The Bridge over Troubled Waters
The Bridge Over Troubled Waters (Matthew 14:22-33)
After Jesus fed the 5,000, the mob wanted to take Him by force and make Him king (John 6:15). This was a real temptation for Jesus and the twelve to avoid the cross and seize the crown. Masterfully and urgently, Jesus forced the disciples to leave, and He, Himself, dispersed the militant mob. "He went up to a mountain apart to pray . . . he was there alone" (v. 23, KJV). Even Jesus had to have isolation and solitude to avoid temptation and know God's will.
While the Lord was hidden from view on the mountain above, His disciples struggled with difficulty on the sea below. Then, and now, Christ discloses Himself to us in our difficulty, and shares with us His dominion over difficulty.
Our Difficulty Provides Christ's Opportunity
Obedience to Christ often creates difficulty. "Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him" (v. 22). At His insistence, they obeyed, embarking across the sea. Their very obedience to Christ placed them in difficulty. Faithfulness brings no immunity from difficulty. It almost ensures it. To follow Christ in this age guarantees storms. This storm at sea was preparatory. Peter and the others would spend a lifetime in storms because of obedience to Him.
In difficulty we lose sight of Him, but He never loses sight of us. When we cannot see Him, He always sees us. Christ was hidden on the mountain above, while His disciples faced difficulty below. He prayed on firm ground, while they sailed on uncertain waters. Truly, He had stilled a storm already, before their very eyes (8:23-27). But that was in the day, and He was in the boat. Now, it was night, and He was absent. This, too, was preparatory. Christ would ascend on high to the right hand of the Father. We no longer see Him visibly. In difficulty He sees us and comes to us.
Divine delays in difficulty are always purposeful (v. 25). The disciples struggled to exhaustion all night, but Christ did not come until the fourth watch (3:00-6:00 a.m.). He waited until they understood the full force of the storm and the futility of their unaided effort. Then He intervened. In your life He is waiting until you and everyone around knows that only He can act in a delivering way.
Christ's Divinity Discloses Itself in Our Difficulty
Christ discloses His divinity decisively in our difficulty. Do you wish to know the Deity of Christ as the real fact in personal experience? You meet it in your difficulty. Christ walking on the waters of difficulty reveals His divinity. In the Old Testament record only God could tame the sea. God walks on the sea as an opposing power or a defeated enemy where no one else is able to walk (Job 9:8). The psalmist confesses, "Through the sea was your way, and your path through many waters" (77:19). At the end of the storm, the disciples worshiped Jesus and confessed, "Truly you are the Son of God" (v. 33).
We may not recognize Christ's help when it comes (v. 27). The disciples thought they had seen a phantasm or an apparition, the unreal presence of a living or dead person. Further, "He would have passed them by" if they had not called on Him (Mark 6:48, KJV). If it were not for His grace, we would not even recognize Him in our difficulty.
Christ always reveals Himself to us personally in difficulty (v. 27). They recognized both His voice and its content. He gives us a word of affirmation: "Take courage!" He gives us a word of identification: "It is I." He gives us a word of prohibition: "Don't be afraid." When you listen, you know He is there in troubled waters.
Our Difficulty Provides Our Opportunity
Christ calls us to share His dominion over difficulty. When Peter wanted to share Christ's power over troubled water, Christ gladly said, "Come" (v. 29). Our Lord invites us to share in His victory over everything that vexes us.
We do share Christ's victory over difficulty unless faith fails. What Christ commands, He enables. Peter walked on the water toward Jesus. Yet, faith failed at the very finish. He was almost touching Jesus when faith failed. While doing the greater thing (walking on water) he was unnerved by the little thing (the blowing wind).
When faith fails in difficulty, Christ furnishes new faith. "Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him" (v. 31). The touch of Christ recreates, restores, and renews failing faith. Christ has brought you this far above troubled waters to abandon you. When faith fails on troubled waters, He always furnishes new faith. He did that more than once for Peter. He always does that for us.