Truth Infused With Hope: Truth That Holds On To Me Matthew 14:22-33
11/4/2018 1:43:11 AM
October 28, 2018
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: Matthew 14:22-33
“While you may hold on to an opinion, a conviction is that which holds on to you.” This is part of a presentation Ravi Zacharias made at Inter Varsity’s missions conference, Urbana, in 1993. I was there and remember it well! An opinion is a preference chosen from an array of options, a choice. A conviction, in contrast, is rooted in your conscience. “You cannot change a conviction without fundamentally changing who you are. While you may hold on to an opinion, a conviction is that which holds on to you.” This is a truth that has stuck with me for 25 years!
A few years later, a seminary professor pointed out the significance that Jesus does not claim to know the truth or point to the truth or even to reveal the truth. Jesus claims to be the truth! (John 14:6) Let’s put these two things together….
If a conviction is that which holds on to me, and Jesus is the truth, then being a Christian means that Jesus holds on to me. Let me explain: being a Christian means you have convictions about Jesus. These are more than just opinions, more than mere preferences in an array of options. Being a Christian means that the truth of Jesus is rooted in your conscience - Jesus is the truth that holds on to you.
Many today believe many good things about Jesus. Many even in our churches hold to good or positive opinions about Jesus. But they are merely that- opinions. They are preferences from an array of options. They are things we pick and choose. Much more rare is the conviction about Jesus- the deep seated truth, rooted in the core of your being that you cannot change without fundamentally changing who you are! A conviction about Jesus is that which you cannot change without fundamentally changing who you are. That is what it means to be a Christian!
Matt 14:13-22 just before our passage is the incident in which Jesus feeds the 5, 000. We looked at this a few weeks ago, (John 6) Jesus is the bread of life! Immediately after feeding the 5,000 our text…. Turn to Matthew 14:22-33.
What It Says
In v. 22 Jesus sends the disciples across the lake. The language is a command of urgency. Why? The crowd that had just been fed wanted to make Jesus king by force! Get the disciples out of there! Jesus didn’t want the disciples to be infected or get caught up in the excitement and idea to make him king then and there.
The feeding of the Five Thousand and our text today of Jesus walking on the water form one “seamless” narrative. [R T France, Matt p. 237] After dismissing the crowd, Jesus goes by himself to pray. From this we should see the need Jesus had to pray. How much more so we! Also notice that Jesus went to pray after his time of ministry! How often do we do that? [ Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew Vol 2, p. 74]
We are told that during the, 4th watch, which is from 3-6am, Jesus goes out to meet the disciples walking on the water! Disciples think they see a ghost or apparition! They are afraid.
Jesus reassures them, “Take Courage! I AM! Fear not!” The “I am” is a deliberate echo of the divine name, Yahweh, from Ex 3:14. Combined with “fear not,” Jesus is making a clear connection with the Old Testament. There are other OT references “Fear not, I AM….” [Isa 41:13 “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.]
Peter calls out, “If it is really you, Lord, call me to yourself…” Jesus does, Peter gets out of the boat! He is able to walk on water like Jesus, until he looks around at what he is doing…. Then he calls out! “Save me!” Immediately, Jesus reached out and caught him.
Peter is the spokesman for the disciples, the typical disciple, in whom we may see ourselves. In fact, we are encouraged to see ourselves in Peter! [France, p. 239] After rescuing him, Jesus corrects Peter, “You of little
faith…” Not a question of inadequate faith but unbelief. [France, 239] Peter’s faith wasn’t insufficient. It wasn’t there. Jesus asks, “Why did you doubt?” or literally, “Why were you divided in two?” [France 239]
Peter allowed the material facts of his surroundings to outweigh the power of Jesus. [France 239] Both here and the feeding of 5000, Jesus’ followers let him down by only seeing the physical limitations of their surroundings. How can we feed to many? How can I be walking on water?!?
Jesus and Peter enter boat and the storm stops. Reminiscent of a previous event in a storm when Jesus calms the wind and waves! The disciples then ask, “Who is this that even the wind and waves obey him?”
We must remember that in the worldview of the disciples: storms, seas, waves etc. were linked to demonic or supernatural powers. How, then, can Jesus control them? Who is he?!? This being their second encounter with Jesus controlling the chaos of the sea, they wrestle with how to put it into words, conclude, “Truly you are the Son of God!”
As I mentioned before, this passage is one seamless narrative with v. 13-21. This statement in verse 33, “You are the Son of God,” applies to both the storm/sea AND the feeding of 5000! This story should be read as an example of true faith that did not survive crisis. [France 239] It describes real events and presents lessons that apply to many situations.
What It Means
What does it mean? This is a miracle story in 2 acts- In the first Act, The Lord approaches his troubled church (followers/disciples/called out ones) astride the waves and speaks to them revealing his divine identity, “Courage! I AM! Do not be afraid!” [Bruner, p. 73] “Courage! I AM! Do not be afraid!” are words worthy to be inscribed on churches, homes and hearts. [Bruner, p. 73]
In Act 2 of the miracle story: “A believing disciple and an enabling Lord do the impossible, master the elements, and for a brief moment, give the church a glimpse of her unearthly possibilities in the world.” But in the next scene, Peter “the church” doesn’t believe and sinks. “The believer becomes an unbeliever, sinks back into natural life, cries out to the Lord and his saved…. Jesus mounts the water, [supernaturally empowers] believing disciples, and then saves barely-believing-yet-praying disciples from death.” [Bruner, p. 73]
Peter, in his distress, doesn’t cry out, “Why have you let me down?” Rather, he cries out, “Save me!” And Jesus does!
In this passage we see Jesus doing many things. Jesus sent the disciples onto the water, went to them on the water, called Peter out of the boat, empowered Peter, saved Peter in his doubt then corrected Peter.
Jesus sent, went, called, empowered, saved, corrected.
This is what Jesus does with his church- he sends us, sometimes even into a storm! He calls out to us in times of crisis, encouraging us “Have courage! I am! Fear not!” He even calls us to himself – empowering the church to do the miraculous!
But how often do we doubt? We surrender our belief and sink, overwhelmed by our material circumstances. We say, “We don’t have the money to do that.” Or, “We don’t have the people to do that.” Or, “That won’t work, people won’t come.” We look at the material challenges involved in responding to Christ’s call and we don’t believe. But if, in our doubt we pray, Jesus rescues us again, saves us again. Peter represents the unbelieving but still praying church!
Three more things to point out: First, that the disciples were sent out onto the water, and thus were within Jesus’ will, they were not spared adversity. How often do we follow Jesus, run into adversity and think, “This must not be what Jesus had in mind!”? Have you hit some adversity lately? I know many of you have. Don’t let that challenge your belief that you are within God’s will! If you have been obedient and find yourself in adversity, Jesus will join you soon to encourage you and empower you. The fact is, obedience to Jesus will often lead us into times of adversity and crisis! This tests our faith, gives us a chance to respond in faith, and when we do- strengthen our faith!
Second, Peter did not attempt the miraculous without an explicit command from Jesus. He called out for evidence, “If it is you, call me ….” He didn’t say, “If it’s you, don’t let me sink!” Rather just “Call me to yourself and I will come!” à Peter showed more faith and courage than the other 11!
Where do you see yourself fitting in Peter’s shoes? Are you willing to ask Jesus for a command? Are you willing to obey if Jesus calls you? Are you looking for more evidence that it is Jesus you see? Call on him!
Or, do you rush ahead and demand Jesus perform a miracle? Where do you fit in this narrative?
Third, the disciples’ response to Jesus’ power was to worship. They declare, “Truly you are the Son of God!” Jesus has just done the impossible, Jesus has done what the OT associates with Yahweh alone! Calming the sea! [Think Rev 4 “Around the glassy sea!”]
We may not be called to walk on water, but as Christ’s followers, as the church, we are to see ourselves in Peter and his fellow disciples in that boat.
Jesus sends us, joins us, calls us, empowers us, saves us and corrects us! Jesus is calling each of you to come to him! Maybe you’re already a follower of Jesus. He is still calling you to come to him in new, deeper ways and demonstrations of trust
Jesus is calling others of you to come to him for the first time! Maybe you don’t feel a lot of belief yet, but I encourage you to step out of your boat and take those first steps to Jesus. When the natural world surrounding you begins to overwhelm you, call out to Jesus and he will grab hold of you and save you.
Jesus also sends us. Jesus sends his followers into the world. He does not save us from adversity or trial. Yet even in the fiercest storm, Jesus accompanies us, joins us, encourages us and even empowers us to overcome. What he requires from us is obedience; obedience to go into the storm in the first place, faith to ask for evidence of his presence, obedience and trust to take the steps he calls us to make, and even the faith to cry out to him in prayer when we feel ourselves sinking! (Rather than rejecting him because we are sinking!)
Jesus empowers the faithful to overcome the world! Wind and waves in this case, feeding a multitude in previous case, something else in your case.
Jesus literally grabbed hold of Peter. He will figuratively grab hold of you. Society has lost its foundation. We have lost touch with solid ground. We are cast adrift in a sea of uncertainty, relativism and autonomy. We are sinking!
Cry out to Jesus who will grab hold of you. Don’t let your relationship with Jesus be just an opinion you hold. No longer an opinion, but a conviction! Jesus is the truth that will hold on to you if you let him. Ask yourself, “Do I hold opinions about Jesus, or do convictions about Jesus hold on to me?”
Opinions about Jesus will come and go. In tough times, in times of hard choices, opinions about Jesus will be easy to release. Convictions about Jesus are rooted in your conscience. If you are held by convictions about Jesus then, in times of adversity, in times of choosing, in times of doubt, you cannot change those convictions without fundamentally changing who you are! Convictions like this will see you through the storm. They may even allow you to take steps of faith and walk on water!
In times of adversity, convictions about Jesus are what will change the world. As Ravi talked about in that video clip, at the time of the Ascension of Jesus there were 120 believers. The population of Palestine was approximately 4 million people. This means that Christ followers were outnumbered 30,000 to 1! And yet the convictions that held on to them, the truth that is Jesus that was rooted in their conscience, is what empowered them and drove them to change the world. At Pentecost 3,000 people were added to their number. Now they were only outnumbered a little over 1,000 to one!
Their conviction “to see the finger of God in all of history and Christ as its central figure” is the conviction that empowered them to stand before the Sanhedrin and declare that Jesus, whom they crucified, was Lord. It was the conviction that fueled Paul’s missionary journeys throughout the Empire, facing stoning, beatings, riots, imprisonments and being shipwrecked. It was the conviction that turned the world upside down and had such an impact that “today more people bow their knee to Christ than any other figure in history!” [Ravi Zacharias]
What about you? Do you hold opinions about Jesus or do convictions about Jesus hold on to you?
There are some here who claim the title of Christian, but I believe only hold opinions about Jesus. The truth of Jesus has not found root in your conscience. It is not a conviction that holds on to you. My fear for you is that when the waves come you will sink. My challenge to you is to consider the evidence before you and surrender yourself to the Truth who is Jesus and let him hold on to you.
There are others here who are held by convictions about Jesus. What is he calling you to do? Is he sending you into the storm? Is he calling you out upon the water? Are you willing to obey? Are you willing to step out of your little boat today? The choice is yours. Amen.
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