Talk 2 – Sinking Feet and Desperate Cries

WELCOME back to our happy excavation of Matthew.

And I love today’s Bible story: Jesus walking on water.

I cannot count the number of times we’ve preached from this story.

But even if you heard this familiar story many times, let God speak a fresh Word to you.

Today, I want to preach the overarching message, God will rescue you. No matter what happens, He will be there for you.

But first, you’ll hear five powerful insights from this story.

And here’s the first one…

Let’s begin: “Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.” (v.22)

Why “insisted”? Why the urgency?

It’s not so clear in Matthew, but in John, when Jesus multiplied bread, it almost caused an armed revolution. The crowd—which in our estimate was 12,000 minimum—wanted to make Jesus their military King. My guess is that Jesus told His disciples to leave right away because He didn’t want them to be swayed by the clamor of the crowd.

Which brings us to the first insight. Jesus sent the disciples away
and sent the people home so He could pray and be alone.

Lesson? At a certain point in your decision- making, you must stop listening to the crowd.

After consulting with your friends, you must also stop listening to them– go to the inner closet of your heart, and have a one-on-one meeting with God.

In the same way that Jesus went up to the hills to be alone with God, we also must do this regularly. Especially when the people around us are very noisy.

Here’s the second lesson…

Jesus asked His disciples to “cross to the other side of the lake”. And that’s where they met a storm.

I believe God deliberately sends us to enter into storms. Following Jesus isn’t about avoiding problems, it’s about transforming them. Don’t pray for an easy life. Pray for one with the best, deep meaning. Pray for a life of selflessness and surrender and sacrifice.

Here’s the next insight…

The story continues, “Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. (v.23-24)

The original Greek literally says, “At the fourth watch of the night.”

The ancients divided “nighttime” into four quadrants or four watches.
The first watch was 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The second was 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight. The third was 12:00 midnight to 3:00 a.m. And the fourth was 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Jesus came not on the first, or second, or third watch– He came at the fourth watch.

Matthew was telling something profound. Sometimes, God comes at the last watch of the night. When I was young, I heard a preacher point out: “God is the 11:59 God.”

He is never late. He has perfect time.

Trust that God will show up at the right time.

For ancient people in the Middle East, the sea was a place to be feared. Because they couldn’t control it. Thus, water was a symbol of chaos. And remember what we shared about “design patterns” in the Bible? Jesus walking on the water connects to Genesis 1:2: “And the Spirt of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”

Jesus is Yahweh. He is Lord over chaos. If your life is chaotic, Jesus is not leaving you behind. He’s there. And that’s what Matthew tells us: “When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, ‘It’s a ghost!’ 27But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. ‘Take courage. I am here!’” (v.26-27)

Are you going through a huge trial right now?

Remind yourself who is in charge.

God is still in charge.

Do what you can. But when you’ve done all you can, stand back.

God is telling you, “Take courage. I am here.”

We now arrive at the funny part of the story…

Keep Your Eyes on Jesus!

I find this next part pretty wild: “Then Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’ 29 ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said. So, Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.” (v.28-29)

What a guy. And who says the Bible is boring?

If you ask, “Who in the Bible walked on water?” the answer is not Jesus.

The answer is Jesus and Peter. The fisherman actually took a few steps on the lake. We don’t know how many.

But he did what the Law of Physics said was impossible.

And this guy who at the start was all guts and glory began to lose it.

“But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted.” “Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said. ‘Why did you doubt me?’” (v.30-31)

When I was just a teenage preacher, a key message in one of my earliest talks was, “Keep your eyes on Jesus.”

And I used this exact Bible story.

Let me replay that message to you. You have a choice: You can look at the wind and the waves around you, or you can look at Jesus in front of you.

If you look at the discouraging circumstances around you, you’re going to sink.

In this Coronavirus Disease (COVID) Pandemic, so many have asked me, “Brother Bo, anxiety is consuming me up. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I can’t breathe. I can’t live another day. I think I’m going to die. What should I do?”

If you’re having anxiety problems, the first thing you need to do is to shut down the non-stop flood of COVID news on your phone. If you’re drowning, turn off the faucet. We live in a world where you can know how many additional COVID cases are there every single day in Bhutan and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. How crazy is that?

Are you sinking? Keep your eyes on Jesus.

But as great as this message is, please don’t lose sight of the main message of Matthew in this story: That even IF you lose sight of Jesus, even if you get distracted by the winds and waves, and if you lose your faith, and if you fail…

I need to get your 100% attention before I say my next line. This story is primarily not about how strong our faith should be, but about how strong God’s love for us already is.

No matter what happens.

We have a tendency to read every Bible story as an ethical lesson: “Do this,” and “Do that,” and “Improve here,” and “Improve there.”

But before you make this passage about how we should behave, read it first as a passage about how God behaves.

Because Matthew is exposing God’s heart. He’s saying, no matter how your faith fails, God will rescue you.

How God Will Rescue You

I always see myself in Peter.

He’s excitable. He’s impulsive. And I’m like that.

But he can be flaky. Undependable. Inconsistent. And that’s me too.

I think that’s what Matthew wanted us to see. That we’re all like Peter. We all fail like him.

The writer makes it clear throughout his Gospel that the disciples had little faith. He mentions it many times.

And who has big faith? People who shouldn’t have faith—Gentiles like the Roman Centurion and the Canaanite Woman. Matthew shows us this crazy irony to tell us that God will rescue us in two ways…

First, God Will Rescue You When You Lack Faith

Early in my spiritual life, I always thought faith was something that I must stir up within me. Like I need to psych myself up to believe. So, I’d recite Bible verses as positive affirmations, like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…” and “Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world…”

I do that to this day. And all that has value.

But the longer I walk in my spiritual life, the more

I realize that even the ability to trust God is a gift from God.

Do you lack faith? Pray for it.

God will rescue you by giving you faith.

Second, God Will Rescue Us When We Fail Him

Faith is not a mental assent or even a feeling of certainty.

Faith is a relationship. Faith is not a singular act but an ongoing process. Faith is a journey. With lots of ups and downs.

Sometimes, you’re up. Like when Peter walks on water. But sometimes, you’re down. Like when Peter sinks in the water.

And God will rescue you.

Imagine if the opposite happened: Jesus just allowed Peter to sink. And when Peter disappears, Jesus climbs on their bangka and announces, “Boys, that’s what happens when you lack faith. Let’s now take a few moments of silence to pray for the soul of our Brother Peter. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5..). Amen. Okay, John, you’re now in charge. Let’s go build the Church, everybody…”

Jesus doesn’t do that. Every person counts. He reaches out to Peter when he is walking and He reaches out to Peter when he is sinking.

This is the God that you worship. His name is Mercy.

By the way, this message is nothing new. When the Jews read this story, they connected it right away to Exodus and the Psalms where God is pictured as One who, with His mighty arm, pulls out Israel from the raging waters of the Red Sea.

Because faith is a journey, it will take time for your faith to grow up. God knows you will sink, and when you do, He will rescue you.

Oh yes, I’ve been there. I’ve sinned. And I’ve been through trials.

One day, I fell into depression. Aside from my Mom passing away, I was facing huge problems at work. The combination was deadly. I recall writing a resignation letter to the Ministry Elders, telling them I’ve reached a level of incompetence. I was quitting. Because I felt I was drowning.

My dark emotional condition lasted for four long months. Each morning, I woke up with a dark cloud hovering around me.

But looking back, even when I didn’t feel God with me, I realize He was there all along. Jesus rescued me.

Friend, do you feel overwhelmed by the storms around you? See Jesus stretch out His arms
towards you, the same way He stretched out His
arms on the Cross for you… God will rescue you


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