And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him to the other side…
This time was a crisis in the life of our Lord. Thousands of people had followed him into a secluded part of the country, and insisted that he should proclaim himself King. It would have been a lesson to leaders of men to have seen how he induced the huge mob quietly to disperse. But the strain was tremendous. He had to control not merely the clamouring, infatuated thousands, but himself also. What more seductive to the human spirit than the being carried by acclamation to the place of highest influence, entrusted with power to work out one's own ideas of what is for the welfare of men? Feeling, therefore, the difficulty of the conflict, he gave himself, as soon as the victory was gained, to prayer. He spent the night calming, steadying, fortifying his spirit by fellowship with the Father. Thus prepared, he went to seek his disciples. Why did our Lord adopt at this time so extremely unusual a mode of action. He never did singular things, although he had power to do anything. His power was infinite, so were his sobriety of mind and self-control. His motive probably was the desire to rescue his disciples from difficulties into which he himself had brought them. For consider their probable state of mind. They had first met with the deep disappointment of hearing our Lord distinctly decline a crown; they had been made conscious that, so far from helping their Master, they were sometimes encumbrances to him. But, worst of all, they had been compelled, against their own will and judgment, to embark. They seemed to have very good reason for murmuring at their Master, and yet here on their own lake, in their own boat, they do his bidding. And they had their reward. They kept on as he had told them, and therefore they were overtaken by his presence and help. The disciples, then, could not fail to be impressed chiefly with Christ's mindfulness of them. His appearance showed them that no interests of his own, however distracting, could make him oblivious of them and their necessities; it showed them also that nothing could prevent him from bringing them the aid they required. Is it not likely that a great part of his prayer through the night was occupied with them and their individual temptations to deny him and go with the multitude? And it were well if we could attain to the knowledge they now acquired regarding Christ's mindfulness. We seem at times to be so entirely delivered over to unsympathetic and almost unintelligent agents and influences, that it seems impossible the help of one so spiritual can penetrate to us or avail us aught; but he can make himself understood by the dullest forces of nature, and can find his way to us through the wildest turmoil. The men who had taken the wild fury of wind and sea as a part of the day's work, and had without any quickening of pulse faced the dangers they were professionally familiar with, are appalled at once and together by the single Figure that approaches them without menace or noise. They saw in it a whole world of unconceived possibilities, and coming at that hour when already they were hard pressed, they concluded it came as the herald of doom. God's way of helping us is often so different from the one we have planned, that when it comes we murmur instead of being grateful. The transport of reaction finds expression, as usual, through Peter. We need not try to account for the extraordinary request he now made, further than by saying that it was due to the sudden joy of meeting the Friend in whom was all safety, after a night of such tension and toil and disturbance of thought. And the Lord approved Peter's impulse, else he would not have bid him come, and eventually does not rebuke him for attempting the thing, but for not succeeding. Impulse has its fit place, only it needs to be strongly backed. There are things now that need to be done, but which will seem as impossible as walking on the sea except to the eye of warm feeling. This unreasoning impulse of Peter's, too, penetrated more deeply into the nature of miracle than a good deal of our would be wisdom penetrates. For it saw no reason why the miracle should not be evinced in Peter's person as well as in Jesus'. And our Lord, by ascribing Peter's failure solely to lack of faith, implies that any one with faith enough could walk on the sea just as he himself did, He himself did it by faith. But did our Lord mean that if only a man believed he could walk on the water, this would give him power to do so? Certainly not. Faith is needed, but a legitimate occasion is also needed. It is harmony, identification with God and his will, that give power to work miracle. The miracles of our Lord are, therefore, a great promise to human nature; in the Person of Jesus it was shown what that nature is capable of when in its right and normal relation to God. But the results of faith did not last one moment beyond the faith itself. Peter's fear for one moment excluded faith; the waves shut him off from God, and at once he sank. We do not by once believing receive the Spirit in retention as our own; the Spirit proceedeth from the Father and the Son, and only while connected with the Son does the Spirit flow from him to us. We fail and sink as soon as we separate ourselves and begin to live by ourselves and for ourselves. We are strong with a strength far beyond our own when we live in God, with his will at heart and intending to work as his hand in the world. But that is the perfect human condition, habitually realized by our Lord alone. There is a lower condition consistent with salvation - the condition in which Peter, conscious of his weakness and seeing his danger, cries, "Lord, save me!" Is there any part of your life, any matter of thought or conduct in regard to which you feel that you are sinking, and must shortly be overwhelmed altogether? then consider the prompt, willing, efficient help that answers the cry. The lasting result of this incident on the disciples was their deepened conviction of our Lord's Divinity. How are we to arrive at that conviction; to feel that our proper attitude is one of worship, and that in his presence we are secure against all calamity; that for rest of mind and spirit, for education of conscience, for fulness of help in all for which we are insufficient, we need go no further than him? I do not suppose that this one miracle would have convinced that boat's crew; but their minds had been gradually accumulating material for understanding him, and this incident was but a more brilliant light set in front of that material, and which gave the right reading of it. The same material, or nearly the same, is available for us. Let us be patient, sincere, and hopeful. These men who were with him from day to day did not all at once reach the joy of recognizing in the Friend they had learned to love their God and Saviour; but their experience of his love, his truth, his wisdom, his power, gradually separated him in their thoughts from all others and gave him the highest place. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.