STAY IN THE BOAT Andy Hollifield 1-22-17
I have to admit that this article is not an original thought. I got this from a songwriter in Robbinsville, NC. Ron Jones, the lead singer of Walking By Faith Quartet from Robbinsville sings a song by that title and I believe that he may have written it. It comes from a very familiar scripture in Matthew chapter 14. The story in the bible is focused on Peter who was probably the most brash and impulsive of the disciples. If you read about Peter’s life, he was almost always the first to question Jesus on anything and the first to respond to a question. The first, quite often, to say what they were all thinking and of course in the garden, the first to defend Jesus. The first to follow Jesus to the cross although he followed afar off and later denied him three times. Now before I get too far I want to point out something; Peter was following Jesus but another disciple, John was also at the crucifixion with Mary the mother of Jesus. To be honest, Peter was the type of fellow that we would all like to have as a friend although we would get embarrassed by his impulsive behavior at times. That behavior sometimes got him into trouble but it also served him well. He is the kind to quote an old saying, that you would like to have in a foxhole with you if you were at war. You didn’t have to wonder if you could count on him or not.
We all know this story about how that Jesus had sent the disciples before him in a ship over the sea to the other side while he sent the multitudes away and went to pray. If you notice, the disciples sailed apparently without asking Jesus how he planned to join them on the other side. The scripture says that Jesus was there alone when the evening came. A few things I want to point out about this is why he was there. If you go back to the first few verses of chapter 14, you will discover that this is the chapter where John the Baptist was beheaded. The bible says that Jesus having heard this departed by ship into a desert place. No doubt he was heartbroken over this news. Doesn’t that show the humanity of our Savior and also the fact that he was moved with compassion for the multitude in the following verses that had followed him on foot to this place? Although he was no doubt grieving for his friend and wanting to get alone with his disciples and also to pray, he still took time for the multitude and even healed their sick. Then as the day began to wear away he fed over 5000 there in the desert place. I found it interesting that Matthew, Mark, and Luke, put emphasis on the fact that it was a desert place they were in. It was after this miracle that he sent his disciples to the other side and was alone at evening. Now lets fast forward to after he had went and prayed. Verse 24 says that while Jesus had went up on the mountain to pray that by now the ship was in the midst of the sea in a storm. This is where it gets good. This was at evening in a storm while Jesus was on the mountain. If you look at verse 25 it gets better. It says “And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.” In case you didn’t know, there were four watches in the day and four watches in the night. All of them were three-hour increments. If you remember at the crucifixion, it was during the day and at one point there was darkness upon the earth from the sixth hour till the ninth hour. That would have been between noon and three. Now in our story in Matthew we are talking about the fourth watch of the night or between three in the morning till six in the morning. Now think about this, Jesus was walking on the sea in the middle of the night in a storm and had walked halfway across the sea in the dark, moonless, stormy, night yet walked right to them. Ain’t that good? Jesus can see through your storm and knows right where to find you! As he approached the ship he disciples were afraid thinking they were seeing a spirit and began to cry out in fear. Verse 27 “But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” Boy there is so much just in that verse you could never get it all out. Straightway or right then Jesus spoke to them and identified himself. Just like with them, he wants us to know he is on the scene and not only do we not have to be afraid anymore but he wants us to be cheerful in our storm because he is with us. Now think about this: these were men that rode the waves for a living most of them being fishermen. I would imagine that it took more than just a little breeze to get them excited. Verse thirty says that the wind was boisterous and it was enough to scare Peter. Peter was the one later that drew his sword in front of all those armed soldiers and cut off the servant’s ear. My point is that he didn’t scare easy so it must have been a major storm. Now as usual, Peter wasn’t satisfied just with the fact that Jesus was close by, he wanted to be with him right then. Wouldn’t that be a good lesson for us to learn? Don’t be content to have him somewhere near, but get right by his side within arms reach. Peter told Jesus, if it’s really you, bid me to come to you. Keep in mind, if anyone knew Jesus’ voice it was Peter. And the obvious question, if it wasn’t Jesus, who else would it be? After Jesus told him to come, he got out of the safe place in the boat and started walking to Jesus. Here’s a thought for you; it was in a storm and it was dark and it was loud with the waves crashing and the boisterous wind so Peter probably couldn’t see him or else he would have known him. He had to be walking toward the sound of his voice. Man alive if we could ever get a hold of that one. Just walk toward the sound of his voice. The problem is that somewhere along the way Peter quit listening and started looking. When he quit listening to the Lord and started looking at the fierceness of the wind, he began to sink. Keep your eyes toward the Lord and keep listening for his voice in your storm. When he began to sink and cried out to the Lord, immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and saved him. Keep in mind that even though you may not see him or know where he is at, he is always closer than you think and always close enough to catch you when you start sinking. The bible says that Jesus asked him why he doubted. What the writer don’t mention is this; Peter had apparently walked too far away from the boat to swim for it. That means that after Jesus saved him, he still had to walk back to the boat on that same storm that had caused him to sink only a moment before. Don’t think that because Jesus shows up that he is always going to yank you out of your storm. The wind never ceased till they got back in the boat. When they got back in the ship it says they that were in the ship worshipped him. It doesn’t say that Peter worshipped him. He may have but keep in mind, Jesus had questioned him about his faith after he saved him. He may have been ashamed that his faith had gotten weak. In his defence, he had just walked through a storm that the others had just stood and watched. We are not always in a shouting mood right after the storm has beat us up even though the Lord has delivered us. I personally don’t believe that is anything to be ashamed of. I don’t shout and praise God right after the effects of a stomach virus neither. It takes a little time to recover and then I realize how thankful I am and begin to worship.
Now since the introduction is finished let me quickly get to the point. What do you think would have happened if the other eleven men had gotten out of that boat with Peter and went walking toward the Lord? You might think they would have sunk because Jesus didn’t call them, but would they? He is no respecter of persons. I believe if they had of went, he would have commended them for their faith. Also Peter’s faith would have probably been stronger if his brothers had of stepped out with him. I wonder what all twelve could have accomplished if they had of all got out of the boat. I mentioned the song when I started. The question the writer of the song asks is this: “Will you walk with the Lord or stay in the boat?” That is a valid question and puts new light on the whole story for me. Which will you do because that truly is the choice we have to make? Will YOU walk with the Lord or stay in the boat? Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!