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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


Matt 14:22-27 And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. 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; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. (Also see Matt. 14:28-36; Mark 6:45-56; John 16:15-21)

The word "straightway," means immediately after what had previously taken place, which was Jesus' miraculous feeding of multitude with only five loaves and two fishes. The lesson text begins with Jesus, having sent the multitudes away, not only requests, but commands His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side. Jesus' apostles were to sail without Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which most bible scholars agree is the seacoast near the city of Capernaum. Why was there such a rush to do so? John gives us one reason. Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king (John 6:15). His apostles fled by sea, while Jesus, Who sought no earthly praise, honor, or glory, fled from their presence and found refuge in a nearby mountain - He went up into a mountain apart to pray, and remained there alone until evening was come. What a wonderful example for all Christians. We too, should, whenever possible, seek a place of quiet solitude, free from the cares of the world, in order to open our hearts to God in prayer.

Having sailed into the midst of the sea, the apostles' ship began to be tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. A tempest arose, stirred the waters, and agitated the sea with breaking waves that threatened the safety of the ship. Although Jesus wasn't with them, in some miraculous fashion He visualized, or "saw," them struggling to keep the ship afloat and on course. Mark confirms this by saying that He saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them (Mark 6:48). Not knowing where He was at this time, the apostles were deeply concerned for their safety, because it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew (John 6:17-18)..

Jesus realized the perilous conditions, distress, and mental anguish of His apostles. At the time the storm arose, they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs (John 6:19), which meant that they were in the middle of the Sea of Galilee on their way to the coast of Capernaum. Therefore, during the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. A combination of the Jewish and Roman accounting of nighttime, it was divided into four three-hour periods. The fourth watch is said to have been the time between three and six in the morning. As Jesus approached their ship the disciples saw Him walking on the sea. Although they saw a human-like form, they did not recognize it as that of their Master walking on the tempestuous sea and coming toward them. Some being fisherman, they were no doubt aware of the laws of nature that would not allow a human being to be buoyed up and able to walk on water. Therefore, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear, thinking that it was an apparition - something that was visible but unreal or inhuman. Realizing their terrified mental condition, Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. Indeed, these were words of comfort to His disciples. Although the sea was still extremely agitated these words abated their fear. We should all look to these words for comfort and cheer us in times of trouble, sorrow, and mental anguish, for we also know that Jesus is always reminding us to be not afraid.

Although not found in other gospels, Matthew relates this incident regarding the apostle Peter. Needing assurance that this ghost-like being approaching their ship was Jesus and not a phantom spirit, Peter said if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water. Peter's faith was sufficient enough to trust the power of Christ Jesus to permit this miraculous request. When Jesus said to him, Come, Peter ventured out of the ship and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But Peter's faith faltered and he became afraid when his eyes strayed away from looking to Jesus. Peter notices the raging sea that surrounded him, and when he began to sink into the water, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

Peter should have learned two things from this experience. First, he did indeed walk on water proving the magnificent power of Christ Jesus over the natural elements of the world. Secondly, he should have learned that faith wavers when Jesus is not the center of one's attention, and human weaknesses are exposed. With Peter sinking in the boisterous sea, Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? Just as it has been throughout Christianity, when faith wanes, doubt grows. So it was with Peter. When exposed to threatening circumstances or any other danger, our faith in Christ Jesus should never waver. We must rely on the power of Jesus to lift us when we fall; we must rely on His strength to cause us to stand firm and strong when spiritual weaknesses attempt to pull us down. When Peter and Jesus boarded the ship, the wind ceased. All that were in the ship began worshipping Jesus, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. Their faith was made whole - they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered (Mark 6:51).

They soon reached their destination in the land of Gennesaret, near the city of Capernaum. As usual, when Jesus appeared the multitudes gathered, all the diseased were brought to Him, and, with compassion, He healed them. No doubt there were so many sick, diseased, and demon possessed brought to Him that it was not possible for Jesus to lay His healing hands on them. Others merely sought to touch the hem of His garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.