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CHRIST WALKING ON THE SEA
Matthew 14:26-27. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
THE Christian’s duties are often difficult and self-denying. Nevertheless he must do the will of God, and leave events to his all-wise disposal. Jesus ordered his Disciples to go in a small vessel to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the multitudes, who had been fed by him. They, probably approving in their hearts the proposal that had been made to invest him with royal authority [Note: John 6:15.], were somewhat averse to leave him; but, being commanded to go, complied [Note: Ἠνάγκασεν, ver. 22.]. In the discharge of their duty they were overtaken with a storm, which not only obstructed their progress, but endangered their lives. In this state they were greatly terrified; but they soon found that the way of duty was the way of safety.
In elucidating the miraculous interposition of Jesus on their behalf, we shall notice,
The power he exercised—
He came to them walking on the sea—
[Jesus, after dismissing the multitudes, retired to a mountain to pray; and thus by his own example taught us all, and especially ministers, that, however pressing our public business may be, we should redeem time, even from sleep, for the purposes of private devotion. In the meantime his disciples, driven from their course, were contending with the storm [Note: They were ordered to go over a small bay to Bethsaida; but striving against the winds which drove them nut to sea towards Capernaum, they were, after many hours, only a league from shore.]. But Jesus went to their relief; and, having no boat or attendants to convey him, walked to them upon the tempestuous waters.]
This he did from the purest and most benevolent motives—
[Had he been actuated by a vain ostentation, he would probably have continued walking on the sea, instead of going up into the ship, that the people of Capernaum also might behold him [Note: Besides, he had just refused to be made a king.]; but his disciples were to be his witnesses to the world; and, being very slow of heart to believe, they needed more abundant testimonies for their conviction. Now the walking upon the sea was known to be an indication of Divine power [Note: Job 9:8.]. He therefore gave them this evidence on purpose to prove to them his Messiahship; and, by means of it, he wrought a conviction on their minds, which his other miracles had failed to produce [Note: ver. with Mark 6:52.].]
The first effect produced by his appearance to them, leads us to notice,
The fears he occasioned—
His disciples were extremely terrified at the sight of him—
[The day but just beginning to dawn, their view of him was very indistinct. They supposed him to be a spirit. They knew that it was an evil spirit who had raised the storm by which Job’s family were destroyed [Note: Job 1:12; Job 1:19.]; and they possibly might think that such a spirit had stirred up this tempest, and was now coming to overwhelm them utterly. Filled with terror, they cried aloud; accounting him an object of dread, whom, if they had known him, they would have regarded as their most seasonable, most welcome deliverer; but the trouble was necessary, in order to engage their more fixed attention to the miracle now exhibited before their eyes.]
Thus are the Lord’s people frequently harassed by unnecessary fears—
[All are called to sustain some conflicts in the path of duty; and in the midst of trouble the mind is apt to faint. If our difficulties or dangers be great, we are prone to indulge despondency, and to increase by imaginary fears the calamities under which we labour. How often has that been a source of trouble to us, which should rather have been an occasion of joy and gratitude! How often have we forgotten, that God is pledged for our support, while we continue in the path of duty; and that there are a thousand unforeseen ways in which he can appear for us, when we think him most unmindful of our state! But, however distressing our fears may be for a moment, we shall have reason to be thankful for them, if they be the means of impressing us with a more abiding sense of Christ’s love and faithfulness; yea, they are often permitted, and even excited by him, for this very end.]
These fears however were amply compensated by,
The condescension he manifested—
He instantly dispelled their fears in the kindest and most condescending manner—
[He at first appeared as though he would pass by them; but, having tried them for a moment, he revealed himself unto them, and bade them dismiss their groundless fears. He moreover went up into the vessel to them; and immediately the ship was wafted to its destined port [Note: John 6:21.].]
Thus does he at this time also allay the fears of his people—
[Are they distressed by reason of fierce opposition? he reminds them that, with Him on their side, they have none to fear [Note: Isaiah 41:10-15.]. Are they overwhelmed with heavy trials? his presence with them is urged by him as an abundant ground of consolation and encouragement [Note: Isaiah 43:1-2; Isaiah 43:5.]. Are they desponding under an apprehension that they are forsaken by him? he gently reproves their unbelief [Note: Isaiah 40:27-31.], and assures them of his unremitting care [Note: Isaiah 49:14-15.]. Whatever be the source of their discouragement, he bids them not fear [Note: Luke 12:32.]; and commands his ministers to labour more especially in comforting their afflicted minds [Note: Isaiah 35:4.]. Thus, by revealing himself to them, he removes their trouble; and, by his presence with them, carries them forward towards the haven of rest.]
There is no state in which Christ can not save us—
[Our difficulties may be greatly multiplied, and appear utterly unsurmountable; but “his hand is not shortened that it cannot save; nor is his ear heavy, that it cannot hear. He who “made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over,” and saved Jonah in the belly of a fish, can never be at a loss for means to deliver us. On the contrary, the greater be the obstacles to our salvation, the more will he magnify his power and grace in effecting it.]
There is no state in which Christ will not save us—
[He sees us when we little think of it; and is often nearer to us than we imagine. Our conflicts may be long; and he may suffer all our endeavours to be frustrated: but he will appear for us in some unexpected way; and his presence with us shall both alleviate our labours, and crown us with success. Only let us invite him into the vessel with us, and we shall gain in safety the desired haven.]
PETER SAVED WHEN SINKING IN THE SEA
Matthew 14:30-31. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
MEN’S constitutional propensities are apt to betray them into many errors. Whatever be the natural frailties of any person, they usually form the weak part of his character even to his latest hour. The force of them is no where more strongly exhibited than in the conduct of Peter. He was of a bold, forward, confident disposition. This led him on many occasions to act with indiscretion and often brought upon him a just reproof. In the passage before us he needlessly solicited a trial of his faith, and the experiment terminated in his shame.
The account given of it in the text, leads us to observe,
That we should not unnecessarily expose ourselves to temptation—
[Peter doubtless was in part actuated by faith and love: but, in soliciting permission to display the grace of which he supposed himself possessed, he erred. There was no more occasion for him to venture thus upon the waters, than for any other of the Apostles to do it. And, in affecting this distinction above all his brethren, he betrayed a considerable measure of pride and vain glory: and, in acceding to his request, our Lord chiefly designed to make him sensible of his own weakness. In fact, this attempt to display his faith and courage, was overruled for the discovering of his cowardice and unbelief and of putting him to shame for his overweening conceit and forwardness. And thus will God deal with us, if, under an idea of our ability to withstand temptation, we expose ourselves needlessly to its assaults. Who does not see the folly of Dinah in going to visit the daughters of an heathen people, and of subjecting herself to the temptation by which she fell? Yet is her example followed by thousands amongst ourselves, who associate with ungodly companions, and frequent places of vain amusement, and expose themselves to temptations of various kinds, under an idea that they “can take fire in their bosoms, and not be burned!” But their folly will sooner or later be manifest, even as Peter’s was. As then our Lord cautions us against worldly-mindedness by the example of Lot’s wife, so would I caution all of you, my brethren, against self-confidence by the sad example of Peter. On another occasion, Peter sinned yet far more grievously through a mistaken notion of his power to maintain his integrity. He went from mere idle curiosity to see the issue of his master’s trial in the hall of Pilate, and there he denied his Lord with oaths and curses. And what may result from an unnecessary exposure of yourselves to temptation, God alone knows. But I would put you all upon your guard, and say to every one amongst you, ‘Remember Peter’s infirmity, with the danger consequent upon it.’
But you may further learn from this history,]
That, if in the way of providence we are called to trials, we need not fear them—
[When Peter had once obtained his Lord’s command to come to him upon the waters, he had no occasion for fear. If the water was made so firm as to sustain his weight, what reason had he to fear the waves? Hence our Lord justly reproved his unbelief, saying, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” In this he has shewn how weak we all are, when we come into temptation. Though we ourselves, both in body and soul, are living miracles, yet we forget the power that has hitherto upheld us, and are ready to tremble at the prospect of some overwhelming calamity, as though it were impossible for us to support it. The Hebrews had seen all God’s wonders in Egypt, and yet on every fresh occasion of difficulty they yielded to desponding apprehensions. And thus we also are prone to fear, whenever any heavy trial occurs. But if we saw an armed host behind us, and an impassable ocean before our face, we should not question for a moment the power or veracity of God, but say to the one, “Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel, thou shalt become a plain;” and to the other, “God will make the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over.” All that we have to ascertain is, whether we are in the path of duty: and, if in that respect we can see the pillar and the cloud leading the way, we need not fear all that either men or devils can do against us. This was the experience of David [Note: Psalms 46:1-3.], and it should be ours. For it is certain,]
That whatever trials we may be brought into, the prayer of faith will be effectual for our deliverance—
[“Lord, save me!” cried Peter in his extremity: and the hand of Jesus, stretched out, saved him instantly from his peril. And where shall we find, in all the sacred records, one instance of any person calling upon the Lord in vain? The troubles of David were on many occasions exceeding heavy; yet did the prayer of faith procure for him deliverance from them all [Note: Psalms 40:1-3.]. And thus shall it prove with us, if only, with the simplicity of Peter’s affiance, we cry, “Lord, save me!” Let us suppose that we were, in a spiritual view, in the very predicament of Peter: let us suppose that, under loads of guilt and storms of corruption, we felt ourselves sinking into perdition; the Publican’s prayer, uttered from the heart, should prevail to allay the storm, and to bring us in safety to the haven of eternal rest. Only let us not limit either the power or grace of Christ, and we shall “be saved by him with an everlasting salvation.”]
[No man, whatever he may have attained, is at liberty to expose himself to needless temptations. The injunction given to every child of man is, “Be not high-minded, but fear:” “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” To young people especially would I give this salutary caution: ‘To rush into temptation without necessity, is to tempt the Lord.’ It is only whilst with all holy watchfulness we “keep ourselves,” that we can hope effectually to be preserved by God.]
[The reproof given to Peter, “O thou of little faith; wherefore didst thou doubt?” is justly applicable to us, if, under any circumstances whatever, we yield to a desponding spirit. For, is not the Lord Jesus present with us? and is he not as able to save as ever! What if, with Jonah, we were “brought, as it were, into the very belly of hell,” could not the same power as restored him deliver us also [Note: John 2:1-7.]? Only take the promises of God for your support, and they shall never fail you: for “they are all yea and Amen in Christ Jesus [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:20.].]
The confirmed believer—
[You, if in other respects you are walking uprightly, bring much glory to your God. There is nothing that honours God so much as faith, and nothing that dishonours him so much as unbelief. Other sins pour contempt upon the law: but unbelief reflects upon the Lawgiver, as calling in question his veracity, or power, or love. Be ye then as lights in a dark world. The world look only to second causes: you must shew them that every thing, even to the falling of a sparrow, is under the direction of the first Great Cause, who alone is worthy to be regarded with either fear or love. At the same time let your confidence in God be humble, without ostentation before men, and without unhallowed boldness before God. Then may you expect to be preserved from all dangers; and both the Church and the world will be edified by your example.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Matthew 14". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34