Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“The person you are now, the person you have been, the person you will be – this person God has chosen as beloved.”
Today’s Study Text:
“And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a spirit.’”
Matthew 14:25, 26
“The Ghost on the Water”
“It is possible to be expecting God to act in a particular way, to demand that He take a certain course of action, only to miss Him when He moves in other ways. Presumably the disciples would have expected Jesus to calm the wind and the sea when He came to them, and if He had done so then they may well have recognized Him. But He didn’t. He did the unexpected. He came and stood with them – in the midst of the storm.”
“For Those Who Trust in God”
Has God ever come to rescue me in a way that was completely out-of-line with what I expected Him to do?
Have I ever been frightened by dire circumstances which did not fit nicely into a box of solutions I created?
“God, who is everywhere, never leaves us. Yet, He seems sometimes to be present, sometimes absent. If we do not know Him well, we do not realize that He may be more present to us when He is absent than when He is present.”
“How distant You are from my sight while I am present to Your sight! You are wholly present everywhere and I do not see You.”
St. Anselm of Canterbury
Years ago as a young nurse, I worked the night shift – 10:30 P.M. to 7:30 A.M. I’ll tell you right now, my precious mother-in-law worked this shift for forty years in the newborn nursery of the local hospital. Plus she raised four children. To this day I don’t know how she did it. One year on the night shift and I knew, without a doubt, this was not a time I should be working. I can’t begin to tell you how many cans of Coke and cups of coffee I downed – especially between 2:00 A.M. and 5: 00 A.M. During those hours, my body inevitably hit a wall. Every fiber screamed out, “It’s time to sleep.”
So I don’t find the story in Matthew 14: 25, 26 to be odd at all. We are told that the fourth watch of the night was most likely between 3:00 A.M. to 6:00 A.M. What’s more, the disciples thought they saw a ghost on the water. Frankly, I think that I saw a few ghosts myself trying to stay awake, wishing I had small size toothpicks to hold my eyelids open.
For a moment let’s put ourselves in the place of the disciples. They’d had a long day and had seen some unusual things happen. Feeding nearly 15,000 people with 5 barley loaves and two fishes isn’t an everyday occurrence, that’s for certain.
By sunset, I’m certain they were all weary and rightly so. With an order from Jesus, the disciples got into their boat to cross the water, expecting to meet Jesus on the opposite side of the lake. This was the expectation the disciples held in their minds. I doubt they had really stopped to consider how Jesus might make His way to the other side of Galilee. Once the ferocious waves began to shatter their calm world, concerns regarding the way Jesus would get around the lake were quickly consumed by the fear of survival.
When an approaching figure appeared to be skimming over the waves, heading in their direction, the terrorized disciples, gasped in horror as they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
Quite honestly, when any of us find ourselves in the unfamiliar position of being confronted with the unexpected at an unknown moment, I think it possible we too could be heard hollering, “Look out, it’s a ghost.” From all outward manifestations, the strange apparition on the water certainly presented itself as a ghost-like figurine. As Matthew Henry correctly observes, “The disciples said, ‘It is a spirit’; when they should have said, ‘It is the Lord.’ Even the appearances and approaches of deliverance are sometimes the occasions of trouble and perplexity to God’s people, who are sometimes most frightened when they are least hurt; nay, when they are most favoured…a little thing frightens us in a storm. When without are fightings, no marvel that within are fears…Most of our danger from outward troubles arises from the occasion they give for inward trouble.”
Scared for their lives and fearful that some evil spirit had descended upon them, the disciples didn’t recognize that relief was on its way. Like the grief-filled Mary Magdalene who mistook Jesus for a gardener and like the two followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus who didn’t comprehend that it was their Lord walking right along beside them, so the disciples, paralyzed by the treachery of a storm couldn’t correctly identify their rescuer. In fact, quite the opposite. They thought what they were witnessing was even more trouble.
When the storms of our lives immobilize us, and everywhere we look apparently gives rise to increasing trouble, we would do well to take heed to the wise words of F. B. Meyer. “God incarnate is the end of fear, and the heart that realized that He is in the midst…will be quiet in the midst of alarm.”
In his sermon, “For Those Who Trust in God,” Michael Hough notes that Matthew goes “straight to the heart of biblical spirituality. There is no need to fear the wind and the waves” when Jesus is present. He continues by offering this perspective regarding the disciples: They would not have been so concerned about the storm if they had focused their attention on Jesus. As he explains, “They would be relieved that their Lord was with them, coming to them over the top of the water, unharmed and undeterred by the wind and the waves. While the storm with all of its fury is hindering their progress, it is unable to stop Jesus from coming. It is this very clear picture that Matthew wants etched into the hearts and minds of the believers to whom he is writing.”
“Jesus always comes to us in the storms of life. ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…(Isaiah 43: 2, N.A.S.B). He may not come at the time we think He should come, because He knows when we need Him the most.”
Warren W. Wiersbe
“O distant Christ, the crowded, darkening years
Drift slow between Thy gracious face and me;
My hungry heart leans back to look for Thee,
But finds the way set thick with doubts and fears.
My groping hands would touch Thy garment’s hem,
Would find some token Thou art walking near;
Instead, they clasp but empty darkness drear,
And no diviner hands reach out to them.
Sometimes my listening soul, with bated breath,
Stands still to catch a footfall by my side,
Lest, haply, my earth-blinded eyes but hide
Thy stately figure, leading Life and Death;
My straining eyes, O Christ, but long to mark
A shadow of Thy presence, dim and sweet,
Or far-off light to guide my wandering feet,
Or hope for hands prayer-beating ‘gainst the dark.
O Thou! Unseen by me, that like a child
Tries in the night to find its mother’s heart,
And weeping wanders only more apart,
Not knowing in the darkness that she smiled -
Thou, all unseen, dost hear my tired cry.
As I, in darkness of a half-belief,
Grope for Thy heart, in love and doubt and grief:
O Lord! Speak soon to me – ‘Lo, here am I.’”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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