This is the word of the Lord,
Matthew 14:22–33 ESV
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
In the wake of the tragic death of the forerunner John the Baptist, Jesus opened the veil that shielded his glory to display mighty works that I consider to be a cosmic sign, a royal declaration that God was not defeated.
After the death of John, I wonder what his disciples did. We know that they came and informed Jesus, and I think it would have been likely that they stayed with him. After all, they had heard from John many times that Jesus was the Messiah. They even carry John’s doubt to Jesus. Jesus is the next best thing to John they have.
And so, against the severity of the dismay that fell upon John’s disciples and others, they now witnessed the severity of the glory that would wipe away the sorrows of their hearts. Jesus fed around 25,000 men, women & children by blessing and multiplying 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. This true and better Moses gave the multitudes bread from baskets that would not cease to provide.
At the end of it, they were left with 12 baskets full of food. In fact, as John recounts the story:
John 6:12–13 ESV
12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.
It was Jesus who commanded that they gather what remained so that nothing may be lost.
When they gathered it up, there were 12 baskets full. A sign maybe, a symbol pointing to the 12 tribes of Israel. Or it could be a sign of reward to the 12 disciples for their service, though less likely I feel.
Luke 22:28–30 ESV
28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
I find that these 12 baskets full are indeed a symbol of their service to the 12 tribes and just as they served the people who gathered in that place, it reminded them that the work is far from over. They were to take, not this bread, but the bread of life, the Gospel of Jesus Christ through all the land to all the tribes of Israel.
Now, so profound was the display of this miracle, we are told in
John 6:15 ESV
15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
Such was the impact of this first miracle. But Jesus was not done yet. We now come to the second miracle, an incredible intrusion of the invisible nature of Christ into the visible world.
He who once calmed the storm now rides the storm.
Matthew 14:22 ESV
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
- As soon as the people were fed and the baskets gathered, Jesus immediately proceeded to have the disciple go ahead of him to the other side of the sea of Galilee.
This immediacy was likely sparked by the enthusiasm of the crowd as we read in John 6, to make Jesus King by force. As MacArthur points out the pressure of the crowd likely influenced the disciples who in turn wanted Jesus to declare his Kingship at that moment.
We are told in:
Mark 6:52 ESV
52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.The significance of the loaves, the first miracle was lost on them for they sought their immediate comforts like the crowds did, a redemption from Roman rule. They could not understand that Jesus did not come to subdue Roman rule alone but every rule on the face of the earth.
MacArthur also mentions the possibility of the Apostles’ pride in expecting high places if Jesus were crowned King that day.
But at the sound of this idea, perceiving it, Jesus immediately sends them away.
- He made the disciples get into the boat. The verb here is to compel or force. Jesus had to make them get into the boat clearly suggesting their reluctance to do so.
After this first miracle, the disciples wanted to be by Jesus’ side. Now it is also possible as different commentators suggest different things, that there were several factors for their reluctance.
One could be their desire to see Jesus crowned, the other their eagerness to remain after such a great miracle by their master’s side, and yet another could be that they felt the winds pick up and were wary of crossing the sea this late. If they were caught in a storm this time, Jesus wouldn’t be sleeping in their boat. They’d have to weather the storm themselves.
Whatever the case, we know that they were reluctant and Jesus had to force them onto that boat.
In the end, they bid their master’s word and obeyed him willingly.
- He sent them ahead and did so with the promise of his following. It wasn’t a hopeless boat ride. He would come behind and they had to trust their master’s plan.
- He dismissed the crowds. He then proceeds to deny the crowds their desire to crown him King. He dismisses them.
This crowd had waited for generations to see the Lord come and free them from their oppressors. To redeem them back as a nation under God alone. And now, their great hope stood before them and he denied them what they desperately wanted.
The loaves only satisfied their physical hunger, but they were hungry for more than food. They wanted freedom, and Jesus would give it to them, in a measure beyond their understanding, but not in the manner they desired.
So, it is with many things that the King gives us. Our desires are so mingled with both the goal and the means. We want God to give us good things but we also want him to give it to us in our time, in our way. But that is not the servant’s right but the master’s. Those who demand it all are those who have mistaken their role in all this.
This is what the ‘name it and claim it theology misunderstands. Your words do not have the power to manifest your desires. This is the orthodox temptation that began in the garden of Eden in Genesis 3:4 – you will be like God. To demand it all is to play God. You are not God. We too are so often thus dismissed.Matthew 14:23 ESV
23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
- After the heavy labour and the news of John’s death, Jesus came to this desolate place to be alone with his disciples and saw the mighty crowds awaiting him. Out of compassion, he healed their sick and fed them.
Now, at last, he dismisses them and goes to the mountain by himself to pray. We do not know why Jesus often went to the mountain to pray, but I would venture a guess that it was the best place to be alone. When the sun set and the stars lit up the sky, people would descend the mountain and go to their homes. But then, Jesus could go up the mountain and be alone with his Father. No crowd awaited him there.
Oh, that we would all have our own mountains. Where prayer is not mingled with distraction. Mountains where none else is welcome, especially not our mobile phones. The mountain was Jesus’ inner room.Matthew 6:6 ESV
6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
- Finally, upon that mountain, he could find rest for his body and carry his sorrow over John’s death.
What transpired in that prayer is unknown to us, but we know that he desired to go there the moment he heard of John’s death after a day of exhaustive ministry work that did not even give them time to eat.
- We were told in Luke 4:14 that Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit after the 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. But we are about to see Jesus return in the power of the Spirit after a night’s prayer on the mountain alone with his Father in heaven.
- The evening came and he was alone, and it was time for the second miracle.
Matthew 14:24 ESV
24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.
- John tells us in
John 6:18–19 ESV
18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, …To cross the sea of Galilee would have taken them a lot less. Mark tells us that the boat in these hours had only reached the middle of the sea. Such was the wind and the storm that beat against their boat that kept them from crossing the sea.
Surely, this was a reoccurrence of what they experienced before when Jesus calmed the storm. A long way from their starting point and a long way from their destination, the fishermen have trapped again in the middle of the sea.
- But what is fascinating about this is that Mark tells us in
Mark 6:48 ESV
48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them….It was late into the night and the darkness would not have allowed any eyes to see boats on the sea in the middle of a storm, let alone see them making headway painfully.
But Jesus could see them. Amen! Yes! Our God indeed sees in the middle of the storm straining away at the oars when no one else can see us. This is our great and glorious comfort brothers and sisters. The eyes of Christ are ever upon his children.
He was alone on the mountain and his disciples alone far out on the sea, and yet they were not without him. He is not a God afar, but a God near to us.
They needn’t have feared the storm when Jesus slept in their boat, and they needn’t have feared the storm even when he seemed far from them.
Matthew 14:25 ESV
25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.
- Can we take a moment and just stop? Can we look at this text and not let the innumerable times we’ve read this cause our callous hearts to glance over it without wonder?
Beloved, Jesus walked on the sea!
- The fourth watch of the night would have put the time anywhere between 3 am and 6 am.
Mark 6:48 ESV
48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night, he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them,Seeing their struggle, Jesus comes to them not by boat, around the wind, or from the sky, but through the ominous storm.
- Mark tells us that he intended to pass by them. There is a familiar echo in that phrase, a memory of things that happened long before.
When Moses sought to see the Glory of God, the Lord tells him:
Exodus 33:19–22 ESV
19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.Then in
Exodus 34:6–7 ESV
6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”Oh Moses, Moses, you cannot see the face of God and live! The glory of the Lord is beyond any man that to look upon it is sure death. And yet with the covering of his hand, God passes by in front of him.
And now, here in the middle of the storm, he would pass by again.
Beloved, look at the wonder of this passage that tells us that it may be that the greatest sightings of God’s immeasurably glory are found in the middle of that deadly storm from which you are unable to escape.
It will be at that point when all else seems to fail, that our courage would not fail us entirely, for God has intended to pass us by in our storms. There is no road by which we may walk where he will not visit us. We are his children, heirs to his kingdom, his friends as he has called us. We are not lost even in the middle of the sea for our God not only sees our peril but is able to pass us by and show us his glory.See Job’s worship in:
Job 9:4–11 ESV
4 He is wise in heart and mighty in strength —who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?— 5 he who removes mountains, and they know it not, when he overturns them in his anger, 6 who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; 7 who commands the sun, and it does not rise; who seals up the stars; 8 who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea; 9 who made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south; 10 who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number. 11 Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not; he moves on, but I do not perceive him.Beloved, let now our sorrows, our doubts, our pains and our worries prevent us from perceiving the Lord passing by. He is so close to many of you who do not perceive it.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face!Matthew 14:26 ESV
26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.
- So drowned in their struggle were the disciples that at the sight of a man walking on the sea, fear gripped them. How can unfriendly waters usher in friendly hosts? This must be a phantom, which is what that word means. A manifestation of the demonic. In the middle of the storm, they could only see the worst.
They were terrified and fear filled their hearts, and they cried out in fear.
- Many times our sorrows and struggles blur our vision from seeing hope as hope.
Matthew 14:27 ESV
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
- The rendering of the phrase “it is I” is the same as we read multiple times in the Gospel of John. The use of it here in Matthew and in Mark is the same. This is the phrase ‘ego eimi’, the same phrase that renders the name of God – I AM.
This is not Jesus saying, “Hey guys it’s only me, there’s nothing to be afraid of”. This is that voice that spoke to Moses, the one of whom Job speaks about. This is God declaring to his people in the middle of their storm, I AM.
- Watch beloved the one who calmed the storm now come riding upon it in glory. The waters held him up and would not let his feet sink, and the waves carried him from mile to mile as he crossed the oceans as the wind carried the song of the raging storm thunder for trumpets and lightning for cymbals.
- They had no reason to be afraid, for he came for their sake.
Matthew 14:28–31 ESV
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
- At the awe of this sight, and the hearing of these words Peter raised his voice, “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Peter understood that none could walk the waters without the power of God. Many commentators suggest Peter’s intention in this asking but I myself doubt if Peter thought much at all at that moment. He was often impulsive and did and said things without much thought.
At the sign of this glory, upon seeing the storm rider, Peter’s instinct was to go with him. He was drawn to the power of God and the glory of his appearance. Moses hid in the cleft of the rock and Peter wanted to step onto the sea.
- Jesus said, “Come”. Beloved Jesus said come! He didn’t say hide. When Peter wanted to draw near to the glory of God, Jesus bid him to come.
- But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” At last, it was the wind. The storm still raged and it was mighty and even in the sight of glory fear overwhelmed Peter.
And he began to sink. Those holy waters were not going to hold up the feet of the faithless. For sinners, it would drag underneath and drown for the water upon which he laid his feet were holy ground. When Peter took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the strength of the storm, he did what the flesh of all mankind does, sin. And so the waters began to devour him.
- Immediately Jesus reached out and took hold of him. Oh here displayed is the Gospel of Jesus Christ who alone can keep us on these holy waters. Our flesh is ever at war to drown us but the hand of God will keep us whether it be by the faith he gifts us or it is the hand of Jesus that upholds us even when our faith is weak and failing.
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Doubtfulness thrives in the lack of faith, in the lack of trust in God. My dear brothers and sisters, do not let doubt cloud your faith. Walk on to those waters without fear while the storm rages and the wind blows.
Psalm 121:1–4 ESV
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Matthew 14:32–33 ESV
32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
- The moment the waters bore him into the boat, the wind ceased and the storm calmed. Their task was done and they diminished.
- And those in the boat worshipped him. Oh Moses, Moses you shall not see the face of God and live! But these fishermen received their Master into their boat and they saw his face
2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV
6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.