Calvary Road Baptist Church

“GOD’S ANSWER TO THE HEART’S CRY

Matthew 14.22-33

 

Man is a needy creature. He comes into this world helpless, naked, hungry, and scared. For the rest of his life he works to compensate by struggling to survive, by striving to protect himself, by seeking to feed his appetites, and by putting on a brave face. Were it not for the fact that man is also sinful, he would easily recognize that but for his loved ones and the helpfulness of others his helplessness, his nakedness, his hunger, and his fear would overwhelm him. However, through various types of mutual aid, pitiful creatures that we are, we muddle along . . . until we are forced to face these consequences of sinfulness and spiritual death. Then we grasp at whatever there is to grab hold of.

First century Galilee offered a bleak existence to those who lived there. Looked down on by the Jews to the south who lived in Jerusalem and surrounding Judea for living in the midst of so many Gentiles, and so much idolatry, they were sensitive about their second-class spiritual status to other Jewish people. Add to that the fact that the Gentiles, especially their Roman occupiers, for being a defeated and a downtrodden people, looked them down on and you find a people who are insecure despite their relatively comfortable standard of living.

A Roman soldier could compel anyone to carry his load for a mile at any time, a tax collector could impose ruinous taxes at any time, and the uncertainties and vagaries of life could at any time strike down anyone with a crippling injury, a debilitating disease, or even death. In the Gentile world, the average person faced the dreariness of misery and a short life without hope or a sense of optimism of any kind. The Jew, however, was different. The Jewish people had the promises of God. They also had the Word of God, which spoke to them of greater things, and which predicted better things. The result was their heart’s cry to God, their wail for relief and for salvation.

Turn in your Bible to Matthew 14.14. When you find that verse, please stand to read along with me silently while I read aloud:

 

14     And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

15     And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.

16     But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

17     And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.

18     He said, Bring them hither to me.

19     And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

20     And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

21     And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

22     And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.

23     And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

24     But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.

25     And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.

26     And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.

27     But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

28     And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

29     And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

30     But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

31     And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

32     And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

33     Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

 

Imagine what it must have been like for the Jewish people of Galilee to have a man in their midst who could feed 5000 men, besides women and children, with only five loaves of bread and two fishes, and with twelve baskets of food left over afterwards, one basket for each of the twelve apostles. Do you think this One they had heard so much about, who had worked so many miracles, and who taught with such authority, might be God’s answer to their heart’s cry? However, before they had any time to think about who or what He was, He “constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side” of the Sea of Galilee, presumably in the middle of the afternoon. He retreated to pray while His apostles departed in their small and shallow draft fishing boat.

His orders were very clear. They were to sail to the other shore, and this they did their best to accomplish. In time, a strong contrary wind came up, as frequently happens in Galilee. Had they been about their own business they would have given it up and sailed back to the east coast to wait out the storm. However, they were not about their business. The Master “constrained” them to go to the other side, so they gave it their very best effort to comply with His directive. By the fourth watch, they had made almost no progress. It was then, between 3:00 and 6:00 AM, their aching backs and throbbing arms by now leaning into their oars for as much as twelve hours without headway, that the Lord appeared. Pause with me to consider those men.

They had struggled long past the time when others would have given up. Their success in accomplishing what their Master urged upon them was nonexistent. However, their sincere diligence could not be questioned. Do you see the lesson that can be learned from these men? You can know full well what the Lord wants from you, put everything you have into the struggle of obeying to the best of your ability (no question about your sincerity), and yet meet with complete failure, no success at all, because of the contrary wind of sin that blows against any hope of spiritual progress. If the focus of this message was on the twelve, their example might be a lesson of striving to enter in at the strait gate, of putting everything they have into the effort of pleasing the Lord, while realizing no success at all because of their weakness to overcome the winds of adversity without Jesus providing deliverance. However, this message is not about the twelve.

Notice, now, the response of Peter. The twelve were scared until the Lord spoke to them, just as you and I would be in that little boat in the midst of the howling blackness and cold, wet, misery. Peter was afraid, just as the others were. However, when the Lord spoke, Peter answered, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” You might ask yourself, did Peter have faith? We know nothing of Peter’s faith from verse 28, since faith is not in words but in deeds. It is in verse 29, when Jesus said, “Come,” that we see Peter’s faith when we are told he “was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.” Faith is more acted upon than possessed, and Peter certainly acted upon his faith. However, Peter’s faith faltered for fear when “when he saw the wind boisterous” and “he was afraid.”

Thankfully, as he began to sink, “he cried, saying, Lord, save me,” and was immediately rescued and then mildly rebuked by the Jesus, saying, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” The lesson that might be learned from Peter? Peter’s experiences on that dreadful but glorious night proceeded very rapidly from fear to faith, when he stepped out of that little boat to stand on the water with Jesus, but his faith faltered when he looked askance at the wind instead of keeping his eyes on Jesus, before he cried out and was rescued. The lesson is that the life that is begun by faith is a life that must continue by faith . . . if this sermon was about Peter.

Those men in that tiny little boat must have been on the very edge of complete exhaustion. Imagine pulling on your oar against a stiff wind in very choppy water for twelve hours. Pitch-blackness, numbing fatigue, chilled to the bones from the spray of the waves crashing over the bow and the howling wind. How close they must have come to giving up all hope of survival, when Jesus appears, approaching their boat walking on the water! It was not until they had reached the absolute limit of their capacity that the Lord Jesus Christ seized upon that opportunity (yes, their distress was His opportunity) to show Himself as God’s answer to their heart’s cry. When Jesus and Peter climbed into that little boat the wind immediately stopped. I can only imagine that they sat there for a moment in the still air, as the boat gently rocked, with hearts beating and muscles on fire from oxygen deprivation, “Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”

You might think to yourself, “Of course, they would worship Him at this point. To be sure, they would acknowledge Him to be the Son of God.” Ah, my friend, you don’t know the half of it. These were Jewish men, familiar with God’s Word in a way that you are not.

Let us bring our consideration of this passage around to a focus on Jesus, God’s answer to their heart’s cry, and how He showed Himself to be such to those twelve men.

 

HE FIRST DID SO WITH HIS FEET

 

Being mindful that these are Jewish men in that little boat, we should realize that those guys had hope in a way that Gentiles of that day could never imagine. You see, they believed in God, clung to the promises of God, and tenaciously held to their conviction that they were the chosen of God. God loved them. God protected them. They expected God to do something to answer the cry of their heart, as He had when the children of Israel were in Egypt, and as He had when the children of Israel cried out in the days of the judges. They would be truly surprised should God not deliver them in some way. Therefore, you see, it was necessary for the twelve to experience this hope-crushing ordeal. They needed to be brought to the very limit of their physical endurance, and to the place where their minds are screaming, “How can this be happening? We are obeying as best we can. God, what is happening?”

Then “Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.” He showed them that He was God’s answer to their heart’s cry . . . with His feet. You do not understand? You have to be Jewish. Turn to Job 9.2, were we find ourselves in the midst of Job’s deep despondency over his profound losses, first his beloved children and vast wealth, and added to so broken a heart as that is the physical torment brought on by the plague of boils over his entire body. Let me be careful to point out that ancient Job, being a Gentile and not an heir to any of God’s promises or covenants, was without hope as the concept is properly set forth in the Bible. Hope is the confident expectation of future blessing based on the promises of God. However, he was not one of the covenant people of God, therefore Job had no real hope. What he had was desire, a longing in his heart, a profound want, and an awareness of great need, but no hope. Listen, as I read Job’s rehearsal of the attributes of this sovereign One who rules over him in the midst of his suffering, and his dilemma of why this is happening to him.

 

2      I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?

3      If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.

4      He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?

5      Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger.

6      Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.

7      Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars.

8      Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.

 

Job, in the very depths of his soul in the midst of his terrible suffering at the hand of Satan, does not know to take issue with Satan. His mind and heart turn to God, Who commands the sun, Who seals up the stars, Who spread out the heavens, and Who treads upon the waves of the sea! If the minds of the twelve did not recall Job’s words when Jesus stood on the water before them, then perhaps they remembered the words of the psalmist. Psalm 77.11:

 

11     I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.

12     I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.

13     Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?

14     Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.

15     Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.

16     The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.

17     The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad.

18     The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.

19     Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.

 

My friends, both passages have to do with God. This psalm certainly has to do with a terrible storm. However, both passages reveal that somehow God will walk on water. How very simply, but convincingly, Jesus declared Himself with His feet by walking on the water. He did what Job said God would do, and what the psalmist said God would do. He walked on water.

 

HE NEXT DID SO WITH HIS VOICE

 

You can imagine the scene as well as I can. The wind is howling from the north as it swoops down from Mount Hermon, with thunder and the lightning the psalmist compares to God’s arrows. The waves whipped up by the friction of the gusts come crashing over the bow of their little boat, that was wonderful for fishing, but dangerous in such a storm as this. It was just too small, riding too low in the water. How furiously they must have bailed water to avoid being swamped.

They first saw Him walking on the water, and it scared them so much that they shrieked. “But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” He must have had a booming voice to be heard in that storm. However, it was not the volume or the penetration of His voice that was remarkable, so much as what He said to them. “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” There are three phrases here. The first, “Be of good cheer,” and the last, “be not afraid,” must have been profoundly comforting to those terrified and exhausted men. However, it was the middle phrase, “it is I,” that worked with His walking on the water to seize their thoughts.

My friends, the phrase “It is I” translates two Greek words that no Jewish person could imagine himself uttering, much less imagining himself hearing anyone else stating, egw eimi, literally “I am.” When Moses stood on holy ground before the burning bush more than a thousand years earlier and asked the LORD who he should say sent him when asked, he was told in Exodus 3.14, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, “I am” is translated egw eimi. No Jewish person would miss that startling claim. Found also in such verses as Isaiah 41.4 and Isaiah 43.10, translated into English as “I am He,” these are powerful assertions of deity by association with God’s personal name of Jehovah, in verses in which Jehovah Himself is recorded as speaking. It would be unthinkable for a Jewish person to make the statement egw eimi, recognizing that every Jewish person would take such a statement to be a claim to be Jehovah Himself. Yet, this is exactly what Jesus says to His disciples, as He strides across the water to their small boat in that terrible storm, words that will later on elicit from hostile mobs in Jerusalem efforts to stone Him for blasphemy. However, here they have spent too many hours rowing, their muscles screaming for relief, knowing that any letup in rowing and bailing means they will certainly drown. Oh, how they yearn for deliverance. Oh, how they long for relief from their labors. How the mind begins to succumb to the pain and to prepare for surrender to the fatigue and drowning, when they are suddenly frightened and shriek, followed immediately by words of comfort, a self identification as Jehovah (their ears reinforcing what their eyes see as He strides across the water), and another comforting phrase.

Jesus has shown Himself to be God’s answer to their heart’s cry, first, with His feet, and now with His voice.

 

Finally, HE SHOWS HIMSELF WITH HIS RIGHT HAND

 

Though we must not allow Peter to be seen as the center of attention in this scene, his faith has certainly made him a significant player. Impulsive, as usual, he eagerly requested either permission or authority to step out of the boat and onto the water, and Jesus said, “Come.” What simplicity this is. “Come.” Is this not a gospel sermon? Leave the little bark of your man-made religion or other type of security that offers no real safety in the storm, and come to Christ. Notice that Peter’s faith did not express itself by asking how, but by immediately stepping from the boat onto the water. However, all Christians being flawed, we are not surprised that Peter’s faith quickly falters and he begins to sink, before crying out, “Lord, save me.” That is exactly how we live our lives. Do not allow anyone to criticize Peter for sinking. After all, he was the only one with faith to step out of the boat. Remind the critic of that the next time you hear him find fault with a child of God.

Pay particular attention to our Lord’s rescue of Peter when he cried, “Lord, save me.” Matthew 14.31 tells us, “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him.” This, too, was pregnant with meaning for those twelve Jewish men. Please turn to Isaiah 41.13-14, so you can see this passage with your own eyes:

 

13     For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.

14     Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

 

Jehovah, the God of Israel, who indicates He is “thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,” promises that He will “hold thy right hand.” As Peter began to sink, the LORD thy God, the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, who had walked on the water to reach their small boat, and who said words only the God of Israel should have said, took Peter’s right hand and caught him.

 

Therefore, you see that the twelve worshiped Him, “saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God,” for different reasons that you would have had. To be sure, walking on the water, enabling Peter to walk on the water and then saving him from drowning, and then calming the storm when He stepped into the boat, were remarkable reasons to worship Him and to acknowledge Him to be the Son of God.

However, they had even more profound reasons than the reasons you and I would have had. They were men who held to promises made long ago, who treasured a covenant established centuries earlier, who endured indignities and frustrations you and I do not identify with easily. Further, they had hope. They had the confident expectation of future blessings based upon the promises of their covenant God, Jehovah. They just did not know when, or in what form, His promises would be fulfilled. They thought Jesus was the One. He certainly seemed qualified, with His teaching and His miracles.

However, before God would show them His answer to their heart’s cry, He first had to prepare their hearts. He did so when Jesus directed them to sail to the other side and then sent the wind to make their obedience impossible.

Oh, how they groaned and toiled to obey. However, they could not. It was in the midst of their failure, with numbing fatigue crying out for relief after twelve hours of rowing and bailing water, when by all appearances they faced imminent drowning in the violent storm, that Jesus, the Savior of my soul, approached them. When their perception of need was at its greatest the Savior was there, showing Himself by walking on the water (as scripture said God would do), by speaking to them (words that only God should speak), and by delivering Peter with a strong right arm (as God had promised to do).

My friend, you are not in a small boat with your friends in a terrible storm in the middle of the night, in danger of drowning. However, your need for a savior is just as real as theirs was. This same Jesus, who showed Himself to be God by walking on water, who declared Himself to be God by the words He uttered, and who showed Himself to be God once more by delivering with a strong right arm, is as much God’s answer to your heart’s cry as He was God’s answer to their heart’s cry.

What He said to Peter applies to you. It is very simply, and easily done with faith that comes by hearing and believing sermons such as this one. Just come to Christ. In the storm-tossed sea of life, in a little boat of your own making that cannot save you, bone tired of rowing and bailing out the water to keep from sinking, the answer to your heart’s cry is Jesus Christ.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org