“And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.” (Matthew 14:21)
When we read the account of Jesus walking on the water, we usually focus on the miracle itself, and Peter’s attempt to come meet Him. We don’t always consider how the disciples got out into the storm-tossed sea in the first place.
After the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus instructed His disciples to get into a ship and to go before Him to the other side of the sea. “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples,” we read in Matthew 14. Other versions of the Bible say that Jesus “made the disciples” get in the ship (NIV), and that Jesus “insisted” that His disciples go on before Him (MSG). Our all-knowing God sent His disciples out into the sea when He knew there was a storm coming and that the water would be rough. God is not surprised by the storms that we encounter, or by any clouds under which we’re living that just seem to keep lingering and pouring on us day after day.
The disciples weren’t inexperienced boaters
These were men among whom were true fishermen, making their living on the water. They would have been accustomed to unsettled waters and known how to handle the ship when it was “tossed with waves” (Matt. 14:24). We read in Mark however that Jesus saw the disciples “toiling in rowing,” (Mark 6:48). Even the most experienced among us will at times struggle through the storm. The disciples at least kept rowing; do we? Joseph Benson wrote, “Though the wind was contrary, and they were tossed with the waves, yet being ordered by their Master to the other side, they did not tack about and come back again, but made the best of their way forward.”
How do we make the best of the way forward when we’re in the middle of the storm?
Like the disciples, we keep pressing on. When the disciples were stuck on the sea in the storm, “they willingly received him into the ship” (John 6:21). It’s integral as we keep going to draw on the Lord’s strength, that we willingly receive Him into our ship. Relying on our own strength will only lead to self-destruction.
Puritan preacher Thomas Watson said that “If God be our God, He will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, He will make peace within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.” When we’re being tossed about in the heart of raging waters and stormy seas, to say it’s hard to keep our focus on Him rather than the waves is an understatement. And yet, this is what we are called to do. In the middle of the storm, God says to us, “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.” (Matt. 14:27). He who sends us into stormy seas will provide a way through.