I once remember watching a movie called the Finest Hours. Though this movie is not a Christian-based one, it certainly grasps the audience’s attention with the stunning visual effects of a storm raging the seas. The movie was based on a true story of how an oil tanker gets split in half during a storm in 1952. As a result, a small group of coast guardsmen risk their lives to find the broken tanker and rescue any survivors that were still left alive. The waves during the storm measured up to 60 feet with winds blowing up to 70 knots.
When I read a particular passage in the Bible, I can’t help but think of this movie. This passage is found in Matthew 14:22-33 and as usual, the translation will be English Standard Version. If you aren’t familiar with this story, it truly shows the power and glory of Jesus Christ. To set the scene, Jesus had just performed another miracle when he fed the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. After this, Jesus sends the disciples away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He then dismisses the crowd and goes on the mountain to pray. Meanwhile, there was a storm raging where the disciples were.
Picking up in verses 24-26, it reads, “ but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear.” By the time Jesus came down to join the disciples, they were tired from fighting the storm. The boat was far from land, being beaten by large waves. It didn’t help that the winds were against them. We can roughly see how long they were fighting the storm.
Scripture says Jesus joined them on the fourth watch of the night. This system of nightly watches was used by the Roman military to divide the night into four watches of three hours, from 6 at night until 6 in the morning. This means the disciples were fighting this storm for at least nine hours, if not longer.
Anyone in the military can tell you how important fire guard is. At basic training, my platoon would typically have three people to a fireguard shift that lasted an hour (unless we were in the field for overnight training called FTX). While I understand its importance, it was no easy task being woken up in the middle of the night to stay up an hour… especially after a long day of difficult training. It is hard to imagine staying up for nine hours at night after a long day of serving the Lord, all to be fighting a storm. I am not shocked when I think about how they suspected Jesus was a ghost.
However, verse 27 says, “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.'” I love how Jesus replies to them immediately and doesn’t waste any time to reassure them that they need not fear Him because they are His. From what we just read, I can come to two conclusions. The first is that if you are His, you have no need to worry or be afraid. You can take heart that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is with us always. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean we are free from struggle. The disciples had no easy task and they still weren’t free from fighting the storm.
This brings me to my second conclusion; that God’s timing is always perfect. Jesus went to the mountain to pray as He sent off the disciples to cross the sea. I’m sure He knew of the difficulty and storm that would come. But sometimes we are called to difficult situations and we must not argue or complain. Once we start the journey, we must trust in His perfect timing to remain patient and faithful always.
After Jesus reassures the disciples, they still doubt. Verse 28 reads, “And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.'” However sad it is, the truth is that man is totally depraved and enslaved to sin. Peter doubts Jesus and challenges His authority. Jesus responds in verse 29 through 30, which reads, “He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.'”
Jesus accepts the challenge and Peter steps out onto the water, walking toward Jesus. However, Peter sees the storm raging around him and, scared, began to sink into the water. Again, Peter doubts as any other man would in his situation. Providentially, Peter calls to the only one who can save him: Jesus Christ.
And what was Jesus’s answer? Verse 31 reads, “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'” Of course, Jesus saves Peter. He does so immediately, not wasting any moments. However, Jesus does grow aggravated. After everything that had happened, His followers continued to doubt. I don’t blame Him for getting a bit annoyed. I feel awful when I read this and reflect on my own past. It reminds me greatly that in times of struggle or in the face of danger, we must never doubt Him or His power.
And again, I come to another realization after reading this section of the passage. Peter was called to be a Christian by Jesus. Was he perfect? By no means! He doubted Jesus the first time after they mistook Him as a ghost and after Jesus answered Peter’s challenge, he again began to doubt, causing him to sink. But was that the end of Peter? Of course not. Peter called out to the Lord and Jesus saved the day. If Jesus Christ has called you to be a follower of Christ, then He will always be there with you and He will never let you perish.
The passage ends with verses 32 – 33. They read, “And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.'” Once everyone was in the boat, the winds just ceased. That again attributes the great and mighty power of Jesus Christ. If you haven’t, go watch The Finest Hours. Imagine the storm that is raging in the movie, then imagine this story in that setting. Imagine the storm just ceasing. No wonder the disciples in the boat worshipped Him for all He had done.
Even though man has and will doubt, it doesn’t mean that all is lost. God has given mercy to His elect. That alone is truly amazing. But it doesn’t stop there. This story shows us that He will always be with His Elect, no matter what the situation. It shows that God’s timing is perfect, even if we don’t see it that way at the time being. Even though man is totally depraved, God will never let the Elect that He has chosen to perish. For that, I worship Him, praise Him, and love Him with all my heart, soul, and mind, and I pray and hope that all of you do as well!
Soli Deo Gloria.