Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds.
I. JESUS IN PRAYER.
1. He was much in prayer. No doubt he thus obtained spiritual refreshment after the toils and vexations of the day. Here he found the joy of communion with his Father without distracting influences. To Jesus prayer was a necessity; it was also a joy. He could not have treated it as a formal duty. If Christ could not live without prayer, is it possible for the Christian to be healthy in the neglect of it?
2. He prayed in solitude. He hated the showy prayers of the religious people of his day, ostentatiously offered up in the marketplace, primly uttered in the synagogue. He hungered to be alone with God. He found God among the mountains.
3. He prayed at critical moments. E.g. at the grave of Lazarus, in Gethsemane. Now there was great danger of an insurrection which would wreck his plans. To him, too, the third temptation may have returned, and he may have sought strength to overcome it. Prayer is most valuable in the soul's hardest struggles with temptation.
II. THE DISCIPLES IN TROUBLE. Away from their Master they were overtaken by a tempest. It would seem that they were rowing up north in order to take Jesus on board at a spot further along the eastern shore. Therefore it was for his sake that they were facing the contrary wind, for had they turned directly homewards they would have been able to run before the gale. Trouble may come upon the servants of Christ in their very efforts to keep near him and to serve him.
III. THE COMING OF CHRIST. In that wild, dark night, while the wind lashed the sea to fury, it must have howled with fearful blasts among the rocks of the wilderness where Jesus stood alone in his prayer, and then he must have recognized the danger this would mean to his disciples. He was never selfish in his devotions. It was his habit to permit the interruption of his most sacred hours of retirement by some cry of distress, some appeal for help. So he came down to his disciples on the sea. It must have been an act of faith on his part to venture on the black, boiling waters. But faith was working through love. The sea must be risked in an unheard of miracle to save his friends out on its waste of waters. It is not surprising that the disciples could not believe their eyes, and mistook their Saviour for a spectre. Sometimes his deliverances are quite as unexpected, and almost too good to be believed. It is difficult for our faith to keep pace with his far-reaching grace.
IV. ST. PETER'S ADVENTURE. This singular sequel is quite true to the character of the apostle. His impetuosity, his enthusiasm for Christ, his failure to measure his own weakness, are all in accordance with what we know of "the prince of the apostles." But perhaps in the incident we may detect a touch of humour. There was no necessity for the apostle to walk on the water. Yet Christ indulged his whim and permitted it to be a means of revealing Peter's weakness, and of introducing one source of strength. Foolish, needless, and even ridiculous adventures may be turned to good ends. We learn to know Christ even by means of the follies of which we are heartily ashamed. - W.F.A.
And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side.I. THE FEAST FOLLOWED BY HUMILIATION AND TROUBLE.
1. The feast in the desert was the greatest work in which the apostles were ever engaged during the ministry of Jesus. The miracle was of a more kingly character than others, shared by a greater number(and more plainly typical of great things to come in the kingdom of heaven. In this glorious work the twelve have been active ministers. They were not to remain to receive the congratulations of the multitude; they must go away at once. Jesus constrains them to return to the ship. Ministers must not intrude themselves into the Lord's place; they must be willing servants, and then go their way and leave the rest to the Lord. The apostles had been highly exalted, and now they must be humbled. In the sight of the congregation they are sent away in charge of the empty boat, as if they were mere fishermen still.
2. But they are sent also into the midst of trouble. After we have had faith to distribute the bread of life comes the trial of obedience. It seemed as if providence were contrary to their course.
II. THE STORM AGGRAVATED BY CHRIST'S ABSENCE, AND STILLED BY HIS COMING.
1. Jesus sent the twelve away alone, and all that the people saw was that "He went not in the ship with them." Jesus was to come to them by the coast.
2. Jesus, meanwhile, has not walked along the coast, whence they expected to take Him in; but has left the shore altogether, and gone up into a mountain apart. In the retired mountain He cannot be seen by the disciples; but in His prayer to the Father they will not be forgotten.
3. Jesus comes to them according to His promise; but not according to their thoughts, either in time or in manner.
4. There is yet one more element of trial mingled for these midnight wrestlers with the waves. Jesus often appears to be "going past " in our time of need. Also His manner of coming alarms the disciples. In our trials we often mistake the coming of the Lord Jesus.
5. Jesus enters the ship; and how glorious is the effect of deliverance out of danger, of seasonable help, when obeying Christ's command, against all adversity.
6. An unlooked-for blessing now awaits them on the shore.
(A. M. Stuart.)
1. Lest they should take part with the rash, many-headed multitude, who would have made Him a king.
2. To inure them to the cross, and teach them to suffer hardship.
3. To give them proof of His power,
(George Macdonald.)appear an interruption of law. I believe it is in virtue of the absolute harmony in Him, His perfect righteousness, that God can create at all. If man were in harmony with this, if he too were righteous, he would inherit of his Father a something in his degree correspondent to the creative power in Him; and the world he inhabits, which is but an extension of his body, would, I think, be subject to him in a way surpassing his wildest dreams of dominion, for it would be the perfect dominion of holy law — a virtue flowing to and from him through the channel of a perfect obedience. I suspect that our Lord, in all His dominion over nature, set forth only the complete man — man as God means him one day to be. I believe that some of these miracles were the natural result of a physical nature perfect from the indwelling of a perfect soul, whose unity with the Life of all things and in all things was absolute — in a word, whose sonship was perfect.
(George Macdonald.)to build up His disciples in the faith. They saw more and more clearly with whom they had to do, and perceived that He was the revelation of the invisible Father, who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.
(Olshausen.)most, because they do not know the extent of God's wardrobe; for I think that as a king might never wear the same garment but once, in order to show his riches and magnificence, so God comes to us in all exigencies, but never twice alike. He sometimes puts on the garments of trouble; and when we are calling upon Him as though He were yet in heaven, He is walking by our Ado; and that from which we are praying God to deliver us is often but God Himself. Thus it is with us as with children who are terrified by their dreams in the night, and scream for their parents, until, fully waking, behold they are in their parents' arms!
(H. W. Beecher.)
(W. H. Bartlett.)
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