January 8, 2021 | By Jay Ashbaucher
2020 was a very troublesome year for our world, and it seems a relief to move on to a new year, 2021. Many, however, are still struggling and who knows what problems and afflictions a new year will bring. There is a story of Jesus and his followers in Matthew 14:22-34. It is a story about the time the disciples were in a boat during a storm, and Jesus, walking on the sea, suddenly appears to them. Being in a storm reminds us of the storms of life that we encounter, times when we are hurting and struggling to survive. When we read the story, it is encouraging to realize that Jesus can do for us what he did for them.
In verse 25 we read that in the midst of their trouble, “he came to them”. It is comforting to realize that we matter to Jesus. He loves and cares about us more than we know. He wants to help us, and we need to believe he can, and let him in. Sometimes, we want to blame God for bad things that happen to us, or we wonder why he lets those bad things happen. In verse 22, it was Jesus who sent them out to sea. If Jesus knew bad things could happen, why would he do that? Very likely, knowing they would encounter bad things, he let it happen so that they could come to know him better, learn to trust him more, and become stronger to face the next bad thing that comes along, for in an evil-filled world, we cannot escape trials.
There are times in the story when the disciples experience great fear (14:26, 30). Before they knew Jesus was there, they were all terrified of what was out on the water. Jesus identified himself, but Peter wanted to know if it really was Jesus. So, at Jesus’ bidding, he attempted to walk on the water to get to him. When he focused on the raging storm, he doubted and began sinking. Fearing for his life, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” When they were terrified about what was going on, they cried out for help. Fear tells us that our lives are in danger. It is natural and okay to cry out for help. As was true for them, we may not yet know Jesus as he wants us to know him, our faith is weak, and we doubt his love and power to help us. We need to hear him say to us, as he said to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (14:27). And we need to have him do for us as he did for them; to help us and strengthen our faith.
When Jesus was with them, and they experienced his help, they had peace within. I do not often have God’s miracles immediately take away my problem. But I do experience fear, and I do ask him to save me, and I do hear him telling me not to be afraid, and I’ve heard the question, “You of little faith, why did you doubt” (14:31)? When bad things happen to us, God has good reason for allowing it, even though it is often the evil in the world that causes it and it is not a good situation. I have learned that we may not see at the time why God is allowing bad things to happen to us. However, God can use the bad for good in our lives, and it is later that we sometimes see why God has allowed this, and it is later that the help we need comes. As I have experienced the things God has done for me, I am more assured of his love, his goodness, and his help for my present situation. I do not fear as I did, I believe he cares for me and is with me, and I have confidence he will help me.
Through this rough time in the disciples’ lives, they learned to know Jesus better. They realized who he was and what he could do. Peter obeyed Jesus’ command and stepped out of the boat onto the sea. Jesus did not calm the storm for him, but he did answer Peter’s cry to save him. All the disciples obeyed Jesus when he told them to get into the boat and go to the other side of the sea (14:22). It may have looked like they would not get there, but in the end, they came safely to the other side (14:34). In the midst of our storm, we must keep doing and living the way Jesus wants us to live. We may falter, but we keep trusting him, knowing he will prove faithful in the end. We are on a journey to God and to the place where he has told us we are going. We will go through many struggles and heartaches on the way there, but knowing him and his goodness and his power, and by getting better at trusting him during each of the things we go through, we grow to have the certainty of faith that he will get us there.
The disciples all got into the boat. They were experiencing life together. Together in the boat, they worshiped him and were able to say to him, “You are certainly God’s Son” (14:33). And even though Jesus, at the beginning, seemed not to be there, they were always in his mind, and he came to be with them to help them get through the storm. Notice the pronouns, “them, they” in 14:25-27, 32-34. The one time the word “me” appears (14:30) was during a time of sinking. Don’t go it alone! There is strength and wholeness in our brokenness when the life and love of Jesus comes through each of us, one to the other. Life is not just about you and me trying to survive. It is about sharing our life together; you, me, and Jesus.