus Christ is to be worshiped, and that is something reserved for God.
When John, in the wonder of his visions in Revelation, fell down to worship an angel, the angel said, “Get up, for I am only a creature as you are. Worship God.” And he reaffirmed that single-worship perspective. And yet when Jesus was worshiped, never ever did he say, “Get up, for I am a creature as you are.” He accepted it, and they worshiped him. And they worshiped him in verse 33 because it was clear to them that they had a right to that because he was the Son of God. And they were sure after the event that occurred in this text.
Now just a few other words of introduction. This particular account is therefore one of the great moments in all redemptive history, because it is a major step in the affirmation of the disciples. They are the key to the kingdom in a sense. They held the keys and they were the key. They are to be the rulers in the kingdom. They were the frontline to proclaim the kingdom, and it was very important that they had an ever-increasing understanding of the King’s identity. I don’t think in this section that their understanding is fully complete. I think there are still many questions that they will have resolved as time goes on, many fears and anxieties and doubts, and they will recur in the future. But there is nonetheless a major step of affirmation that Jesus is in fact the long-awaited King, the Christ, the Messiah, the coming one, the prophet, the Son of God. And so this then becomes a very, very important section of Scripture.
As a corollary to that related to us may I say that it’s also an important Scripture because it tells all of us about the protective love of Christ. It is a tremendous insight into God's care for you and for me as his children, and basically as Christians we need to know that. We get ourselves into difficulties in life. We get ourselves into places in life where we exhibit little faith. We fear that God has abandoned us. We wonder whether we can ever get out of it, and this is a great text to encourage our hearts, that if we are moving in the road of obedience, if we are walking in the way of obedience, we are in the way where God protects and cares for his own.
Now John the Baptist had asked a very important question. He asked this question of Jesus: “Art thou the coming one, or do we look for another?” That was a question on the lips of everybody. That was the question on the lips of the disciples. That was the question on the lips of the crowds. Some thought he was Elijah. Some thought he was Jeremiah. Some thought he was one of the prophets. Everybody was in the process of evaluating who this Jesus was. “Are you the coming one,” John articulated it for everybody, “Or are we still looking for that one?” For two years Jesus had been demonstrating that he was that coming one, that he was that prophet, that he was that Messiah, that Christ, that Son of God, that King with a kingdom. For two years he had been demonstrating that with great power, mighty works and mighty words. And in the last event that we just looked at which ended in verse 21, he had brought great anticipation to culmination, because he fed about 25 or 30,000 people, and that’s probably conservative. He created food for them all, monumental, vast, far-reaching, sweeping miracle, create food. Thousands of eyewitnesses to it. And as a result of that particular miracle, he reached the crescendo of popularity. This was the climax of the popularity of Jesus.
For two years his ministry had been on the rise, and he had been proclaiming and he had been healing and he had been casting out demons, and then in the later part he was joined with the disciples who began also to proclaim and also to cast out demons and also to heal. And the rising excitement, the fever pitch, the waves became billows. Irresistible impulses began to seize the multitude as they saw the power and the wisdom of this individual. And then when he was able to feed them and create food out of his own bear hands seemingly unaided in any way and they were all eyewitnesses to it and they all tasted it, they were convinced. And you have at this juncture the pinnacle of popularity of Jesus, and John 6:14 and 15 says, “They got together and they were going to make him the king.” And the disciples must have thought, “That’s it, we’ve done our job. We’ve accomplished it. They see that he’s the king. They’re gonna make him the king.” And immediately at that juncture when their hopes had reached the highest point, when it all looked like it was gonna fall in their laps, I mean they knew that when the Messiah come he would feed the multitude, and he had done it and it was in their minds very likely the door kicking open to the kingdom.
And the people were saying, “We want him to be the king!” And at that moment, he sent the disciples away. He sent the crowd away, and he went into a mountain by himself. And in their little rowboat as they were pushing their way out to sea, they must have been unbelievably disillusioned and disappointed trying to figure out how you can spend two years getting to this point and when it’s in your grasp send it away. But that’s exactly what had happened. You see Jesus didn’t want their shallow commitment. He didn’t want their minimal devotion. The crowd had political ends; they had self-indulgent ends. All they could think about was free food without labor. You see the next morning they showed up for breakfast again. That’s right. Jesus said to them, “You seek me not because you care about me, not because you believe what I say but because you want another free meal.” You see life in those days for most people just consisted of trying to get enough to get your next meal, and if you could get that free food, that’s the kind of king you want. And the power that he had he could overthrow the Herodians. He could overthrow the Romans. He could give us freedom from bondage. He can heal all our diseases, cast out all our demons, create food for us. This is the kingdom. But Jesus did not respond.
In fact, the next morning when he says to them, “You didn’t come after me because you really cared. You came 'cause you wanted a free meal. Let me tell you the only meal you’re gonna get out of me is you’re gonna have to eat my flesh and drink my blood. You’re gonna get me on my terms. You’re going to have to take me, all of me as your Lord and Master and Saviour. And you’re gonna come on my terms.” And they left; they didn’t want that. They were shallow soil, they were thorny soil. They were in it only for what they could get out of it, and when they saw there was no more to get, they were gone. When he gave them a lecture on theology, they split. But the disciples, they didn’t leave. At that point, Jesus said to them in John 6, “Will you also go away? Are you gonna leave me also?” Peter said, “To whom shall we go? Thou alone hast the words of eternal life, and we believe and are sure that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The multitude left. They stayed, they said, “We’re sure.” How’d they get so sure? Because of what happened in this passage.
He refused the kingdom that people offered; he really did, he refused it. His kingdom was not of this, what? This world, John 18:36. His kingdom was not the kind of kingdom men wanted. The fact to the matter is his kingdom was in a little frail boat in the middle of a storm in the sea; that’s where the seeds of his kingdom were, and it wasn’t the kind of kingdom that men thought. When he sent the crowd away and dealt with that little group of disciples in a boat, he was building his kingdom his way, for they would become the rulers of the kingdom. And so we see him revealing himself to them. The whole import of this passage then is to bring the disciples to the place where they really understand. You see they went away disillusioned from that shore and no doubt were asking the question, “Is he a king? Is this really the king?” And they needed a regal, royal display. “Is he the Messiah? Is he the Lord? Is he the one we thought?” And they needed evidence, and boy do they get it.
Look at verse 22: “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a boat and go before him to the other side while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain privately to pray, and when the evening was come he was there alone. But the boat was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves, for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were troubled saying, ‘It is a phantasm.’ And they screamed out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke unto them saying, ‘Be of good cheer. It is I. stop fearing.’ And Peter answered him and said, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.’ And he said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter was come down out of the boat, he walked out on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind he was afraid and began to sink. He cried saying, ‘Lord, save me.’ And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him and said unto him, ‘Oh thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?’ And when they were come into the boat, the wind stopped. Then they that were in the boat came and worshiped him saying, ‘Of a truth, thou art the Son of God.” Oh, what a great story, what a great account, what a great record, and what a great verification of Christ.
Now I want you to notice five aspects of the divine nature manifest in this event. And we’ll just look at the first three today, because they’re worth developing. Next time we’ll finish. They worshiped him, first of all, because they knew he was the Son of God on the basis of divine authority, on the basis of divine authority. And it’s really just kind of implied there, but in verse 22 it tells us that he constrained the disciples to get into a boat and go before him to the other side. And he sent the multitude away. This is indicative of the fact that Jesus controlled everything. He controlled those who were his own and those who were not. He controlled the disciples who did not want to leave him, who did not want to leave the moment and the excitement and the great thrust of that effort to make him king. They were captivated by the whole thing, but he controlled them. The mob was gonna kidnap him and force him to be a king; he controlled them too, as well as the wind and the wave and the sea and their thinking and their faith and everything else that he controlled.
Jesus had authority. He had authority over everybody and everything, and it comes through to us clearly in this story as well as in others. But if you look for example at the Gospel record and you see carefully again and again the authority of Jesus Christ manifest, you can conclude only that Jesus had authority like no other. For example, in John 5, he said that he had authority to judge all men and that authority was given to him by the Father. So he had authority over time and eternity, over life and death, over destiny. In Mark 1:27, the people asked, “With what authority does he command even the unclean spirits and they obey him?” Not only did he have authority over life and death and over time and eternity, over heaven, hell and destiny, but he has authority over the supernatural world, over fallen angels. He at his time of crucifixion said that if he had so chosen he could have called a legion of holy angels to his aid. He not only has authority over the fallen angels; he has authority over the holy angels. In Matthew 7:29, the people who listened to the Sermon on the Mount said he taught as one having authority. He had authority over the minds of men.
And when the Jews in Mark 11 came to him and they challenged him and they said, “By what authority do you do these things?” Mark 11:27, he said, “You answer a question for me and maybe I’ll answer a question for you.” Was John the Baptist of God or wasn’t he? And it says, “They thought among themselves if we say, ‘He was of God,’ then he’s gonna say, ‘Why don’t you believe him then?’ And if we say, ‘He was not of God,’ the people will trample us because they all believe he was a prophet. So they said to Jesus, ‘We cannot tell.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Then neither am I gonna tell you by what authority I do these things,’” which being translated means, “It’s none of your business. You’re not interested in my kingdom. Its privy secrets are not yours.” He had authority and they all knew it. He transmitted that authority, Luke 9:1 says, “to his disciples, and they went out in his authority.” We see it, don’t we, with Peter and John in the temple when they healed the man who was begging there. “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give unto you by the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk.” And there he exercised that authority granted to him by Christ.”
The sum of it all comes in Matthew 28:18 where Jesus says, “All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” He had authority. What is authority? Well if I were defining authority, I think I would define it as ruling, sovereign control. He was in control of everything. He called all the shots. He made all the decisions about everything. He commanded angels, holy and fallen. He commanded men, redeemed and unredeemed. He commanded them in time; he commands them in eternity. He commands them in hell; he commands them in heaven. He determines their destiny. He controls nature. He creates whatever he will create. He stops the storm whenever he will stop the storm. He causes the wind and causes the wind to cease. He can walk on water. He has authority. Now that becomes clear to us in this passage.
Back to verse 22. It says that immediately after they had wanted to make him king after he’d fed them, he constrained the disciples to get into a boat and go ahead of him to the other side. Now he sends the disciples away first. They were no doubt delighted with the desire of the crowd. They surely wanted the kingdom to come. I mean they’ve been waiting a long time for this and they were ready to get their rank you know, to get their robes and sit up there as the hotshots in the kingdom. They had all of this anticipation. They had suffered for two years in their wanderings and travelings and so forth, the antagonism and hostility of the political and religious leaders. And now when they saw the crowd reach this fever pitch, they could see it coming. They could see the kingdom beginning to open, and they were really excited. And the Lord knew this was difficult for them, so he just sent them away, removed the temptation. Fully aware of their weakness, their susceptibility of the political plans of the crowd to the confusion that they must already have had, and certainly Judas if no other would have fostered this within their midst. He said, “Now go to the other side.”
Now they were on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee. They needed to go across the northern end to Capernaum. Mark tells us they were headed to Bethesda. John says they were headed to Capernaum. They were both side by side, Bethesda being a suburb of Capernaum. So it just means in that general direction, a very short trip across one little corner of the Sea of Galilee, something they were familiar with and had done many, many times. The Lord sent them away, but they didn’t want to go and that’s why the Bible says, “He constrained them.” I’m sure they put up a fight, certainly because they didn’t want to leave the action of the moment. Secondly, they didn’t want to leave the Lord, and thirdly, they probably saw the storm starting. They didn’t want to go but you see he sent them anyway, and that’s how it is when you’re in authority. And I love the fact that they went anyway. And what’s amazing is it says later on when they hit the storm that the wind was contrary to them, and I guess any normal person would just say, “Okay, let’s not fight it. We’ll turn around and it’ll blow us back to the other shore.” But not them. When the Lord said, “Point your bow to Capernaum,” they pointed their bow to Capernaum and they fought it all the way. Even though they weren’t making any headway, they continued in the path of obedience to the authority of Christ, sovereign authority. And then even the wild-eyed mob couldn’t resist his authority. They said in verse 22 that after he had sent them away he would send the multitude away. And verse 23 says, “When he had sent the multitude, he went into a mountain to pray privately.”
So he sent the whole crowd away. They were gonna kidnap him. They were at a fever pitch and he had total control over them, total authority. He sent them all away. You say, “Where’d they go?” Well they went all over the place and went to sleep, thousands of them sleeping all over the hillsides and wherever they could sleep in that area of Bethsaida Julia and that hillside where he had fed them dinner. He just sent them away and they went to sleep. How do we know they went to sleep? Because they woke up the next morning. And when they woke up the next morning they were all in the same vicinity, according to John 6, and they said, “It’s breakfast time. Where’s Jesus?” And he wasn’t there. They knew a good thing when he saw it, and that’s when he gave them the lecture about the only meal they were gonna get was his flesh and his blood. And they said, “Forget it.” And from then on, the popularity of Jesus started down. Oh, he taught a little in the Synagogue. He did some healing. But eventually he began to move away and move away, and his popularity declined and he spent more and more time with the disciples and less and less time with the crowds.
This is that very peak from which things begin to descend to his crucifixion. He sent them away. He shot their dreams to pieces because he would not be made a political leader on their terms. “And he,” verse 23, “went into a mountain privately to pray. When the evening was come, he was there alone.” The hope of any rest and quiet was gone. The hope of any debriefing with the disciples was gone. The miracle of that day had only added to the excitement, only augmented the pressure and the danger from those who would want to destroy him, only added pressure to the popularity that would have wanted to make him an illegitimate king. And I believe, beloved, that that was a temptation of Christ, very much like the third aspect of Satan’s temptation in Matthew 4 when Satan showed him the kingdoms of the world and said to him, “I’ll give you the kingdoms of the world if you’ll bow down to me.” I think you have a very similar situation. I think this comes as a temptation. What has Christ wanted but to be king? And here he can bypass the cross. The people are willing to push him into Jerusalem, sweeping down in the Passover season. And what a time when they’re all gonna be there at the Passover to raise up the Messiah. With his power, he knocks off the Herods, he knocks off the Romans, brings them freedom, provides the kingdom elements. I believe this came to him as a temptation along the line of that temptation which came when Satan had him out in the devastation.
But he gained a victory, and I think he gained the sweetness of the fruit of that victory with the fellowship and communion with the Father that he enjoyed in that mountain prayer. It was a familiar place to be in the presence of the Father; he went there very often at night to find rest for his soul, to find that great fellowship for which he longed. As he expresses the longing in John 17, he says, “How much do I want to be restored to that which we knew before the incarnation, that sweet communion with the Father.” Notice it says in verse 23 that it was evening. This would be by Jewish definition the second evening. The first evening was from 3 to 6, the second evening was from 6 to 9. From 3 to 6 the first evening, he had fed them. From 6 to 9, we’re in the second evening and it’s coming toward darkness. And as it grows dark, he is alone in the mountain and he’s there praying. And I always remember that if he needed to pray how do I need to pray.
And you ask yourself for whom does he pray? And all you need for an answer is John 17, “Where after having prayed in his own behalf and after having exalted the Father in his prayer, he then spent most of the time praying for his own.” And I see him there interceding for his own, praying for his disciples, praying that they will overcome with victory the same temptation he had just overcome not to follow the mood of the mob, not to follow the shallow popularity. And I believe he prayed for them. In Luke 22:31, he said to Peter, “Satan’s desired to have you, Peter, but I have prayed for you that your faith fail not.” Isn’t that a comforting thing? That’s the High Priestly work of Christ, and right now this moment at the throne of his Father he prays for you and for me. What a great confidence. And he prays with the authority of God. So we see the authority of Christ here. We see his authority as he commands the multitude, his authority as he commands the disciples, his authority as he calls upon the Father’s protecting care for his own. No wonder they worshiped when they understood his authority. So should we.
Secondly, we see here revealed his divine knowledge, his divine knowledge. And I love this, verse 24. Meanwhile we leave the mountain and we go back to the sea, the lake of Gennesaret, the Lake of Galilee, the Sea of Galilee. The boat is in the midst of the sea. John’s Gospel says 25 to 30 stadia or furlongs out into the sea, which is about an eighth of a mile, puts them out somewhere between three and four miles into the sea. Now the trip from where they were on the shore at Bethsaida Julia across to Capernaum and Bethsaida West couldn’t have been more than four-and-a-half miles, three-and-a-half, four-and-a-half, somewhere in that area. We don’t know exactly 'cause we don’t know exactly what spot they were in, but a three or four-mile trip, at the most four-and-a-half miles. But instead of going along that little cut on the north shore they find themselves three or four miles out into the middle, and it’s only seven or eight miles across so they’re pretty well in the middle. And they’re being tossed with the waves, and the wind is contrary.
Now you have to just sort of love these guys 'cause they’re doing their best to be obedient, aren’t they? They’re pushing that bow in the right direction. Confused, disillusioned, disappointed, upset, questioning but they keep the bow pointed to the west. Now they left after the meal was served in the first evening. They’re trying to navigate four miles. Instead, they’re in the middle of the lake afraid they’re gonna drown. Mark adds that they were distressed in their rowing. The word, by the way, here you notice in verse 24, “tossed.” It’s the word translated in Matthew 8 “tormented.” It means to test by torture. They were being tortured for their lives. John tells us that not only was the wind contrary but John 6:18 says, “It was a fierce wind, a fierce wind,” and so they’re being tormented; it’s a bad night. They’re trying to be obedient but they’re not having much success. It’s dark. It’s gloomy. The storm is violent. The water is angry and worst of all, no Jesus.
Now the last time they got in a storm like this Jesus was in the back of the boat and all they had to do was wake him up and have him stop the storm, and he did that. But he isn’t there. And to make it even worse, he can’t get there because they took the only boat. John tells us that in John 6 that, “The next morning when the multitude got up they saw there was no other boat.” So they took the only boat and so they have no Jesus, and they know Jesus isn’t gonna come because there isn’t any way to get there. But all the while there in the middle of the sea going through all this trauma he’s up on the hill. He’s praying for them and it’s a marvelous picture of the High Priestly intercessory work of Christ, isn’t it?
While his own are down being buffeted and battered and tormented and tortured and tossed by the storm, he quietly calmly is in the Father’s presence on their behalf, and they don’t know it but they’re secure; they’re secure. Five or six hours they’ve been at it trying to go four miles with no success. But isn’t it comforting to know that he knows; he knows. Verse 25: “In the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went unto them walking on the sea.” Oh, I like that, no hoopla, right? It just says, “He went walking on the sea,” just like you just took a walk on the sea. It’s so matter of fact that it’s almost overpowering, but for him it was not any big deal. It was he who made the sea could walk on the sea if he chose. And so he came walking on the sea. He knew where to walk, by the way. He knew right where they were, oh yeah exactly where they were. Oh, it didn’t matter that he couldn’t see him. You see that’s his divine knowledge, he knows everything. Darkness is no barrier. You remember what I just read you in the beginning of the service in Psalm 139, “The night and the day are the same to thee. When you say the darkness hides me, the darkness shall be as the light.” Darkness is no barrier. Distance is no barrier to the knowledge of the Son of God. He knows where we are. He knows our distress. He knows our circumstance and he knows how to get to us.
Now the fourth watch of the night. At night when you were a sailor, somebody kept watch always. And they divided the watch into four parts, four shifts, one man for each watch. The first watch was 6 to 9 in the evening. The second watch was 9 to 12. The third watch was 12 to 3, and the fourth watch was 3 to 6, the morning watch. They’ve been at this all night now, and they’re in great anxiety and fear. But he waits a long time until he comes; that’s all part of the lesson, see. Do you realize that if you never have a storm you never know that he can handle a storm? You never really understand the power of God in your behalf until you are strung out to the extremity. That’s part of it. Why do you think our Lord didn’t go to Martha and Mary until Lazarus was so dead he stunk? Because it was in the impossibility of that extremity that they would see his power. I mean he could’ve just turned around on the top of the mountain and hushed the storm. He could’ve made sure the storm never started, but he ran them out to their extremities so that they would learn that in that extremity he was there, and he knew and he understood.
He does know; he knows everything. He knows your down sitting and your uprising. He knows everything there is to know about you. He knows where you are. He knows what your needs are. He’s known you from your womb. If you ascend into heaven, he’s there. If you make your bed in Sheol, he’s there. If you take the wings of the morning and if you dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, there shall his hand lead you and his right hand will hold you up. Doesn’t matter where you are, he knows. He knows, 'cause he knows everything. Far back in Exodus, there’s a wonderful word in the third chapter of Exodus in the seventh verse: “And the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the afflictions of my people who are in Egypt and I have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.’” He said, “I know. I know where they are, and I know what they’re enduring. And I know how difficult it is and I’m gonna come and deliver them.” Listen to this, Genesis 22. Abraham, he’s got Isaac on the altar, Isaac in whom all of his hope resides. He’s lying on the altar. Abraham lifts his knife into the air to plunge it into the heart of Isaac to kill him, and at that moment he starts to plunge the knife and the angel of the Lord says, “Abraham, Abraham.” And he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Lay not thine hand on thy lad. Neither do anything unto him, for thou I know thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” The angel says, “Abraham, the test is over. You passed. Hold it.”
Have you ever thought, “What happened if God was just a couple minutes late?” Well I usually get them, but I missed that one. No. He knows, he knows the extremity. He knows where you are. He knows what the storm is like. He understands your boat. And when it’s time and you’re out to the end of the extremity, he’ll be there. And then the next time you’re gonna know that, right? That’s how he teaches, and that’s what he was teaching them.
He not only came in the storm, I love this, he came on the storm. He uses the very trial as his footpath. The howling wind, the crashing waves they don’t affect him. In fact, as he’s walking on the water, I can just see the water just sort of flattening out and becoming placid; I don’t even think he got wet. And it says, “He came toward them.” When it says, “Jesus went unto them, he came toward them.” Why? Because they had needs and they were at the end of their rope. They were in the extremity. He couldn’t see them from the mountain. He couldn’t see them on the dark stormy night but he knew exactly where they were, exactly. You can’t hide from him. In Proverbs, there’s a wonderful word, I think an encouraging word about that in the fifteenth chapter. Verse 3, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place.” And there is a word about that in Hebrews chapter 4 and verse 13: “Neither is there any creature not manifest in his sight. All things are naked and open unto the eyes of him unto whom we have to do, seeing then that we have a great High Priest.” Isn’t that good? We have a High Priest who knows every single thing about us. Oh, what a comforting thought, so comforting.
He says to the disciples, “Now you don’t need to fear anything.” “I even know,” Matthew 10, verse 30, “the number of hairs on your head.” That means he’s gotta keep counting every day; that changes. He said, “And I know when a sparrow falls,” and the Greek word means to hop. He doesn’t just know when they die, he knows every time one hops. Jesus knew, because he was God. In Matthew 6:32, he said, “Your Father knows you have need of all these things.” God knows. You’re never out of his knowledge, never away from his omniscience. It says in Matthew 6:6, and this is a good word, “The Father who sees in secret,” remember that? “The Father who sees in secret.”
Do you remember Jesus’ introduction to Nathaniel? “Oh, Nathaniel, oh yes I saw you before I saw you, when you were over sitting under that tree.” “You did?” In John 2, oh no one needs to tell him what’s in the heart of man; he knows what’s in the heart of man. Revelation tells us he has eyes that are piercing; he sees everything. And the disciples learned that he knew right where they were. He didn’t go roaming around the sea saying, “Hey, guys, where are you?” Right to them.
That brings us to a third Revelation of his divine nature, and I’ll call that divine protection; you could call it divine care. We’ve seen his omniscience. We’ve seen his authority. Now his care, protection. “And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled,” – that’s putting it mildly – “saying it is a phantasm,” Greek word for phantom, apparition, ghost, whatever. “And they screamed out for fear.” By the way, Mark adds that they all saw him. This isn’t one guy who thought he saw a UFO go by; they all saw him. There wasn’t any deception here. All of them saw him and all of them stared at him and it was all very clear and you have to make that point because there are those liberals who want to tell us that they just thought they saw him. They saw him. They didn’t know what it was but they knew they saw him, whoever he was.
In John 6:19, John says, “He came near their boat,” and of course they at that point are terror stricken. I mean it’s bad enough to be in the situation they were in in the middle of the storm, still perhaps the dark before the dawn. You’re panicked. You’re weary. You’ve been terribly disillusioned and disappointed. There’s a sense of hopelessness not only in your present circumstance but in the extended circumstance of what your life means. And then to add to that, all of a sudden someone comes walking on the water, and you just really can’t handle it; you just can’t handle it. And some liberal commentator said that Jesus was just walking along the shore, that’s all, by the water, and that’s why John said they were three and four miles out in the middle. He was walking on the water.
And if you look at verse 26, it says, “They were troubled.” The noun form of that verb was tarachē. And I remembered an old word that I heard in a psychology class one time called ataraxia. So I looked it up in the dictionary and sure enough it was a word that I did legitimately remember. And ataraxia means to be free from anxiety, to be free from emotional disturbance, to be free from trouble, to have tranquility. That’s ataraxia. Taraxia means trouble; it means upheaval. It means to shake up, to agitate, to trouble. A figurative use means to upset, to throw into a state of panic or alarm, and that’s exactly the word here. They were in a state of panic. They were horrified having seen this phantasm, this apparition or whatever. Now Mark who records this adds another interesting note. He says that he would have appeared to have passed by their boat. I mean just walking along like it was a normal deal on the water and then to just go by the boat like you’re just going down the road waving at folks. And it appeared as though he would’ve passed by, and you have to ask yourself, “Why would he do that? Why would he appear to be just passing by?” And it reminded me of Luke 24:28 where Jesus had walked down the road to Emmaus, and you remember it appeared as though he would’ve continued and just gone on. And they said, “No, no, no. Stay. Come with us.” And then he revealed himself to them. You see the Lord will always be there but wants to elicit from the heart of the one in need the cry, right? He responds to the cry. He always stops for the ones who call. And they screamed, “It is a phantasm.” And they were in a state of panic. They were crying out all right. And so he stopped, and Mark says he talked with them.
And Matthew here says what he said, verse 27: “Immediately he spoke to them, saying,” and they would recognize his voice, “Be of good cheer. It is I. Stop fearing.” Isn’t that good? “Stop fearing. I’m here, take heart. Be of good cheer is a kind of an English colloquialism. It means to take courage, take heart, don’t be afraid, stop fearing. You see God is the protector of his people, oh what a great truth. The storm never gets so extreme that he doesn’t know where we are, that he can’t walk on the water. He’ll protect his own. Never comes too late. And you see this is the lesson for the 12 and this is the lesson for us. There’s no reason for fear in your life as a Christian, or mine either, none at all.
There’s no reason for anxiety and upset, no matter how severe the storm, how hopeless it looks. He just comes along and so matter of factly says, “Cheer up, I’m here.” He doesn’t give them some great speech. He doesn’t give them some great theological description. He doesn’t explain to him how he could walk on water. This is not to teach the disciples they can talk on water; none of them ever did. After this incident, nobody ever walked on water that I read in the Bible. And people today who claim to be able to do miracles don’t do well at this one. This is not to teach people how to walk on water. This is to teach people who can’t walk on water that God can. You see that’s what it’s to teach. It’s to teach that in the extremity you don’t need to fear, because he’s there, and he’ll respond to your need.
In closing at this portion, and we didn’t get to some of the – well we didn’t get to Peter and you gotta know about how he did it and how he sank. But in closing, Acts 27, Paul was on a ship in the sea and the ship was being tossed by the storm. And the crew had jettisoned the cargo and they were just throwing out everything. They didn’t really need to keep the ship afloat. They threw the tackle out, the stuff they controlled the sails with. They just junked everything to keep that ship afloat. And they’re all fearing for their lives and they’re sure they’re gonna be grounded into the rocks and destroyed. And an angel comes to Paul in the middle of the night. Paul is perfectly at peace; he just keeps reminding them they shouldn’t have left the last port. Easy for you to say, right? And this angel comes to him and says, “Paul, I have a word from God. Everybody on the ship’s okay. Everybody’s gonna be safe. Would you please make that announcement?” So the next morning Paul says, “I have an announcement. We’ll all be safe, for an angel of God whose I am and who I serve came to me in the night and said, ‘God’s gonna preserve all of us.’ He said, ‘We’ll lose the ship but we’ll all be saved. Therefore, be of good cheer.’” Very hard to do because Paul was human, but easier to do when you see Jesus walking on the water saying, “Don’t worry about this storm. I’m here.” And then Peter wanted to test and make sure, and we’ll see that next time.
Let’s bow in prayer. Just using this as an illustration, life is stormy, we know that. It’s painful. There are hurts, wounds. Some of us suffer more than others. All of us suffer to some degree. And the great confidence of this passage is that you’re never away from the authority, the knowledge, the protective care of the Saviour. Never. The storm is never so severe, the night is never so black, the boat is never so frail that he is not there. That’s our confidence, and that’s what he wanted to teach them. There were gonna be a lot of storms in their lives, a lot of frailships in their lives and the lives of those who would follow in their path, and they needed to know that God walks on water, that he comes to us in the storm, ye makes the storm’s very path. We need to know that, because that takes away our fear, you see? What’s to fear? He is either in the mountain interceding with us, with the Father on behalf of us, or he is on the sea walking to us. Either way, we’re secure. We’re secure in his prayers. We’re secure in his power, his protection.
Oh, that’s a great confidence. These disciples saw divine authority. They saw divine power expressed as he controlled people, destiny, elements. They saw divine knowledge. They knew he knew where they were. They saw divine care and protection, and they said, “Of a truth, this is the Son of God.” And they worshiped him; that’s the right response. He didn’t want them to think of him as a political leader but as the God of the universe who controlled everything, and they saw it. I hope you do also. He is the same Christ. He still has authority, knowledge, protecting care on behalf of his own. If you’ve never invited Jesus Christ to be your Saviour, you don’t have that promise of his care, but you can if you’ll open your heart to him today. If you’re a Christian, you have no cause for fear, only faith. He is there and he is able.
Father, thank you for showing us again the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Thank you that we with these dear disciples, with all of our weakness, with all of our desire to see the show, to see the kingdom in all of its glory, with all of our hunger to see the miraculous, to see the wonder, help us to learn that we really see more about you in the storm, in the extremity, in the place where we have no resource, because there you come to lift us up. So, Father, we pray that we might trust you in the hardest times and learning trust you more next time and give you glory and worship you as the Son of God. Bring to the prayer room those you desire to come. Gather us again tonight with great anticipation for the privilege of studying your precious Word, fellowshipping with your Spirit and your people. We give you ourselves in this day to accomplish your purpose. In Christ’s name, Amen.
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