Sermon on Matthew 14:22-33
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”Jesus to Peter, Matthew 14:31
These words are spoken to Peter by Jesus, but through Peter, they are also spoken to us. Our doubts are caused by something that is addressed many times throughout Scripture: fear.
In this passage, we see the fear of the disciples based on the difficulty of their situation. They have been sent by Jesus out onto the Sea of Galilee, and this body of water is known for being dangerous and even deadly to boaters when sudden storms kick up.
I had a moment out on a lake in Florida this summer where I think I felt something akin to what the disciples must have felt that day. I was out paddleboarding with a friend, and we saw something out on the water that could have been a person in distress. We went out to investigate and thankfully, it was just an unmanned raft. However, when we turned around to go back, we realized we were MUCH farther away from shore than we had intended to go. In order to get back home, we had to paddle a very long distance against the wind, and we were already tired. Obviously, we made it back, but at that moment of turning around and realizing how far we had to go, I felt true fear. The power of the wind and the waves felt very real and much stronger than me. I knew I could easily be overwhelmed. I think this is similar to what the disciples must have felt when they were out in that small boat and the storm blew in without warning.
They were in that boat, paddling against the strong wind, all night long. The Scripture describes them as being “beaten by the waves” (v. 24). I think this can easily be related to our own lives. The circumstances of our lives can sometimes beat us up. We feel stuck, trapped, abused, like we can never make progress.
One fascinating thing about these verses is that it never mentions them as feeling any fear related to the storm. The first time fear is mentioned is in verse 26, when they are terrified at seeing Jesus walking toward them on the water.
This brings me to one of the places where our small faith is revealed: in the very nature of Jesus himself. Do we really believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be, who the Scriptures say he is? This is a place where many of us have doubt, and the disciples did too, since they didn’t consider it might have been Jesus there on the water.
Jesus said to them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (v. 27). It is very interesting to note that the words translated here as “It is I,” would be better translated as “I Am.” These are the same words that God used when revealing himself to Moses at the burning bush (See Exodus 3:14), and by using them, Jesus is declaring himself to be God in the flesh. He isn’t just saying, “It’s me, your friend.” He’s saying, “It’s me, your God.”
The name of God in Exodus 3:14 is what we pronounce as Yahweh, and we see it over and over again in reference to Jesus. His name itself means, “Yahweh saves” (Matthew 1:21), and we see the same “I Am” phrase repeated over and over in the discourse of Jesus himself: “I am the Bread of Life,” “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” “I am the resurrection and the life,” and many others.
Paul is making the same point in Romans 10. Paul takes the Old Testament verse from the Book of Joel, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (Yahweh) will be saved,” and he makes it about Jesus. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (Yahweh)… you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
One of the most important things for any of us to gain is faith, not just any old kind of faith, but faith in the person of Jesus Christ. We have to believe he truly is who he says he is – God in the flesh, come to save his people from their sins. If we believe in this, we will be saved.
Going back to our Gospel passage from Matthew, we see that Peter didn’t exactly have that kind of faith. He sent out a challenge to test Jesus: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (14:28). And Jesus didn’t miss a beat, “Come.”
And then we see a further instance of doubt from Peter. He takes his eyes off Jesus and looks instead at his circumstances, begins to be overwhelmed by fear, and starts to sink. When we are walking in faith with Jesus, the most secure place to be is actually to continue in faith. Just keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (See Hebrews 12:2).
We all tend to start looking at our circumstances and getting afraid – our dwindling budgets, the overwhelming tasks we have to do, our own personal shortcomings. If we look at anything other than Jesus, we set ourselves up to sink.
I’m not saying we don’t need to be realistic about facts, but we have to remember where our salvation actually comes from. “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Jesus has demonstrated again and again that he loves us, would do anything for us, and has the power to save us. He demonstrated his love by dying for us, and he proved his power by his resurrection.
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” is a great question for us to continually ask ourselves. In our lives, again and again, he has been there to save us when we call out to him.
When they got back into the boat, “those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God'” (14:33). The Lord Jesus Christ knows us very well. He knows we have little faith, and we have fear and doubt in our struggles. We are called to trust in his name and power, and call out to him to be saved. He will be there to save us every time we call.