Expository Sermon on Matthew 14
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 3/27/2021
©2021 by Maylan Schurch
If you’d like to watch the entire worship service, go to this link:
Please open your Bibles to Matthew chapter 14.
This is another sermon in a series I’ve called “Journeys with Jesus.” It’s based upon some of those Gospel passages where Jesus is actually on a journey as He does His teaching. He and the disciples may be walking along a road, and someone comes up to the “traveling Rabbi” with a question, or maybe someone rushes up begging for help with a servant who is sick.
As I went looking through the gospels for those “journey” events, I decided that there was a lot we can learn from them.
The journey we’ll be looking at today isn’t on the road – it’s on the water. It’s a very famous story, and I think we need it badly in the days ahead. And the reason I think we needed is that it reminds us of Christ’s “casual power.” Why do I call it “casual power”? Because this is one of those stories where Jesus is able to do some almost heart-stoppingly amazing things – and to do them in a very matter-of-fact way.
I think we need to be powerfully reminded of this. So let’s take a deep breath and dive right into the story.
Matthew 14:22 [NKJV]: Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.
Like I say, we’re diving into the story, and turns out to be the middle of the story. You see that word “immediately”? It shows up here not only in Matthew’s version of the story, but in the version in Mark six. They both say, “Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat.” And the word “made” is a word of command or compulsion – it’s almost saying He compelled them to get into the boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
So there’s a certain amount of hustle and hurry right here. But we don’t know why, until we go to John’s version of the story, in John 6. What’s just been happening is the feeding of 5000 men, plus women and children, with five loaves of bread and two fish. And Matthew and Mark tell that story, but John gives us some inside information about Jesus hustles His disciples away so quickly.
Here’s what John 6:14 – 15 says. Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did [feeding multiple thousands of people by a miracle], said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
So now we can piece the puzzle together a bit more clearly. The 5000 are fed, Jesus senses that He is about to be drafted as King over Israel, and He orders His disciples to leave. I would imagine that the reason He wants them out of the way is that there are probably quite a few of them who would cheerfully go along with this make-Jesus-King idea. It would make perfect sense to them – after all, one of their favorite topics of conversation is what role they will have in Jesus’ kingdom.
So back to Matthew 14:
Matthew 14:22 – 23: Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.
You see that? Jesus was alone with God. Jesus went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. And now, we’re going to watch Jesus’ “casual power” at work. Actually, it was already at work during the feeding of the thousands of people. Jesus didn’t have a brass band sounding the trumpets as he was about to distribute the loaves and fishes. He just did it quietly, calmly, even casually. But very powerfully.
But watch what happens now.
Verse 24: But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.
Now if I myself were looking down from a mountainside and noticed that a boat my friends were in was being tossed by the waves in a contrary wind, I would shudder, and say, “Wow. I hope they make it back to shore safe.”
Because there would be nothing else I could do. There was no Coast Guard to send a distress signal to. On board that boat there were experienced fishermen, who had probably been through this kind of thing before.
But is not me looking out over the water, it’s Jesus. What is Jesus going to do? Pretty much every young person who’s been in Sabbath school or Sunday school knows the answer. Maybe there was even a flannelgraph display about this story. And maybe the bottoms of every kid’s feet tingled with chill as the teacher stood the flannel Jesus on the water.
Verse 25: Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.
I mean, talk about casual! Can you picture Jesus striding across the sand of the shore, and taking that first Can you imagine Jesus striding across the shore, and then taking that first step onto the low, foamy wave curling up the sand? And then the next step? In the next?
And remember, the further out He goes, the wilder the waves become. The wind is coming straight at Him, pressing His cloak and his garment against Him.
Or maybe not. Maybe He is in some kind of supernatural bubble, walking calmly along, barely affected by the weather. Maybe it’s kind of like the bubble He invited Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into, there in that fiery furnace. They were present in the furnace, but they were not affected by the heat, and when they finally made it out, they didn’t even smell like smoke.
But now it’s time for our first very encouraging sermon point. Here’s what I would call Sermon Point One:
Jesus easily performs the impossible.
When I was a teenager, I started performing magic tricks. They were never large or fancy illusions, like floating ladies or anything like that, just tricks with ropes and coins and that kind of thing.
I would do these tricks at social events on Saturday nights at our little South Dakota Adventist church. And most of the time as people watched me, they would chuckle appreciatively. Once in awhile someone would lean over to the person next to him and whisper that he knew how Maylan did that trick.
But once in awhile a trick of mine would catch people napping, as they failed to keep a sharp eye on what I was doing with one hand while I distracted their attention with the other. Then the full impact of the illusion would hit them, and their eyes would open wide, and they would say, “How did you DO that?”
I’m sure that, in heaven, people are going to line up and ask Jesus how this casual miracle was done. How—on earth—did He simply decide to take the shortest route to that rocking boat, a straight-line stroll across the Galilean deep? How did He know it was going to work?
Whatever answer will be, the truth is that Jesus can easily, casually do the impossible.
And this isn’t the only example. Again and again Jesus did things that, even with 21st-century modern technology, we still can’t do.
When angry crowds surrounded Him to do Him damage, and He knew that his hour had not yet come, Jesus “hid Himself.”
When He saw a man sitting in a synagogue, shyly concealing a withered hand in his cloak, Jesus asked him to show his hand, and Jesus heals it.
When He walked into a village, He eventually walked away from it leaving it bursting with health. When He came near a funeral procession, He immediately changed the mood to joy. And you and I could go on and on, listing all He did.
So – what does this mean to me, today, March 27, 2021?
I believe I can step into this coming week more confidently, knowing that Jesus easily does the impossible. I believe that Jesus’ miracles nowadays are more subtle, more low-key, but just as amazing when you focus on them.
I’ll bet if you and I could settle down and have a chat, you could tell me stories – and I know that I could tell you stories – about miracles have happened in our lives. Real miracles, honest-to-goodness miracles, which could not be coincidence or anything else but the direct intervention of God.
We need to remember that when Jesus arrived, He needed to make very clear that He was the Son of God. And He needed to do this very quickly, because he did not have a lot of earthly time before his crucifixion. So his miracles were dramatic and breathtaking.
Then He sent out His disciples to preach the gospel, and occasionally miracles happened, but most of the book of Acts was filled with stories of Peter or Paul or others preaching about Jesus, telling the story of what He came to do.
So let’s move confidently forward into this coming week. Let’s go back and read the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus talks about how if we are facing needs, our Heavenly Father knows what these needs are, and he will supply them in the way he knows is best.
But we need to hurry back to a dark night on a wild lake, where the wind is pushing back against the disciples’ rowing muscles. And here comes Jesus, thoughtfully strolling along, on the water.
Verse 25: Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.
If you’re using a study Bible, such as the Andrews Study Bible, a footnote will most likely tell you the fourth watch was somewhere between 3 and 6 AM. So it’s not like Jesus came walking to and 30 or 11 a clock. All night long these disciples have been battling the waves, trying to keep the boat from capsizing, trying to make some forward progress.
When Mark tells the story, in Mark 6:48, it makes this extremely interesting statement: “ . . . He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.” You know, whenever I’ve read this story, as a teenager on up, this has filled me with even greater confidence. I mean, Jesus not only could walk on water, but He could glance at the boat, decided there was nothing to worry about, and just keep walking.
But of course, somebody spots Him. And we’re about to learn something else about Jesus’ “casual power.”
Verse 26: And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.
The Greek word for “ghost” here is phantasma. I have an idea that none of the disciples had ever seen a phantasma before, except maybe in their imaginations. Maybe they’d heard so many ghost stories that they figured that finally they were seeing one.
But Jesus quickly reassures them.
Verse 27: But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
As I was studying this verse this week, I thought, “Wow, there is a sermon right there in that verse. It even has three points, and each one has a separate meaning.
But what’s really interesting is the “It is I” statement. The Greek phrase is ego eimi, and those are the exact same words Jesus used over in John 8:58, when He said, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” The same phrase—ego eimi.
So whether or not the disciples picked up on it, Jesus is using the same words he used when he was declaring to some very hostile Jewish religious leaders that He was the “I Am” God of the Old Testament.
Anyway, watch what happens next.
Verse 28: And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
On the one hand, this is a pretty impulsive thing to say. But notice how sensible Peter really is. He could’ve just jumped out into the water and tried to walk by himself. But he had the smarts to get Jesus’ specific permission, His specific command.
That might be something to keep in mind as we move forward into our world which desperately needs Jesus’ friends to dare greatly for him. We can be impulsive, or we can be smart. Even though I – or maybe you – would never have had the idea to try to walk over to Jesus on the water, Peter did. But he made sure the Lord was okay with it.
And Jesus gives him the go-ahead.
Verse 29: So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
Here comes what I would call Sermon Point Two.
Not only does Jesus easily perform the impossible, but Jesus can easily help YOU do the impossible.
As you probably know, Jesus most likely won’t make it possible for people today to walk on water. That only happened twice in the New Testament–once for Jesus and once for Peter– and never in the Old Testament.
But a more accurate way to look at this is to say that Jesus is perfectly able to supply what you need, when you need it, in ways He knows is best, and at a time He knows is best. The result can be just as miraculous.
Jesus and His father have a long history of helping human beings do the impossible. Moses stood at the Red Sea, raised his staff, and the waters parted. Moses held up his arms as the nation was fighting a battle, and as long as those arms were raised hi, Israel was winning.
Four priests stood at the edge of the Jordan River carrying the ark of the covenant with poles. The front two priests stepped into the water, and rather than walking on it, the waters parted, and they kept carrying that ark to the opposite shore.
Gideon and his 300 soldiers were laughably outnumbered as they got their torches and trumpets ready. But all they had to do was blow those trumpets, and shout, and the enemy took care of each other.
Elijah called down fire from heaven on the consecrated sacrifice. Elisha healed a Syrian from leprosy, and raised a child to life. We’ve already mentioned Shadrach, me shack, and Abednego literally standing for their faith, both on the plain of Dura and on the coals of an insanely hot furnace.
Jesus can easily help you do the impossible. Whether or not you are a daring kind of person – Peter was, and I am not, and Moses was not, and sometimes Abraham was not – whether or not you are a daring kind of person, Jesus can easily use you to do the impossible.
Remember a little lady by the name of Ellen White? Remember those other Adventist pioneers who study their Bibles and prayed preached? This congregation would not exist without the truths that impelled people to gather and then proclaim them.
So join me in walking forward into this week, confident that Jesus is able to do the impossible, and that if I fully consecrate myself to Him, I can be a part of the miracles he will do.
Let’s go back to our story, and discover a third I found. You might almost call this third truth an “umbrella” truth.
Verses 29 – 23: So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
Here comes Sermon Point Three:
Not only does Jesus easily perform the impossible, and not only can Jesus easily help YOU do the impossible, but Jesus easily controls the cosmos.
In other words, our Creator and Redeemer has ultimate control over everything He created. The only thing he refuses to force is our personal choice. The choice is up to us, whether to serve Him or not, whether to accept His gift of salvation, or not.
And there’s one little detail about the walking-on-the-water story which I personally have tended to ignore. I haven’t deliberately ignored it, it’s just that it was a last little detail I had missed. Both Jesus and Peter were safely in the boat, and I missed the most important part of the story.
Verse 33: Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
Have you ever worshiped Jesus by telling Him, “Truly You are the Son of God”? I don’t think I have ever personally worship Jesus this way. But I’m going to tell him more often but I know who He is. I’m going to ask him to make clear to me more and more what this means, and how much courage it can give me. I’d like to invite you to do the same.