We saw how recognizing our deep sinfulness is a key basic ingredient of being a disciple of Jesus. Jesus welcomes all such people to follow Him. But when we choose to follow Him, we are making a momentous choice: We are following the Creator of the Universe, the most powerful Being. But by doing so, we’ve also aroused the ferocious hatred of the devil. He hates God, and therefore hates every child of God. So it is natural to expect that the devil will seek to persecute all of God’s children.
We see this in the parable of the soils in Matthew 13. The first soil is the road where the seed doesn’t even break the surface. They have no sense of their own sinfulness and are easily ensnared by Satan. But the next soil (the rocky soil) represents those who receive God’s words with joy, but give up when faced with affliction.
So I want to look at the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water in Matthew 14:22-33 and learn some lessons about dealing with afflictions in life. The story of Jesus walking on the water is a parable as much as a miracle. There were numerous times that Jesus had to cross the Sea of Galilee, and every other time He used the boat. So when He walked on water here, He was not showing off His Divinity. He was teaching His disciples (including us) a spiritual lesson.
Battered as a result of obeying Jesus
The story begins with the disciples getting onto a boat on the specific instructions of Jesus. But soon after, they were battered by the waves and winds (Matthew 14:24).
Jesus never promises a smooth ride in our obedience to Him. Some Christian books and preachers can claim an easy and painless Christian life, but that simply isn’t true.
Our leader in the New Covenant is Jesus. He suffered resistance and ridicule, and ultimately a painful death. His closest disciples were all severely persecuted too. Daniel escaped the lions and Daniel’s 3 friends escaped the fiery furnace, but countless Christians were eaten by lions and burned at the stake. There are definitely stories of miraculous escapes even in the New Covenant, but these miracles are the exceptions. Most Christians who were put in front of lions or in the fiery stake died!
But there are other kinds of storms we also face: difficult workplaces, harassment from neighbors, rejection from family and friends, and so on. And such things can feel especially difficult where there isn’t an end in sight. But whether or not we face external storms, every one of us deal with the storms of sin that can batter us. It could be unforgiveness towards someone, or strong sexual desires, anger, jealousy, greed, etc. Any one of these can haunt us constantly. And no matter what we try, we are not able to gain consistent victory. The word that might best summarize our lives could be this one: battered!
Jesus walked on top of every temptation
The first thing we must do to deal with our storms is to look at Jesus. We can very often be tempted to look at ourselves or those around us. But from where comes our help? From the Lord (Psalm 121:1-2)! So when we’re feeling battered by sin, we must train our hearts to look to Jesus. When we look for Him, we will find that He is IN the storm, and pointing to a life that WALKS on top of the stormy waters.
Jesus walked in total victory over every storm of sin that sought to batter Him. Jesus did not sin for even one second during his thirty-three plus years on this earth. To me, this is the most astounding truth in the Bible. It is a trillion times more majestic and magnificent than the fact that Jesus walked on water.
The message of Jesus’ total victory over sin is indisputable (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus walked on top of every single temptation that He faced. And He overcome sin as a man, not as God (because God cannot be tempted – James 1:13).
Jesus calls disciples who are interested to walk on top of every storm of sin Verse 28-29a: Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!”
In many miracles, Jesus invited disciples and others to help Him, but not to actually perform the miracle with Him. So the servants poured the water into the water pots, but it was still water until He turned that water into wine. Jesus took the little boy’s 5 loaves and 2 fish, but they were still 5+2 when it left the little boy’s hand. Jesus took it and used it to feed over 5000.
But here’s one miracle where Jesus invites Peter to perform the miracle too. Why was Peter alone able to walk on water, and not the other 11 disciples? Because He saw His Master walking on the water and remembered the call of Jesus for him: Follow Me. So if Peter was meant to follow Jesus, and Jesus walked on water, then maybe Peter could follow Him here too? But Peter didn’t jump up in youthful exuberance and just do it. Yes, he was eager to do it, but he knew that it required the command of Jesus to make it possible. So when Jesus gave the simple command “Come,” Peter knew that he would surely be able to walk on water.
What is the spiritual application? Jesus commands us to follow His example in walking in triumph over every sin that oppresses us. In our battle over sin, we are asked to follow in His footsteps, who was tempted in all points as we are, but without sin.
1 Peter 2:21-22 – For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth…
Not all of us have been given the gifts of the Holy Spirit to heal or work miracles. But we are ALL asked to follow the example of Jesus to fight for victory over every sin. No one is exempt from that call. No sin should have dominion over us because we are living under grace (the rich power of God that helps us overcome sin) – Romans 6:14. So while we don’t copy Jesus in physically walking on water, we must seek to follow Jesus in overcoming all sin.
Disciples can walk on water with Jesus
Verse 29: And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Our past experience will tell us that we cannot walk on top of our temptations. But this is nonetheless God’s plan, and it is truth because it is written in God’s Word.
1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
Here are some truths that we can absolutely believe from this verse:
The number of temptations that we uniquely face is zero.
The number of temptations that do not have a way of escape is zero.
The number of temptations where we simply cannot endure (through God’s way of escape) is zero.
So all disciples cannot settle for any lower goal than victory over all sin. If we believe that it was OUR SINS that nailed Jesus to the cross, then we must not tolerate “living with” any sins. We cannot settle for constantly taking cover under the blood of Jesus. Disciples seek to walk on top of their sins.
If we truly long for Jesus, we will long to be like Him. And we will indeed be like Him when He returns. If this our genuine hope, we will purify ourselves based on His level of purity in the meantime (1 John 3:2-3). To “purify yourself” is crystal clear – the active pursuit to be increasingly free from sin.
1 John 3:6 – No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. One cannot choose to abide in God and tolerate any sin within. Disciples are disgusted by every trace of sin.
Disciples are convinced that Jesus walked successfully on top of every storm of sin.
Disciples are gripped with His call that they too can walk on top of their sins. May God find us to be such disciples.