Matthew 14:22. And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into
a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the
Straightway is a business word: Jesus loses no time. No sooner is the
banquet over than he sends off the guests to their homes. While they
are well fed he bids them make the best of their way home. He who made
the multitude sit down was able also to send the multitude away, but
they needed sending, for they were loth to go. The sea must be crossed
again, or Jesus cannot find seclusion. How he must run the gauntlet to
get a little rest! Before he starts again across the sea, he performs
another act of self-denial; for he cannot leave till he sees the crowd
happily dispersed. He attends to that business himself giving the
disciples the opportunity to depart in peace. As the captain is the
last to leave the ship, so is the Lord the last to leave the scene of
labour. The disciples would have chosen to stay in his company, and to
enjoy the thanks of the people; but he constrained them to get into a
ship. He could not get anyone to go away from him at this time without
sending and constraining. This loadstone has great attractions. He
evidently promised his disciples that he would follow them; for the
words are, “to go before him unto the other side.” How he was to follow
he did not say, but he could always find a way of keeping his
appointments. How considerate of him to wait amid the throng while the
disciples sailed away in peace He always takes the heavy end of the
Matthew 14:23. 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
Now that the crowd is gone, he can take his rest, and he finds it in
prayer. He went up into a mountain apart: in a place where he might
speak aloud, and not be overheard or disturbed, he communed with the
Father alone. This was his refreshment and his delight. He continued
therein till the thickest shades of night had gathered, and the day was
gone. “Alone,” yet not alone, he drank in new strength as he communed
with his Father. He must have revealed this private matter to the
recording evangelist, and surely it was with the intent that we should
learn from his example. We cannot afford to be always in company, since
even our blessed Lord felt that he must be alone.
Matthew 14:24. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
While Jesus was alone, they, in the ship, were in the same condition,
but not occupied with the same spiritual exercise When they first
quitted the shore it was fair sailing in the cool of the evening; but a
storm gathered hastily as night covered the sky. On the lake of Galilee
the wind rushes down from the gullies between the mountains, and causes
grievous peril to little boats; sometimes fairly lifting them out of
the water, and anon submerging them beneath the waves. That deep lake
was peculiarly dangerous for small craft. They were far from land, for
they were “in the midst of the sea,” equally distant from either shore.
The sea was furious and their ship was “tossed with waves.” The
hurricane was terrible. “The wind was contrary,” and would not let them
go to any place which they sought. It was a whirlwind, and they were
whirled about by it, but could not use it for reaching either shore.
How much did their case resemble ours when we are in sore distress! We
are tossed about and can do nothing; the blast is too furious for us to
bear up against it, or even to live while driven before it. One happy
fact remains: Jesus is pleading on the shore though we are struggling
on the sea. It is also comfortable to know that we are where he
constrained us to go (See verse 22), and he has promised to come to us
in due time, and therefore all must be safe, though the tempest rages
Matthew 14:25. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
Jesus is sure to come. The night wears on and the darkness thickens;
the fourth watch of the night draws near, but where is he? Faith says,
“He must come.” Though he should stay away till almost break of day, he
must come. Unbelief asks, “How can he come?” Ah, he will answer for
himself: he can make his own way. “Jesus went unto them, walking on the
sea.” He comes in the teeth of the wind, and on the face of the wave.
Never fear that he will fail to reach the storm-tossed barque: his love
will find out the way. Whither it be to a single disciple, or to the
church as a whole, Jesus will appear in his own chosen hour, and his
time is sure to be the most timely.
Matthew 14:26. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were
troubled, saying, It is a spirit, and they cried out for fear.
Yes, the disciples saw him; saw Jesus their Lord, and derived no
comfort from the sight. Poor human nature’s sight is a blind thing
compared with the vision of a spiritual faith. They saw, but knew not
what they saw. What could it be but a phantom? How could a real man
walk on those foaming billows? How could he stand in the teeth of such
a hurricane? They were already at their wits’ end, and the apparition
put an end to their courage. We seem to hear their shriek of alarm:
“they cried out for fear.” We read not that “they were troubled”
before: they were old sailors, and had no dread of natural forces; but
a spirit — ah, that was too much of a terror. They were at their worst
now, and yet, if they had known it, they were on the verge of their
best. It is noteworthy that the nearer Jesus was to them, the greater
was their fear. Want of discernment blinds the soul to its richest
consolations. Lord, be near, and let me know thee! Let me not have to
say with Jacob, “Surely God was in this place; and I knew it not!”
Matthew 14:27. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
He did not keep them in suspense: “Straightway Jesus spake unto them.”
How sweetly sounded that loving and majestic voice! Above the roar of
waves and howling of winds, they heard the voice of the Lord. This was
his old word also, “Be of good cheer.” The most conclusive reason for
courage was his own presence. “It is I; be not afraid.” If Jesus be
near, if the spirit of the storm be, after all, the Lord of love, all
room for fear is gone. Can Jesus come to us through the storm? Then we
shall weather it, and come to him. He who rules the tempest is not the
devil, not chance, not a malicious enemy; but Jesus. This should end
Matthew 14:28. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
Peter must be the first to speak, he is impulsive, and besides, he was
a sort of foreman in the company. The first speaker is not always the
wisest man. Peter’s fears have gone, all but one “if”; but that “if”
was working him no good, for it seemed to challenge his Master: “Lord
if it be thou.” What a test to suggest: “Bid me come unto thee on the
water!” What did Peter want with walking the waters? His name might
have suggested that like a stone he would go to the bottom. It was an
imprudent request: it was the swing of the pendulum in Peter from
despair to an injudicious venturing. Surely, he wist not what he said.
Yet we, too, have put our Lord to tests almost as improper. Have we not
said, “If thou hast ever blessed me, give me this and that”? We, too,
have had our water-walking, and have ventured where nothing but special
grace could uphold us. Lord, what is man?
Matthew 14:29. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
When good men are unwise and presumptuous, it may be for their lasting
good to learn their folly by experience. “He said, Come.” Peter’s Lord
is about to teach him a practical lesson. He asked to be bidden to
come. He may come. He does come. He leaves the boat, he treads the
wave. He is on the way towards his Lord. We can do anything if we have
divine authorization, and courage enough to take the Lord at his word.
Now there were two on the sea, two wonders! Which was the greater? The
reader may not find it easy to reply. Let him consider.
Matthew 14:30. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
“But”: a sorrowful “but” for poor Peter. His eye was off his Lord and
on the raging of the wind: “he saw the wind boisterous.” His heart
failed him, and then his foot failed him. Down he began to go — an
awful moment is this “beginning to sink”, yet it was only a
“beginning,” he had time to cry to his Lord, who was not sinking. Peter
cried, and was safe. His prayer was as full as it was short. He had
brought his eye and his faith back to Jesus, for he cried, “Lord!” He
had come into this danger through obedience, and therefore he had an
appeal in the word “Lord.” Whether in danger or not, Jesus was still
his Lord. He is a lost man, and he feels it, unless his Lord will save
him — save him altogether, save him now. Blessed prayer: “Lord, save
me.” Reader, does it not suit you? Peter was nearer his Lord when he
was sinking than when he was walking. In our low estate we are often
nearer to Jesus than in our more glorious seasons.
Matthew 14:31. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught
him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou
Our Lord delays not when our peril is imminent and our cry is urgent:
“Immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand.” He first “caught him” and
then taught him. Jesus saves first, and upbraids afterwards, when he
must needs do so. When we are saved is the fit time for us to chasten
ourselves for our unbelief. Let us learn from our Lord, that we may not
reprove others till we have first helped them out of their
difficulties. Our doubts are unreasonable: “Wherefore didst thou
doubt?” If there be reason for little faith, there is evidently reason
for great confidence. If it be right to trust Jesus at all, why not
trust him altogether? Trust was Peter’s strength, doubt was his danger.
It looked like great faith when Peter walked the water; but a little
wind soon proved it to be “little faith.” Till our faith is tried, we
can form no reliable estimate of it. After his Lord had taken him by
the hand, Peter sank no further, but resumed the walk of faith. How
easy to have faith when we are close to Jesus! Lord, when our
faith fails, come thou to us, and we shall walk on the wave.
Matthew 14:32. And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
So that Peter’s walk and his rescue had happened in the face of the
tempest. He could walk the water well enough when his Lord held his
hand and so can we. What a sight! Jesus and Peter, hand in hand,
walking upon the sea! The two made for the ship at once: miracles are
never spun out to undue length. Was not Peter glad to leave the
tumultuous element, and at the same time to perceive that the gale was
over? “When they were come into the ship, the wind ceased,” it is well
to be safe in a storm, but more pleasant to find the calm return and
the hurricane end. How gladly did the disciples welcome their Lord, and
their brother, Peter, who though wet to the skin, was a wiser man for
Matthew 14:33. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
No wonder that Peter “worshipped him,” nor that his comrades did the
same. The whole of the disciples, who had been thus rescued by their
Lord’s coming to them on the stormy sea, were overwhelmingly convinced
of his Godhead. Now they were doubly sure of it by unquestionable
evidence, and in lowly reverence they expressed to him their adoring
faith, saying, “Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”