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A Study of Matthew 14:24-32

This study contains Greek or Hebrew words. They will appear as scrambled letters enclosed in <brackets> unless you have the appropriate fonts installed on your computer. See the Information about this web site page for more information.


Every Christian will experience dark times in their life — times when storms of doubt and confusion may be raging around them. It is during those times when it seems that Jesus is far from us that we need to be looking for him. We may discover that he is coming to us walking on the very waters of the storm.

We have the promise from God’s word that he will deliver us. Psalm 34:19 tells us, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all." And Isaiah 43:2 promises, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you."

Matthew 14:24-32 shows us some real lessons of how we need to react when our life seems in turmoil and upheaval.

Verse 24

But the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them.

The boats that were used to fish the Sea of Galilee had a large triangular sail suspended on a central mast so it could be moved to catch the wind. A large oar in the rear of the boat acted as a rudder steering the boat. The fishing boat that the disciples used would not be very large, and so it would be very vulnerable in a storm. The Sea of Galilee is surrounded by hills. When the warm air from the lake would rise to meet cooler air blowing in from the Mediterranean Sea, it would cause great turbulence and a storm could arise quickly without warning. This may have been what happened to the disciples.

The men were in the middle of the Sea of Galilee far from the shore when a heavy storm came up. This verse tells us their boat was being beaten by the waves and the wind was against them. The safety of the shore was far away.

Have you been going through a difficult time? Does it feel like storms are beating against you? You try to fight it and get out of the tempest, but you can’t seem to make any progress. It seems the wind is blowing against you hindering your every effort. This is the way the disciples felt. These were experienced fishermen. They had been through many storms on this Sea before. But this one was a difficult one. Even with all their expertise they could not make any progress against it.

Verse 25

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.

The fourth watch of the night was between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Are there times when you are lying awake late at night unable to sleep? You may be burdened down with worries and concerns. Your mind may be wracked with despair and confusion. In the midst of their storm Jesus came walking to them to help them. No matter what terrible or frightening situation you may be facing, you need to realize that Jesus is coming walking to you on the waters of the storm. He is there. All you have to do is look for him.

Verse 26

But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear.

Why did they think Jesus was a ghost? First of all, they weren’t looking for him. The last place they expected to find Jesus was walking on the water. We can fault the disciples, but sometimes we’re the same way. We are in the midst of our struggles busy trying to solve the problems ourselves, and we never look to see if Jesus is around to help us. We may even feel that God has abandoned us, and maybe start to think the tempest we’re facing is some kind of punishment from Him. So we never look for Jesus. And if we do spot something resembling the Lord, we assume it must be a shadow, an illusion, a ghost.

Another reason they might have thought Jesus was a ghost was because the crashing waves of water on the boat formed a foggy mist which made Jesus appear surreal. Even though Jesus was there, he was masked by the mists of the storm. You may be going through a dark time. You may only see the mists of the crashing waves, but be assured Jesus is right there standing in the midst of the tumult ready to help.

The last part of this verse says they cried out for fear. Things had gotten so bad. The waves were crashing over the boat, the wind was against them, and now it seems they were haunted by a ghost. Fear gripped their heart and took control of them. Are things going bad for you? Is the storm crashing around you? Does it seem like everything is blowing against you? Are you haunted by fear? Has terror gripped your heart? Do you dread another day? It is at those times that Jesus will speak to your heart.

MacDonald writes, "How true to our own experience! We are often storm-tossed, perplexed, in despair. The Savior seems far away. But all the time ... He is near at hand."

Verse 27

But immediately he spoke to them, saying, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear."

As soon as they cried out in fear, Jesus spoke to them words of comfort. This verse tells us he spoke to them "immediately." When we seem overwhelmed by the turbulence of this life, it is then that Jesus speaks to us. Are we listening for his voice?

Notice the 3 things Jesus tells them: take heart, it is I, and have no fear.

1. Take heart. The Greek word here is < Qarsei&te> tharseite which means be of good courage. When we are facing howling storms, we need to be of good courage. We need to stand firm and not waver in our faith. Tempests may be thundering around us, but Jesus is with us so we can be confident in Him and trust in His word.

2. It is I. There is only one who can truly help us. Sometimes we can figure things out ourselves, other times friends can help us, but no one knows what’s best for us like Jesus. If we haven’t gone to him yet, then we haven’t received the best help we can get.

3. Have no fear. No matter how dark the storm may appear, we don’t need to fear. No matter what trials or difficulties you are going through, the Lord is beside you, so don’t be afraid.

Ellicott writes, "To hear the familiar tones and the cheering words was enough, even amid the howling of the winds and the dashing of the waves, to give them confidence and hope. We can scarcely doubt that in after years that moment came back to their recollection, invested for them, as it has since been for the Church at large, with something of a symbolic character. Often the sky became dark, and the waves of the troublesome world were rough, and the blasts of persecution beat on them, and the ark of Christ’s Church was tossed on the waters, and they were wearied and spent with rowing. They thought themselves abandoned, and then in the dim twilight they would see or feel once again the tokens of His presence. He was coming to them through the storm."

Verse 28

And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water."

Now our focus in this story is going to shift to Peter. Peter makes a bold statement indicating absolute trust in Jesus. We might think that Peter was being impulsive here, and that’s why he got in trouble when he tried to walk on the water. But I think Peter is simply reaching out to his Lord in faith. Peter is simply saying, Lord if you’re really there, reveal it to me. When we feel all alone and helpless, we may wonder if God has abandoned us. Perhaps all we can see are the boiling mists from the tempest clouding our vision of the Lord. At those times it’s all right for us to say, Lord if your really there, reveal yourself to me. God understands our doubt and our confusion. He knows how we can become so easily distracted by the churning storms around us. If you’re not sure if God is with you in your dark time, call out to him. He will reveal himself to you.

Verse 29

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

Jesus said come. Whenever we need to find Jesus, whenever we need to meet him and spend some time alone with him, he says, Come. The Lord wants his children to come to him. He loves to bless us and help us through our difficulties. If you are facing a fury of trouble, Jesus is saying to you, Come. Come for help, come for strength, come for comfort.

This verse tells us that Peter actually got out of the boat and walked on the water. Jesus was walking above the storm. Now he invites Peter to come, and we find Peter is also able to walk above the storm. No matter what tempest is howling around you, Jesus is inviting you to walk above the storm. He is saying come. Will you listen to his call?

Verse 30

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

What happened? Peter was doing fine. He was walking above the storm. The same thing happened to Peter that so often happens to us. He took his eyes off of Jesus and started looking at the storm-driven waves. As long as he kept his eyes on the Lord, he was able to walk above the storm. But as soon as he looked at the raging storm around him, he was afraid and began to sink.

We can fault Peter, but the truth is we do the same thing. We spend most of our time inspecting all the bad things that are happening to us, and worrying how we’re going to survive the mess we’re in, when we should be looking to Jesus. The result is we sink deeper and deeper into despair and confusion. We need to keep our eyes on Christ. Our focus must be centered on the one who tells us, Be of good courage, it is I, have no fear. When we stop looking at the storms around us and start looking to the Lord, we will find ourselves walking above the storm on top of the waves.

The Believer’s Bible Commentary points out, "The Christian life, like walking on water, is humanly impossible. It can only be lived by the power of the Holy Spirit. As long as we look away from every other object to Jesus only, we can experience a supernatural life. But the minute we become occupied with ourselves or our circumstances, we begin to sink. Then we must cry to Christ for restoration and divine enablement."

This verse closes with Peter crying out, Lord save me. If you feel that you are sinking in deeper and deeper and it seems that you are drowning in your troubles, cry out to Jesus, Lord save me.

Verse 31

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "O man of little faith, why did you doubt?"

Usually, when we read this verse, we tend to notice the Lord’s rebuke of Peter. Peter had failed. But so have all of us. There are many times we lack faith and we have doubts. Peter was no different than most of us. So these words to Peter are really to us: "O people of little faith, why do you doubt?" Just like Peter, doubts enter our minds when we become fearful. God really wants us to live by faith, not fear. O Lord, help increase our faith!

J. Vernon McGee comments, "Our Lord performed this miracle for His own, that they might be brought into the place of faith. Even Simon Peter, who was audacious enough to say, ‘Lord, bid me come unto thee on the water’ and actually walked on the water, which should have cemented his faith, got his eyes off Jesus, and his faith failed. I don’t want to criticize Peter because that has been my problem, also. I have stepped out on faith many times and then have taken my eyes off Him."

The part of this verse we tend to ignore is the first part that tells us that Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught Peter. Peter had failed. He had demonstrated his lack of faith. Now, if we were God, maybe we would let Peter bounce around in the waves for awhile so he could learn his lesson. But this is not what Jesus did. As soon as Peter cried out for help, Jesus was there to rescue him. As soon as we call out for help, the Lord is there to rescue us.

Verse 32

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

As soon as Jesus got into the boat, the wind and storm ceased. As soon as we let Jesus come into our time of difficulty, the winds and storms of confusion will cease. So what’s holding you back from allowing Jesus to come into your time of difficulty? Are you trying to handle it yourself, but you are still miserable? Are others helping you, but you still are confused? Are you being treated by good doctors, but nothing seems to be getting better? Are you receiving good counsel, but the darkness doesn’t seem to go away? Allow Jesus to enter your time of difficulty. He will take you above the storms and give you peace and comfort.

Verse 22

Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

This verse should have actually been at the beginning of the study but I wanted to conclude with it. Notice that it was Jesus who sent the disciples into the boat to go across the sea. He knew he was sending them into a storm, but he sent them anyway. Sometimes God allows us to go through storms so we can learn to trust in him. Whatever difficulty you may be going through, know that Jesus has allowed you to go through this storm. He cares about you, and he wants you to learn how to put your complete trust and faith in him.


This study of Matthew 14:24-32 1997 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All Scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version 1971, A. J. Holman Company

Psalm 34:19 and Isaiah 43:2 from the New King James Version 1982 Thomas Nelson Publishers

The information in this top paragraph about fishing on the Sea of Galilee comes from Gower: The New Manners and Customs of     Bible Times, pg. 129-130 1987, Moody Press

MacDonald: Believer’s Bible Commentary, New Testament volume, pg. 78 1990, Thomas Nelson Publishers

Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. VI, pg. 89, Zondervan Publishing House

Believer’s Bible Commentary, New Testament volume, pg. 78 1990, Thomas Nelson Publishers

Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, vol. 4, pg. 85, 1983

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