St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Jesus Won’t Let Go Of Your Hand

Sermon on Matthew 14:22-33

Text: 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.”

A father and his son were out walking on a wintery evening. The sidewalk had become icy, so the father said to his son, ‘You’d better take hold of my hand.’ The little boy refused, keeping his hands in his pockets. I’m sure you guessed that it was not too long before the boy slipped on the ice and fell. He got up and said, ‘I’ll hold your hand, Daddy,’ and he grasped one of his father’s fingers. They came to another slippery spot and down the boy went again. This time when he got up, he said, ‘You hold my hand, Daddy.’ With the father holding and steadying his son, they made it home, without the boy falling again. What a valuable lesson that little boy learned that day. If he trusted in himself, he would soon fall. If his father held his hand and steadied him, he was able to go. Today in our sermon, we see Jesus holding the hand of Peter as he sank into the waters of the Sea of Galilee. We learn from this portion of God’s Word, JESUS WON’T LET GO OF YOUR HAND. 1. He Upholds You In Prayer. 2. He Saves You From Death.

Just prior to our text, Jesus had performed the miracle of feeding the 5,000 men plus women and children with two small fish and five loaves of bread. The people ate until they were satisfied, and the disciples collected twelve baskets full of leftovers. Now it was evening and time for the crowd to go home. While Jesus was dispersing the crowds, he had his disciples get into a boat to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. After the disciples were gone and the crowds were dispersed, we read in verse 23, “He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.”

How often in the pages of the Gospels don’t we read these words, “He went by himself to pray.” Jesus took time out of his busy schedule every day to spend time with his Father in prayer. What a beautiful example for us to follow. No matter how busy we are, we are never too busy to pray. It, like all other habits, takes a little work, at first, but soon it becomes a natural part of our days.

No doubt, while Jesus was up on that mountain, he prayed for himself. There was still a long way to go before he finished the work the Father sent him to do. Satan still had many temptations to place before Jesus, hoping to get him to stray from his appointed path. Very likely, Jesus was also praying for his disciples. We read in verse 24, “The boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” The topography of the Sea of Galilee lent itself to very sudden, violent storms. Apparently, the disciples found themselves in quite a storm. The wind was against them as they tried to reach the other side. The danger was very real that the boat would capsize, and the disciples drown.

Jesus, very likely, prayed for the disciples’ safety during the storm. However, a larger danger was likely threatening the disciples. They, along with the crowd, saw that Jesus was able to provide all that food. The crowd wanted to make Jesus their king. They wanted Jesus to rule over them, but not because he was the Son of God and their Savior. They wanted him to be their king, so that he would be able to provide food for them. Jesus prayed for the crowd that they would be able to overcome this temptation and that they would see why he had come to the earth.

Jesus continues to pray for us before his Father’s throne in heaven. We read in Romans 8:34, “[Christ is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Interceding means to speak to someone on another’s behalf. Jesus intercedes for us for many different things. The most important, by far, is the forgiveness of sins. John writes in his first epistle, “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1) Jesus pleads our case before God, asking him to be merciful to us and forgive us, because he suffered, died, and rose again to pay for the sins that we commit every day. Jesus prays for us that our sins are forgiven.

He also prays that we do not fall victim to the devil’s temptations, that we would be given the strength to say ‘No.’ We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” Jesus takes these prayers before the heavenly Father and pleads for us. Jesus takes hold of our hands and upholds us, lifts us up, through these prayers to the Father. He loves us so much that he prays for us. May we be moved, in like love, to pray for others.

Jesus prayed for his disciples. He further demonstrated his love for them in the rest of the account before us. The disciples were frantically rowing and bailing, just to try and stay afloat. They may have been in the middle of this storm for nine hours. Suddenly, they looked and coming toward them, on the water, was a figure. In their fatigue and fear, we hear them cry out, “It’s a ghost.” All the things that they were experiencing combined to raise this superstitious fear in their hearts. They probably thought that this was the last straw, and they were about to die.

Jesus realized their fears and, in great love for them, wanted to comfort and calm them. He said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Verse 27) Jesus came to them in their hour of need and comforted them. All he had to do was say the words and the disciples’ fears were calmed. Note that Jesus does not even identify himself. He simply says, “It is I,” and the disciple knew who it was, and their hopes were revived. We would do well to follow the disciples’ example here. So many times, when we face a crisis, we wish God would do something spectacular to assure us that he is there. All we really need to do is to listen to his voice as he speaks to us in his Word. In his Word, we find the comfort that we are looking for.

Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (Verse 28) Jesus said to him, “Come.” (Verse 29) It seems unlikely that Peter asked for this motivated by pride or an inflated ego. If he had done so, it is unlikely that Jesus would have invited him to come to him on that water. It also does not appear that Peter was asking, because he really doubted that it was Jesus. We see this in the fact that he immediately climbed overboard. By the power of God, he was able to walk on the water toward Jesus.

However, as he walked, he started to look around. We read in verse 30, “When he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” Peter became distracted and, when he saw the waves and felt the wind whip around him, he began to sink. However, note that Jesus does not just let Peter sink to learn his lesson. In his love, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. Jesus could have, in his almighty power, commanded Peter to rise. He chose, instead, to reach out his hand, showing his love for Peter. He lifted Peter to the surface of the water and, together, they walked back to the boat. We are told that, “When they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” (Verse 32) The storm that they had been battling for nine hours stopped immediately and it was calm. Jesus not only saved the life of Peter, but also the lives of the other disciples. Jesus saved them from what appeared to be certain death.

When we think of this account, we often point out Peter’s weakness of faith, because he began to sink in the water. Let us not judge Peter too harshly! Let us look at our own faith lives. We start by asking, “When was the last time that I walked on water?” I believe it would be safe to say that none of us has ever done so. Yet, Peter believed Jesus’ invitation to come to him on the water. He did walk on the water, if only for a moment. Jesus tells us that, if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could tell a mountain to throw itself into the sea and it would do so. In this point, we must admire Peter and pray that God would give us such a faith as this.

Unfortunately, there is a point of comparison with Peter’s actions that we are all too familiar with. We often start out the day with the best of intentions, with the strongest of faith. Then, however, we become distracted by the things around us. There are the fears and troubles that we face. There are the cares and concerns of this life. It is not just the bad things that distract us in our faith. The devil puts temptations in front of each of us. There are those things that we know God does not want us to do. We fool ourselves into thinking that if we have them or do them, just a little bit, it will not matter. As soon as we begin to think that way, we begin to sink. How thankful we are that we, too, can cry out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus comes with his loving hand and pulls us up to safety in the forgiveness of sins. We also pray that God would give us a faith that trusts solely on Jesus and will not be distracted by everything around us. Jesus saves us from death by lifting us up with his loving hand.

Jesus did not just take care of our spiritual needs. He also helps us with our physical needs. He protects us with his loving hand. He keeps danger and harm from us. We learn from Psalm 91:11, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” He promises to send his angels to keep us. He also promises us in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” We can go through the storms of life confident in the Lord’s help. He prays for us. He saves us from death. May we be comforted by this thought as we walk through this life – Jesus won’t let go of your hand. Amen.