Please begin with prayer for an open heart, before you read the passage below. Matthew 14:22-36 – 22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
The assigned reading was v.25-31, but I think the remaining verses within this section add tremendous context and also application to our ‘mustard seed faith’ conversation from Sunday.
Immediately preceding this encounter, Jesus fed 5,000 men (plus women & chillins). After the meal, Jesus needs some time in prayer with the Father and sends His boys across the lake ahead of Him. The disciples begin rowing and then Jesus walks out towards them. Now, they probably began their journey at least 6-8 hours ahead of Jesus, so either they are slow rowers, waves were tremendous, or Jesus is a world class speed walker! There were superstitions of water spirits that would come out at night, so those ‘ghost stories’ combined with the fact that a dude was walking on water, freaked the disciples out.
Peter, who lacks a speed bump between his brain and his mouth, pops off with, ‘Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.’ Peter has frequent, impulsive moments, but if we look at the Rabbinical culture of the 1st century, this move makes more sense. There would be a number of rabbi’s in the area and each would have a different interpretation of the Scriptures and Jewish custom. Young men would study throughout their upbringing and if they excelled, they would approach a rabbi, whose teachings they respected, to be his disciple. The rabbi would then drill them on every detail of the Law, Prophets, culture, oral tradition, etc. and if the rabbi felt that the potential disciple could be like him, then he would ask the young man to ‘follow me’.
Jesus had a slightly different approach and as far as we know, didn’t administer any religious SAT exams on the disciples. He did call them to ‘follow Me’, because He believed they could be like Him and do what He did! Back to the disciple with the foot-shaped mouth (Peter)---Peter was chosen as a disciple and knew that Jesus believed He could do what He did. Naturally, when Jesus walked on water, Peter believed he could walk on water as one of His disciples. The crazy thing was that Peter actually did!!
The story obviously didn’t end there---notice that Peter’s eyes shifted away from His Lord when he saw the wind and was consumed with fear. He starts to sink---Jesus saves him---Jesus rebukes him and says, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt??’
In applying the little faith/mustard seed faith, I struggled a little with a clear cut distinction. I think we are still human and we will have fear, doubts, anxiety, and trials---in processing little faith & mustard seed faith, I think one of the differences is what you are focusing on in the midst of fear, doubts, anxiety, and trials. Mustard seed faith rises up when in the middle of these circumstances and we look to Jesus and continue to trust in Him! Little faith is still saving faith, but we become paralyzed by our surroundings---we are paralyzed because we are only looking at our self and our capacity to handle the challenges. Mustard seed faith has exponential growth possibilities, because it is not limited to us and looks upward. We may not be healed, we may not get the new job, we may not receive whatever we are stepping out in prayer for, but true mustard seed faith is displayed in those moments and allows the Spirit of God to grow us, shape us, and change us as His followers! Mustard seed faith trusts in the middle of the wind & waves and trusts even when we don’t receive what we ask for.
Final thought---V.33 is the crux of this passage to me. We all too often insert ourselves into the story and think it’s about us. There is obviously application to our lives, but the primary application is not how we handle the ‘wind and waves of life’. The point is who Jesus is! The disciples respond in worship and say, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ We fix our eyes on Him who walks on water, forgives sins, and conquers death! When our eyes are positioned on us and our circumstances, there is little faith, and growth potential is minimal. When our eyes are fixed on Jesus, there is mustard seed faith, and the potential for growth is endless!
Do you recognize Jesus’ deity & power amidst the trials of life? How would you know? What would it look like to step out in mustard seed faith when confronted with fear, doubt, and anxiety? I would love to hear your journey and how this passage impacted you.