In Over Your Head

Trust isn’t built in perfection; it’s built in failure.

Ever wonder if you’d recognize Jesus on the street today? Without a detailed description of His appearance in Scripture, you would have to rely on something other than physical attributes. But if we look at the story of Him walking on water, hidden in that moment is a clue for how His disciples, then and now, can identify the Savior when life’s storms obscure His face.

 

Read

Matt. 14:22-36; Mark 6:45-56; and John 6:16-24 to get the most from this study. But first, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth available in the passages. Permit yourself to ask questions that may not have answers. Wonder aloud, imagine the scene, and take note of anything that surprises, confuses, or even offends you. Remember, God is the best teacher.

Key Passage: Matthew 14:22-36

 

Background

After the death of John the Baptist, Jesus took a boat across the Sea of Galilee, seeking solitude. He also urged the disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). But a large crowd, aware of Jesus’ reputation as a miracle worker, showed up. The Lord had compassion on them—He healed their sick, taught them, and then used two fish and five loaves to provide a meal for the multitude.

 

Reflect

After feeding the 5,000, Jesus again withdrew to pray by Himself, sending the disciples on ahead of Him in a boat. When He emerged from His private intercession, Jesus set out to meet the Twelve in a most unorthodox way.

  • Note that Jesus dismissed the disciples to the boat at some point in the late afternoon (Matt. 14:22-23), and by the time He encountered them in the wee hours of the morning (Matt. 14:25), they had managed to make it only to the middle of the lake (Mark 6:47). Considering their prolonged exertion, how do you think the disciples felt physically? Emotionally?

  • In Mark’s account, it says that when evening fell Jesus observed the disciples’ struggle, likely from His position on the mountainside (Mark 6:46-48), yet He did nothing until several hours later. Why do you think He waited?

  • Stranger still, Mark notes that Jesus had every intention of passing the boat (Mark 6:48)—it’s only when the disciples let out spooked cries of terror that He turned. That may seem callous, but look at Mark 6:50 and Matthew 14:27. How does Jesus respond to their fear? In what way does the immediacy of His response impact your view of Jesus?

 

Continuing the Story

It’s one thing for the Son of God to defy the laws of physics; it’s quite another for mere mortals to dare to do the same.

How does knowing the Savior is in tune with the fears of His disciples bolster your trust in Him?

  • All three Gospel accounts tell us that the disciples were afraid. The two Greek words used (tarasso in Matthew 14:26 and Mark 6:49-50, and phobeo in John 6:19) both carry a sense of “struck with fear, dread, or alarm.” What did they assume about the figure on the water? In what way does Jesus attempt to assuage their fears (see Matt. 14:27, Mark 6:50, John 6:20)? How does knowing the Savior is in tune with the fears of His disciples bolster your trust in Him?

  • Pay special attention to Peter’s response: “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water” (Matt. 14:28, emphasis added). At this point, would you say Peter was convinced that it was indeed Jesus, not a ghost? Check out Matt. 10:8 and Matt. 14:16, and then reread Matt. 14:28. Given Jesus’ track record of delegating the impossible to His disciples, why do you think Peter challenged the Lord to invite him to walk on water?

  • What does Peter’s expectation to be challenged tell you about the nature of a disciple? Do you see that willingness to risk in your own life as a follower of Jesus?

  • In verse Matt. 14:29, Jesus extended an invitation to Peter: “Come!” Per Strong’s Concordance, the Greek is erchomai, which can mean “to come into being, find influence, be established, become known.” In English, we communicate this idea as “to come into one’s own.” With that in mind, when has God invited you to risk in the middle of a storm? How did that moment lead to a deeper establishment of your faith and calling?

 

Reflect

With a sudden shift in focus, Peter finds himself flailing.

  • In verse Matt. 14:31, Matthew tells us that the moment Peter began to sink, Jesus was able to save him. Notice how Jesus addresses Peter. What emotional response do you have to the words “you of little faith”? Read Matt. 6:30; Matt. 8:26; and Matt. 16:8, paying attention to who the audience is each time. How does knowing Jesus reserves this nickname for His disciples change how you perceive His tone?

  • For this rescue to have occurred, how close must the Lord have been to Peter? Consider the implications for your life—how does realizing Jesus’ proximity in times of danger impact your own willingness to risk?

 

Revisit

Over the next several weeks, use this section to review the study and consider how its message applies to your life.

As Peter discovered that day on the water, following Jesus isn’t one grand gesture of faith followed by carefree cruising.

If the disciples were to be assigned superlatives, Peter would undoubtedly bear the title Most Brash. From proclaiming Jesus’ messiahship and denying Him multiple times to cutting off an aggressor’s ear and walking on water, the apostle had a history of bold statements and rash actions—some of which led to miracles, others to messes. But as Peter discovered that day on the water, following Jesus isn’t one grand gesture of faith followed by carefree cruising. Sure, that first step takes a monumental amount of courage—but it’s only the beginning.

  • Oftentimes, we comfort ourselves with the belief that as soon as we obey God, the obstacles and trials we are facing will quickly vanish. But consider that the raging waters and wind didn’t cease when Peter stepped out of the boat; in fact, his act of faith served only to expose him further to the elements. When you take a major risk for Jesus, what do you expect to happen? Is your hope in immediately changed circumstances or in God’s presence?

  • Keep in mind that this wasn’t the first time Peter had witnessed Jesus miraculously wielding authority over wind and waves. In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus calmed a storm that had previously lulled Him to sleep inside the stern of the disciples’ boat. Have you, like Peter, ever experienced a similar lapse of memory in a threatening situation? In what ways could regularly meditating on God’s power and presence strengthen your faith for future trials? How can you become more mindful about recalling ways that God has worked on your behalf?

  • Few steps of faith equal smooth sailing, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth taking. Put your hope in the fact that the God who calls you will catch you.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Reading Bible

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What happens to my notes

22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.

23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.

25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.

26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear.

27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."

28 Peter said to Him, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."

29 And He said, Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, Lord, save me!"

31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.

33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, You are certainly God's Son!"

34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret.

35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick;

36 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.

45 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away.

46 After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.

47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land.

48 Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.

49 But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out;

50 for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid."

51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished,

52 for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.

53 When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored to the shore.

54 When they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him,

55 and ran about that whole country and began to carry here and there on their pallets those who were sick, to the place they heard He was.

56 Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.

16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea,

17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.

18 The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.

19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened.

20 But He said to them, It is I; do not be afraid."

21 So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

22 The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone.

23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks.

24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus.

31 And He said to them, Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)

22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.

23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.

47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land.

46 After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.

47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land.

48 Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.

48 Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.

50 for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid."

27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."

26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear.

49 But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out;

50 for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid."

19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened.

27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."

50 for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid."

20 But He said to them, It is I; do not be afraid."

28 Peter said to Him, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."

8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.

16 But Jesus said to them, They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!"

29 And He said, Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!

26 He said to them, Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.

8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?

35 On that day, when evening came, He said to them, Let us go over to the other side."

36 Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him.

37 And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.

38 Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?"

39 And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.

40 And He said to them, Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?"

41 They became very much afraid and said to one another, Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"

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