Faith vs. Fear: Matthew 14:22-33

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Immediately after the miracle where Jesus fed the crowd of over 5,000 people, we discover that He sends the disciples away. At the very end of last week’s passage, John told us that Jesus perceived that the people wanted to crown Him King and it is likely that the disciples would have not objected to this in any way. However, Jesus knew that being crowned an earthly king, while flattering, was not within God’s plan for glorifying Him before the people. Jesus also knew that being crowned King would ultimately not give honor to the Father.

This information sets the stage for our focus passage in this episode, and it leads into another miracle that is our focus for this week. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 14, and we will read it from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 22, Matthew tells us that:

22 Jesus quickly made his disciples get into a boat and cross to the other side ahead of him while he sent the people away. 23 After sending the people away, he went up a mountain to pray by himself. When evening came, he was there alone.

Pausing briefly, if you remember, two episodes ago, Mark’s gospel had set the stage for the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 with Jesus wanting to go and rest with His disciples. However, because of what had happened, we see in Matthew’s gospel that that night, Jesus rested and prayed alone while the disciples were crossing the lake without Him.

However, that night without Jesus was not peaceful for the disciples. Continuing reading in verse 24, Matthew shares that:

24 The boat, now hundreds of yards from shore, was being thrown around by the waves because it was going against the wind.

25 Between three and six o’clock in the morning, he came to them. He was walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified. They said, “It’s a ghost!” and began to scream because they were afraid.

27 Immediately, Jesus said, “Calm down! It’s me. Don’t be afraid!”

28 Peter answered, “Lord, if it is you, order me to come to you on the water.”

29 Jesus said, “Come!” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed how strong the wind was, he became afraid and started to sink. He shouted, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately, Jesus reached out, caught hold of him, and said, “You have so little faith! Why did you doubt?”

32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped blowing. 33 The men in the boat bowed down in front of Jesus and said, “You are truly the Son of God.”

In this miracle, we see some amazing themes and truths we can relate to in our own lives. After a whole night of rowing without making any progress, Jesus sees that the disciples need help. While I don’t know if any of them tried to command the wind and waves to be calm like Jesus had done earlier in His time with them, the disciples are trying in vain to cross the lake when it seems as though everything is working against them.

In this detail, we can see the idea that when we are not with Jesus, everything we try to do for Jesus is in vain. Without Jesus’ help, we are at the mercy of the waves of this life and at the mercy of the winds of culture. While we might be able to make progress on our own, any progress we do make would be nowhere near the progress that could be made if we were with Jesus. Without Jesus, the boat only reached a few hundred yards from the shore, which is not much progress when you are trying to cross the lake. But after Jesus entered the boat, reaching their destination was easy.

Also in this miracle is the powerful example we see in Peter. When all the disciples are fearful at the appearance of Jesus walking towards them on the water, only Peter has the courage to challenge Jesus on His claim, and in my imagination, before Peter even realizes it, he is jumping over the side of the boat and walking towards Jesus.

From what I’ve heard preachers and others say when describing this event is that Peter took His eyes off of Jesus, and this is what prompted him to start sinking. Some people have said that Peter’s downfall was when he looked back to see if the rest of the disciples were watching, which implies a prideful attitude that would lead to his sinking.

However, I don’t see anything in this event that hints at Peter looking back. Instead, all we see included in this event leading up to Peter’s sinking is two things. Verse 30 tells us that when Peter “noticed how strong the wind was, he became afraid and started to sink.” This statement is probably one of the most powerful statements in the entire Bible that relates to losing faith.

Note that there is nothing wrong with noticing how strong the wind was, but when we let the supposed strength of the wind exceed the faith in the power of God, we sink. In Peter’s noticing how strong the wind was, we could conclude that he took his eyes off of Jesus, but all it might have taken is a wave to break his concentration, or a splash of water.

Peter didn’t need to take his eyes off of Jesus to know that the wind and waves were strong. He had spent the entire previous part of the night rowing against the wind and waves. The critical phrase for us to pay attention to is Peter becoming afraid when walking towards Jesus. When Peter’s fear became greater than his faith, the only thing left was gravity, which pulled him down into the water. When our faith takes a second place seat to our fear, nothing we do will be successful. Faith is powerful, and faith plus Jesus is unstoppable.

As we move through the coming days, weeks, and months this year, remember to keep your faith stronger than your fear, and step forward with your faith into the life God has called you to live!

As we come to the end of another podcast, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God and place Him first in your life. Intentionally move forward in life with a strong focus on growing your faith. Live intentionally with a faith that is stronger than your fear and when you mix this faith with Jesus, nothing Satan does can stop you from living the life God has called you to live.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and mature your faith in Him. God wants a personal relationship with you, and a personal relationship starts when you personally spend time with God praying, reading, studying, and listening to what He wants to share with you. A personal relationship with God is way more powerful than simply leaning on others for your spiritual knowledge.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or be scared out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 28: When Jesus comes to the disciples after a long night of trying to cross a windy lake, we discover through this event and miracle that faith, when placed in Jesus, is unstoppable. In contrast, fear erodes our faith, and faith that is weaker than our fear ends up being worthless.

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