Rather, we have a key player in today's sermon, and His name is Jesus. Oh, there's another player by the name of Peter, but, Jesus is central.
You see, they had decided they would make Jesus the king. After all, look what He had done! He had just fed five thousand men and their families from what I heard during a sermon during campmeeting amounted to a McDonald's Happy Meal for kids. Just one small child's lunch. And Jesus had spoken so masterfully, with such authority from God. "Let's make Him a king." And you know, the disciples weren't any help. They were kind of egging the crowd on a little bit. They saw that Jesus has a crowd that's following Him. Over five thousand people are here. We could march into Jerusalem and proclaim Him king. Oh, He'll never do it Himself. He's too humble. We're going to force Him into it.
The time was ripe in their eyes, but not in the eyes of Jesus. Jesus saw what was taking place and He commanded the disciples as He had never commanded them before. "Get in the boat. Meet me on the other side." And they felt the force of that command and even though they were insistent in making Him king they got in the boat, but they didn't go to the other side of the lake. They just sat there to see what would happen.
And there was Jesus with that crowd of people. "Go home." What? But it was with such authority even the men of strong character that were there to force Him to be king turned and went home, disappointed, confused.
Jesus withdrew onto the mountainside to pray. And the disciples according to Desire of Ages (EG White) stuck around the shore for a little while in their boat, hoping that Jesus would come and get in with them and go with them. But Jesus didn't come, so they started out as He had commanded and headed for the other side.
And Jesus prayed...not for Himself but for the people that they would see Him for who He really was, and that His disciples would understand what His mission was all about. But while He was praying He never let the disciples wander from His sight there on the lake.
Now, the disciples, were just utterly beside themselves. "We had the opportunity, we had the people, we had the timing, everything was just right to make Jesus king. What does He want? And all the miracles and all of the good things that happened that day, all the words from Jesus and the affirmation from the people kind of faded from their memories. And they started dwelling upon the negative things. In fact, they began to wonder, according to Desire of Ages (EG White) whether Jesus was actually the Messiah. They began to let doubt creep into their minds. That's what happens when we think on the negative things. We can come to the point where we doubt Jesus.
The disciples had seen the miracles, they had heard the words, but their hearts were troubled, and they lost courage. And they were despondent in thinking of all their troubles: you know when you are thinking of a lot of troubles, you don't often see the real trouble about to happen. They didn't notice the storm that was coming across the lake, right for them. Sometime God send things into our path to help us forget ourselves and turn to Him.
Well, Jesus was watching that precious cargo. Yes, He loved them and He knew what they were thinking, He knew what they were going through but He also saw in the little boat the very men that would be responsible for spreading the gospel. He never left them out of His sight.
And there the storm hit and the disciples forgot everything that happened that day as their big muscles were pulling on the oars trying to save their own lives. Those big muscles turned the water as they saw Jesus walking on the water. "It's a phantom! Our doom is nigh! It's the sign of our death!" But then they recognized: "Hey, that's Jesus. Jesus, is that you?" "It is I. Don't be afraid." And old Peter, bless him: "Lord, if it is You let me walk out on the water to you."
You know, Jesus rewards faith and courage. And that's what Peter had right then. He had faith and courage. And Jesus said, "Come." And Peter stepped out of that boat and he walked on the water as if it was solid ground. The storm around him and he was looking at Jesus and he was walking on the water. And then he sunk like a rock.
When I worked at Cohutta Springs as a boys' counselor it came time for the teem aquatics camp where we'd go up to Lake Ocoee and stay at the Boy Scout Camp and teach the teens how to water-ski. I wasn't very good at water- skiing: I was along for the ride in the boat, so to speak. The teen-age boys were the athletes, and they were out there slaloming and doing al the tricks. And I was watching with envy, you know, at all the things they could do. Then the day came where Wolf Jedowski was the boat driver and was going to teach the teen boys how to barefoot-water-ski. They were talking about it, "Oh we can't wait to get out there on the lake and show what we can do. Well, we were out on the lake all afternoon and those boys tried and tried and tried and failed and failed and failed and failed. None of them could do it.
Finally out of discouragement they looked over at me and said, "You haven't tried yet." I said, "No, I haven't." I wasn't really planning on it. But I got to thinking to myself, (Misery loves company.) they've already failed. What do I have to prove? I can eat least try it, you know, I don't have anything to worry about.
I got out there beside the boat, (Wolf had a boom out the side of the boat that he was trying to teach them on) and he looked at me and he said, "Okay, Kent, you keep you eyes on me and you do whatever I tell you." "I said, "Okay."
He said, "When I get the boat up to thirty-three miles an hour, you'll be bare-foot." I said, "How fast?" "You'll feel it. You'll know when. and I'll give you the nod." And as we were going he gave me the signal at the right time to swivel my feet around and put them in front of me and I felt the boat go faster and faster and he gave me the nod again and I planted in the water and I stood up! I was doing it! I was keeping my eyes on Wolf and he gave me the "thumbs up". And I heard the guys in the boat beside me and they were going, "YES!" And I was going, "Yes." And I looked at them...
My memory is kind of vague after that. I do remember that it hurt very bad. They told me that I had tumbled six times before I sank in. At thirty something miles an hour on the lake, it's like concrete. I remember coming up thinking that I was dead. I couldn't see anything. My eyes sockets were full of water. I had gone in face first. And my muscles were like water: they couldn't move. If it wasn't for the life preserver I would have sunk like a rock. And I lay there helpless in the water. Then I heard the boat motor coming toward me and I could tell that Wolf looked down at me and he said, "I thought I brought somebody sensible with me." And I knew that I was alive. When the water drained from my eyes and I could see again, I got into the boat. Why did Peter sink? He took his eyes off of Jesus.
Matthew 14:22-30 (NIV) "Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
"During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking of the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
"But Jesus immediately said to the: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
"'Lord, if it's you,' Peter replied, 'tell me to come to you on the water.'
"'Come,' he said.
"Then peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!'"
Why did Peter sink? He saw something else, he saw the waves, he had taken his eyes off of Jesus. Desire of Ages called it, "self-satisfaction", just like I was when I was there alongside the boat barefoot and self- satisfaction was my downfall, literally.
Why did Peter sink? Peter was overweight. He had a weight problem, too much excess baggage with him. Do we carry baggage around that's keeping us from Jesus? Jesus has asked us to step out of this world and walk to Him. Are we overweight from carrying around too much excess baggage?
"But Lord, look what I'm bringing with me. Uh, here's a video. It has all my good deeds on it. You have it recorded in Heaven, I'm sure. We could watch it in slow motion, we could see what I've done." "But son, your good deeds are filthy rags. They weight you down. They're simply done out of a response of your love for me." "Oh, but Lord, I have here a notebook. It says here I attended church almost every Sabbath." "Oh, yes, I'm glad you came, but did you come to worship Me? Did you come out of love for Me? Because if you didn't, all you gained was another two or three hours to your life." "Oh, but Lord, I have in here 27 Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh- day Adventists. I believe them and I love them and I live by them." "Oh yes, that's good. That's truth. But are they centered on Me in your love, in your life? By the way, what else do you have in your baggage, son?" "Oh Lord, you don't want to see that. It's just a little micro-cassette. It's not much. It's just something I'm not really willing to give up. Maybe it's my pride, a grudge or something." Oh, even that can weigh you down too much. I need you to be able to reach out with both your hands, empty of self, able to grasp My hands and come to Me. If you wish to come close to me you need to turn your eyes upon Me and drop your baggage so you can reach out and take My hands which are already reached out for you."
You know the sadder thing is, not only will we sink if we insist on carrying too much luggage, we bring others with us. We don't need to carry any burden. We don't need to carry anything in our lives as we come to Jesus. Look at Psalm 55:22 and let's claim this promise. "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you." Cast your cares upon Him and He will sustain you. "He will never let the righteous fall." We could put the word "saint" in there. (A saint is a repentant sinner.) He will never let the righteous sink.
Back to Matthew 14:30,31a "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ..." My friends, when we are sinking, and we cry out unto the Lord, immediately He reaches out toward us.
"'You of little faith,' He said, 'why did you doubt?'
"And when they had climbed into the boat, the wind died down, and those who were in the boat worshipped Him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'" All doubt was erased.
For the time being, they failed, and failed, and failed. We fail and fail and fail but we can keep reaching out to Jesus. And each time if we allow Him He will draw us just a little bit closer to Him.
As a pastor I have heard a cry for years for unity and revival within the church. Revival is not just a series of meetings: revival is when we are willing to drop our excess baggage and reach out to Jesus. When we see revival in that manner, unity will no longer mean "as long as people go along with my way of doing things we'll be in unity." Rather, unity will mean "everyone reaching out with empty hands to Jesus Christ the same time in the same direction going the same way closer to Jesus.
When our eyes are on Jesus, the things, the troubles, the possessions of this earth, the cares of the world will go strangely dim because we will be beholding the light of His face. The things around us will no longer burden us down because we have cast our care upon Him. And we can continually reach out.
I say a Christian is a joyful person. Notice I didn't say, "Happy." Happiness depends upon happenings. Something that happens in my life makes me happy. But joy transcends happiness. Joy is something that's always there no matter what happens because we know Jesus Christ will carry us through.
When it is said, "a Christian has a peace that passes understanding, that's what's meant. No matter what happens to me I can still have the peace that Jesus loves me, that all things will work together for good to those who love the Lord.
My family is looking forward to working together with you as we continue to walk forward to Jesus Christ. May our goals always be the same: to keep our eyes on our Master's face.
Opening song: #88, "I Sing the Mighty Power of God" Scripture: Matthew 14:28-30 Closing Song: #290, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus"
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last updated 2/3/98 by Bob Beckett.