The word of Christ dwells richly in the one who dwells in it long enough to discover its riches (Colossians 3:16). The Bible is the divine mine that contains the theological mother load. Any theology book based on it is only a small fraction of the Bible’s unquantifiable wealth. That’s why there will be no end to theological book publishing.
The wonderful thing about this mine is that we often find treasure in unexpected places. God loves to lace and layer revelatory riches in what at first seems like a fairly straightforward historical narrative.
One example is the account of Jesus and Peter walking on water in Matthew 14:22–33. This aquatic hike is astounding. But if we’re not careful, we may only see the obvious gold and miss out on much more. Here are a few less obvious nuggets I found when digging recently.
Jesus Makes Us Face Strong Waves in the Dark
Jesus “made” the disciples get into the boat (Matthew 14:22). At the time, they probably didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t an unusual directive from the Master. But in retrospect, it became clear that God knowingly sent them to face an adverse wind all night.
After an exhausting day of ministry (feeding the 5,000), God did not lead them to a rest beside quiet waters, but to row against battering waves for most of the night. The sovereign Lord sometimes intentionally sends us when we’re already weary to struggle against adversity in disorienting darkness.
Jesus Comes in Unexpected Ways at Unexpected Times
When Jesus finally came to the disciples, he came in a completely unexpected way — walking on the water. This so caught them off guard that they didn’t even recognize him at first (Matthew 14:26). Furthermore, Jesus didn’t show up until “the fourth watch of the night” (Matthew 14:25) — between three and six in the morning.
The weary disciples had been fighting the wind and waves (and probably each other) for long dark hours. No doubt they prayed for God’s help. In the apostle John’s account, once Jesus reached them and got in the boat, “immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going” (John 6:21). This must have come as a welcome relief, but notice that this relief wasn’t provided until they were extraordinarily tired.
When God comes to us in a moment of need, he might arrive in an unexpected, unrecognizable, and frightening way and later than we hope.
Ask Jesus for Impossible Things
Peter’s request of Jesus was outrageous. It may be that this story is so familiar or has been told to us so matter-of-factly that it doesn’t shock us. If that’s true, we need fresh eyes. We must put our sleep-deprived selves in that wave-tossed little boat in the dead of night, feeling the wind-whipped sea spray on our faces while we squint at the strangest thing we’ve yet seen — Jesus standing about ten feet away on the heaving water as if it were solid ground.
Imagine our nerves being on edge from the terror-induced adrenaline rush. Would we ask to get out of the boat and join Jesus on the water? We might best answer this question by asking ourselves how often we are asking Jesus for the privilege of risking the humanly impossible with him now. Jesus may have admonished Peter for having “little faith” (Matthew 14:31), but Peter was a faith giant in that moment compared to the other eleven. He was the only one who asked to do the impossible with Jesus. And Jesus granted it to him with pleasure.
God is pleased when we ask him to enable us to get out of the safety of our “boat” in order to do the humanly impossible with him, and he does grant such requests.
Jesus Sovereignly Responds to Our Asking
This story illustrates a profound mystery: God in his sovereignty interacts with our initiative. Note the very brief but loaded exchange between Peter and Jesus:
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” [Jesus] said, “Come.” (Matthew 14:28–29)
There is towering theology in these few words. Peter recognized Jesus as the sovereign Lord of all nature who was commanding the water to support him. Peter also knew that walking on the water would require faith, but he did not mistake his own faith as the power that would command the water beneath him. So he asked Jesus to command him to come. And when Jesus commanded, Peter exercised faith in Jesus’s word, which Jesus honored. That’s how Peter’s faith helped him walk on water. It’s true that when Peter’s faith weakened, he sank (Matthew 14:30). But his cry to Jesus for help proved that Peter knew where the power to hold him up resided, and was itself an expression of faith. And again Jesus responded to Peter’s faith by pulling him back up (Matthew 14:31).
Notice, Jesus did not call any of the disciples to join him on the water. Peter took the initiative to ask Jesus if he could come. Forgive the pun, but this is deep theological water. If Peter had not taken the initiative to ask Jesus, this aspect of the story might simply be missing. What might be missing from your story if you do not take the initiative to ask Jesus?
God alone has power to command reality, but he encourages us to request whatever we wish in prayer (John 15:7) and he loves to respond to our faith by commanding answers to our requests.
Dig, Find, and Be Enriched
O, there’s much more gold in this story to be had, but time and article word limits fail me. I must refrain. Go dig, find it, and you will be enriched. In only twelve verses we discovered four theological nuggets:
- The sovereign Lord sometimes intentionally sends us when we’re already weary to struggle against adversity in disorienting darkness.
- When God comes to us in a moment of need, he might arrive in an unexpected, unrecognizable, and frightening way and later than we hope.
- God is pleased when we ask him to enable us to get out of the safety of our “boat” in order to do the humanly impossible with him, and he does grant such requests.
- God alone has power to command reality, but he encourages us to request whatever we wish in prayer (John 15:7) and he loves to respond to our faith by commanding answers to our requests.
The Bible contains over 31,000 verses — so much gold and so little time. We’ll never exhaust the gold it contains during our brief lives, but we must discover all we can. The apostle John said this about the three years he spent with the word made flesh: “Were every one of [the things Jesus did] to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
Well, the written word is written. But of this word we can say that if all it reveals were to be written, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.