DUNCAN/Jesus walks on water
Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 14:22-36. This passage focuses our attention on the powerful, providential protection of the Lord Jesus Christ for His people. And because we are amazed at the lengths to which the Lord Jesus Christ will do to assure the safety of His people, we are bid to contemplate His person, and ask, “Who is this man?” And our answer will be the same as the disciples, “Surely this is the Son of God.” We will see three things from this passage. First, Christ intercedes for His people. Second, Christians ought to learn encouragement from Christ in time of trial. And third, Christ has power and love which stagger our imagination.
I. Christ Intercedes for His People
In verses 22-24, we see Jesus’ solitary prayer. He is on the mountainside praying, as the multitudes have been dismissed, and as His disciples are making their way across the lake. And the first thing we learn in this passage we find in those verses. Christians ought always to remember that Christ intercedes for us in our trials. In this passage, we have a beautiful picture of Christ interceding for His people in the midst of their trials. Christ had done a mighty miracle that day. And it was already into the evening, maybe dark enough to be black, at night. The disciples were dispatched, and now the crowds had to be sent away. Maybe the most important reason that Jesus sends His disciples away is in the passage in verse 23. The Lord Jesus wanted to be alone to pray. The Lord Jesus sought a solitary place where, apart from the crowds, and apart from the disciples He would intercede. Fortunately, the gospels record for us some of what Jesus prayed.
When Jesus prayed, the gospels always make it clear that He not only prayed for Himself, but He prayed for His disciples; He prayed for the Lord’s will for their lives; He prayed for God’s grace to be displayed to the nations. In other words, Jesus’ intercessions were not simply for Himself. Now meanwhile, as the Lord Jesus is praying by Himself, the disciples are already in the midst of a stormy sea. The text tells us that they were being battered by waves. The boat that they were in was really having a rough going. They were several miles from the shore. They were perhaps at the very middle of the lake. How could Jesus have sent them on alone? They face a great storm, but He is in the midst of intercession to His God and Father on their behalf. They couldn’t have been more safe if they were in their mother’s arms, because the Lord was interceding for them.
II. Christians Ought to Learn Encouragement from Christ in Time of Trial
In verses 25-32 we learn that Christians ought to draw encouragement from Christ in time of trial. For perhaps 6 to 10 hours, the disciples had been apart from Christ. We are told that Christ comes to them at the fourth watch. That would have been sometime between 3 and 6 a.m. Now the disciples’ first reaction to the Lord’s appearance is to fear. I mean, when someone comes walking on the water to you between 3 and 6 in the morning in the middle of a storm, it’s usually not good news. And these disciples cry out, “It’s a ghost. It’s a phantasm!” They’re scared to death. And then, they realize that it’s the Lord Jesus when He speaks His words of peace to them. “Don’t be afraid. It is I.” The Lord Jesus speaks His word of peace, and suddenly again they realize His sheer power over nature. They had seen Him command the wind to stop on this lake. They had seen Him do it: “Stop.” They had seen Him earlier that day turn five loaves and two fishes into a meal for five thousand plus people and have twelve baskets left over. They had seen His command, His power over nature. Now, they were watching Him walk on water. And our Lord has walked to His disciples on the sea. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ, neither height nor depth, nor death. So don’t think that a little water can separate the Lord Jesus Christ from His disciples in the time of need.
Peter impulsively responds. He says, “Lord, let me come to You on the water.” I want you to see that Peter’s response was not arrogant, it was now showy, he wasn’t trying to show off. In fact, Peter’s response was instinctive. It was an act of faith. Peter’s response to Jesus provides a beautiful picture of what saving faith is. Notice that as long as Peter’s focus is on the Lord Jesus, he is upheld. The minute Peter’s attention is shifted to the circumstances around him, the waves and the wind, he begins to sink. Does that not teach us something about how faith works? It is not the strength of faith that saves us, it is the object of faith that saves us – the Lord Jesus Christ.
III. Christ Has Power and Love Which Stagger Our Imagination
In verses 34-36, Jesus’ mercy and might are set forth again. And we Christians can never reflect too often on the compassion and power of Jesus Christ. Jesus arrives in the plain of Gennesaret. And as soon as He gets there, the people see who He is, and they call another multitude. They didn’t want to hear Him preach. They didn’t want to hear His claims. They wanted Him to heal. And yet our Lord, in His mercy, heals them. Though He knows that they do not trust in Him as a disciple, yet in His mercy He heals these multitudes that come to Him. The main point of this account is not to emphasize that they had some sort of saving trust in the Lord Jesus. The continuation of this passage in the next few chapters will indicate that more and more the crowds doubt Christ’s claims, even though they are amazed by His powers. The point is that Christ has power and love which stagger our imagination. And Jesus’ mercy to these undeserving multitudes is a call, an emphatic call, to us to show the same kind of mercy to those who are undeserving, in our experience.
Has God called you to trial right now? If He has, then He has called you to remember that Christ is above, interceding from the throne of God, for you; and that He is never far from you. Waters cannot separate you from Him. Death cannot separate you from Him. Hell cannot separate the Lord Jesus from His people. The Lord God comes to His people’s aid. And of course, this passage calls us to emulate Him in mercy and love. May the Lord make that a reality in our experience.
The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.