How To Walk On The Water
Turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew 14:22-33 as I read the scriptural text for my message.
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’
‘Come,’ he said.
Then Peter got down out out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
This incident occurred during the second year of Jesus’ public ministry. He was experiencing great popularity and pressures from all that he was doing and saying. This event occurred as he was engaged in a very active ministry around the Sea of Galilee. This Sea was 13 miles long and 7 miles wide. It was surrounded by 10 cities with at least 15,000 people in each of them. This area around the Sea was a center for fishing businesses that exported fish throughout the Roman empire.
Jesus had performed many miracles during these years, including two very amazing ones. He raised a widow’s son from the dead as he and his disciples passed a funeral procession outside the city gate of Nain, and the crowd was filled with fear and praise. (See Luke 7:11-17) Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus, an official in a synagogue in Galilee, from the dead, even though the crowd laughed at him when he said, “‘Don’t cry; the child is not dead but asleep.’” When he “took her by the hand, and said, ‘ My child, get up!,’” she got up at once. Jesus was performing many other miracles of healing the blind and individuals who were lame and casting out demons. He fed 5,000 men plus women and children near Bethsaida as they were on their way to Jerusalem for the annual Passover.
But there were growing pressures upon Jesus. The miracles that he frequently performed were attracting great crowds who wanted to make him king. Herod, the Roman ruler over the area, had John the Baptist, the prophet who had introduced Jesus to the people and baptized him at the beginning of his ministry, beheaded. The religious leaders in Jerusalem were seeking to capture him and to end his growing movement.
Our Church Situation
We are experiencing church growth, the presence of many visitors, and the reception of new members through frequent baptisms. We are calling new pastors who will bring a great ministry to the church. We expect changes in our programs, styles of leadership, and new leaders. All of these changes may create some waves, questions, and fears, creating pressure on pastors and congregation.
Situation with the disciples. (See Matthew 14:24-26)
They were in a boat about 3 miles from shore heading toward Gennesaret. They were rowing against a strong wind early in the morning before sunrise. They see a figure (Jesus) walking toward them on the water. They thought that they were having a vision of a ghost, so they were terrified.
Take courage; don’t be afraid!
Listen, Jesus says, “‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’” (Mt. 14:27)
In regard to the congregation’s situation: You may encounter some winds blowing against you; you may be tossed about by waves of change; you may be frightened by visions of things you can’t understand or explain; you may find yourself in the middle of God’s moving Spirit, witnessing miracles of new life and healing in the presence of Jesus.
Don’t be afraid when the going gets rough and strange things happen around you. Jesus says, “‘It is I.’” It is frightening to be in the presence of God’s Spirit. The children of Israel, the disciples, the crowds that followed Jesus, and others have usually been frightened when they witness God’s miraculous powerful action. Jesus comes to bless, to lead, to teach, and to impower.You want to walk on the water? Here is how you can do it.
Ask Jesus to call you!
Note Peter’s experience. He was frightened by the wind and waves and a strange vision of Jesus. He realized that he was near miraculous power, and he wanted to experience it! He invited Jesus to call him. (See Matthew 14:28) This was an impulsive request by Peter; yet it was one of faith. When Jesus said, “‘Come,’” Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water to Jesus. He preferred to walk with Jesus rather than to stay in the rocking boat! He didn’t hesitate. He was inspired, so he stepped out on the water.
You want a new walk with Jesus, to experience his power up close and personal. Ask him to call you to a new walk of service, to give you a new experience of his powerful presence. What do you want to do by Jesus’ side? Do you want to share in evangelism, preach, teach, engage in social ministries, visitation, comforting others, counseling, helping, hospitality, tithe, missions, healing, working with youth or children? Ask for his call and he will empower you to do it through his gifts! Don’t sit in a rocking boat shaking with fear; step out to walk with Jesus as you share his miraculous power!
Keep your eyes on Jesus! Don’t be distracted by surrounding problems.
Peter’s experience. When he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid and started to sink
Your experience. Don’t be distracted; the third and fourth steps is harder than the first. Don’t be distracted by opposing winds of change, unfamiliar footing for your steps, by new and frightening experiences and challenges, by questions regarding how, by gaps in your faith, or by factional opinions and tensions within the congregation. Church fights and tensions are caused by distractions, loss of a common focus on Jesus Christ, and arguments about how ministry should be conducted. Your focus must always be on Jesus. The strategy for ministry must always be submission to the power of the Holy Spirit. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The importance of this strategy is illustated by this testimony.
“Dr. S. D. Gordon tells of an old Christian woman whose age began to tell on her memory. She had once known much of the Bible by heart. Eventually only one precious bit stayed with her. ‘I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he his able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.’
By and by part of that slipped its hold, and she would quietly repeat, ‘That which I have commtted unto him.’ At last as she hovered on the borderline between this and the spirit world, her loved ones noticed her lips moving. They bent down to see if she needed anything. She was repeating over and over again to herself the one word of the text, ‘Him, Him, Him.’
She had lost the whole Bible, but one word. But she had the whole Bible in that one word.”1
Put your confidence in Jesus’ ability to lead you, not in your ability to follow.
Peter’s experience. This was Peter’s great act of faith in this situation. He didn’t know how he could ever walk on water, but he knew Jesus could enable him to do it. He was doing fine, until he got distracted and became frightened, thinking that he had do this walk on his own. As he started to sink, he cried out to Jesus, “‘Lord, save me!’”
Your experience when you are walking on the water. Don’t be seduced by self-righteous claims of power and ability. Gifts, powers, abilities, fruits of ministry and service all come from the indwelling Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ for God’s glory, not yours. This was the sin of the disciples as they argued about which of them was the greatest. It was the sin of the Corinthians as they bragged about their gift of tongues. It is the cause of many church fights as members argue “My way is better than your way!”.
Don’t get trapped by legalist efforts to follow all God’s laws on your own. This was the sin of the Pharisees and Scribes and Sadducees. Seek to obey, but do so in a close walk with Jesus and daily repentence. When you face temptation, move closer to Jesus. When you sink, repent, ask for forgiveness, and seek his renewing power in your life.
This brief episode may illustrate the way to walk.
“A young marrried couple had a son. At birth his ankles were broken, henceforth he could not get around to any extent. His one pleasure was walking with his father and mother in the evening, holding on to a hand of each and swinging between them. On one evening he looked into their eyes and said, ‘Ya know, I can walk much better when I’m holding on to someone’s hand.’
We walk better when we take the hand of Christ.”2
Take courage in the midst of revival and change; “‘It is I. Be not afraid.’”
How to walk on the water.
Ask Jesus to call you. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Put your confidence in Jesus’ ability to lead you, not in your ability to follow.
1. Paul Lee Tan, ThD. Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations Copyright © 1979, (Paul Lee Tan), #659, p. 239.
2. Contributed by Rev. James T. Mitchell, Cincinati, Ohio.
The above Scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society, Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.