Cross-centered Living (Matthew 14:22-33)

MOTIVATE

There’s a story in the early frontier days about a man whose wife was very ill.[1] The husband knew he had to get medicine to save his wife’s life. He searched the village for medicine, and he was directed to a doctor who lived across the lake. The only problem was that it was wintertime and he was uncertain the lake had been iced over. The husband was terrified but motivated by love for his wife he got down on his hands and knees and inched carefully across the ice. 

After about 30 yards, the husband felt a rumbling on the ice, which made him even more terrified. The noise grew louder and even thunderous. As the noise increased and rumbling felt closer, he looked behind and saw another man on a carriage, driving a pack of dogs. The dogs were pulling a carriage loaded with boxes, and it just went thundering across the ice. Suddenly, the husband stood up and started walking and then running across the lake. The man who was terrified by his circumstances, now was full of confidence.  

If we want to have more faith during fearful circumstances, then we need to look for people who are walking with God and connected to a team that is confident He will guide them safely to their needed destination. In life, we need to find people who have endured hardship and experienced God’s faithfulness. Their story of faith will inspire and influence you to persevere.

Today’s message is about living a cross-centered faith that responds to God with confident humility.

EXAMINE         Cross-centered: Faith that responds with confident humility

Matthew 14:22-33 
22  Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
23  And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
24  but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.
25  And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.
26  But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.
27  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28  And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
29  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.
30  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”
31  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
32  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
33  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

  • Context is Jesus traveling with disciples to get away from crowds to grieve the death of John the Baptizer. Yet, they are not able to isolate because crowds follow them for Jesus to teach and heal. After another long day of ministry, the crowds and the disciples get antsy and hungry. The disciples wanted to dismiss the crowds, but Jesus wanted to feed them. He miraculously feeds around 15-20K people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish.
  • The purpose of miracles is to communicate a message about Jesus. Feeding miracle was not just free food but pointing people to feed on the source – the Bread of Life.
  • It’s hard to discern what God is doing in our circumstances. We think we need to be alone but God keeps pestering us with company. Other times we keep filling life with activity, busyness, and company, but God secludes us for a season of spiritual growth… leads to first point:

Jesus often directs us to circumstances that will discern our faith (14:22-26).

Jesus made the disciples get into a boat. The word is a strong term: ἠνάγκασεν (‘force/compell/urge/insist’). The author of our story and sovereign over our circumstances knows exactly what we need. His ways & thoughts are higher than our own (Isa 55:8-9).

You may have heard the line, “The safest place to be is in the will of God”? While it is true that obeying God gives us an unshakable confidence and unyielding determination, the will of God is not easy or safe. The disciples obeyed the command and will of God and ended up in a fearful storm. We should not be surprised when challenging circumstances face us when following Jesus, and nor should we assume we are out of the will of God when adversity or affliction strikes. God’s will is always our personal holiness more than our preferred happiness.

Uniquely, Jesus did not go with the disciples, as He decided to stay and pray. There are many times in our life it looks like God it not with us, but the reality is He is always praying for us. The Lord is with His children. We need to be reminded, this side of the resurrection, the Jesus inside us > Jesus beside us.[2] The Holy Spirit is working behind the scenes and around the circumstances of our life.

The disciples’ boat ride was several miles and several hours on the water. The passage indicates they began their boat ride before sunset and Jesus appears to them in the fourth watch of the night. Roman time had four watches: evening (until 9pm), midnight (until 12am), cockcrow (until 3am), and morning (6am). So, in the middle of the dark night, they were battered (βασανιζόμενον = torment/torture) by the waves, straining to reach their destination. But in those dangerous waters, the Lord came near.

Psalm 77:19 “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.”

The disciples mistook Jesus for a ghost and were terrified (ἐταράχθησαν = agitated/disturbed inside) and they cried in fear (φόβου).

  • Some may ask, “Pastor, do you believe in ghosts?” I’d ask back: “Casper or the Holy Ghost?!?”
  • Apparently, the disciples believed in ghosts, bc the only explanation for what trained fishermen and expert sea-navigators saw in the dark waters was a phantom being.
  • F.E.A.R. False Evidence Appearing Real.
    My children
    • Fear from bad dreams or monsters in closet. My advice: if there’s a monster call mom! No, seriously, I taught them to look around to see what is real and to look up in prayer to Jesus – He is our help!
    • Fear of new – food, experiences. My advice is to keep trying new things. But I don’t force them to try things I won’t try bc I don’t want to be a hypocrite :0

       Our world has lots of fears…

    • missing an appointment or messing up plans, but it’s the Lord who orders steps (Prov 16:9).
    • what other people say (Prov 29:25 – a snare/trap), but we should live for #audienceOf1
    • bad things happening, but we trust in the Lord (Ps 27:1; 56:3-4)
    • fear the uncertain or unfamiliar
    • sickness, suffering, or death, but our bodies are temporary and spirit eternal (Mt 10:28)
    • God has given us a spirit not of fear but of power, love, and sound mind (2Tim 1:7)
  • Last week’s message looked at Jesus’s parable about seed falling on different soil type. Soil types along the path, rocky ground, or among thorns were places the seed (God’s word) did not root and grow. Rocky soil represents hardship (struggles & storms), thorns represent the cares of this world – items that hurt when taken away. All of these experiences discern our faith focus and reveal our foundation.
  • Is prayer your first priority when problems arrive? To whom do you turn and call upon?
  • Is God’s word your go-to in difficulties? Where do you search for answers and guidance?
  • Are convictional faith and calm trust a reality in your crisis? Are you emotionally balanced or lashing out at others? Are you clear and reasoned in your thinking, or are you indecisive and double-minded, tossed like a feather in wind or a wave of the sea?

Jesus often directs us to circumstances that will develop our faith (14:27-31)

For most of us, we are afraid of what we think we see in the dark – but for the disciples, they were afraid of what they actually saw in the darkness. They saw Jesus walking on water. Interestingly, in Mark’s account of this passage, Jesus intended to pass by them (Mk 6:48). Yet, because of their crying out, Jesus spoke, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Jesus was teaching the disciples faith > fear. Our faith in God should overcome our fear of circumstances. Biblical faith is not blind allegiance, empty thinking, or wishful desires; it is an identifiable relationship with the person of God and an ingrained reliance on the principles and promises of God.

The phrase could be more literally phrased: “Don’t fear – I AM (ἐγώ εἰμι) is here.” Students of Scripture recognize this phrasing of God’s self-identification in the OT. The I AM God is trustworthy because of His character and competency. He is who He is, and He does what He says. God’s people are frequently facing great tribulations and giant obstacles, but as long as they trusted in I AM, then God sustained them.

OT examples

  • Exodus 33:15-16 “And Moses said to God, ‘If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight – [unless you’re] going with us, so that we are distinct.”
  • Joshua 1:7 “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all [My commands.] Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.”
  • Isaiah 43:2-3 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

God develops our faith by enduring adversity and affliction, not going around it. Our faith muscles are only strengthened when we go through struggles and storms. Like a caterpillar that escapes its cocoon without struggle, and therefore never metamorphizes into a butterfly, so too is a Christian without enduring hardship.

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Of all the disciples, Peter sees Jesus and asks to walk on the water. Instead of asking “Why me/us?!?”, Peter asks, “What can I do?” While it is certainly relevant to ask God, “Why” (look at the Psalms!), we grow more by asking God “What?” or “Who else?” Asking God “what,” is trusting God is working all circumstances for His glory and our good. When we ask God, “who else,” we are showing faith that God is using our circumstances to bring about His glory in the lives of others; things happen to us so we can better understand how to relate and minister to others (2 Cor 1:3-11). In sum, we should minimize demands to God and increase obedience to God.

Amazingly, Jesus tells Peter to “come!” And, even more astonishing, Peter gets out of the boat and walked on the water! In the popular words of John Ortberg, “If you want to walk on water, you gotta get out of the boat.” Peter’s faith was not in his ability to stand on the surfs or walk on water but in the words of Jesus. Unfortunately, Peter does not continue walking and begins to sink because he took his eyes off Jesus.

  • Our application is not to literally walk on water but to follow Jesus in faith.  
    • The Christian walk is a single step, then a series of steps following the Savior. Faith is not always about having extraordinary dreams but ordinary decisions of faithfulness to the commands of Jesus.
    • We may not have authority over every end chapter of our life, but we can act with the starting lines.
    • What beginning and continuing steps of faith is Jesus calling you to obey?

When Peter takes his focus off Jesus and turns his eyes on the wind and waves, he began to sink. He cried: “Lord, save me.” Peter’s prayer shows us it’s not the length of our prayers but the sincerity of our hearts. Even further, Jesus reveals faith is less about our weak hold onto God but His firm grip of grace. Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him. There are times when we might take our eyes off Jesus, but Jesus never loses sight of us. While our faith may fluctuate, Jesus is a steadfast Savior – the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

In this passage, Peter may have failed at what he set out to do, but Jesus succeeded in revealing His identity and rescuing power.

  • Jesus not only entered a storm but took on the outbreak of God’s wrath on the cross.
  • Jesus not only walked on top of the waves but soared over sin and death into the resurrection.
  • Jesus not only rescued Peter from drowning, but He fills all His followers with Holy Spirit power.
  • The same Jesus who reached down to save His enemies, is the same Jesus who reaches out to care for His children. So, we can echo the words of the psalmist:
    • “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22
    • “When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, sustained me.” Psalm 94:18
    • “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” Psalm 145:18
  • Ultimately, God develops our faith when we ask the Lord to reveal His commands.
    Ps 119:71 “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”
       119:105, 107 “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path… I am severely afflicted; give me life according to your word; O LORD.”

Jesus often directs us to circumstances that will define our faith (14:32-33)

This incident is recorded in 3 Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and John. It defined the faith of Peter and the other disciples. After Jesus rescued Peter from drowning, they returned to the boat and all the disciples worshiped Jesus, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

  • Few of us can predict how we would respond in a moment of fear, much more discern our faith foundation in certain seasons of life. For example, what would you do if you crossed a wild lion in the woods? Some may faint, others flee, others fight.
  • For Peter, he had a series of lion encounters
    • Peter misplaced focus away from Jesus and sank in water (Mt 14:30)
    • Peter rebukes Jesus and gets called satan (Mt 16:23)
    • Peter misunderstands transfiguration of Jesus and falls in fear (Mt 17:6)
    • Peter failed to cast out demon for lack of faithful prayer and fasting (Mt 17:16-17)
    • Peter falls asleep in Gethsamane when Jesus needed him (Mt 26:40)
    • Peter cuts Malchus ear in violent anger (Mt 26:51)
    • Peter denies knowing Jesus 3x, flees disciples (Mt 26:34-35, 56)
    • Peter tries to compare self to John (Jn 21:20-24)
    • Peter hesitates to take gospel to Gentiles (Acts 10)
    • Peter discriminates against Gentiles and Paul has to confront (Gal 2)
  • Even more interesting, Mark’s Gospel is basically from Peter’s dictation. Mark’s account of Jesus walking on water negates the entire incident with Peter. Was Peter ashamed of his wavering failure and hiding his guilt? NO – Peter was reminding us the focus of our faith is not on our failure but on the faithful grace of Jesus!
    • Peter says it like this “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials (or storms),so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:7-9).
  • Our worship will define our life… will we worship earthly satisfaction or eternal treasure of Jesus?

APPLY/THINK

  • Peter’s original name was “Simon” but Jesus called him “Petros” which meant rock (small stone). Jesus knows our identity and His grace changes us for the better.
  • Peter’s boldness vs disciples’ complacency… Let us not be afraid to fail as our labor for the Lord is never in vain.

[1] Tony Evans – Book of Illustrations: faith.

[2] Quote from J.D. Greear book title.

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