Matthew 14 opens with the story of the death of John the Baptist. He was Jesus’ cousin who leapt within his mother’s womb when a pregnant Mary arrived to visit Elizabeth. It was said he would be the forerunner of Jesus preparing the way of the Lord. John’s ministry only lasted for 1 year but it was power packed. His message was simple, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” He baptized people for repentance but he always pointed them to one who would come after him who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire. He was the bridge between the Old Testament and the New. When he saw Jesus on the banks of the Jordan River and realized by divine revelation that He was the one who was to come he declared, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. John’s death at the hand of Herod was gruesome as he was beheaded for simply speaking the truth about the sin that Herod was engaged in and his need to repent.
We pick up the story with Jesus hearing this devastating news. You see his deep love for John as he desires to get away from the crowds and process what he has just learned. To that end, he gets in a boat to go to a remote area to be alone. The only problem with that plan is that the crowds heard where he was going and raced on foot to meet him on the other side of the lake. How does Jesus respond? Does he send them away? Not our Jesus. He is moved with compassion and heals their sick. As the daylight begins to give way to darkness, Jesus’ disciples come to him with another issue. Everyone’s hungry and there is not a Walmart in the vicinity. Jesus tells his disciples to feed the people. They tell him that they only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Jesus tells them to bring them to him and he blesses them and breaks them into pieces and tells the disciples to distribute them. About 5000 men plus women and children ate to their hearts’ content and there were 12 baskets full of leftovers (in my opinion, one basket for each disciple to remind them they should always trust God).
Finally, the crowds go home and Jesus tells his disciples to get into the boat to go to the other side of the lake and leave him there so that he could have some time alone to pray. I’m sure that he used this occasion to unpack his hurting heart to his heavenly Father. As the disciples reach the middle of the lake, a great storm arises. The wind and waves are beating on the ship and they are terrified that they’re going to die. It must have been really bad because several of the 12 were fishermen by trade and had no doubt encountered bad storms in their careers. About 3AM Jesus decides to walk on the water to where the disciples were in the boat. They shouted out, “It’s a ghost!” I can almost see Jesus shaking his head in disbelief that they still don’t believe after all of the miraculous things they have seen him do. He says, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage, I am here!” Peter who had a bad case of foot in mouth disease many times on his journey cries out seemingly without thinking, “Lord if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” You can almost hear the commentary behind the scenes as he may have told the other disciples, “Watch, this guys! I’ll prove whether this is a ghost or not.” To his surprise, Jesus says, “Come.” Peter, to his credit, jumps over the side of the boat and starts walking on the water to Jesus until he takes his focus off of Jesus and begins to notice the strong wind and the waves crashing around him and immediately he begins to sink. He says the wisest thing that he could say in that moment, “Save me Lord!” Jesus reached out and grabbed him and lifted him up and they both walked on the water back to the boat. He reprimands the disciples for their lack of faith and they, in turn, do the only thing that seemed appropriate at the time and began to worship Jesus saying, “You really are the Son of God!” As the storm subsides they find themselves at the other side of the lake where people quickly learn of Jesus’ arrival and the news spread quickly and soon people began bringing their sick to Jesus to be healed. All who touched him, even just the fringe of his robe, were healed.
The first question I would ask of all of us is do we truly believe? Are we more convinced by our current circumstances or by the Word of God. You see, the same Jesus who did all of the things that we just talked about is still actively involved in all of our lives and is still moved with compassion and the Scripture even says he lives to make intercession for us. He is standing in the gap for us and praying to the Father on our behalf. The second question I would ask of us is are we willing to see past our hurts and disappointments and follow the example of Jesus as we reach out with compassion to those around us who are in desperate need of help? Is it possible that in the process of doing that very thing God would help to bring healing into your life as well? Third, I would say that getting alone with our heavenly Father cannot be ignored in the process. “In His presence is fullness of joy” and “the joy of the Lord is our strength”!