Title: All other ground
Text: Matthew 14:22-33
FCF: We often struggle with enduring faith
Prop: Because Jesus the Divine object of our faith, we must endure in believing on Him.
[Click Link to get the video and delete slide] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sMEkGoojbg&feature=share
[Slide 1] Children are dismissed at this time. Turn in your bible to Matthew 14. The reason I show this video clip this morning is to remind you that the book we are studying was written to Jews, saved and unsaved. Do you know where this Jew turned to first? The book of Matthew. The purpose of God in the inspiration of the book of Matthew is STILL being accomplished today. Praise the Lord for His unyielding love to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. To the latter He has given greater grace, to be grafted into His promise to Abraham and to make His chosen Nation jealous. To the former, His plan is enduring and He will one day call back His remnant and they will be His people and He will be their God. Lord Hasten the day.
Last week we saw the compassion of Jesus. We saw how this God-Man was able to show compassion when you and I would not- and when you and I could not. Our conclusion was that all works of righteousness flow exclusively from the power and passion of Christ in us and us in Him. That to raise up anything pleasing to God in us – it necessitates abiding in Him.
Matthew will now take this same concept and broaden it out further. I am in Matthew 14. I’ll start reading in verse 22. Follow along in whatever version you prefer, but I am reading from the NET.
I recently got a Kindle. I had noticed that I wasn’t doing a lot of reading - not near as much as I should be doing. But now my reading has greatly benefited from having my books transportable.
But do you know what I am finding as I read works of men, and then study scripture? In a work of man, I can pick up on one or two threads that they form in their writing. Ideas. Themes. Concepts that are core to what they are discussing. Those threads are overtly and obviously resurfaced throughout their book – almost to the point of redundancy.
But I have found that the Word of God is so different. Every theme. Every thread. Every concept is woven to every word. It is grafted to every context. The themes that Matthew started with in Matthew 1 are still present in Matthew 14. The teaching of Christ at the sermon on the mount is woven to the very verses we will study today. But it is not obvious. It is not redundant. It is not forced.
You get the impression from a work of man that it is with great discipline that a man stays on point and does not get distracted…
But in scripture you find a cohesion that is unforced, as if no discipline was needed. That not only was it difficult for it to get off track but it was impossible.
[Slide 2] And today, as we read this account. I want you to remember the last illustration Jesus made in his sermon on the mount. And you can remember it by the song. The song Waverly loves to sing. The wise man built his house upon the rock and the house on the rock stood firm. But the foolish man built his house upon the sand and the house on the sand went splat!
Now that that song is firmly affixed in your brains. Please try to pay attention as Matthew continues his purpose to reveal the identity of Christ through the varying degrees of understanding of those who came into contact with Him. Look with me in verse 22.
I.) Jesus is the Great I AM, so we must have enduring faith (22-27)
a. [Slide 3] 22 – Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side while he dispersed the crowds
i. The first interesting word here is in the NET as “made.” It means to compel or to command.
ii. Now why would Jesus command the disciples, forcefully, to leave by boat to the other side of the sea? Why is Jesus being left there to disperse the crowds? Looking to the other gospels we find a reason
1. Mark uses almost the exact same phrasing Matthew does. So Mark doesn’t really help us.
2. In John, however, at the tail end of his account of the feeding of the 5000, he informs us that the crowd assumed that Jesus was the prophet of Israel spoken on in Deuteronomy 18 – who would be like Moses. Which of course, He was. But, their conclusion then, was not one of a spiritual kingdom, but of an earthly kingdom. The people were beginning to form a plan in their minds to seize Jesus and make them their King.
3. Why wouldn’t Matthew include this detail? Isn’t he trying to show Jesus as the King? Of course he is… but not just King of the Jews but King of everything! So relaying this to his readers would risk confusion.
4. So coming back to Matthew we can guess that Jesus commanded His disciples forcefully to retreat, at least in part, to get them away from this thinking. But in Matthew we simply need to know that Jesus commanded this. Because knowing it is a command will play a significant part in what is to come.
iii. [Slide 5] It may also help us, geographically, to know where they are going
1. Luke reveals the feeding of the 5000 to be near Bethsaida
2. And we know they are headed to this Gannesaret/Capernaum area.
3. Mark has a difficulty that we won’t address today but if you are curious we can talk about it later.
b. [Slide 6] 23 – And after He sent he crowds away, He went up the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone.
i. Matthew takes great care to let us know that Jesus was alone. He went up by himself and he was there alone – I wonder if Jesus got that alone time J
ii. Understand that Jesus was not detained from joining His disciples because of the crowds. He was detained because He was communing with His Father. And apparently for quite a long time. More on that in a moment.
c. [Slide 7] 24 – Meanwhile the boat, already far from land, was taking a beating form the waves because the wind was against it
i. While Jesus is getting the crowds to disperse, and praying… The disciples have done their best to obey Jesus’ command.
ii. They have embarked on what should have been a short journey. Bethsaida to this western region of Gennesarat/Capernaum should have been at most a few hours journey. But we know from Mark that they are in the middle of the sea. So not quite half way to their destination.
iii. But the wind and waves (as was common on the sea of Galilee) were fighting against them. Of course this was not the first time they had been in a storm like this.
iv. But this time – the Messiah was not with them.
d. [Slide 8] 25 – As the night was ending, Jesus came to them walking on the sea.
i. Ok so here is where I want to break off a bit and put you in the shoes of these men.
ii. You are an accomplished fishermen. You have fished these waters all your life. You’ve been in a few bad storms and you know how to handle yourself among the waves. Matthew is a wee bit useless being a tax collector – so you send him somewhere on the interior of the ship. Judas always makes himself scarce in these kinda times. So you don’t really expect to see him. But you know what you are doing.
iii. This phrase – as the night was ending – means the 4th watch. Long explanation short, it is sometime between 3am and 6am. Even if Jesus commanded you to leave really late – let’s say midnight, that means you would have been at sea – for a 3 hour tour – you are on hour 3 and not even half way there.
iv. Needless to say, you are are just bushwhacked. All night you have been fighting this storm. The gusts, the waves have just been beating against this little boat. And you have made it half way to your destination. Can you imagine how exhausted they were? And knowing that their journey was only half complete. Yet Jesus commanded them to cross. No one ever said that being in the will of God would be easy… Can you connect with that? I mean they were doing as Jesus had commanded – and were having no success doing it.
v. Suddenly in the gloom of the night – amid the spray of the waves – you see over the waves, the head of a man. You wipe your eyes and shake your head free of its cobwebs. You look out again and he is gone. Must be getting tired you think. A few moments later you look out again and not just a head but the head and shoulders of a man surrounded in sea mist is coming right for your boat. Now fishermen have long told of demonic powers that have been responsible for the sinking of ship after ship on this little sea. And maybe out of exhaustion, or sheer paranoia – you point and cry out – A G-G-G-GHOST!
e. [Slide 9] 26 – When the disciples saw him walking on the water they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” and cried out with fear.
i. Often times we give the disciples a hard time. Sometimes it is for good reasons. But there is no reason to blame them here or say – how could they not recognize their Savior. I’d wager we all would have done something similar.
ii. They were terrified that this was their end.
f. [Slide 10] 27 – But immediately Jesus spoke to them: “Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”
i. Notice Jesus’ words and do not miss what He says.
1. Have courage! – This is not a suggestion or even encouragement. This is a gift. Jesus is literally saying – here – have some courage. But how does one receive such a gift?
2. It is I – 2 words in Greek, ego eimi, I am. The proper name of God. Not Yahweh, Jesus does not choose to use the Hebrew here – so far as we know. But it is unmistakable here that Jesus is identifying Himself as equal to the Father. – Jesus calls them to believe this.
3. Do not be afraid – a command. Stop fearing. Jesus commands them to repent of their fear.
4. Jesus offers courage to them. The means is through belief and repentance.
g. [Slide 11 (blank)] You have to commend these men. They followed orders. They obeyed Christ’s command. And even though it was quite difficult – and they were at sea much longer than they should have been – they were going to do what Jesus told them to do.
h. But just as with compassion from last week – even to do something as simple as sailing a ship 6 miles – we can do nothing without Him. This passage screams this truth and I hope you see it.
i. Jesus sent them to do something and they should have been able to do it. They had the skills. They had the experience. But something beyond their control stopped them.
j. I am the vine – you are the branches – without me – you can do NOTHING. Do we believe that? So often I get in my car and rely on my abilities to get to where I am going. I rely on my strength and intelligence to help me parent. But it is never us.
Matthew really wants us to see this lesson. So he gives us the same lesson in a different form. Specifically, from the example of Peter.
II.) Jesus is the object of our faith, so we must have enduring faith (28-33)
a. [Slide 12] 28 - Peter said to him,
i. So begins the first of several interactions between the Apostle Peter and Jesus
ii. A few scholars have concluded that Matthew has something against Peter. Peter is a man of high highs and low lows. And Matthew ends his book on a pretty low low for Peter. Peter ends with denying Christ, and there is no mention in Matthew’s book of his restoration. I dug significantly into this theory this week. And I came up without any definitive conclusion.
1. On the one hand the council of Jerusalem met around 50 AD, previous to this Paul had to confront Peter for his sympathizing and even identifying with the Judaizers. After this Peter gave a convincing speech at the council in Acts 15 against circumcision of Gentiles. We also know that Matthew’s gospel was written quite early – and some scholars even have it as early as 50 AD. So it is conceivable that Matthew paints Peter in a poor light because Peter, at the time, was apostatizing.
2. On the other hand, Peter is always viewed as the leader of the disciples. Even back in chapter 10 of Matthew, He puts Peter first. Peter is known as their representative. He would later lose that probably shared between James and Paul – but Peter through this pre-crucifixion era was their leader. So it is safe to say that Matthew is using Peter as representative for the rest of the disciples. So even though it looks like Peter is doing pretty poorly – it is really all of them, of which Peter was the best.
iii. If I was really pressed to pick one of these I’d have to take the second. Mainly because I know that Peter does not end up being an apostate. And since the Spirit of God is also authoring this book with Matthew – He would have known Peter was not an apostate. Added to that – Matthew doesn’t really draw any direct comparisons to the other disciples comparing Peter’s seemingly roller coaster spirituality to another disciple’s stability. Therefore - I conclude that it is slightly more likely that Matthew simply uses Peter as the best example of the disciples – which shows very clearly the developing nature of their faith prior to the resurrection.
b. “Lord if it is you, order me to come to you on the water.”
i. Now the if statement should not be read as if Peter is unsure.
ii. Instead it should be read as if it is a since.
iii. Since it is you Lord – order me
iv. Command me. It is interesting that Peter wants to be ordered. Perhaps the good Jew in him works better with duty and law than anything else. So to show his faithfulness and trust in Jesus He asks for a command that he otherwise would not be able to obey.
c. [Slide 13] 29 – So He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came towards Jesus
i. Jesus gives him the command, simply, to come.
ii. And Peter does.
iii. Peter does what is impossible to men because He is depending on and surrendering to Christ.
iv. What an amazing picture of what TRUE faith in Christ actually looks like.
v. Jerry Gunst has often said that the gospel is a command. It is a command to Repent and to Believe. And Jesus gives that command to Peter to come. He depends on the power of Jesus and surrenders his own preconceptions and his will to Christ – and walks on water.
d. [Slide 14] 30 – But when he saw the strong wind he became afraid. And starting to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
i. Now we don’t know how long he walked – but since he was saving distance we know that he got pretty close to Jesus before
ii. He started to become increasingly more aware of the storm around him.
iii. He began to sink as his dependence on and surrender to Christ wavered.
iv. So he cried out to Christ to save him
v. And Jesus does just that.
e. [Slide 15] 31 – Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught Him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
i. But look what Jesus says to him.
ii. You of little faith – deficient faith – faith that is insufficient - inadequate
iii. Why did you doubt – or why did you allow your mind to be divided. You were depending on me 100% - What happened?
f. [Slide 16] 32 – When they went up into the boat, the wind ceased
i. A miracle that is often overlooked. A miracle speaking to the authority and will of God.
ii. The storm was clearly intended to chase the disciples to trusting Christ
iii. Once that goal was met and the lesson taught, the storm was unneeded. And therefore, it was ended.
iv. A storm they had been battling for hours – was over in an instant.
v. And if you think that is incredible. In John, John tells us that they were immediately where they intended to land. So was the storm ended or were they just pulled from the midst of it?
vi. Both. The storm ended and they were teleported to Gennesaret.
vii. It is no wonder that the people on the boat did what they did next.
g. [Slide 17] 33 – Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God”
i. To worship means to ascribe worth. To give something value. In life and in ritual.
ii. This is the first time in Matthew’s gospel that the disciples have worshipped Jesus. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they were worshipping correctly.
iii. The last people in Matthew to worship Jesus were the Magi. And when we talked about them in chapter 2, we noted that these men were no doubt pagans, communing with demonic forces. Ascribing worth to Christ was not the same as having faith in Him.
iv. And you might say – but the disciples call Him the Son of God! What else could they be saying?
v. In the church age, the phrase Son of God has taken on an overwhelming messianic flavor. No doubt because of something we saw in our church history class – that the battle we face today is proving that Jesus was God. So Son of God speaks to this very battle.
vi. But in 1st Century Israel the phrase Son of God could mean several things including:
4. Used of God
5. God’s servant
6. God’s chosen
7. God himself
vii. In the early church the debate was not whether Jesus was God. That fact was not debated. The debate was over whether He was human. And indeed from our video – today in Judaism – this remains a key stumbling block to the Jew – that God could not become a man.
viii. The equivalent title to our Son of God would have been in their time – Son of Man. Which takes on a great deal more of a Messianic flavor than Son of God.
ix. So what did the disciples believe? It is probably best to understand this as a peak of their belief and not a plateau. This is a high point but even at this height they don’t yet quite understand fully.
[Slide 19 (blank)(end)] Although we’ve already hinted at it – What is Matthew saying about Christ today – and what does that mean for us?
Matthew reveals in vivid detail to us how Christ is the second person of the Godhead. The Messiah. The Great I AM. He supersedes the constructs of our realty because He created those constructs and is not bound by them.
But couched within this view of who Jesus is, Matthew tucks away the response of the disciples. And that response is revelatory of their developing understanding both of who Jesus was, and what it meant to believe.
Lord willing we will continue to track this theme throughout the book as we see Jesus interact with His disciples many more times. Those interactions will prove exactly this point – that the disciples themselves will endure several highs and lows as their faith builds and develops. The climax of these lows and highs will occur at the end of the book where they abandon Christ at the cross and then submit to His mission for them after the resurrection but we are, literally, about a year from that.
So based on the disciples belief and even the story of Peter – what can we learn today about faith?
It isn’t something new. In fact it is ancient. It is something that has been at the heart of all 14 chapters of Matthew thus far. We have seen it in Galatians, Jude, and every book we’ve studied in Foundations. From cover to cover this book reveals the same theme about faith that we must, WE MUST understand.
That if it is not enduring faith – then it is not saving faith.
Do you want to know why I preach so hard against decisionism? Do you want to know why we have been so aggressively teaching against an easy belief sort of faith? Do you understand why it is SO VERY important that we reject this notion that praying a prayer asking for salvation is evidence in itself that we have that salvation?
Because decisionism, easy belief, praying a prayer - all this is what got Peter out of that boat. He believed and he obeyed. 1 time belief. 1 time obedience.
And that faith continued. He continued to believe, he continued to obey. Step after step.
But he still SANK.
And many look at this story and they see his cry of desperation, Lord save me. And they think – wow what a great picture of what salvation really is. NO. This passage is not talking about salvation. It is talking about damnation. It is talking about judgment.
And you say – well how can you say that Chris – wasn’t Peter saved?
From the storm yes. But WHAT DID JESUS SAY? Your faith is insufficient. It is too small. It is lacking. It is not good enough. It is divided. Your faith is divided. Peter was saved from physical death in this instance but his faith is only worthy of judgment.
Peter has become the person in Matthew 7 that called Him Lord but did not depend on Him. He has become the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. And just like the rain beat upon that house, so the rain beat upon Peter’s head and the waves upon his legs. And just like the house – his faith sank. Peter is a real life example of what that would look like. A physical illustration.
We CANNOT be satisfied with getting people out of the boat. Bringing them out of that boat and onto the stormy sea puts their eternal soul in more peril then they were in in the boat!
Preaching 1 time faith is more dangerous to them than preaching nothing at all. Leave them in the boat if you are gonna preach that message.
Enduring faith. Ongoing faith. Perpetual faith. And adding that to what we saw in the beginning of this chapter… we have Jesus and John the Baptist’s message coming back – yet again. Ongoing repentance and ongoing faith. THIS IS THE GOSPEL.
We are not asking people to step out of the boat – we are commanding people to walk to Jesus.
And just so we are clear – I am not talking about faith as if it is generated from within you – that you can somehow try to be dependent on Christ. But rather faith is given as a gift to you to realize your perpetual need of a Savior and in that need continue to lean on Him to rescue you from sin’s penalty AND its power.
And now I must turn my attention to you. Have you only had faith in your life that has gotten you out of boats? Faith enough to see some fruit of the supernatural but you seem to always be sinking?
Has your faith been one time, 12 time, 50 time kinds of faith, but it always ends in ash and ruin? Do you have frequent cases of backslidden Christianity?
Can I be blunt with you?
That kind of faith will not save you. I’m not saying you can’t fail. I’m not even saying you can’t struggle to have victory and even have low lows… but what I am saying – is that genuine faith never sinks completely. It always stays afloat. Why? Jesus. Not Jesus reaching down to pick Peter out of the water… no… Jesus keeping his feet on top of it. As Peter looked to Jesus as his Lord and trusted that he could do what Jesus did if Jesus commanded it – so too we can do what Jesus commands if we continue to depend on and continue to surrender to Him.
If you are here. Backslidden again. Trying to claw your way back to fidelity with God. Trying to keep your faith undivided. Listen to me. You don’t need another decision. You need the Spirit of God to invade you. He is not waiting on you to decide to let Him in. He is waiting for you to beg Him to come in. To cry out in desperation. Knowing that this invasion of the Spirit of God will leave you absolutely devastated. He will raze your kingdom of self to the ground. And so He must if He is to save you from The Father’s Wrath.
Repent of the foolishness that is you having anything to do with this faith - including making some one time choice and praying some kind of magical prayer. Instead allow your kingdom to fall as you depend solely on Christ not just to save you from the penalty of sin – but to free you of its power over you. Then you will never sink. Because this kind of faith saves and keeps on saving us from the storm.
Don’t be Peter here in Matthew 14…
Be Peter as they were about to crucify him – but he shouted to his executioners begging them NOT to kill him like they did His King – For he was unworthy to die like this. Be that Peter. Beg God for this kind of faith. A faith that endures to the end.