Get Out of the Boat




Matthew 14:29-31


(29) He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

(30) But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me."

(31) Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"



He was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1890. He was the third of eight children. At eleven he quit school to help with the family expenses, and got his first full-time job at $3.50 per week. At fifteen he got interested in automobiles and went to work in a garage at $4.50 a week. He knew he would never get anywhere without more schooling, so he subscribed to a correspondence home study course on automobiles. Night after night, following long days at the garage, he worked at the kitchen table by the light of the kerosene lamp. His next step was a job with Frayer-Miller Automobile Company of Columbus.

One day he walked into the plant. Lee Frayer was bent over the hood of a car. The boy waited. Finally, Frayer noticed him. "Well," he said, "what do you want?" "I just thought I would tell you I am coming to work here tomorrow morning," the boy replied. "Oh! Who hired you?" "Nobody yet, but I will be on the job in the morning. If I am not worth anything, you can fire me." Early the next morning the young man returned to the garage. Frayer was not yet there. Noticing that the floor was thick with metal shavings and accumulated dirt and grease, the boy got a broom and shovel and set to work cleaning the place.

That boy went on to a national reputation as a race car driver and automotive expert. In World War I, he was America’s leading flying ace. Later he founded Eastern Airlines. His name was Eddie Rickenbacker.

He was a risk taker. Like a lady named Anna Taylor. On October 24 1901, Annie Edson Taylor, at the age of 63 (she claimed to be 43), became the world's first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She walked away unscathed.

Back in 1970 when the Disney Corporation announced that they would build a huge theme park in Central Florida, there were plenty of nay sayers. There was nothing in central Florida, except swamps and orange groves. Certainly no one would go there on vacation. So they said, but the Disney folks took a risk and built the most successful theme park on the planet.

There is a challenge to being a risk taker, but you cannot really live without being one.

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool;

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental;

To reach out for another is to risk involvement;

To expose feelings and ideas is to risk being mocked;

To love is to risk not being loved in return;

But risk must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, and is nothing;

Jesus was a risk taker, the greatest risk taker of them all. He took a chance on us. It was the biggest gamble in history. It led directly to the cross. Jesus demanded that his disciples be risk takers. Their response was usually pretty pitiful.

You have probably heard about this incident in Matthew where Peter tried to walk on water. By the way, I read that a company is planning on building a pier in the Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum. You heard me right; they are going to build it “in” the water. They plan on building a pier about 2 inches under the surface, so that tourists can walk out on it, and have their picture taken “walking on water.” That sounds sort of blasphemous to me, but I am sure someone will get rich from it.

In any case, the story from Matthew 14 is not about an underwater pier. After the miraculous feeding of the 5000, Jesus told his disciples to get in a boat and start across the sea of Galilee. He went upon a mountain to pray. A little while before sunrise, the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, coming toward them. At first, they thought he was a ghost, and they were terrified, but Jesus reassured them, told them it was really him, told them not to be afraid.

Then Peter said, “Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water.". It seems an odd thing to say, “Tell me to come to you on the water.” Peter has faith in Jesus. Perhaps he feels if he could just hear a word of command from Jesus, he also can walk on the water. He receives that word. In v29, Jesus says, "Come on!" So, Peter then got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward Jesus.

But Peter's faith only went so far. When he saw how strong the wind was, how mountainous the waves were, faith failed, courage failed, he started to sink. In desperation he called out to Jesus for help. Of course Jesus helped him, but he also chaffed him a bit, saying, “You do not have much faith, do you?” Now let me interject a note here. Practically everything I have read has Jesus saying that line with seriousness and rebuke: “You do not have enough faith.” I have thought that Jesus was probably laughing—not at Peter, but with Peter. The line is a little joke that they are sharing. Jesus laughs and says, “You don't have much faith”--when the reality is that Peter demonstrates in this passage more faith than most people every dream about.

Let us say good about Peter. He did take the risk. Here they were in a boat, in the dark of night. The wind was blowing, the waves were churning. They see someone walking across the water. No wonder they are scared; I would be too. However, Peter had the courage and the faith to actually step out of the boat and start walking on the water toward Jesus. All of Peter's “common sense” must have cried out against such an insane action. On a rational level, Peter “knew” he could not walk on water, but just for a bit here, Peter is operating on different level. Just for a moment, he is actually living by faith.

The obvious question then, can we live that way? If Jesus had said to you, “Come on,” would you have stepped out in the water. I suspect not. What we need for water-walking is a child-like belief in something that our natural senses say is impossible. We need a mountain of faith.

Peter took His eyes off Jesus for just a moment and saw the storm around him and started sinking. When we are in the storms of life, and feel like we are being tossed and shoved and pulled every which way, we need to look toward something more, we need to look away from our problems and keep our focus on the Lord.

When we go through the valley of the shadow, remember that God goes with us. God does not let us go down to the valley while He sits on the other side yelling for us to hurry and get through it. God walks beside us and keeps us from falling. He keeps us in his everlasting arms. When Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he made his situation worse. There is a lesson. In devastating circumstances, keep your eyes on Jesus.

But to return to saying good about Peter, initially, he stepped out in faith and took a risk. The rest of the disciples stayed in the boat, and took none. Most sermons I have read on these verses look at Peter's failure to walk on water. But the real failures are the other disciples. Never mind that Jesus said that Peter had little faith, what about them? They had none at all. They took no risk at all. The boat was their comfort zone and they were not about to leave it. What about us? Let us be honest here. We would have been back in the boat with the others. We stay in our comfort zone, just like they did. But what would happen, if just once, we took the risk, just once we stepped out in faith.

We might mock Peter because he failed, but Peter's failure was more glorious, than the paralyzed inaction of the 11 clinging tight to their benches back on the boat. At least Peter got out of the boat. Maybe it is time we got out of the boat. When Peter began his water-walking, it was night; it was during a storm. Still Peter got out of the boat. He took the risk of faith.

In the next chapter of Matthew, chapter 15, a Canaanite woman came crying to Jesus, "Lord, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” The disciples said, “Send her away.” She knelt before Jesus and said, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” (Matt. 15:22-28) She took a risk; she kept her eyes on Jesus; her faith was rewarded.

However, not every story in the gospels has a happy ending. A few chapter further on, in Matthew 19, a rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor. And you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me." However, the young man was unwilling to do that. He would rather keep his eyes on his stuff than on Jesus. He was afraid to let go and step out.

There is a powerful freedom and a wonderful optimism in faith. This is an essential truth about our religion. Every Christian should always be an optimist. For example, Adoniram Judson is sometimes called the father of American Missions. Born in Massachusetts in 1788, he helped form the American Baptist Missionary Union and became a missionary to Burma. (I know that today that country is called Myanmar, but back then it was called Burma). In 1834 Judson completed a translation of the Bible into the Burmese language. During the Anglo-Burmese War, he was arrested as a British spy and spent twenty-one months in prison. While he was in jail, his feet were bound to a bamboo pole with other prisoners. One of the other prisoners asked him why he was in Burma. Judson explained that he had come to spread the gospel. The prisoner replied with something of a sneer, “How is that going for you?” To which Judson said, "The prospects are just as bright as the promises of God." Judson at the time was bound to a bamboo pole in a Burmese prison, but his eyes were still on Jesus and he was an optimist.

In the book of Genesis, God told Abraham, "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing." (Gen. 12:1,2) Abraham was probably tempted to stay in Ur. That was his hometown. That was his comfort zone. There was nothing for him in Canaan, but Abraham kept his eye on the Lord and stepped out in faith.

Again, returning to the NT, In Luke 10, Jesus knew how to motivate people to try new things. Jesus sent 72 disciples out two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was to preach. He told them, in v4, “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” He told them to take a risk. Realize that they had no denominational support. No churches are backing them. They had no resources except faith. Jesus said, Get out of the boat. Go spread the gospel and see what happens. And they did and later they returned praising God for open hearts and listening minds.

Understand this God wants great things for his people, but we have our part to play and the major part we play is faith.

James Hudson Taylor (1832 – 1905), was a British missionary to China, and founder of the China Inland Mission (CIM). Taylor spent 51 years in China. The CIM eventually brought to China over 800 missionaries who began 125 schools and resulted in 18,000 Christian conversions, as well as the establishment of more than 300 missionary stations with more than 500 local helpers.

Taylor was known for his sensitivity to Chinese culture and his zeal for evangelism. He wore native Chinese clothing even though this was rare among missionaries of that time. Under his leadership, the CIM was non-denominational. He accepted any convert, rich or poor, Protestant or Catholic. He even accepted single women as missionary workers--which was pretty much unheard of at the time. Historian Ruth Tucker summarises the theme of his life: “No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematised plan of evangelising a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.” Think about that quote. Tucker compares Hudson Taylor to the Apostle Paul, and as far as China was concerned, it was an apt comparison. What was the secret of Taylor's success? He got out of the boat. He did a lot of things that people had never done before, and he kept his eye on Jesus. CIM was not about promoting Western culture in China. To a large extent, Taylor became Chinese, in order to show them Jesus.


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Last Modified: 05/02/13