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. 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. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. (Matthew 14:22-24)
The Lord is in the mountains, in the place of prayer. The disciples are down on the Sea of Galilee in a storm and in darkness; they are in the place of peril. What a picture this is of our own day. Our Lord has gone on to the Father and is seated at the Father’s right hand. We today are down here on a storm-tossed sea in the place of peril.
I love this next verse:
And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. (v. 25)
The fourth watch is the morning watch, from three in the morning until daylight. This is the time the Lord walked on the sea, going to His disciples. And I think that will be the watch in which He will come for us at the Rapture. Christ is the bright and morning star for the church, and He will take the church out of the world. We don’t know the date of His coming. There are men who would have us believe that they know the time, but they don’t know. However, I believe that we are in the fourth watch of the night.
And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. (v. 26)
This is the picture: Our Lord is up there on the mountain, and He sees the disciples in the storm, toiling and rowing, as Mark’s record has it. Then He comes to them in the fourth watch. When they see Him, they say, “It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” Somebody is going to say, “Well, they were superstitious.” Yes, there may have been a certain amount of superstition in them, but what would you think if a man came to you walking on the water? Many years ago over in Tennessee a fellow said, “I didn’t believe in ghosts either until I saw one!” And that is the position of the disciples. They had never seen a spirit before, but they think they are seeing one now! “But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (v. 25). Immediately He reassured them that He was no ghost!
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. (v. 28)
Peter has certainly been criticized for this. They say that he should not have asked to walk on water. Well, I rather admire the man. William Carey said, “Expect great things of God, and attempt great things for God.” Certainly Peter did that! I am afraid that most of us are satisfied with little things from God. Notice that Jesus did not rebuke Peter for asking:
And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. (v. 29)
I hear people say that Peter failed to walk on the water, but that is not the way my Bible reads. My Bible says that Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus. This is not failure! Peter asked a tremendous thing of God. No wonder God used him in such a wonderful way during the days that followed. No wonder he was chosen to preach the sermon on the Day of Pentecost.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. (v. 30)
Peter took his eyes off the Lord Jesus while he was walking on the water. When he began to sink, he prayed the shortest prayer in the Bible, “Lord, save me”! If Simon Peter had prayed this prayer like some of us preachers pray, “Lord, Thou who are omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent…” Peter would have been twenty-nine feet under water before he would have gotten to his request. Peter got right down to business, and you and I need to pray like that.
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? (v. 31)
Peter’s problem was that he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the waves rolling. You and I are in a world today where we see the waves rolling, and this is the time when we need to keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ.
And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. (vv. 32, 33)
Our Lord performed this miracle for His own, that they might be brought into the place of faith. Even Simon Peter, who was audacious enough to say, “Lord, bid me come unto thee on the water” and actually walked on the water, which should have cemented his faith, got his eyes off Jesus, and his faith failed. I don’t want to criticize Peter because that has been my problem, also. I have stepped out on faith many times and then have taken my eyes off Him. This is the tragedy of the hour for us in our day. But these things were done that the disciples might worship Him and know that He was the Son of God.—From Edited Messages on Matthew by J. Vernon McGee