HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
And in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.–Matthew 14:25
Jesus Felt the Necessity of Being Alone with God
It had been a day of trial and stress for Jesus, and when the sun was set, the danger was not over. There were terrible risks in that enthusiastic crowd that surged and swayed upon the mountainside. The miracle of His feeding the five thousand had made a powerful impression. It had struck deep into these fickle hearts. And if the cry once rang along the hillside “Jesus is King!” who knew where the echoes of that cry might end? Christ recognised the peril of the hour. He felt the supreme necessity of prayer. It was a moment in the Master’s life when His greatest desire was to be alone with God. Full of that quiet authority that moved the crowd as wonderfully as it calmed the sea, Jesus constrained the disciples to depart and sent the throng away. How they would talk as they travelled homeward! How gladly, as the first gusts of storm swept down on them, would they descry the gleaming of their cottage windows! I see the children plucking their mothers’ robes, and crying, “Mother, where is the Teacher now? We left Him on the hill–has He no home?” Perhaps some of them would learn in after days that it was home and heaven and life for Jesus to be alone with God.
A Storm Breaks Out to Teach the Disciples Dependence
Meantime the storm had broken. The clouds swept out the stars, the wind came whistling through the glens and corries, the sea ran high. And out in the midst of it toiled the disciples, Masterless, shelterless, helpless. It was a wild night after a weary day. It was a strange fulfilment of their promised rest (Mark 6:31). And yet I question if any holiday among the hills could have taught them as much as did that unmanageable boat. That very evening they had been ordering their Master (Matthew 14:15). They had been giving Him advice about five thousand men. They had been eager to manage that great crowd for Jesus–and now they cannot manage their little craft! It was a very blessed and very humbling storm. It brought the disciples to their place again. It printed upon their hearts, as in a picture, that the secret of Christian power is dependence.
They Wanted Jesus and Yet They Did Not Recognise Him
And so the night wore on, and every wave that dashed into the boat deepened their need for Jesus. The crowds were home now, the children were asleep, and every light by the lakeside was out. Then with the dawn came Christ. They spied a form, moving along the ridges of the sea, now lost for a moment in the trough of the waves, now dimmed by the showers of spray. And though they had longed for Jesus and prayed for Jesus, and this was Jesus, they did not know Him and cried out for fear. Sometimes we get the very thing we ask, and we do not recognise it when it comes. Sometimes we win the very help we need, and we are just as troubled as before. They cried, It is a spirit! The demon of the tempest was abroad, and Jesus–where was He? Who can describe their joy when the familiar voice rang over the white crests, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid!”
One Stood Out
Now there are times when a man’s character is revealed, and one of these times is often that of the storm. When we find Jesus sleeping in the tempest, it teaches us His perfect trust in God. When we rehearse Paul’s conduct in the shipwreck, it opens a window into that noble heart. So here, from all the disciples, one stands out; and amid the spray, and in the driving wind of that wild morning, there falls a shaft of light on Simon Peter. It is Peter who cries across the storm, “Lord, if it is thou, bid me come unto thee.” It is Peter who flings himself upon the waves to get to Christ. And it is Peter who begins to sink, and would have gone to the depths but for the hand of Jesus. There is the strength and there is the weakness of that hero. There is the story of his life condensed. When the wind ceased, and the ship’s company knelt down to worship Jesus, none felt so deeply as Peter that this was the Son of God.
The Long Delays of Heaven
Among the many lessons of this miracle, we shall note three. First remark the long delays of heaven. The night must have seemed endless to the twelve. An hour after hour dragged on, and hour after hour brought no word of Jesus. And it was not till the Roman guard in Caesarea had changed for the fourth watch, that the beloved voice was heard over the waves. Had they lost heart and hope? Did they suspect that Jesus had forgotten them? We are always ready to think ill of God, because of God’s great method of delay. But of this be sure that when our need is greatest, God is closest. He may delay, He will not disappoint. We must be schooled out of our impatience somehow. We must be trained in waiting and in trust. It was not only for a night of prayer that Jesus lingered. It was to teach His own that patience of hope which was to win such triumphs for the Church.
Christ Comes by Unexpected Roads
I see, too, that Christ comes by unexpected roads. That night the twelve were longing for their Master, but they never dreamed that He would come that way. If any sail went beating up the lake, their hopes rose, for Jesus might be there. But even Peter, most sanguine of them all, had never guessed that the waves would be His street. Yet by that unexpected avenue, the King approached, and on unlikeliest highways, He is coming still. By what strange roads Christ enters human hearts! By what strange ways He comes into our homes! A word, a visit of a stranger perhaps, a sickness or a death–and He is here. And it is all so different from what we looked for, that we do not recognise it is the Lord. There are ten thousand thoroughfares for Jesus. His ways of ingress into human souls are endless. Let me not bind Him. Let me not limit Him either to my preconceptions or my prayers. He puts to shame my well-worn offers of salvation and comes to men by unexpected roads.
We Sink When We See Nothing But the Storm
And lastly, this meets me in the story: we sink when we see nothing but the storm. When Peter looked at Jesus he was safe. But perhaps a wave came and towered like a wall before him, and for the moment he could not see his Lord. He saw the waves, he felt the spray, he heard the wind. But he looked and he saw no face, no arm, no hand, and at that moment Peter began to sink. Do we still detect that presence in the tempest? Do we discern the presence and the love of God in the confusion of our common day? When we see nothing but the storm, we sink. When we see Christ enthroned in it, we triumph.