And early in the morning He came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. (Matthew 14:25-26)
There is a striking difference between this action of Jesus and that of the Exodus, where Moses struck the water and it divided, allowing the people of God to walk through on dry ground. Both were miracles revealing that Jesus has power over the seas, and that He is the Deliverer and Saviour of Israel, the Son of God in power. The first of these miracles, the parting of the Red Sea was not only to deliver the Israelites, but also to draw the enemy in to his destruction. The second miracle speaks of Jesus being God and Israel's Messiah, who didn't need deliverance for Himself. He was preparing the way for The Way – those that by the Cross pass through death into new life in Jesus… “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”, which includes the Old Testament saints (1 Corinthians 15:20). Those in The Way (Acts 9:2; 22:4) are the firstfruits of the New Creation (1 Corinthians 15:22-22). Creation, in the book of Genesis (Genesis 1:1-2), began with the Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters. In the opening verses that we are considering in Mathew, Jesus is walking on the water that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were involved in creating. God has power over His creation and is not limited by it. In Genesis God created humans and placed them in the Garden that He had prepared for them. In the Exodus, God created a nation, Israel, and led them to the Land of Promise that He had prepared for them. Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and God removed them from the Garden; and when Israel disobeyed God, He removed them from the land. Israel’s Messiah is going to make a new creation – new heavens, and a new earth wherein righteousness will dwell. There is a new creation where all things are made new, even the new Jerusalem (Revelation Ch 21). God will dwell with His people forever. As He rolled back the waters of the Red Sea, He will roll back the sky by His mighty power. “And all the host of heaven will wear away, and the sky will be rolled up like a scroll; all their hosts will also wither away as a leaf withers from the vine, or as one withers from the fig tree” (Isaiah 34:4); “The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place” (Revelation 6:14)).
Personal Trials and Adversity
Margaret has suffered health issues for a number of years, and for some months, recently, she was unable to do anything much about the house. If she managed to get herself up in the mornings, then that would leave her exhausted for the rest of the day. The Lord has ministered life into her body, and though she is not healed as such since she still has a failing heart, nonetheless, she is much more active and able than she has been. I too have suffered with general health issues and eye and eyesight problems; and together we have experienced family upheavals and pressures. There are people with much more to cope with than we have had, over much longer periods, and some have shared their difficulties with us. While I speak of our particular, local struggles, the trials of others speak out a similar message, and perhaps, warning. The heaviness pressing in on one at these extreme times of personal tragedy can make it impossible to concentrate, to read or to write for any length of time. Thinking about it now, one could liken it to that of the [dust of the] earth that God created us from – “formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep”. It was while reading a short article[i] that light penetrated my own sphere of struggles. Creative thoughts entered an embattled mind and lifted the heaviness. The author of the article was speaking about the miracle of Jesus walking on the water. Immediately I was drawn in, and my mind began to ask questions of God about this miracle. It was like waking up (Hashkama = wake up!) to the power of God and the moving of His Spirit. In Genesis, God spoke and said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). In Matthew, Jesus spoke – But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27). Jesus brought light and revelation about Himself then, as He does now (2 Corinthians 4:6). Writing has been a struggle. After completing one article I thought to myself that I could not cope with doing anything further for the moment. It was then that my health began to improve and I thought about writing this present piece.
My various family members have faced relentless false allegations and violence against their characters, and a death threat to our son. We have come face-to-face with those that are lovers of themselves, and that show all the traits of 2 Timothy 3:2-9. I wondered if God was giving us some insight concerning the warning Jesus gave His disciples about such activity, in the future, as well as what Christians suffered in the past. We were not particularly being attacked because we are Christians, but we had not experienced quite such hostility and vileness before, and by someone that had shared a great part of our family life, benefitting from our love and resources. We recall the words of Jesus in Luke 21:16, and Matthew 10:21.
It causes great pain to watch one’s only son suffering. If I might be permitted to put it in human terminology, it caused the Father the deepest pain when God’s only Son, Jesus, suffered and died at the hands of men, and those that crucified Him on the Cross. It causes Him pain when His son, Israel, disobeys Him, and when the Church is wayward, arrogant, and disobedient to His Word. There was the great darkness that came on the land for three hours at the time Jesus died, from the six hour until the ninth hour (Mark 15:33). There was thick darkness that could be felt when Moses stretched forth his hand to heaven (Exodus 10:21-22). God placed darkness between the Egyptian army and the Israelites at the exodus (Exodus 14:20). Noting the hatred and hostility that Jesus speaks of in Luke and Matthew, we in the West have not experienced this to any great extent, but attitudes to Christians and Christianity are rapidly changing for the worse, as God’s Word once more proves true. Perhaps Jesus has allowed us the experience we have lived through, and that I am sharing just a little of with you, as a tiny foretaste of the difficult times of persecution to come, particularly from those within the “church” family. A time when we will be hated without reason, as they hated Him without reason (John 15:25). Jesus’ warning was that we would be persecuted because the world hates Him. Because the world hates Him, it hates those that follow Him. But He has overcome the world (John 16:33), and when we think we can’t cope any longer, we find that because of Him, we can. Not only do we go on, but in Him, we are overcomers. (Matthew 10:22; John 15:18-27). The world and its values are changing rapidly, but God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). We can trust God and we can trust His enduring Word; and because we trust in God, we believe also in His Son, Jesus (John 14:1).
Walking the Talk
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).
Jesus didn’t just walk on water; He walked towards His disciples who were all in the same boat. The disciples were seeing the One that had walked and talked with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In walking over the water towards them, Jesus was displaying His awesome power over creation; revealing Himself to be God over all. This is the One Who is with us and will never leave us. His promise is that He will be with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Jesus spoke to the disciples saying, “ego eimi”, “It is I”. The disciples were terrified because they thought they were seeing a ghost. Jewish tradition warned of dangerous night spirits. There was a belief in ghosts among Gentiles, perhaps some Jews believed in ghosts too, even though technically it goes against mainstream Jewish views of the afterlife. I don’t know exactly why the disciples in the boat thought as they did, but they were fearful. Jesus calmed them by His Word just as He calmed the sea and storm by the Word of His mouth (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41). There was a time when Jesus did go under the water, and that was at His baptism in the river Jordan. He was fulfilling all righteousness (Matthew 3:15) as He and John cooperated together, and did all that God required of Jesus fulfilling Scripture. “This is My beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17; Psalm 2:7); “In whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17; Isaiah 42:1). His baptism was a Messianic accomplishment, and God identified Jesus as His Son. In the first two temptations (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-130; Luke 4:1-13)) that Jesus faced, the Devil attacked Him on precisely His divine Sonship.
Someone in church was telling Margaret and me that they were suffering from water on the brain. I had heard the expression many times in the past, and even used it in a derogatory way as a young person, without knowing it was in fact a medical condition. But here was this man, possibly going to face serious surgery if the initial attempts to cure the condition are not successful. Despite my ignorance, God is above this situation and can speak peace and healing into this man’s life. He is a miracle working God. And I have learned that Hydrocephalus (from Greek hydro, meaning “water”, and kephalos, meaning “head”) is a medical condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain – commonly referred to as water on the brain. Believers are facing personal storms in their lives; and the Church is going to face serious situations and stormy seas. This is already happening in various parts of the world; but Jesus is in control, and the outcome is in His hands.
Matthew 14:27—“Ego eimi”, “It is I”. Jesus didn’t only reveal Himself to be God by His power over creation and walking on the sea, but also by what He said. Word and works were together as two witnesses to the true God of Israel. In the Septuagint (apologies to those that do not like that Greek translation of God’s Word) and in Isaiah 40-50, the same phrase is used by God when He claims that He alone has the power to rescue His people (cf Isaiah 41:10; 43:1, 2, 10; 45:22; 46:4; 48:17). There is more – “Do not fear” in this context is “phobou” in Greek. Matthew 14:27 uses the same word in a different person and mood, “phobeisthe” – meaning, “for I Am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I Am [ego eimi] your God…Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” When Peter got that sinking feeling, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him” (Matthew 14:31).
Having come in the form of man, the Son of God identifies Himself with His people, Israel, by stepping onto the water. By commanding Peter to walk on the water He identifies Himself as the One true God and Deliverer of Israel, that led Israel to cross the Red Sea; and later, in Joshua, to cross the Jordan river. Although in both those cases, He parted the water, giving them safe passage to cross over on dry ground.
Seeing it was Jesus walking on the water, Peter didn’t just say to himself, Wow! That’s cool – let me have a go! His walking on the water was contingent upon Jesus’ identity as God’s Son. Peter’s faith in the authoritative Son, Jesus, enabled him to get out of the boat and to walk on water, the same as Jesus did.
The reason there are so many fake healings and miracles today is that people are wowed at the miracles of Jesus, but they do not humble themselves in faith toward the Miracle worker (Acts 8:18; Matthew 7:22-23). They want glory for themselves, not for the Lord (Matthew 7:21-23). Churches become impoverished and spiritually bankrupt when they are caught up in such deception, and the false promises and misuse of Scripture that false teachers make. When the followers of Jesus are focussed and mindful of Him, by His strength, not ours, all things are possible (Mark 9:23) – opening the Kingdom (Matthew 16:19); moving mountains (17:20); reaching the nations (28:18-20). Even when Peter lost it a bit and looked anxiously around him, Jesus revealed Himself again as Deliverer of His people. By His outstretched hand, Jesus rescued Peter, just as God, in the Tanakh, rescued His people from the sea (Exodus 14:10-15:21; Psalm107:23-32; Jonah 1:4-2:10). In the Tanach, “You are certainly God’s Son!” (Matthew 14:33) is a prerogative reserved only for God. “Son of God” occurs in Matthew 4:3, and figures prominently in Matthew 14:33. As the Son of the living God, Jesus can guarantee that the gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18). The account of Jesus walking on the water is a powerful testimony to Jesus being the “I AM” as revealed in the Tanakh; and He is the One who “trampled the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8).
“How great is our God
How great is His name
How great is our God
Forever the same
He rolled back the waters
Of the mighty Red Sea
And He said, I’ll never leave You
Put Your trust in me”
Blessings and shalom
Snailmail: Saltshakers, PO Box 2215, Ilford, Essex IG1 9TR.