Series: Matthew

Jesus' Modes of Retreat, Pt. 2

October 09, 2022 | Jeff Crotts

Passage: Matthew 14:22-33

Matthew 14:22-33 – Modes of Retreat (pt. 2)


Intro: Second mode of retreat, a second reason Christ went on retreat.


[KEY] No better way to learn than when focused.


  • I enjoy studying a subject when isolated from competing distractions.
    • People use any number of means to drown others out.
      • Noise cancelling headphones cancel chaos to focus.
      • While if you like me, outside chaos has an opposite effect.
        • Noise inadvertently drives my brain into focus, to do my best thinking.
        • Sometimes forced to a coffee shop to bang out the sermon.


  • Sometimes my favorite study is being crammed in coach.


[KEY] This narrative unfolds Jesus’ retreat; in terms of ways he’s isolating disciples to teach them what they would not otherwise learn.


  • Modes of retreat to mentor!
    • Quiet and loud settings.
    • Normal and extreme to teach to disciple.


  • The concept of master teacher to student is a common motif in stories.
    • Wise Mentor to worthy Mentee.
    • Jesus, Ultimate Mentor with select few Mentees.
      • Needing extreme circumstances to grow.
      • Any different in the way Jesus ministers to us?


[Appl] When unexpected circumstances take place in our lives and we do not understand why, I think we should ask ourselves, “What is Jesus, our Mentor, trying to teach me right now?” This is what it means to be Christ’s disciple, His learner. His student.   


[TRANS] Christ’s second reason for retreat.


  1. Presenting opportunities to mentor (vv. 22-33)


  1. Sends them on their own (v. 22)


[KEY] Jesus wastes no time on what he does next.


  • Had extended his time with the crowds.
    • Unexpectedly but providentially.
      • Enjoined with them in fellowship.
      • The Bread of Life, providing for needs, physically and spiritually.


  • Crowds not there to stay, healed, taught, fed, then disbanded.


  • He dispatched the people onto their way, what mission they had to fulfill.


[Note] Jesus’ attention shifts “immediately” to His “disciples” (v. 22).


  • Were these the Twelve Apostles?
    • I am not certain these were all who made up the disciples at this point.
    • For the sake of clarity, I believe those who were commanded to get into the boat were the Twelve.


  • Curious, Christ, “made the disciples” get into the boat.
    • They certainly would not want to leave Jesus.
      • Jesus desiring to be alone with His Father saw no other way to be alone, then to send His disciples away.
      • Here by boat.


  • These in the boat have been called a little church.


[Question] “Where did Christ send his disciples to?”


  • They came across the sea of Galilee, east to west.
    • Four hours across to Bethsaida.
      • They end up in Gennesaret (v. 34) but the other Gospels say back to Bethsaida.
        • “Bethsaida” means “fish house.”
          • Had traveled to “desolate” east side, called “Bethsaida Julius.”
          • Now back across to “Bethsaida” beneath Capernaum.


  • Nothing indicates Jesus assured them to meet on the others side.


  • This was a “goodbye?”
    • Jesus “made”/ “forced” them on voyage.
      • “dismissed the crowds.”
      • “disbanding” crowds.
        • Lead Shepherd, pastoring what they should do next.
        • Kept longer, now time for them to leave.


  • One more element.
    • Jesus was protecting them from themselves.
      • John 6:15 says after feeding 5,000 (20K) crowd started “…to take Jesus by force to make Him king.”
        • X not want crowds and His Apostles to get political.
          • Jesus put the Twelve in the boat (Little Church) to protect them.
          • Would soon be in harm’s way.


  • Better for them.
  • Safer from temptation.


  1. Leads by example (v. 23)


Verse 23, repeats that Jesus’ “dismissed the crowds” (v. 23).


  • Difficult task to send people away?
    • 20,000 people?
    • Son of God in charge!


  • Repeating phrase meant leaving them was difficult.
    • After ministry was over, “…he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (v. 23).
      • Jesus being deliberate to be alone w/His Father.
      • Christlike prayer is deliberate.


[Appl] What does it take to pray? Instead of trying to solve prayerlessness by switching up your routine, you probably will grow frustrated. But, if you search your heart for why you truly need to pray, then and there you will make a way, carve a path out within your routine to get alone with God. The needs for prayer are what catalyze your praying.


[Note] Jesus climbed up a mountain, climbing away from the crowds to get alone with God.


  • By the time of “evening” probably at the top of the mountain, “…he was there alone” (v. 23).
    • Second “evening” to a Jew is after dinner, 7:00-8:00 PM.
    • Prioritizing late-night prayer with His Father.
      • Jesus on retreat, leading by example.
      • Models what disciples and we should follow.


[Appl] What is a path to take for coming to God in prayer?


  • Prioritize talking to God so as to remove distractions and isolate to give whole focus.
    • Jesus, in the wilderness, high up on a mountain as His focus.
      • He had to isolate, to focus on the One.
      • Precedent for seeking God, outside in creation.


  • Their example, our example.


  1. Allows circumstances to become extreme (v. 24)


[TRANS] Jesus mentors by example and by what He allows.


  • What He sends the Twelve into is likewise mentoring.
    • Matthew describes the disciples being far from land and safety.
    • Contrasting, them, way out there, from where Jesus is, up on the mountain.


[Illus] I remember when me and another church member went out in the cook inlet to surf the bore tide. We caught the wave but did not do it close enough to shore (like you are supposed to). I’ve since seen people do it the right way, with one swept away in the current like we were. I found out, people flying over and driving by considered calling the coast guard to fish us out. Suffice it to say, we like these disciples like were out deep in the current.


[Note] But what was unique to these disciples was their weather plight,


  • “…beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them” (v. 24).
    • Mark’s account says, they were “pressing the oars against the wind.”
    • For hours! It was the “fourth watch!” between 3-6 am.
      • 6-9 pm, 9-12 pm/am, 12-3 am, 3-6 am.
      • All night!


  • The language of the waves “beating” is used in a few apocalyptic passages in Revelation (cff. Rev. 12:2; 14:10).
    • Labor pains or fire and brimstone.
    • Boat breaking apart, in mortal danger.


  • Jesus put them there and left them there.


[Point] Right in the middle of a sudden trial.


  • What is true for them is true for every child of God.
    • Jesus sends us into a storm where assured, no real escape.
      • Can be eerie to see yourself in the middle of something God pushed you into.
      • Comforting to know Jesus intended, your ridiculously difficult circumstance.
        • Never looking for morbid desires for trial.
        • You want God to make it go away.


  • Writer of Hebrews tells us, “God disciplines the ones he loves!”
    • Discipline for them is for us now.
      • Not mere cause and effect punishment.
      • For disciples, discipline is Christ getting their attention.


  • Disciplining his children to grow them.


[Illus] One of the most difficult things to do as a parent is to allow your child to try something on their own for the first time. Our culture though has given way to fear, not allowing their kids to skin their knee. To join a full contact sport. To take a job in a secular environment. So, in the name of protection, and over protection, you inadvertently stunt your child’s development.     


  1. Comes to their rescue (vv. 25-27)


[KEY] Matthew describes Jesus’ rescue with clarity.


  • It is the “fourth watch of the night” (v. 25).
    • Hours struggling to survive.
    • Appeared Jesus had left his disciples, when needed Him most.


  • Answered supposing while they struggled, Jesus interceded for them.
    • Not sure what Jesus was praying but see that by “the fourth watch” it was time for Jesus to go on this rescue mission.
      • Jesus said, “Enough!”
      • It is time for me to help my friends.


  • Science suggests by moonlight, Jesus could see them from far distance.


[Point] Jesus knew there was trouble because, “he came to them…” (v. 25).


  • He went out to meet their need.
    • Need, more than rescue.
    • Jesus’ best way to teach, “…walking on the sea” (v. 25).


  • Jesus walked on the water.
    • Understood in its most natural, normative sense.


[The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edershime] “All the energies must have been engaged to keep the boat’s head toward the shore. Even so it seemed as if they could make no progress, when all at once, in the track that lay behind them, a Figure appeared. As it passed onwards over the water, seemingly upborne by the waved as they rose, not disappearing as they fell, but carried on as they rolled, the silvery moon laid upon the trembling waters the shadows of that Form as it moved, long and dark, on their track.” 


[KEY] The mystery of Jesus walking on top of something un-solid is not to be explored beyond the reality of it taking place.


  • Jesus, Lord over all creation, acting supernaturally and supra-naturally.
    • Window into Jesus’ supra-natural nature.
    • Transcends nature because He made everything.


ESV  Colossians 1:15-16 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. (Col 1:15-16 ESV)


  • All creation is for His worship and glory!
    • All creation yielding to its Creator!
      • Water yielding to Christ’s Kingly stride.
      • Dominant presence trekking overtop of it.


  1. Seizes the opportunity to teach (vv. 26-31)


[Question] “Why did Jesus approach the disciple’s boat in the way He did.”


  • Cross references to this account say, Jesus would have passed right by them.


ESV  Mark 6:48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, (Mar 6:48 ESV)


  • Jesus intended to be in route to Galilee by way of walking.
    • Was Jesus’ encounter with the boat and afterthought?
    • Was His lesson for them an afterthought?
      • Whatever X’s initial intent, X’s shifts focus from the miracle to their faith.
        • Always to see Jesus for Who He is.
        • God, Savior, Messiah.


[KEY] Opportunity sprang from their response to Jesus walking by.


  • When they say figure on waves, “they were terrified” saying “It is a ghost!” (v. 26).
    • Ghost, like phantom.
    • Alien to their experience, a supernatural threat!


  • So many attuned to a spiritual dynamic, made in God’s image.
    • We are spiritual and physical beings!
    • Temporal beings and eternal beings.
      • When the body shuts off, things keep going forever.
      • Jesus walking on the water, to them represents both realms!
        • Here and beyond.
        • Disturbed by elements, now this is raised into a deeper turmoil, encountering the supernatural.


  • Outside comfort zone of the miraculous.
    • Seagoing sailors, “shrieked.”
    • JC Ryle: “The number of counterfeit visions people claim prove the reality of the unseen realm. Like a counterfeit coin proves that there is genuine currency.”


[Illus] Like an eight-year-old boy trying to navigate their own home, but now in the dark, through their shadowy furniture toward their parent’s bedroom. The comfort of daytime is lost, and terror of the unknown looms over child’s soul. What will come of me if I try to move closer to my parent’s bedroom.


  • These disciples “…cried out in fear” (v. 26).


Verse 27 is Jesus’ response is “immediate” (v. 27).


  • Jesus is ready to bring this lesson home.
    • Struggle with natural elements, compounded with supernatural display.
    • Now Jesus gives this command.


  • Command with two-edges, making one sword.
    • Both sides must be believed.
      • First “Take heart” and second, “Do not be afraid” (v. 27).
        • “Take heart” translated “Take courage.”
        • “Do not be afraid” but “Be strong!”


  • Stop trembling and start being strong inside your heart!
    • Start being courageous and “Do not be afraid” (v. 27).
    • It is time to be fearless.


  • Same command the LORD gave to Joshua (Josh. 1:9).


ESV  Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Jos 1:9 ESV)  


Verse 28 tells, Peter’s response to Christ’s command.


  • Peter wants to take a step forward within his faith.
    • “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (v. 28).
    • Peter, almost asks question, to say, “Is this that same Jesus, on the water?”


  • Peter comes convinced this was Christ, but needed affirmation to take his next step.
    • Peter is obeying X, “Ok, I will take courage, and Ok, I will not be afraid!”
    • Peter is facing his fears and desiring to move toward Jesus in faith!


  • “Command me [Order] me to come to you on the water” (v. 28).
    • As an Apostle, I want to affirm your genuineness as God on earth, joining you on your walk.
      • Dominance as Lord over all creation.
      • You are the One whom Creation yields!


  • “Doing this is saying this!”


[KEY] Peter’s request proves yielded posture to Christ!


Verse 29 Jesus understood Peter’s motivation.

  • Jesus says, “Come” (v. 29).
    • Mentor with mentee.
    • Coach with Player!


  • Right motivation, so “Come” (v. 29).


[KEY] Practically speaking, “Peter got out the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus” (v. 29).


  • Peter’s not messing around with this miracle.
    • Not treating this like a trick. No!
      • Obeying Jesus, within his miracle.
      • Emphasizing the point of this miracle by “walking to Jesus!”



  • What obedience verses disobedience looks like.
    • To “take courage and fear not” expressed by walking towards Him.
      • Motivation to exalt His Christ, as transcendent and all-powerful.
      • Motivation Jesus wants for his disciples, for everyone.


[Appl] We are not being bid onto the water, but we are bidden to walk toward Jesus with fearless courage. What Peter did was the example of what we are supposed to do and as with this positive example, you likewise see what we likewise will do.


[KEY] Verse 30 Peter’s faith is met with a lapse in focus.


  • As he moves toward Jesus, he turns his focus away from Him and onto his hard circumstances.
    • He looked away from Jesus and began to see “wind” (v. 30).
      • Fell to the temptation of “fear!”
      • What Jesus said not to do, he did!


[Illus] I experience this when playing water polo. If I have my eye on the ball, on the game, and one what I need to do next within the competition, then I am unconcerned with my wind or stamina. But, when I take my eyes off of the ball and begin to feel the pain of breathlessness. When I began to think about what it would be like to stop swimming, to not be able to put my feet down to stand, I can be tempted to feel panic.


This is the same dynamic of our spiritual walks. The walk of the Christian life is a severe one, to actually walk in faith is a task of obedience, where we must continually call ourselves to fix our eyes on Jesus. Away from the fear of life’s hardships, though the hardships remain, fixing eyes back onto Jesus. This is our call, in life.


[KEY] Verse 30 is one of the shortest prayers in Scripture.


  • “Lord, save me” (v. 30).
    • Awesome prayer.
      • Key to being made right with God.
        • “Lord, save me” from sin.
        • “Lord, save me” from my lack of faith.


  • This crisis moment for Peter is our crisis.
    • Is our way to get through our crisis!
      • Succinct prayer, casting ourselves onto the help of Christ.
      • Before looking down on Peter for losing his way, evaluate where we turn when we are falling.


  • The simple solution is obvious solution.
    • The saving solution.
    • Always Christ.


  • Easy to fall away from Christ, while reaching for wrong handhold.
    • Any handhold but Christ will not hold you.
    • Will not pull you out!


Verse 31 begins with, “Jesus immediately” reacting!


  • The word “immediately” used when Jesus dismissed the crowds (v. 22) and then when Jesus spoke courage to the disciples while in duress (v. 27) is now used to describe Jesus’ help to Peter in the moment (v. 31).


[Illus] As a lifeguard I know what this means to lift someone up from drowning. This is what Jesus did. He reached out and saved Peter physically and I think what He says tells us why.


  • Jesus did not want Peter gone but alive.
    • He did not want Peter to fall down.
    • Jesus’ concern deeper than Peter’s physical wellbeing.


  • Jesus wants this moment to be lifechanging, so Jesus is straightforward.


[KEY] Diagnosis, “O you of little faith…” (v. 31).


[Question] “Why does Jesus say this about Peter?”


  • Willing to get out of the boat to enjoin himself within Jesus’ miracle?
    • Isn’t Peter the most faith-filled person, willing to do something everyone else was unwilling to do?
      • Peter going out on the water was first Peter’s idea.
      • To validate Jesus’ power.


  • But the point was less the miracle and more about faith in its object!
    • When Jesus invites Peter onto the water, the challenge for Peter to trust Jesus, more than walking on the water.


  • Miracle was demonstratively powerful, but this demonstration was not an end in and of itself.


[KEY] Jesus is the end of this miracle.


  • Jesus’ Lordship is the point of miracle.


  • Peter after began in faith but splutters, taking his eyes off of Jesus.


[KEY] Peter was locked in and moved by the Spirit yet suddenly, stumbles.


  • Higher you ascend in the Lord, if you take you eyes off Jesus, the farther you fall!
    • Like falling from a position of spiritual leadership.
    • The stewardship of Peter’s position is why Jesus came so hard on him.


  • Mind you, this is Jesus speaking the truth, in LOVE.
    • The stewardship of relationship must be valued.
    • Christ convicts with a strong rebuke when over this lapse.


[Illus] Like the strong rebuke we give a son whom we expect much from. “…why did you doubt?”


  1. Affirms their lesson being learned (vv. 32-33)


Verse 32 leaves Christ’s question unanswered.


  • Picking back up with what Christ said, “…why did you doubt?”
    • Why did you waver or hesitate?
    • What happened next resolves the Lesson Jesus is conveying!


  • When “…they [Peter and Jesus] got into the boat” (v. 32) what happened? “…the wind ceased” (v. 32).
    • The issue was not the storm nor was it even the miracle of walking over it.
    • The issue was their faith in Jesus.
      • The storm was meant to strip away all other options.
      • The miracle was meant to exalt Jesus as the right option.


  • Their faith and likewise our faith should be steady as she goes if it is fixed on the true Christ.
  • All of who He claims to be! Jesus displays His dominance over the storm by walking on top of waves and by making them stop.
    • They “ceased” (v. 32).
    • With this lesson learned, verse 33 finds everyone (including Peter) responding! They all “…worshiped him” (v. 33).
      • The word [prosekunsav] means to bow low.
      • They all fell down inside the boat.
        • Were they still worried about the waves?
        • Not at all, now knowing in their hearts that Jesus, who was inside their vessel was in charge of the elements.


  • As Jesus had stilled the storm before, He has done it again.


[Illus] He was awakened from inside the hull of the boat when he ceased the storm, and now He has walked to them and stopped the music again.


ESV  John 6:21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. (Joh 6:21 ESV)



[Point] The disciples’ response was a physical expression of their hearts, the only expression they could give that connects with what they knew to be true about Jesus.


ESV  Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Jos 1:9 ESV)


  • He is “…the Son of God” (v. 33). Jesus is Messiah.
    • The Messiah is “Son of God” meaning of the essence of God.
    • Yes, human, fully. And, yes, fully divine.


  • Fully, in command of the universe they were in.


[KEY] This is Jesus and the One who was Mentoring them to see!


  • Jesus went on retreat to mentor these key men to know Him in this way and increasing height and depth that will endure everything they will face.







[Jesus final phase of retreat, next time]


  1. Pouring out blessing on spontaneous needs (vv. 34-36)


 [Illus] An old man whose son had been convicted of gross crimes in the army and sentenced to be shot came and plead with Lincoln. As the boy was an only son, the case appealed to Lincoln; but he had just received a telegram from Butler (War Democrat, Brigadier General of Massachusetts, Militia. Known as “Beast”). The telegram read: “Mr. President, I beg you not to interfere with the court martials of the army. You will destroy all discipline in the army.” Lincoln handed the old man the telegram and watched the shadow of disappointment and sorrow come over the man’s face as he read the message. Lincoln suddenly seized his hand and exclaimed, “By jingo! Butler or no Butler, here goes!” He wrote out an order and handed it to the father. The man read the order, which was as follows: “Job Smith [the boy] is not to be shot until further orders from me, Abraham Lincoln.” “Why,” said the father, “I thought this was going to be a pardon. You may order him to be shot next week.” Lincoln replied, “My old friend, evidentially you do not understand my character. If your son is never shot until an order comes from me, he will live to be as old as Methuselah.”







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