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 ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. —Matthew 14:28, 29
Very early in that morning, Jesus’ disciples were in their little boat on the sea of Galilee. A strong, contrary wind whipped boisterous waves against them. There was almost something personal about this adverse gale.
A Joyous Multitude
It had been a remarkable day. Thousands had come to hear Jesus. The disciples felt honored to be associated with the wonderful Teacher. The crowds hung on his gracious words. His doctrines and manner of teaching were delightful. There was a thrilling challenge in his message that searched the depths of their hearts.
Every hearer had some notion of the kingdom hope and the part Israel was to play in it. Most were natural, even carnal, concepts, appealing to human pride; were they not the people of God? But Jesus’ kingdom was beautiful—the Lord’s hallowed presence enthroned in every heart.
Blessing Now, Blessing Later
The throng was hungry for His teachings. They forgot their hunger for food. But the disciples became aware of practicalities. They noticed the descending sun, and became uneasy. They interrupted Jesus, whispering that he should dismiss his audience.
Then followed an experience that would make their minds tingle on every future recollection. They became instruments in an amazing demonstration of power: one lad’s supper fed the multitude. What a climax to the day! They witnessed a portrayal of that blessed time when all human needs would be divinely satisfied and they would again be the instruments used of the Lord to convey blessings to mankind. They were learning to live with the power of God.
This is essential to the preparation of the future ministers of the kingdom. Each was a vessel of divine grace, a channel of divine love, an instrument through which the Lord would exhibit the glory of his power to give life abundant to whosoever will.
A Need for Quiet
Finally, the crowds dispersed, and Jesus was left alone with his disciples—but not before another wonderful moment occurred. The people were so elated by the experience that groups gathered, rallying the support of all. The disciples realized that the hopeful congregation wanted to proclaim Jesus their king!
Knowing the people’s intent, Jesus motioned to his disciples, climbing higher up the mountain trail to be alone with God. He longed for that future day when men would respond to divine love in a way more enduring than the fervor of that crowd.
Their Stormy Challenge
He told the apostles to proceed to Bethsaida, leaving him alone with his Father in prayer. The disciples in the midst of the sea, and Jesus on high with the Father, depicted the Gospel age night of weary toil for the Church.
It was hard for them. A hazardous storm had risen. They strained at the oars, their struggles seeming to avail nothing. Their Master’s presence seemed remote. For hours they toiled, the journey taking much longer than they had anticipated. They longed for the sight of dawn and the shoreline.
But Jesus knew. From his vantage point on high, he saw their plight. The watches of the night passed. In the fourth watch, they glimpsed a sight which frightened them. It was Jesus, but a Jesus they had yet to know. He was now demonstrating divine abilities.
Winds and waves threatened their ship;
yet there was Jesus,
walking on that troubled water as though it was solid rock.
Consider their fear: Here was a being with superhuman power—power above that of the storm. Even earth’s gravity was impotent beneath his feet.
Our Stormy Challenges
This parallels the mighty power of One whose presence is now recognized by saints on earth. Can we comprehend the vast resources of divine power now available to our returned Lord? He is exercising in this earth’s atmosphere, in the midst of the storms that bring fear into human hearts, the power of the victor over sin, the conqueror of every evil force released on earth.
We do not cry out in fear, but let us shout in worship and praise to our returned King, no longer bound by flesh but glorious in majesty.
“Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously on behalf of truth and meekness and righteousness” (Psalm 45:3, 4).
The disciples feared because they glimpsed a being with powers of another world. This recognition of spirit realm was awesome. Blessed are our eyes that see beyond human sight to celestial glory. In awe we see that One who today stands here amidst the earthly scene.
We Learn from Peter
We were not with him on Galilee. We cannot feel the might of battering waves, the force of gale, the surrounding darkness. But our proxy was there, Peter. How we love his earnest heart!
In Peter we see ourselves. His lessons were enjoyed by saints throughout the age. Yet now, the lessons are for us. When Jesus and the disciples were united in the boat, the storm abated, the wind dropped, the sea became a great calm. Soon they reached the other shore.
The time of trouble will not end, nor the testing of the saints, until the last is gathered to be with the Lord. That is the dispensational message. There is also a personal message for each saint, pertaining to their walk this side of the veil. It has special meaning for us, in this time of the Master’s presence in the very midst of earth’s troubled scenes.
Peter was reassured by the Master’s voice,
“Take courage. It is I! Do not be afraid!”
What comfort we find in recognizing One who stands before us now endowed with wondrous powers. The earth hears and trembles; Zion hears and is glad. In the midst of so much disturbance, so many demonstrations of the powers of darkness, when all human existence on this earth is threatened, what comfort to our hearts to hear the voice of our Beloved saying,
“Be not afraid. It is I!”
Peter was stirred. He saw that Jesus’ powers could overcome all limitations of flesh. He glimpsed a higher realm. A blessed truth confronted him, and dear, impulsive Peter, wanted to taste that power divine.
The Lord created a scenario, teaching us what Peter sought to learn—how to walk on water.
When Jesus walked upon that sea, he was upheld by an invisible force superior to any power on earth. Here was faith in its fulness, faith-fulness that finds the rock on which to walk throughout life.
Peter asked, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
We should not presume, but meekly ask. The invitation comes from him, “Come. Follow me.”
Peter was not testing God. He was asking for the Master’s power to resist the downward force that gravitates the mind to earth. Peter wanted to experience the power of God.
It was an impulsive request. He had not learned that long-sighted vision which the Spirit would later endow. That Spirit recognizes that a heavenly purpose is working on a grand scale. It is our privilege to co-work with God toward that goal. And the Lord utilized Peter’s impulse to teach us lessons.
First we request the Lord’s help to follow him. He does not ask us to do the impossible. God makes ALL things possible.
We are called to walk in Jesus’ steps. How can we do that? He was holy; we are corrupt. Then Peter had to believe that if Jesus gave the word, Jesus had the power. Believe!
Step out of the rocking boat into the stormy sea.
The power is there. This means more than believing when comfortable, in good health. It means to put ALL our confidence and trust on Someone truly worthy—to accept him as our TOTAL means of support.
Jesus walked on water with no visible support. Our visible support refers to job, home, health, family, friends, position, income, material possessions. We cannot depend on them for our peace of mind.
Our Rocky Boats
Believing meant stepping out of the boat. Even a rocky boat is some means of support. Each human strength is like that rocky boat. Stepping out of the boat requires faith.
Are we then at the mercy of the waves? No, we are abandoning the things that can be shaken and placing our feet on solid rock. Matthew 14:30 records the situation: “When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord save me! And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”
No one can see what supports the child of faith through tribulation and weakness. But the visible effect of faith can be seen—peace, confidence, joy, at times when the world would expect utter dejection and expect us to sink!
The window of the heart opens to heaven when this body of death is locked in its prison.
The attitude of prayerful praise is the visible evidence of the rock of faith. The confining of the body quickens the spirit of perception that enjoys glorious liberty as God’s sons.
Paul, too, stepped out of a boat and walked on water: “Bonds and afflictions wait for me, but none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me.” We look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are unseen. No overcomer cowers in the boat. How frightening, when poor Peter found himself sinking!
Our failures teach us deep and permanent lessons.
All saints experience boisterous winds and waves, dark and threatening contradictions to our faith.
Every step of walking on water is a test of faith.
There is no retirement from the life of faith. As the years advance, we become like Enoch: this walk with the Lord becomes so absorbing to our mind that we do not see death, only the victorious Lord at the side of God’s throne, his voice ringing out, “Come!” This is the victory . . . your faith.”
At Golgotha, visible evidence indicated that Jesus had been abandoned. Yet that ultimate contradiction to his faith proved its very reality, faith FULL unto death. Faith is knowing our Father’s abiding faithfulness. We know he is there, he is for us, he knows every detail required to bring us to himself in the bond of perfect trust.
When Peter stepped out, he needed something more sure than the rocking ship made with human hands. He needed the most dependable power that exists. To reach for it, he needed faith that can let go, as surely as it can cling!
Reaching to Jesus
Matthew 14, Mark 6, and John 6, each add some precious detail. We read in Mark 6:48, that as the wonderful Master walked upon those waves, he seemed to be passing them by, proceeding towards the shore. It was this realization that spurred Peter on to request the Lord’s command to follow him.
Peter did not want the Lord to pass him by. He wanted to walk with Jesus. We do not want the Lord to pass us by. We cannot merely watch him from the uncertain safety of our storm-dashed ship.
We are not arm-chair saints.
Our faith is on trial NOW.
THIS is the hour to realize the power of total trust.
Why wait for that hour of tribulation when our ship may break on the rocks? The truth is staring at us today. Jesus defies that which is seen by natural sight. Contradictions are real. This body of humiliation contradicts the high aspirations of the new mind. It humiliates our pure desire for a holy life. Let our clay vessels manifest the miracle of God’s power.
Everyone, not just the Lord’s people, eventually lose the things on which human security depends—health, strength, partner, friends. All have a coded date-stamp beyond which corruption will set in. How vital to our peace that we learn to walk on water NOW, before that evil day.
Then shall we know the triumph of faith that conquers the fury of every storm. Then shall we say:
Let the chill mists gather round me.
Let the lights of earth grow dim.
Leave me Jesus, only Jesus.
I am Satisfied with him.
Br. Donald Holliday — for the above study.