Faithlife
Faithlife

Lord - if its you ~ Mat 14 22-33 Br Rd 25 Ap 04 PM

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Lord, If it’s you …

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

                                                                        Matthew 14 28-31

What do you think? 

Was it a conspicuous failure or a remarkable success?

An impulsive act or a leap of faith?

What is this man Peter doing when he asks the Lord to let him join Him on the swell of the ocean in that storm?

Either way there are lessons to be learned here – lessons about doing the impossible, lessons about knowing your limitations, lessons about looking foolish – but above all – lessons for the Church of Jesus Christ!

In many people’s minds the boat on the lake in this story – and in the earlier one too, is a type or picture or symbol of the Church of Christ.  I have never been particularly fond of typology – but I do believe that this story paints a very dramatic picture of the Church.  I believe it paints a picture of most any church – and certainly this one. It has lessons to teach us about Christ and His people.    (The Church in water colours!)

As we look at this story we wonder why Matthew included the narrative about Peter. What was his purpose?  What can we learn about the story in general – and what contribution does Peter’s action add to the story?  

Certainly – and most obviously – there is a clear contrast between the action of Jesus walking on the water – and that of His disciple.  The One walks with all the dignity and authority of Him who commands the winds and the waves – the other walks only a few steps at his Master’s invitation – only to be distracted by the wind, and needing to be rescued.  Yet in the story as a whole there is implied a possibility of great and wonderful works at the behest of the Lord.

Crucial to both aspects of the story is something we saw when we were considering the Easter Day narratives – THE RECOGNITION OF JESUS.   

This process of recognition is seen in three stages:

·       V26   “they were terrified…”  and  “Take courage! It is I!” (27)

·       v28   “Lord, if it’s you….” - 31

·       v32~ “Truly … the Son of God.”

In much the same way as the narrative is punctuated with three “immediately”s

in verses 22, 27 and 31.  <[1]>  There the stress is upon the three parts of the narrative – Christ separating from His friends, encouraging them in the storm, and rescuing Peter as he sinks.

In the process of preparing His friends for what was to come at His death, and after His ascension, Jesus absents Himself from them – partly to pray alone, and partly to teach them to apply what they had already learned in the events just prior to this second storm on the lake – so that they would be more willing to TRUST HIM and indeed RECOGNISE HIM IN THE STORM AS IN THE PEACE.

Over and over again Jesus adopts a strategy of withdrawal – or encourages His disciples to work without Him – so that they can apply in His absence the power they had witnessed in His presence.

They needed to know the significance of His intercession then so that later they would act as those who knew and trusted the Lord of Glory.

It is one thing to trust when the bread and fish is being distributed to the vast crowd – quite another when the wind is against them and Jesus seems to be nowhere near.

Before I deal a little more closely with the detail of the story I want you to see the relevance of this passage to our situation here at Bristol Road – and also to your own individual situation.

APPLYING THE STORY TO OURSELVES

·       As a Church we have been experiencing a long period of interregnum – during which we have had something of a roller-coaster experience.  We have thought ourselves to be within sight of a pastor – only to have that taken away, or for difficulties to have arisen that prevent a decision.

As a result we are rather less inclined to recognise Jesus at work in our midst and not too willing to face the storms with confidence.

Sometimes the difficulties are in the disappointments – sometimes in the periods of seeming inactivity.  We make little headway – just like the disciples in the boat on their own on the lake.  We expend much energy and get only a few yards.

Surely it is a feature of the Christian life that we should be able to recognise Jesus at work in the shadow as well as the sunshine?  But our human frailty often wins and we feel alone and threatened.

·       The same is true of our INDIVIDUAL PILGRIMAGE -  changes come our way and problems arise.  It seems to us that God is further away at such times, and we lose touch with the reality of the situation that He NEVER LOSES INTEREST IN US, NEVER CEASES TO INTERCEDE – is indeed ALWAYS AT HAND.

As we examine this story I believe we shall find both ENCOURAGEMENT and A CHALLENGE – a challenge to RECOGNISE HIM IN THE STORM AS WELL AS IN THE TRIUMPH.

·       THIS RECOGNITION is an essential component of spiritual guidance – being sure that what we plan is what the Master wants – and not just a personal whim.  In that respect how are we to view the desire of Peter to walk to Jesus on the water?

So with those thought is our mind let us approach the narrative and see what the Lord is saying to us.

As we have observed Matthew prefaces each of the three sections with the word IMMEDIATELY

22.  22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

27.  27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.

31.   31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

The contrast and reality of being alone v22

22. 22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

When Jesus promptly dismissed the crowd after the feeding of the multitude the Kingdom of God was a few men rowing a boat against the wind – and their Lord alone on the shore!

What might seem a pathetic picture of weakness in the face of great odds is in fact a profound statement of POWER – for He prays, and sees and responds.   And, now that He is glorified and at the right hand of the Majesty in glory – our presence upon the waters and facing the wind is a fitting picture of the REALITY OF THE POWER OF CHRIST.

he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Matthew draws the picture with the perspective of grace.  The disciples – like us – see only the waves and the wind.

1.     This is a REALITY of the spiritual life

We seem to be alone

We see only the storm

We feel only the frustration of rowing against the wind

BUT JESUS INTERECEDES!

2.     There is a COMFORT that arises from His watchful gaze

As Mark records the same scene:

48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake.

That is the spiritual reality of our position – as it was theirs –

isolated perhaps -       but not forsaken

rowing hard       -       but not helpless

against the wind -       but in His gaze

3.     But such  REALITY and COMFORT can only be grasped by FAITH

Had the events of the great meal, and the previous stilling of the storm found in them a more fertile ground of trust they might have been able to apply to their present situation the wonder of past miracles and present power.

The second immediately arises from an even more traumatic experience:

The coming and recognition of Christ      

27.  27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.

For the disciples the lake’s adverse winds were a FAMILIAR FOE – in one way they were in their element.

But there came to them – AS THEY PERCEIVED IT – a phantom or ghost

25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

That which was their deliverance seemed to them an incomprehensible and terrifying prospect.

Here was an experience they would could not address from any previous encounter. This was an altogether NEW and TERRIFYING time.

What would have reassured them – had they been able to recognise Him – only served to awake in them a FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN.

Such things do not come upon us often – but when they do, they DISTORT OUR VIEW OF THE REALITY OF HIS POWER

They provoke in us – as in them – a primitive fear and an irrational outburst!

And so – in their extremity – Jesus immediately spoke:

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.

1.     A reassurance of His identity

IT IS I

This little phrase holds a whole world of meaning – in the original language it is I AM

The One who approaches is the LORD OF GLORY

The One who comes is the SOVEREIGN OF WIND AND SEA

2.     Knowing Him and His voice brings COURAGE and FREEDOM FROM         FEAR

Take courage…. Don’t be afraid!

O LORD, I have been pleased to hear You speak at other times.

 

I listened whilst you spoke to others and I knew you understood my need.

 

But now – when I am distressed more than ever before – I need to hear you speak

 

to recognise your voice

 

and by obedience find peace.

3.     The key is RECOGNITION

The third immediately is a response to personal failure. 

Of course Peter did not intend it to be a failure – it was all rather embarrassing really!

The consolation of His grasp      vv 28-31

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Peter is one moment asking Christ to reinforce His presence by inviting him to walk to Him on the water

The next is all exhilaration as responds in faith –

The next is “seeing the wind” and beginning to sink

And – just as quickly – in response to the cry “Lord, save me!”

IMMEDIATELY Jesus reached out His hand and caught Him.

And so we have the third immediately and the third phase of Christ’s delivery of His people

- The first was one of RELATIONSHIP

- The second was one of IDENTITY

- The third was one of REACHING OUT

There are times in our Christian life when the relationship is established : we are conscious of Christ in His glory and ourselves in the path of obedience : whatever the world thinks – that is the balance of power!

There are also times when we peer into the unknown, desperate for reassurance – and He identifies Himself,

And there are times when we respond to the challenge of some greater act of faith.

We catch a vision of some bold service – and we begin to walk towards Him on the water of faith –

only to see the wind

to feel the waves

to begin to falter

Nothing short of an intervention from HIM will suffice at such times.

Most of Peter’s experiences in the Gospels are a mixture of BOLDNESS and RECKLESSNESS – AFFIRMATION and FAILURE – CERTAINTY and DOUBT

The simple fact that only Matthew records the event suggests to me that Peter was not particularly proud of this event.

But this was the first significant miracle on the part of the disciples as a body – and the first for Peter.

I believe it is significant that Peter is not rebuked for coming across the water – but for the failure of his faith in the face of the wind.

·       It is one thing to be alone on the lake facing the storm – whilst Jesus prays

·       It is one thing to hear His voice and recognise Him

·       It is quite another to step out of the boat and put that power of the Lord to the test.

These are all marks of the relationship between Jesus and His friends – and they are marks of my relationship with Him too.

·       When I am alone – where is HE?

 

·       When I hear His voice – what does it mean?

 

·       When I make a bold step in obedience – is He far away?

Who is in control?

I do not know where you are on the spectrum of spiritual experience and trust tonight –

But I know where Jesus is!

It is time to                KNOW WHERE HE IS

                                RECOGNISE HIS VOICE

                                BE RECKLESS IN OBEDIENCE

For He is in charge!


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[1] Sermon at Langford Road 4 July 93.

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