Gospel Words: Jesus Walking on the Sea

Matthew 14:23‑33  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Bright was the witness, as it is still, to the rejected Messiah. This glory is great, but He is greater still, Immanuel and Jehovah; and it shines out the more that men despise Him.
“And having dismissed the crowds, he went up into the mountain apart to pray: and when even was come, he was there alone. But the ship [or boat] was already in the midst of the sea, tossed by the waves for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them walking on the sea; and when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is an apparition; and they cried out for fear. But Jesus immediately spoke unto them. saying, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answering him said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come; and Peter, going down from the ship, walked on the water to come unto Jesus. But seeing the wind strong, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught hold of him, and saith to him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they had gone up into the ship, the wind ceased. And those in the ship came and paid homage to him, saying, Truly thou art God's Son” (vers. 23-33).
Whatever His own title, and it was truly divine, our Lord had become man, and loyally maintained His dependence on God, of which prayer is a signal expression. It is peculiarly prominent in the Gospel of Luke where His humanity is most brought before us in all its lowliness and sympathy, in all its piety and obedience. And it has its due place in Mark's Gospel of His service. But the disciples on the tempest-tost sea were as distressed as their boat, and the wind was contrary, so that they toiled in vain at the oar. He waited long enough for them to realize their danger and their powerlessness, and came unto them, walking on the sea. Troubled at what they thought an apparition, they cried for fear, but immediately He bade them take courage. “It is I: be not afraid.”
Reader, have you never heard His voice? It sounds in the written word in His own tones of love and compassion. It is for you to hear and live by believing them. The blessing is expressly for faith to receive. When you, judging yourself for your sins, look to Jesus at God's warrant, remission is yours. You are reconciled to God and justified by faith. You are called thenceforth to walk as a child of God and sealed by His Spirit till the day of redemption, when your bodies will have the power of Christ's life, as your souls have now (John 5). All other ways and means are a delusion. Baptism and the Lord's supper are His institutions, most expressive of His death, and of your blessing thereby. But faith is by hearing, and this by God's word. He is best honored in His Son's honor.
No doubt the enemy stirs up storms of every kind to alarm and endanger the disciples; but what of that, if the Lord sees all with watchful eye and fails not to give His guardian presence? This will be true and sure for His Jewish remnant in days to come as well as then when He was on earth; so is it assured to the Christian and the Christian assembly now, however few they may be. He, Who has His way in the whirlwind and in the tempest, with the clouds as the dust of His feet, was there in the person of Jesus walking the waves to say, Be courageous. It is I: fear not. They ought to have known already that winds and waves obey Him, their Creator.
Peter yields a little intimation of what was at hand. He quits the boat at the word of the Lord, and goes to meet Jesus on the sea; as the church did gathered to His name, apart from the Jews and the Gentiles (1 Cor. 10:3232Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: (1 Corinthians 10:32)). But he quickly displays the instability of his faith. To the Christian also Christ is all. If we look away from Him, we begin to sink as he did. What, if the storm raged and the waves rose ever so high? Had the sea been smooth instead of rough, could Peter have walked across it? But he saw the wind strong and began to sink, with the cry, Lord, save me. And the Lord's outstretched hand was the answer, though there was the loving reproof, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? Such is He to us now, faithful, gracious, and superior to all circumstances. But we have to walk by faith, not by sight. Yet if our faith fail, He does not fail to deliver.
By-and-by He will rejoin His Jewish disciples in their unequaled trouble at the end of the age, bespeak a calm which is not the church's portion while on earth, and bring at once the old ship into the desired haven. For heaven and for the earth, for the church as for Israel, Jesus is the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever. “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”