“Define ‘Little Faith”

Matthew 14:22-33

We left off last week with Jesus hurting emotionally after hearing about the death of His cousin John the Baptist. Things were getting worse. Jesus and His movement, known as “The Way,” was now on Herod’s radar and he had a reputation of being worse than the religious leaders. Jesus tried to get away from the crowds to grieve and think but the crowd found Him and His disciples. Jesus didn’t miss a beat and began ministering to the needy. At dinner time, the disciples tried to send the crowd away but Jesus had other plans. Jesus managed to use the disciples to feed the 5,000 men, their wives and children with the five loaves of bread and two fish they had brought for their own dinner. 

We pick up today with verse 22 of chapter 14 with the multitude fed and twelve baskets of leftovers. 

Jesus “immediately” sends the twelve disciples off in the boat to the other side of the lake. Then, Jesus dismisses the crowd. 

Okay, here is where I start asking questions. I am not sure why the disciples didn’t think this was odd. 

How was Jesus going to “catch up” with them? 

Walk around to the other side? 

There may have been several reasons why Jesus sent the disciples out on their own. 

First, we know He wanted to get alone and pray and rest. We can also read other accounts of this event in the Gospel According to John 6:14-15. John writes that Jesus wanted the crowd to disperse so as to avoid a messianic uproar. John tells us that after the crowds experienced such a miraculous sign, they were convinced that Jesus was the Prophet who had come into the world. 

John also tells us that Jesus knew that the people intended to come and make Him king by force. If the disciples shared such enthusiasm, they would have easily thought this was the time to promote Jesus as the Messiah, the King. If so, it was imperative that Jesus get the disciples away from the excited crowd. Jesus managed to get both groups on their separate ways.

Finally, Jesus was able to go up in the hills by himself to pray. By the time evening came, Jesus was there alone. He no sooner gets started in His conversation with the Father than we read, the boat, with the disciples, which was already a considerable distance from the land, had managed to row right into a storm. This shouldn’t have been anything new to those disciples who were seasoned fishermen. The Sea of Galilee is well known for its sudden storms. However, during this storm, Jesus was NOT with them in the boat. 

In their wildest dreams, the disciples never imagined what was going to happen next. Matthew tells us in the “fourth watch” which was somewhere between 3am and 6am, Jesus was walking on the water towards them. 

To get a better picture of what was happening, Mark tells us in his gospel, chapter 6, verses 47-52, that Jesus came to the disciples when the boat was in the middle of the sea and after they had exhausted themselves rowing against the storm. In their exhaustion, they must have thought they were hallucinating, the figure they saw walking on the water had to be a ghost! At this point they have had enough and they cry out in fear!

This had to have been a frightening experience. We are talking about men who have spent their lives on the Sea of Galilee making a living. 

So either the exhausting fight against the storm has them delirious or they truly thought they were viewing an apparition. Jesus must have understood their fear because He immediately spoke to them with comforting words, verse 27,

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

You would think that after hearing Jesus’ voice the disciples would have put away their fear. He did get their attention and Peter was watching Jesus walk on the water and he responded with, ‘Since it is you, and not some ghost, I want to join you in this miracle of walking on the water.” Jesus had given them authority to do other miraculous things, Peter wanted in on this miracle too. 

Jesus said, “Come.”

Join me Peter, walk on the water. Believe!

And Peter did it! 

As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. 

No sooner had Peter started to experience the miraculous, 

he turned his focus on what the wind was doing, 

became afraid and began to sink. 

Keeping focused on Jesus isn’t easy. Especially when there are distractions all around us. 

Peter knows exactly what to do when he begins to sink, he cries out to the Lord, 

“Save me.”

Jesus immediately grabs him by the hand and said, 

“You of little faith. Why did you doubt?”

Even when we fail, Jesus is there to save us. 

Jesus then brought Peter back to the boat, He addressed him as “Little-faith.” This sounds like a put down, but had Jesus turned to the other disciples who stayed in the boat, He would have addressed them as “No-faiths.” 

Peter’s little faith got him out of the boat and walking on the water. 

No one else joined him. 

Peter’s little faith obeyed the words of Jesus. 

Peter’s little faith prayed when he was in trouble. 

It wasn’t the size of Peter’s faith that was the problem. 

Later in chapter 17 we will read that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. 

You can also walk on water. 

Jesus’ second question is what is significant. 

Why did Peter doubt?

I think it was because he took his eyes off Jesus and put them back on the storm. When Peter saw the effects of the wind, he became fearful and he began to sink. 

I have this sort of joke with one of my tennis partners. In order to be able to hit the tennis ball back with any force or accuracy the first thing they teach you is to “keep your eye on the ball.” My tennis friend told me the other day, she was told to not only keep her eyes on the ball, but to keep her eyes on the seams of the ball. 

That’s it. 

It takes only a little faith to keep our eyes on Jesus, but the discipline is keeping our eyes so intently on Him we fail to see the storms around us. 

Somehow we rely on what we have experienced about storms and what we know about the sort of disaster they will bring and we trust what we know rather than trust Jesus, which, truth be told, oftentimes is the “unknown.”

I venture to say that if we exercise even the Little Faith we can muster, 

enough times, 

and we experience walking on the water with Jesus, 

and we trust Him more than the struggles and problems around us, 

we will manage to keep our eyes on Jesus more often than not. 

It works in tennis. Every time I keep my eyes on the seams of the ball, I manage to hit it well. Once I take my eyes off, for even just one second, I’m in trouble. 

What about the other disciples in the boat? 

Those with No faith? 

They didn’t need to get out of the boat to experience the miracle. 

They too were astonished! 

They went from fearing the storm to worshiping Jesus. Without a doubt, they were convinced He was the Son of God. 

For all the bad rap Peter gets for taking his eyes of Jesus, notice how much of a difference he makes in the disciples around him. His “Little Faith ” brings not only himself to a closer understanding of who Jesus is, but the other disciples can’t help but comprehend as well. 

This is the power of the Kingdom of God. 

Jesus has a way of taking our failures and using them to further His kingdom. Peter’s little faith and his fears may have made for a wet swim, but he walked on water and he had enough faith to cry out for help. We will see as we read on this won’t be the last time Peter takes his eyes off Jesus. But Jesus will continue to love him and forgive him. 

Time to check in. 

Which type of disciple are you? 

Are you like Peter? 

If Peter were here today I suspect he would be diagnosed with something like ADHD, or if he had taken the Meyers Briggs questionnaire he would have scored as an ENTJ. 

He was the disciple who was ready to jump at a moment’s notice and think later. 

Or would you have been one of the eleven disciples sitting in the boat watching? 

No way would you jump into the lake, Jesus or no Jesus. You may miss out on the euphoric joy of walking with Jesus on the water, but you are watching and learning and no less a part of the miracle.  

I don’t know about you, but often I find myself absorbed in my day and realize my eyes have been focused on the struggles and on the storms. I fail to see where Jesus is in the messes of my life. 

I am pretty good and crying out, “Lord, save me!” and lo and behold, He always does. 

Why do I doubt? Good question. 

But when I put my eyes back on Jesus, doubts fade away. Because I do believe He is greater than all things. 

For me, coming to worship is like getting back in the boat. When we take time to come to church and worship with other believers we are reminded of the power of the Son of God and encouraged to keep our eyes on Him. May our time together today, remind us to continue to look to Jesus throughout your week and let Him take care of the storms.

Let’s pray.