Little Faith

     In Matthew 14 we have the account of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. Matthew tells us of two things occurring just prior to this event. First there is the account of the death of John the Baptist. When Jesus heard of John’s death He went to a quiet and deserted place. Though Matthew does not tell us we can reasonably assume that the Lord wanted to be by Himself to think about what had happened to John (Matthew 14:13). We remember that He was “tested in all points like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15).

     The second event follows closely on. When the people heard that Jesus was near they came out in large numbers. The Lord had compassion on them, healing them and feeding 5000 men, plus the women and children, with five loaves of bread and two fish.

     As soon as these things happened Jesus made the disciples get in a boat without Him. The old translation uses the term “constrained.” They evidently did not want to do it. Perhaps they were concerned about the possibility of a storm. Whatever the reason, they did as He told them to do. Then the Lord went up the mountain finally to be alone and pray. Even Jesus Christ needed to be alone sometime.

     Bible students know what happened next. A storm did indeed stir up. The Sea of Galilee, also known as the Lake of Gennesaret, is surrounded by mountains and hills. It can be very calm, as flat as a plate of glass. But we also know that when the wind gets up it can cause the water to be very rough. It is a lake but it is a very big one and if you are in the middle of it you are out there indeed.

     Matthew tells us that Jesus came walking on the water in the “fourth watch of the night.” People in that part of the world then had adopted the Roman system of keeping time, so this would be (for us) between three and six in the morning. Jesus’ disciples were not weak men. They knew what it meant to be out on the Sea at a time like that. But remember, they were in the boat in the first place only because Jesus made them get in the boat. Then came the storm. So far their situation was stressful but understandable to men of that time. But then they saw a man walking on the water. It was evidently just too much.

     Fear got to them and they cried out. It was then that Jesus said, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” We are not told what the other men did. We do know what Peter did. He said “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Peter did fine for a moment but the wind got up and he began to sink. Of course, Jesus saved him.

     Peter had in that instant lost at least some of his faith in the Lord. We know he was not alone because Jesus said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” They had all cried out in fear. We can certainly understand the reaction of Peter and the other men. God made this event happen to teach His men something important. We can learn too.

      The disciples needed to be reminded that Jesus was indeed the Son of God (Matthew 14:33). We might wonder how they could miss it given the miracle of feeding 5000 (plus). But it was a hard thing to accept, this idea of God Incarnate working and living among men. The Lord’s ministry on earth was designed in part to teach these and others that He is the Christ. Add to this the challenge of having heard of John’s death. It was tough, really tough.

     Even so, all but one did grow in faith. The eleven, along with Matthias and Paul, were the tools God used to change the world with the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16). Do you think that they might remember that night on the Sea one day as they preached the risen Christ? I think they did and maybe they smiled at the memory of their little faith that grew to be complete trust.