Matthew 14:22-36 Part 2

“Be courageous. It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  That’s what the Lord Jesus Christ says to His Disciples.  He says that just as these twelve men are nearing total exhaustion and inundation while in the middle of a raging storm in the Sea of Galilee.

 “Little faith – why did you doubt?”  That’s what He said to Peter as this man was walking on water!  In the middle of a maelstrom, with roaring wind and water all around him, Peter looked with fear at the turbulence all around him; and he began to be fearful.  He was about to be plunged beneath the water of the Sea and go down!  And Jesus calls him “little faith”!

Our Lord has recently heard about the slaying of the last prophet from God to Israel – that last one who cried out for repentance from this destitute and apostate nation.  And He immediately turned to cross the Sea and go into the wilderness.  And there – in that wilderness across the Sea – we see images of His body being fed to multitudes.  And the connection is made to the sacrifice of His flesh, which He would soon give for the salvation of the world.

Feeding so huge a crowd was, indeed, a mighty miracle.  But, as we’ve seen, the miracle itself is not to be seen in the abstract – as if it stands alone to be understood as a sample of His Sovereign power.  Jesus worked no mighty deeds for the sole purpose of demonstrating His authority!  None of His miracles stand alone – isolated from purpose in the progressive revelation of God.

In other words the focus of attention was not to be placed upon these five loaves somehow becoming enough for five thousand people.  But the eyes and ears of faith were to be turned to the One Who would soon give His body as that Bread which, when eaten, was the eternal satisfaction for hunger.  Man in the flesh must be reborn and become united with the flesh of the New Adam in order to have life and communion with God.

So the faith of the disciples was tested, wasn’t it? Not by observing five thousand people eating their fill from five loaves and two fish; not by demonstrating of power from the Son of God; not by a miracle in the abstract; not by a mighty deed brought about because of immediate necessity!

The disciples (and the rest of the Church in history) were to understand that Jesus had crossed over from Israel into the Gentile wilderness and breaks the Bread of Life to the nations!  He has left Israel forsaken and crossed over the Sea to the pagan world to give them new life in His body!  He had crossed over once before to cast out their demons and send them into the abyss; and now He gives them new life!  -  and all of this is to be accomplished ultimately one year hence, at His crucifixion and resurrection.

And now we have another startling event of wondrous proportions, which also cannot be understood in the abstract.  It, too, cannot be seen as a mighty deed brought about simply by necessity!  And neither can it be viewed as just a demonstration of sovereignty by the Lord Jesus; for the apostle’s faith was not to be built by seeing miracles accomplished in the abstract!

Just as the feeding of the five thousand confirmed and ratified, in history, the revelation of God’s covenant to save the Gentile nations of the world, so this next mighty deed has great relevance which goes way beyond the immediacy of the miracle itself.  Jesus never did, as wonderful and awe-inspiring as it may seem, He never did work a miracle to startle, or to amaze, or to give proof, or to satisfy curiosity, or to give way to immediate necessity!  All of His mighty works are the culmination and fullness of the revelation of God in history!

Now, as we witnessed last Lord’s Day, the Lord has dispatched His disciples to their boats while He dismissed the crowds.  And He went up into the mountain, to a secret place, to pray.  And He was there from seven to ten hours.  And during that time, a great storm had arisen in the Sea.  And the disciples had only progressed three and a half miles in all that time!  They were pulling against the wind and the waves, and they could go no further than the middle of the Sea! 

And after completely spending themselves, and with no choice except to continue – or be inundated – they were past any hope of making it safely!  They were drenched and exhausted from rowing all night – panicked and sleepless – great swells of waves and wind and rain threatening to capsize the boat at any moment!  You can imagine the fright of this situation in the middle of the night, being right on the edge of going under. 

But, as verse twenty-five says, Jesus came to them, sometime between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM the next morning, walking on the Sea!  In the blackness of the night and of the storm, they looked out and saw something walking, untouched by the wind and waves, on the Sea!  And, as verse twenty-six indicates, they thought it was the end!  At the very end of their lives a ghost had appeared.  And they shrieked with fear.

But immediately Jesus says, “Be courageous.  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  And they recognized Him at once.  And Peter’s request in verse twenty-eight indicates that the disciples now understood at least some of the significance of what was taking place; for he asks Jesus to command him to walk upon the waters.  And He does.  But Peter sinks from fear.  And that’s when Jesus calls him “little faith”, and makes the comment about Peter’s doubting – found in verse thirty-one.

This is where we left off last time.  And I promised you that this Lord’s day we would try to reach out and stretch our faith so that we might see some of what the disciples were beginning to see.  There’s more here than meets the eye, isn’t there?  Just as there was more to the feeding of the multitudes than just the miracle of feeding a crowd of people who were hungry, so there is more here than just saving the disciples! 

Why, for example, did Jesus not just quiet the storm so the disciples could finish rowing to shore?  Why did He appear before them walking, unaffected, upon a turbulent sea?  Why, at the point of hopeless fear and exhaustion, were the disciples told to be “courageous”!?  Why was Peter called “little faith”, and a doubter, when he couldn’t walk upon the “waters”?  Why did Jesus call on him anyway to walk on the waters?  Just for the novelty and curiosity?  Just to prove to them He could do it?  Was that just an immediate, spur-of-the-moment decision to show His great power?  Was it a miracle in the abstract?

Were the disciples of such poor intelligence that they could not know already, from the countless miracles that Jesus had already accomplished, that He controlled the elements of creation?  Did they have to have confirmation over and over again that Jesus could do these things?  Or were there things in the mind and purpose of Almighty God yet to be opened to them in all the fullness of their glory?

By all means it is the latter; and unless we begin to see and understand, we, too, will be called “little faith” – and doubters.  You see, it’s the same ones who stop with the fact that Jesus was God and He could walk on the water that doubt the victory of the Son of Man in history!  It’s those who stop with the fact that Jesus was teaching His disciples that He has control over the elements of creation who also doubt that all the nations will be conquered by the King!  It’s those who stop with stories and illustrations about the miracle itself and the feelings and sensitivities of the men involved who are blown by every wind of doctrine about the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It’s the same faithless doubters who look around them and see the frothing turbulence of society and claim that it all belongs to Satan! 

But these were not just incidental events and “spur-of-the-moment” miracles in the life of Jesus and His twelve disciples!  They were images of the reality which was taking place in the purpose of God in history!  And once we conceive of that reality, then there is something concrete in which to faith!

So what is the essence of this earthshaking, frightening – but wondrous – event in the middle of the Sea of Galilee?  Why was Jesus walking on the waters of the stormy Sea and calling His disciples doubters?  And for that we have to turn to the remainder of Scripture and determine the meaning of these things in the historical and progressive revelation of God.

And without being too technical here, let us begin with the Biblical concept of the sea.  God has revealed many things about the nature of the fallen world by using images of the sea.  In fact, the sea is often the image of fallen, demonic humanity itself!  And it is often pictured as the abode of demons – associated with the abyss. 

Remember when Jesus confronted the demons across the sea in Gadara, they prayed to Him not to send them back under to the place they came from.  But He did.  He sent them into a herd of swine, and the swine rushed headlong into the sea!  So the demons went back into the abyss at the command of Jesus as He cleansed the Gentile Gadarenes of demonic infestation!

Further, both the prophecy of Daniel and the Revelation of St. John, among many others, visualize the sea as that place from which came the four beasts, or the four kingdoms, which ruled the whole world before Christ!  So the four kingdoms of Assyria, Babylon, Greece and Rome rose up from the frothing, rolling, turbulent sea, which is the representation of the mass of fallen humanity governed by demonism and chaos!

And in Revelation chapter fifteen, during the tribulation of Israel’s separation from the Covenant, John sees the elect of God standing on a “sea” of glass; and they were rejoicing over the victory that had been won over the beast and his number!  In other words, the turbulent, chaotic sea had become a sea of smooth glass at the defeat of the beast and his number – 666, the number of fallen mankind.

In Luke chapter twenty-one we see the chaos of the nations described as “the roar and surge of the sea”.  And the Revelation of St. John describes the nations as the sea and Israel as the “land”.  And Israel is flooded with destruction because of its association with the Messiah.  And Israel absorbs the blow which was meant for Him.

Revelation sixteen describes the sea as like the blood of a dead man as it sweeps over the four corners of Israel.  And we have actual accounts from Josephus of these very things happening, which are, by no means, coincidental: He says: 


“The Jews could neither escape to land, where all were in arms against them, nor sustain a naval battle on equal terms….  Disaster overtook them and they were sent to the bottom, boats and all.  Some tried to break though, but the Romans could reach them with their lances, killing others by leaping upon the boats and passing their swords through their bodies; sometimes as the rafts closed in, the Jews were caught in the middle and captured along with their vessels.   If any of those who had been plunged into the water came to the surface, they were quickly dispatched with an arrow or a raft overtook them; if, in their extremity, they attempted to climb on board the enemy’s rafts, the Romans cut off their heads or their hands.  So these wretches died on every side in countless numbers and in every possible way, until the survivors were routed and driven on to the shore and surrounded.  As they threw themselves on them, many were speared while still in the water.  One could see the whole lake stained with blood and crammed with corpses, for not a man escaped.  During the days that followed a horrible stench hung over the region… that revolted even those who had brought it about.”


I think that’s about enough said about the “sea”.  But in our text, verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine, Peter and Matthew both use the term “waters”.  Peter said, Lord, if You are You, then bid me to come to You upon the waters.  And we can attribute some understanding to Peter as he uses this word, because there are similar Biblical connotations to the use of this word as there are to the use of “the sea”.  The Scriptures associate “the waters” with flooding, inundation and peril.  And in the places like Isaiah chapter seventeen that rushing of the mighty waters is equated with multitudes and nations of pagan humanity!  They are pictured in chaos and turmoil as they foam and swirl; as they convulse in pandemonium and stormy opposition to Yahveh and His Christ!

And the imagery in the Revelation to St. John is so spectacular in that the waters actually become the nations!  For example, in chapter seventeen the nation of Israel, called “the harlot”, is actually pictured as sitting upon the “waters”.  And the waters are the ungodly, rebellious nations of the world.  And what that means is that, at the time of Christ, there were Jews and synagogues in every nation of the world.

As the chapter continues, the raging nations will turn against the harlot because of her connection with Christ, and will make her desolate, or naked.  And they will eat her flesh.  Her former lovers, the nations, will destroy her and burn her to the ground.  And what is indicated here is bitter animosity against the Jews, but it was a war against the Christ.  Revelation chapter seventeen, verse seventeen says that God had put it in their hearts to execute His purpose until the Word of God should be fulfilled.

There’s a lot more that could be said about the “sea” and the “waters”, but I don’t want to get too deeply involved in that right now and lose sight of the text; but I think that you can see from just the little bit that we’ve done that Jesus is doing so much more here than just building the belief in His disciples that He could walk on the water!

The nations are raging against Him, as Psalm two prophesies; the Jews on the land and the nations indicated by the sea.  The whole world order is gathering against Him.  The dragon is seeking the inundation-into-the-abyss of the whole plan and purpose of God.  But He is the Savior of the world, whose voice is like the sound of many rushing waters.  The disciples are also sought for plunging into the deep, for they are the foundation of the body of Christ – He being the Chief Cornerstone.

But God laughs at the raging gathering of the nations against Him.  And Christ walks upon the waters unaffected!  The raging of the nations has no effect!  God had saved Noah and his family in the waters of the flood; He saved Israel from the waters of the Red Sea; and He had saved Israel from the rushing waters of the Jordan River.  And here Jesus would save His disciples from the peril of the Sea!  And therefore the Church!

 And as Peter feared the raging waters (world order) around him, Jesus reached out and held him up.  He said, “be courageous.  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  “Little faith,”  He called Peter.  One who has so little faith in the One Who said, “Be courageous, I have overcome the world”.  It may be raging around you, and it may look as if there is no hope for you.  It may look like an impossible task.  But don’t be afraid.

   Flee from fear.  Wind, waves, inundation, ghosts, death, fear, anxiety, men, situations, circumstances.  Christ walks on the sea unaffected.  And then calms the raging torment. 

The disciples were constantly threatened by the world order, so they were always subject to fear and anxiety and doubt.  After all, the nations of the world were against them and sought their destruction!  But they derived courage from the victory of Christ who overcomes the world.  And His mastery over the waters gave the disciples faith in God’s Son.

And as soon as He got into the boat, with Peter, they all worshipped Him and confessed that He was the Son of God.  Matthew was there, and he worshipped Him, for truly His Kingdom was not from this world.  They now recognized His Messiahship and all that He was doing in fulfilling His Father’s purpose.  All His miracles were revelation of omnipotence and much more.  They are images of God’s purpose.

Finally let me say that the Kingdom has not yet come into its fullness.  The purpose of God isn’t complete yet.  But Christ is unaffected by the raging of the pagan rebellion!  He is not swept and tossed about by continuing, futile attempts at His overthrow.  And there will be uprising after uprising against the inevitable total reign of Christ over His Father’s world.  And finally He will put His last enemies down under unto the abyss.

He did, indeed, go to the cross and rise again in definitive victory.  That has already happened in history.  It is finished.  So the roaring of the nations since then are just impotent and absurd.  They are inane, sterile and full of vanity.  God laughs at them.

Israel has now been destroyed – sacrificed that the light of Christ might come to us Gentiles.  The dragon failed – the tumultuous gathering of the nations failed – petty tyrants since have laughably failed; all have failed to stop the certain rule of Christ over all the nations of the world.  So be courageous.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t be “little faith”.  “I have overcome the world”, He said.  Don’t be depressed and anxious about what you see around you.  The surging and torment of pagan humanity has no effect on the Victorious King.  Neither does it affect you.  Don’t be afraid.