“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. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”
“And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret. And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.” (Matthew 14:22-36)
Many who claim to be Christians and claim to worship God deny the deity of Christ. That is to say, they deny that Jesus Christ is himself God. Many others, who claim to believe that Jesus Christ is God, ascribe to him attributes of weakness, helplessness, frustration, and failure, which of course are a denial of his true deity as much as the open denial of his eternal Godhead. The religion of such people, the religion of the liberal, or the Arian who denies Christ’s deity, and the religion of the freewill, works religionist, whose doctrine denies Christ’s deity, is nothing but a religion of moralisms and philosophy. Such religion is of no more benefit to a man’s soul than the teachings of Plato or the ancient, pagan religions of the Gentile world.
We are Trinitarians. We worship one, holy, sovereign God in three separate, but equal persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We do so because the Lord God has revealed himself from the beginning as One God subsisting of a plurality of divine Persons (Gen. 1:26; Deut. 6:4; 1 John 5:7).
Not only are we Trinitarians, we fully believe that Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the man who walked this earth for thirty-three years and died by Roman crucifixion just outside Jerusalem more than two thousand years ago, is himself “over all God, blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5). That man is “God manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). We believe that he is God because the Word of God declares that he is God, because he claimed to be God, because both angels and men worshipped him as God while he was upon the earth, and because our entire salvation stands and falls with his absolute deity. If Jesus Christ were not God, his righteousness, his atonement, his resurrection, his intercession, all that he has done could profit us nothing.
To deny Christ’s deity is to deny his honesty and integrity as a man, for he claimed to be God and received worship from men as God. The Jews took up stones to kill him because he, being a man, made himself equal with God! All he had to do to stop their wrath was to say, “Wait a minute, you misunderstood me. I did not mean to imply that I am God!”
Having said all that, I am fully aware that it is not possible to prove Christ’s eternal power and Godhead to an unbeliever. I can no more prove the deity of Christ than I can prove the existence of God. Such proof cannot be given because God never made any attempt to prove his Being. The only way God can be proved is by faith. If you believe God, you know God. If you do not believe God, you cannot know him; and you hope that he is just a myth.
However, the Lord God has given us numerous demonstrations of his Being. He has given us such demonstrations of his Being, that no sane man can honestly deny that God is, and such demonstrations, that every believer simply laughs at those who do deny him. Even so, we have in the New Testament numerous demonstrations of the deity of Christ. They are given not to prove that Christ is God, but to reassure and strengthen the faith of all who know him, trust him, worship him, and love him as God our Savior.
In the passage before us every thing is moving in one direction. The events before us come to a climax in verse 33, when the disciples “came and worshipped (the Lord Jesus) saying, Of a truth thou are the Son of God.” The Father had declared this at his baptism (3:17). And the demons in Gadara confessed it in Matthew 8:29. But this is the first time the twelve apostles unequivocally declared of Christ, “Thou art the Son of God.” They made this declaration because our Lord Jesus had so powerfully demonstrated his deity that they simply could not refrain from worshipping him as their God. In Matthew 14:22-36 we are given six demonstrations of the fact that the man Christ Jesus is himself God.
“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” (vv. 22-23). — Here we have a clear demonstration of our Savior’s divine authority. First, “Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship.” Then, “he sent the multitudes away.” He made the disciples take a ship across the Sea of Galilee that they did not wish to take. Then, he sent the multitudes away who wanted to take him by force and make him a king (John 6:14-15).
Thus he demonstrated his authority as God over all things. He has authority over the lives and destinies of all men, including their final judgment (John 5:22). He has authority over all the supernatural world, including Satan and the fallen angels (Mark 1:27). He has sovereign authority over all the holy angels, whom he could have summoned at anytime to his aid (Matt. 26:53). Our Lord Jesus taught “as one having authority” (Matt. 7:29). He sent out his apostles with his authority over unclean spirits, to cast out demons and heal the sick (Matt. 10:1). It is his authority that inspires his church “to preach the gospel to every creature” (Mt. 28:18-20).
Jesus Christ, because he is God, has control and authority over everything in heaven, earth, and hell. He commands and controls all men. He commands and controls all angels. He commands and controls all demons. He commands and controls all the elements of nature (Isa. 45:7).
Yet, this great God is so much one with us in our nature that as a man he walked before God in perfect faith and was a man of prayer (v.23). The gospel writers frequently remind us of those private seasons when our Redeemer “went up into a mountain apart to pray.” Those sweet incidents are held before us as strong endearments of character. But were intensely private times. We are seldom given even the slightest indication about what was spoken from his holy heart to the Father in prayer. Our Master practiced what he teaches us to practice. He entered into his closet, shut the door, and prayed to his Father in secret (Matt. 6:6). No effort should be made to describe the Master’s times of private prayer. No mortal on earth knows (and none should guess) what words were uttered, or what groans were sighed by the Lord Jesus in his Mediator-character before the Father in those hallowed seasons. We are told about the transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-9). We read about his agony in the garden (Luke 22:41-45). And we are given details of his intercessory prayer in John 17. But here we must simply pause to adore him as our Mediator in prayer. The Lord Jesus always went somewhere to pray when he was tempted, when His disciples were in trouble, and when he was about to engage in some work as Jehovah’s righteous Servant. And he tells us, by his Spirit, to follow his example (Heb. 4:16).
“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” (vv. 24-25). — Here we see our Savior’s omniscience.
(Psalms 139:1-6) "O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. (2) Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. (3) Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. (4) For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. (5) Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. (6) Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it."
Try to imagine what was going through the minds of these men. They were in a terrible mess because the Lord made them get into the ship. He sent them right into the eye of a terrible storm! Truly, these disciples are to be admired for their obedience. But you can imagine the terror and confusion they must have felt. The Master was not with them this time! — But, really, he was. They just didn’t know it!
In the time of their great need, “Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.” He knew where they were. He knew the trouble they were in. Yet, he waited a long time to come to them, because he knew infinitely better than they what they needed. When the storm arose and they were alone in the sea, these disciples forgot all they had seen and heard before. All they could think of was the storm. All they could see was danger. All they could see was fear. How much like them we are!
The ship tossed about with the waves and contrary winds remind us of our own situation in the world. In fact, in Isaiah 54:11-14 our Lord addresses us as a people in exactly this situation and speaks comfort to our hearts. — “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted…In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.” Our Savior’s name is Jehovah-jireh. He sees us. He knows our needs. And he will provide. Commenting on verse 25, C. H. Spurgeon wrote…
“Jesus is sure to come. The night wears on and the darkness thickens, the fourth watch of the night draws near, but where is he? Faith says, ‘He must come.’ Though he should stay away till almost break of day, he must come. Unbelief asks, ‘How can he come?’ Ah, he will answer for himself: he can make his own way. ‘Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.’ He comes in the teeth of the wind, and on the face of the wave.
Never fear that he will fail to reach the storm-tossed barque: his love will find out the way. Whether it be to a single disciple, or to the church as a whole, Jesus will appear in his own chosen hour, and his time is sure to be the most timely.”
“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” (vv. 26-27). — Here we see a clear display of our Savior’s divine care and protection. Being God full of compassion, he understood their frailty and came to them, “Walking on the sea.” He did not come “walking on the sea” to teach them how to do it; but to teach them and us, that since he is God over all, we can and should trust him absolutely. Remember, he has absolute power and control over all things. He can and will do whatever is needed to protect us. We will never find ourselves a place where we are beyond his eye and or beyond his reach. There is no storm from which he cannot save us!
Though the disciples were in the midst of a terrible storm, they were in the place of obedience to their Lord and Master. And the place of obedience to Christ is the place of safety (Pro. 3:5-6; Acts 27:25).
“And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (vv. 28-31). — There is nothing more admirable about our great God than his everlasting faithfulness, and nothing more comforting (Lam. 3:24-26). And here Matthew gives us a beautiful picture of our Redeemer’s divine faithfulness.
With great ease, being strong in faith, Peter stepped out onto the stormy sea. He walked upon the water as confidently as we might walk on concrete. Yes, faith may be, and is, very strong, when the Almighty Giver of faith calls it forth. But, when he suspends (as it were) his omnipotent grace, when he takes away his support (even for a brief moment, and even after allowing us to do great things in his name), our faith is utter weakness! How we need to learn this lesson! No sooner had Peter, looking to Christ, stepped out of his boat, walking on the water to go to the Savior, than he found himself looking at the storm, seized with fear, and sinking in unbelief!
Yet, in great faithfulness the Lord Jesus “stretched forth his hand” of omnipotent mercy and caught his sinking disciple, and gently rebuked him for his unbelief. How merciful, how gracious our blessed Savior is to us, weak, unstable, unbelieving believers! Often, he leaves us to ourselves for brief moments, as he did Peter, and lets us begin to sink, to teach us that he alone is our Keeper. Yet, he ever stretches out his hand to save his fallen ones. He never leaves us to reap the fruit of our own weakness and unbelief. When sinking in deep waters, he seems only to consider our trouble, not our fault, and graciously delivers us. May he teach us and give us grace to follow his example (Gal. 6:1-2; Eph. 4:32-5:1).
“And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God” (vv. 32-33). — “When they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.” It always does, once the Savior makes himself known (Isa. 43:1-5). And the fact that the wind ceased when our Master came into the ship shows us his great omnipotence. Beholding this display of his omnipotence, “They worshipped him saying, of a truth thou are the Son of God!” These disciples, who had been rescued by their Lord’s coming to them across the stormy sea, and calming the sea as he stepped into their little ship, were overwhelmingly convinced of his absolute omnipotence as the eternal God.
(Psalms 139:7-18) “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? (8) If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. (9) If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; (10) Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. (11) If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. (12) Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. (13) For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. (14) I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. (15) My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. (16) Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (17) How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! (18) If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.”
Then, in verses 34-36 we are given a marvelous demonstration of Christ’s Divine Goodness and Grace. — “And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret. And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.”
What an endearing picture this is of our Savior. Truly, this is he of whom the prophets spoke (Isa. 35:4-6; Luke 4:17-18). He delights in mercy. — “Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Ps. 86:15). He who bore our sins and carried our sorrows soothes the sorrows of needy souls. Though now enthroned on high, he is yet touched with the feeling of our infirmity and moved with compassion toward his needy people. — “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted: he knoweth how to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). And it is still true, “As many as touch him are made perfectly whole!”