7-16-17 A Walk On the Lake Matthew 14:22-36
“A Walk on the Lake” Matthew 14:22-36 7/16/17 Ben Sloan
We are blessed to live in a lake community. We have boat parades, fireworks on the lake, fishing tournaments- and our lake is known all over the world to those who fish. Most folks around here will marvel at the beauty of the lake some time this year. I think one of the prettiest worship services we have is the Easter Sunrise Service on the lake. The vey name of our church involves Lake Murray. Jesus spent most of his ministry around the Sea of Galilee which is about the same latitude and the same area as Lake Murray- though it is more of a bowl than a lake with so many coves. Much of his ministry was spent around the lake too. When he called his disciples he called them from the edge of the lake where they were mending their fishing equipment- to come follow him and be fishers of men. Twice when they had caught nothing all night he encouraged them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat and when they did so they hauled in a huge net of fish. Once he didn’t have the money to give to the church so he told Peter to cast a line out and when he caught a fish to look In its mouth to find the amount to pay his and Peter’s share. It was on the lake that he showed his power to calm the wind and the waves. But perhaps the most memorable story is when he walked on the water on the lake. This story is not really focused on Christ’s walking on the water. The focus is on saving the disciples and Peter. It doesn’t give a lot of details on that- like did he hover over the water, did the water touch his knees, was he going up and down with the waves. It does give the time- between 3-6:00, the place- a long way from shore, and tells us the disciples thought it was a ghost until he called to them. This was no ordinary walk on the lake. It was a walk to show His disciples who He was, and to rescue them. We will look at the context of this walk, the call of Jesus to walk, and the doubt when we quit walking and start sinking. I. CONTEXT OF THE WALK- JESUS ALLOWED THEM TO GO INTO THE WIND AND THEN WENT TO THEM- Jesus sent the people away, sent the disciples into the lake while it was getting dark and the wind was whipping up. He waited. As a side, Jesus finally got some space. He got alone with God- that is hard for busy secular people to do. We want to have the cell phone with us, the ipad, the TV on, the radio, something to distract us. But Jesus got alone, even while the disciples were struggling. When He finally came to them they were tired- they had been struggling against the wind in the boat. But because they were struggling and facing this storm they were able to see God’s help and salvation. To think that if we do not feel alone, if we do not feel comfortable, if we are suffering in this life therefore God doesn’t exist just doesn’t match what God tells us in scripture. Job suffered, Abraham waited, David was rebuked, the prophets were in pain and martyred, and even Jesus suffered horribly and died. But in each case God came in the end. To focus only on the storms of life is to miss Jesus. Jesus is able to come to us. We may think it is impossible for Him to get there. We may feel we are stuck and all alone. We may feel we are abandoned in the storms of life- the financial problems, the people getting ahead of us, the family not functioning as we want it to function. We are not alone and we will not be alone. The walking on the water was probably not a big deal to God. He made the water. For God the main thing is getting to the disciples when they were nervous. You can tell they were nervous- it was just before dawn- and the darkest night is always right before the dawn. They thought he was a ghost and they were stuck in a boat and couldn’t run away. But Jesus went to them to tell them it was okay and that they could have peace. So many times Jesus told his disciples to not be afraid, but to take courage. That is his continual message to us. I like to watch a person learn how to swim. Some do it quite easily- just hold onto the side and kick, put your face in the water and learn to breathe- and then they just go off. Others are nervous and don’t want to go out. Some, have to be thrown in and you either sink or swim. But no matter how you learn to swim, it is easier if someone big and who knows how to swim is right there with you- a lifeguard or a parent that you trust. Many feel they are learning life all on their own. But they are not, and they don’t have to feel that way. Jesus is there. II. CALL TO WALK- JESUS SETS THE EXAMPLE- THEN CALLS PETER TO COME OUT OF THE BOAT Have you ever had a teacher, a boss, a co-worker, family members or friend ask you to do the impossible? Get angry? Peter got excited- you can hear it in his voice- “Lord if it’s you- call me to walk on the water.” Peter at least wanted to do more. Jesus was not the only one who walked on the water. Peter walked on the water. He had the faith to get out of the boat and walk. When he looked at Jesus he was doing fine. It is a reminder to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith. I can tell you that I am doing best when I am not looking at the what might go wrong and I am instead looking at Jesus. Jesus doesn’t want us to always be thinking- “Okay, what can go wrong and how can I make the best of it?” Jesus doesn’t want us to just cope and adjust to life. Jesus wants us to overcome life. He doesn’t want us to start thinking about what we will be doing when we start sinking. He wants us to walk on the water! Jesus challenges us to be our best, to do more than we can do in our own strength. To do something more than just survive or stay in the boat. He challenges us to make a difference- to do what others think is not possible. Apart from God we can do nothing- but with Him all things are possible. Each of us and all of us who believe in Him are called to believe and let and see God do more than we can ask or even imagine. There were people who said Lake Murray was on the edge of imploding when we had a split in 1984 but we came back strong. When another group left in 2000-2001 there were people who said we couldn’t make budget and that LMPC would never do anything. Those people were wrong. When God gets a hold of us the water is not a barrier, or even a means to get somewhere, it becomes a platform. There are no glass ceilings. Don’t be awed by them or afraid of them.
III. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE QUIT WALKING AND START SINKING- WHY DID YOU DOUBT? In our culture we glorify doubt and downplay the power of faith. The scientific method asks us to doubt, and so some think doubt is more important than faith. Jesus never glorified doubt. He didn’t say, Peter use your doubt to grow.” He also didn’t say, “because you doubted, Peter, you cannot be my disciple.” Rather, He recognized the doubt and encouraged Peter to get out of it. He had grace and patience toward those who doubted, but doubt itself was never honored by Jesus. Faith was honored. Jesus said, “According to your faith it is done to you- she shall be healed.” Jesus marveled and celebrated when the centurion and the Canaanite woman had faith. He appreciated the woman who touched the hem of his garment in order to be healed. Do not seek doubt. Remember the words of Jesus to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe.” Jesus calls us to faith, and real hope and love. Doubt causes you to look at the wind and waves and start sinking. Jesus said, “You of little faith, Why did you doubt?” I am encouraged that Jesus said this of Peter- Peter who did more than the other disciples and got out of the boat. Peter was the one who tried to be bold for Jesus. He got out of the boat and tried. He said, “Everyone else will fall away but I won’t.” He was the first to say that Jesus was “the Christ the Son of the Living God.” But each time Peter started off great, he always sank- he always messed up- his faith got him going but it didn’t last. Peter is like most of us in the church. He has some good intentions. He tries. But when things start getting tough, he starts worrying, panicking. Peter was THE leader of the church. Yet the one thing Peter probably regrets is that he started measuring and thinking of probabilities instead of fixing his eyes on Jesus. The good news is that each time Peter fails- each time he sinks, each time he doubts- Christ lifts him up and restores him. That is not just good news for Peter. It is good news for us. When we start wandering off, when we start sinking down, when we start drifting away from our course, Jesus calls to us, reaches us, raises us up. There are some who are saying to themselves, “Are you saying we will never drown?” Jesus did say after all, He who believes in me will never die. But that is not the point here. Truly we all will drown. No one gets out of this life alive. Yet all who believe get out alive. We leave the womb of this world and go into the wonder of the next. This whole story illustrates that we sink but Jesus saves. The whole point is that when we cannot swim, the lifeguard pulls us up. Peter had little faith- but the little bit of faith he had was in Jesus. He did not put his faith in his ability to swim, or his friends’ throwing him a line- it was past all of that. He said, “Lord save me.” This is what we must say. When we are sinking and someone reaches out their hand- we emphasize grabbing the hand- it doesn’t tell us Peter grabbed hold of Jesus. It tells us Jesus grabbed hold of Peter and pulled him into the boat. Jesus had the power and ability to help and rescue Peter. When I was a boy we used to go to a place called Pinewood a big pond or a little lake that had a nice swimming area with low and high diving boards. I can distinctly remember that high diving board appearing to be about 1,000 feet high. I saw my older friends jumping off of it. When one or two eight-year old boys tried, I climbed up- I had no idea that the 20 foot drop seemed a thousand feet high until I got about three fourths of the way up and looked back down. I wanted to go back down. When I got to the top- the first time I backed down. As I went down that ladder some made fun of me- others said, “It’s ok.” But a friend, Charlie, who was about five years older than me came up to me and said he would go up with me up the ladder and go off with me if I wanted him too. That is how I did it. My friend gave me courage. After I jumped off, I went back and did it again and again and again. Jesus does that. He catches up with us in the storm and encourages us to do more than we thought we could because He is there. But there is more, when we sink, when we fail, when we mess up- and we will. He raises us up- He pulls us up. He saves us. Trust Him- take a step. Then call on Him and He will get you through.