Matthew 14:22
The wonderful feeding of the thousands produced a great effect, rousing the multitude to enthusiasm, so that the people actually tried to three on an insurrection in support of the kingship of Jesus, and so that he had to dismiss them with haste, sending his disciples across the sea, and retiring to the mountains for prayer. Then it was that the sudden squall fell on the lake, and the need of his disciples called him to their aid.

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.)

Why?

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,

The story of this miracle has instruction for us in connection with the material world in which we live. Nature is not, in all respects, to be separated off too sharply from grace; and this miracle reminds us that it is the Lord of this universe who is the Head of the Church and the Saviour of our souls.

(Dean Howson.)

These miracles, dealing with nature, show themselves as interfering with what we may call the righteous laws of nature. Water should wet the foot, should engulf him who would tread its surface. Yet even in this, I think, the restoration of an original law — the supremacy of righteous man, is foreshown. While a man cannot order his own house as he would, something is wrong in him, and therefore in his house. I think a true man should be able to rule winds and waters, loaves and fishes, for he comes of the Father who made the house for him. Man is not master in his own house, because he is not master in himself, because he is not a law unto himself — is not himself obedient to the law by which he exists.

(George Macdonald.)

A higher condition of harmony with law may one day enable us to do things which must now 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.)

The difficulty here is our Lord's withdrawing Himself personally from the control of earthly natural laws. It is common to conceive of the glorifying of Christ's body as the work of a moment, at the Resurrection, or, at least, at the Ascension. But if we suppose the Spirit's work in glorifying and perfecting Christ's body to have been spread over the Saviour's whole life, certain periods — such as this walking on the sea, and the transfiguration — being still distinguished as seasons of special activity, much that is obscure will be made clear. A body thoroughly of the earth, chained down by unseen hands to earthly matter, cannot shake itself free from its origin, but that a higher bodily frame, teeming with the powers of a loftier world, should rise above the earthly level is less surprising. This manifestation of Christ's hidden glory was designed 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.)

It often happens that the coming of Christ to His disciples for their relief is that which frightens them 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.)

Shortly after passing the spot which was the scene of the terrible discomfiture of the Christian hosts by Saladin, we came to the brink of a vast hollow, and the Lake of Tiberius lay slumbering far beneath our feet. The sun was nearly at the zenith, and diffused a flood of dazzling light upon the waters, just ruffled by a passing breeze, on which we beheld a solitary bark, a mere speck, slowly making its way toward Tiberias. That city, with its huge castle and turreted walls, a pile of melancholy ruins, lay scattered along the nearer shore. The lake, about ten miles long, add five or six broad, was embosomed in mountains, or, to describe it more correctly, was like a great caldron sunk in the lofty table-land, which broke down to its edge in steep cliffs and abrupt ravines. At one end we could see where the Jordan flowed into it, and, beyond, the lofty peak of Mount Hermon covered with eternal snow. There was no wood on the hills, there were no villages on the shore, no boats upon the water; there was no sound in any direction. If there was beauty, it was that of the intense blue sky of Palestine, reflected in the blue expanse of waters, and over-canopying a landscape of serene, but corpse-like, placidity, like a countenance fixed in death, but upon which there yet lingers something of a parting smile.

(W. H. Bartlett.)

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