Matthew

14:22-36

8. Preaching the gospel, 13:53-17:23

iv] Jesus walks on the water

Synopsis

Jesus has just fed the five thousand and he now sends his disciples on ahead by boat, but as they set sail they come up against a strong headwind. Between three and six in the morning Jesus comes to them, walking on the lake. The disciples initially think they have seen a sea-spirit of some kind, but soon recognize that it is Jesus. Peter attempts his tip-toe on the water, but begins to sink. Jesus notes Peter's little faith, climbs into the boat, the wind dies down and they make their way across the lake.

 
Teaching

Although buffeted by the powers of darkness, it is through faith that broken humanity can arrive safe and sound on the distant shore.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 13:53-58.

 

ii] Structure: This narrative, Jesus walks on water, presents as follows:

Transitional note, v22-23;

Jesus walks on water, v24-33:

the storm, v24;

the disciples' reaction on seeking Jesus, v25-27;

Peter and Jesus, v28-31;

the stilling of the storm, v32;

the disciples' confession of faith, v33.

Healings in Gennesaret, v34-36.

 

iii] Interpretation:

This miracle reveals the fulfillment of Israel's messianic hope. On the one hand, we witness the divine authentication of Jesus' messianic credentials - "truly you are the Son of God." On the other hand, we witness Jesus' preemptive victory over the powers of darkness. Although we are buffeted by dark powers, it is through faith that broken humanity can arrive safe and sound on that distant shore.

 

Interpretive issues present in this nature miracle:

• Weight can certainly be placed on the revelation of Jesus' divine nature in the miracle. Literary evidence exists showing that the ancients were quite interested in the ability of the gods to exercise control over nature and its elements. The miracle, at this level, evidences divine authentication - "no mere man can work these wonders", Filson;

• An Exodus theme is evident in the account, although this is resisted by some commentators, eg., Luz - not a walking through / in the water, but on the water;

• The account reveals Christ's mastery over the sea, not just water, but the sea as chaos, although this theme is more evident in Jesus' stilling of the storm, 8:23-27. For Jews, the sea is a dark and foreboding place, not just because of its many dangers, but because it is the dwelling place of dark powers, of Leviathan. "The stilling of the sea is therefore not only christological in orientation, but also eschatological; Jesus is even now stilling the deep", Carson;

• Matthew's addition of the Peter incident focuses attention on Jesus' saving power through the instrument of faith, even though plagued by doubts. Jesus is "prepared to save his people, even when they may doubt, from the evils that beset them", Hagner. So, the lesson is that faith saves, even a faith as small as a mustard seed.

 

In its Matthean context the story serves as a paradigm for the gospel at work. In the storms of life the Word of life saves by grace through faith, yes, even a faith plagued by doubts.

 

We have an anchor that keeps the soul,

Steadfast and sure while the billows roll;

Fastened on the Rock which cannot move,

Grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love.

 

iv] Synoptics:

The story of Jesus walking on water was given a significant place in the oral tradition of the early church. It was integrally linked to the feeding of the 5,000, and when finally the oral tradition was documented, all four gospels recorded the two stories together, although only Matthew adds the account of Peter's "little faith".

The fact that Matthew records this episode differently from Mark can cause the expositor some unease. In Matthew there is Peter's "little faith" and there is the disciples' confession of Jesus as "Son of God." In Mark, there is no Peter story, the disciples are "amazed" (one step above unbelief), for their hearts were hardened. Mark notes that they had not understood the significance of the feeding of the 5,000 and therefore, obviously missed the point of Jesus "passing by" them (the theophany present in his walking on the water).

Commentators will often try to rationalize the two accounts as if there is one original authentic source. The truth is that the gospel tradition was shaped by oral transmission such that the stories, although very similar, developed their own particular shape in different geographical regions and churches. When it came time to write these stores down (prompted by the increasing age and death of the apostles), the gospel writers seem to have selected, conservatively shaped and edited the tradition in line with their own particular perspective on the gospel.

There is no value in seeking some authorized original source behind the existing text, just as there is no value in treating the Bible as if it is a quarry for bits and pieces of God's revelation. We are best to approach scripture from the stance of faith, believing it to be the Word of God when rightly interpreted, such that the compositions of the different authors and the preservation of their writings, although the product of oral tradition and personal perspective, is none-the-less divinely inspired truth.

Although there are differences between Matthew and Mark's accounts of Jesus' walking on water, the theological perspective is much the same. Both reveal divine authentication, both image Jesus' preemptive struggle and victory over the powers of darkness, and both reveal the fulfillment of Israel's messianic hope in the prophet like unto Moses - when even wind and water is at his command then surely "the kingdom of God is at hand." The difference lies in the disciples' response to this revelation of the Christ. Mark tells us that, for the most part, it went over their head. Matthew tells us that there was a step toward realization, and such serves a lesson on faith for the reader confronted by the news of the coming kingdom.

So, we are quite at liberty to preach on the different approaches presented in both Matthew and Mark, treating both as God's Word to us.

 

v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 14:22

Jesus, the Lord of the Sea, v22-36: i] Transitional note serving to conclude the feeding of the 5,000 and link with what follows, v22-23. There is some difficulty in knowing where Jesus sent the disciples. It is most likely that he sent them North to Bethsaida while he remained behind to dismiss the crowd. Presumably he intended to join the disciples before they set out for the Western side of the lake, but he was delayed due to an extended prayer time (possibly also because the crowd tried to make him their king, cf. Jn.6:15). So, the disciples set off across the lake without Jesus.

hnagkasen (anagkazw) aor. "[immediately] Jesus made" - [immediately] he compelled, urged strongly [the disciples]. The strength of these words suggest that Matthew may be aware of the attempt to make Jesus a king, as recorded in John 6:15.

embhnai (embainw) aor. inf. "get [into the boat]" - to embark, enter [into the boat]. The infinitive, as with proagein, "to go before", introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing what Jesus tells the disciples to do.

eiV to peran "to the other side" - [and to go before him] to the other side. Local construction. Possibly "the eastern shore of the lake", or even "across the lake", but if the above note is correct then "to get them out of the way" may be the sense.

e{wV ou| + subj. "while [he dismissed]" - until [he might send away]. Temporal construction. A contraction of e{wV tou cronou w|/, with the dative relative pronoun w|/, "in which", attracted to its genitive antecedent "of the time", so ou|, cf. Zerwick. Introducing a temporal clause, although usually with the sense "till / until", but here Matthew may have used the construction for an Aramaic "while", so NIV. Elsewhere he uses the regular "until", which may be the sense here. Jesus gets the disciples out of the way until he had dismissed the crowd, cf. Morris.

touV oclouV (oV) "the crowd" - the crowds. The plural is used of a crowd, but is translated in English as a collective singular, as NIV.

 
v23

apolusaV (apoluw) aor. part. "after he had dismissed [them]" - having sent away [the crowds]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

anebh (anabainw) aor. "he went up" - he went up [to the mountain]. Possible Exodus imagery; Jesus goes up a mountain to meet with God as Moses went up. The use of the definite article with mountain, "the mountain", not just any mountain or hill, adds to the imagery, as does his going kat idean, "by himself", "alone". High in a mountain was always regarded as a "place of special closeness to God", Luz. None-the-less, nothing more may be intended than to note that Jesus headed off into the "hill country" away from the shore.

kat idian "by himself" - according to one's own. "Privately".

proseuxasqai (proseucomai) inf. "to pray" - The infinitive here is adverbial, introducing a purpose clause, "in order to prayer."

genomenhV (ginomai) aor. part. "when [evening] came" - [evening] having come [he was alone there]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

 
v24

ii] Jesus walks on water, v24-33. a) The storm is described in the same terms as its stilling, v24. Somewhere in the middle of the lake the disciples are "buffeted" by a Westerly wind. The dark powers of the surging deep were seeking to overwhelm Christ's inauguration / realization of the kingdom.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative; often translated as adversative, as NIV.

apeicen (apecw) imperf. "was [already considerable distance from land]" - [by this time the boat] was distant, away, long way off [already many stadia from the land]. One stadia = 192 meters, and they were pollouV, "many", stadia from land (the accusative is adverbial, of distance).

basanizomenon (basanizw) pas. pat. "buffeted" - being tossed, tormented, harassed. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "was distant", or adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their being a long way off from land. The word is used of torture.

uJpo + gen. "by [the waves]" - by [the waters]. Expressing agency.

gar "because" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the boat was so far away from land.

enantioV adj. "against it" - [the wind] was contrary, over against, opposed. Predicate adjective. The disciples were well into the journey, but now they were sailing into the wind and unlike modern sailing boats, this meant that they were going nowhere; "the wind was dead against them", Barclay.

 
v25

b) The disciples' reaction to the theophany, v25-27. The disciples then see Jesus walking on the water. They think it is an apparition and are filled with fear. Jesus calms them and declares "It is I". This is probably an allusion to the great "I am" of Exodus 3:14 and so serves as a pointed self revelation by Jesus. In Mark's record of this event he says that Jesus "was about to pass by them." This is a rather strange comment, given that Jesus was obviously coming to them because they were in distress. What we have here is an allusion to the time God passed by Moses at Sinai, cf. Ex.33:19, 22. So, the miracle is a theophany, a manifestation of the divine.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

tetarth/ dat. adj. "in the fourth [watch] / shortly before dawn" - in fourth [watch, guard]. The dative is temporal, of time, as NIV. Dawn; "between three and six o'clock in the morning", TEV.

thV nuktoV (oV) gen. "of the night" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive, limiting "fourth watch".

hlqen (ercomai) aor. "Jesus went out" - he came, went [towards them]. "He came to them", Barclay, although "went to" carries the movement better.

peripatwn (peripatew) part. "walking" - walking about [on the lake]. The participle is adverbial, expressing the manner of Jesus' coming to the disciples, or the means of his coming. "He came to them, walking across the lake", REB, in the sense that Jesus was walking epi, "upon / on" the surface of the water. The preposition epi + acc. may be read "to / at [the sea]." The possibility that Jesus was walking on the shore when he stilled the storm has often been argued, even by great-ones such as Jeremias, yet there seems little point in explaining away Jesus' miracles.

 
v26

idonteV (oJraw) aor. part. "when [the disciples] saw" - [the disciples] having seen. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

peripatounta (peripatew) pres. part. "walking" - walking about. The participle introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what the disciples saw; "the disciples saw that Jesus was walking about ...."

epi + gen. "on [the lake]" - over, on, at [the sea]. Emphatic by position. This preposition may be followed by an accusative or a genitive. In v25 Matthew uses the accusative, but here the genitive. BAGD suggests the accusative implies movement over/on. Had Jesus slowed down, even stopped, as he approached the disciples? The trouble is the same "walk about" verb is used in both verses, although the participle here is introducing an object clause. So, possibly " walking toward them."

etaracqhsan (tarassw) aor. pas. "they were terrified" - were troubled [saying]. In the passive this verb is strengthened, "frightened", "terrified"; "they were greatly alarmed", Phillips.

fantasma (a) "ghost" - [it is] an apparition. Predicate nominative. Not necessarily the spirit of a dead person, but the word can take this meaning.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "they said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "they were terrified." Followed by oJti serving to introduce a dependent statement of direct speech expressing what they said.

ekraxan (krazw) aor. "they cried out" - [and from fear] they cried out. "Screamed with fear", TEV.

apo + gen. "in [fear]" - from. The preposition here may take a causal sense, "because of fear."

 
v27

oJ IhsouV "Jesus" - [and immediately] jesus. Not found in all manuscripts, but likely to be from Matthew's hand. Not found in Mark's account. So, Matthew is placing the focus on Jesus rather than the disciples.

euquV "immediately" - Usually for literary emphasis, bringing vivid movement in the account.

autoiV pro. "to them" - [spoke] to them. Dative of indirect object.

legwn "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

qarseite (farsew) imp. "take courage" - be of good cheer, have confidence in the face of danger. Possibly the sense is conveyed in "it's all right!", Phillips.

egw eimi "it is I" - i am. Something like "It's only me boys" certainly does justice to the Greek, but it is possible that the words, being without a predicate, serve as a divine self revelation, the great "I AM"; "I AM the living one, master of the wind and waves", Hill.

mh fobeisqe (fobeomai) imp. "don't be afraid" - A reassurance; there is nothing to be worried about.

 
v28

c) Peter's interaction with Jesus, v28-31. Peter now springs into the action. His words, "since it is you", indicates his belief that in Jesus' power he can share in this miraculous event. All goes well until Peter focuses on the storm rather than Jesus. As he begins to sink he calls out, "Lord save me". Again, words with an Old Testament ring to them, Ps.18:16, 69:1-3, 144:7. Because of his doubt, driven by fear, Jesus notes Peter's "little faith."

ei + ind. "if [it's you]" - Introducing a conditional clause, 1st. class, where the proposed condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, ..... then ......" So, expressing a degree of certainty in the apparition, rather than doubt, although doubt becomes dominant in v30. The addition of "really" helps to reinforce certainty; "if it is really you [and I think it is, then ...]", Barclay, etc. Filson comments that Matthew's account of Peter's part in this miracle is typical: "pride, fall, rescue and restoration."

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "-" - [and] having answered. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "said"; "Peter answered him and said."

autw/ dat. pro. "[Peter] replied" - [peter said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

keleuson (keleuw) imp. "tell" - [lord, if it is you] command, instruct, give the order [me]. If Jesus gives the word then it can be done. "Order me to come to you", Moffatt.

elqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "to come" - to come [to you on the waters]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus should "command".

 
v29

elqe (ercomai) aor. imp. "come" - [and he said] come. Possibly an ingressive aorist, "start to come."

katabaV (katabainw) aor. part. "got down" - having got down, come down. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "walked"; "Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water." The aorist indicates that Peter did the getting out of the boat unhindered, as well as a bit of the walking; "he walked .... and came toward Jesus." These are all possibly inceptive aorists, so "began to walk"; "Peter then got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward him", CEV.

apo + gen. "-" - from [the boat]" - Expressing separation; "away from."

epi + acc. "on" - [Peter walked] upon. Spacial; see above.

ta uJdata (uJdwr atoV) "the water" - the waters [and he came toward jesus]. As a plural it is "waters". This is most likely a Hebraism where water is always plural. Possibly another hint of the Old Testament imagery packed into this story.

 
v30

blepwn (blepw) pres. part. "when he saw" - [and] seeing. The participle here is adverbial, usually treated as temporal, while the present tense serves to bring out the change in Peter's focus; from his obeying Jesus to his "seeing" the force of the storm. The adversative de, "but", helps with this contrast, "but on seeing the fury of the storm."

ton anemon (oV) "the wind" - the [strong] wind. Accusative direct object of the participle "seeing". Probably meaning "storm", as we don't actually see the wind, but the results of the wind. JB tries, "as soon as he felt the force of the wind." JB's "force" translates a disputed reading, the adjective iscuron, "strong", "mighty".

efobhqh (fobew) aor. "he was afraid" - "He panicked", Phillips, although the sense leans toward "he doubted the efficacy of Jesus' command."

arxamenoV (arcw) aor. mid. part. "beginning" - [and] having begun. The participle is adverbial, either temporal or causal; "as he was beginning to sink", TNT.

katapontizesqai (katapontizw) inf. "to sink" - to throw into the sea, to sink in water, to be drowned. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the participle "having begun."

legwn "-" - [he cried out] saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

kurie, swson "Lord, save [me]" - Matthew uses the same phrase in 8:25, although this does not necessarily mean that "Matthew has assimilated two sea rescue stories", D&A. It is interesting that the phrase is used nowhere else in the NT. "Save can refer to deliverance in any one of a variety of way; here certainly it means save from sinking", Morris.

 
v31

euqewV "immediately" - Temporal adverb. Again used to express vivid movement, and here with a touch of urgency!!!

ekteinaV (ekeinw) aor. part. "reached out [his hand]" - [jesus] having stretched out [the hand]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "caught / took hold"; "stretched out and took hold."

epelabete (epilambanomai) aor. "caught" - took hold of. "Grabbed hold of him", TEV.

autou gen. pro. "him" - Genitive of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to take hold of."

oligopiste adj. "little faith" - [and says to him] one of deficient faith, weak faith. Vocative. The deficiency in Peter's faith is not overly clear. It is often stated that Peter doubted, but doubts, that is, a weak faith, as opposed to a strong faith, is surely not the issue. Doubts are part of the human condition and one would expect that Peter had some questions in his mind as he stepped out of the boat. Thankfully, God accepts a faith that is as small as a mustard seed - a little faith! Maybe Peter seriously questioned Jesus' ability to carry through his promise / command, or maybe the image of taking our eyes of Jesus is the extent of the intended message. Either way, other than Peter, believers can't walk on water because there is no propositional promise / command to that end. Faith is not reliance on our expectations, hopes or dreams, but it entails reliance / dependence / faith on God's revealed will. And thankfully, even faith as small as a mustard seed saves.

autw/ dat. pro. "[he said]" - [he says] to him. Dative of indirect object.

eiV ti "why" - to what = why. The preposition eiV is expressing purpose, and together with the interrogative pronoun ti forms the interrogative clause "to what purpose?" = "why?"

edistasaV (distazw) aor. "did you doubt" - do you doubt. Here of "hesitation, wavering, being of two minds", France, "not trust", D&A. Possibly, "get into a state of doubting", MHT III. Luz makes the point that for Matthew "doubt" is part of faith, not an essential characteristic, but present none-the-less. "What the believer obviously experiences is that it is precisely one's doubt that the Lord receives and overcomes." As noted above, for a believer there will always be conflict between the conviction of our senses and the authority of God's word.

 
v32

d) The stilling of the strorm, v32.

anabantwn (anabainw) gen. aor. part. "when they climbed" - [and they] having climbed [into the boat]. The genitive absolute participle serves to introduce a temporal clause, as NIV, etc... The participle, being attendant on the main verb "died down", implies a sequence of events where the storm was still raging when Peter climbed back into the boat. It was only after he climbed back in the boat that the wind die down.

ekopasen (kopazw) aor. "[the wind] died down" - [the wind] grew weary, ceased, stopped. Matthew doesn't tell us that Jesus stilled the storm, although it is implied. Whether the storm was directly stilled by Jesus, or whether it just ran out of puff (verb = "grew weary"). The powers of darkness, resident in the deep, recognized someone greater, and so their rage was stilled.

 
v33

e) The disciples' confession of faith, v33. The climax of the story is not the stilling of the storm, but the confession of the disciples. The feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus' walking on water, proclaim him as the long awaited messiah, the Davidic king, the prophet like unto Moses. This is the first time the disciples address Jesus as "Son of God", so it is a moment of high comprehension which will continue to deepen as time goes on.

de "Then" - but/and. Transitional; indicating a step in the sequence of events.

oiJ "those who" - the ones. The article here serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "in the boat" into the substantival construction "the ones in the boat."

en "in" - in, on [the boat]. Local, expressing space / sphere.

prosekunhsan (proskunew) aor. "worshiped" - adored, did obeisance, went down on the knees to. The disciples adoration of Christ is certainly conveyed in their statement of faith, but may also have included their kneeling before him; "fell down and worshipped him."

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to do obeisance."

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "saying" - The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their obeisance.

alhqwV adv. "truly" - Here with the sense "surely you are the Son of God", Morris.

qeou uiJoV "the Son of God" - [you are] son of god. First usage in Matthew. An example of Colwell's rule such that the predicate uiJoV, "son", is definite; Jesus is not "a son of God." The genitive "of God" is adjectival, relational. The title is best understood as messianic (so eg., France), demonstrating the disciples' growing awareness of the person of Jesus. The title probably does not indicate a filial relationship between Jesus and the Father, so defining him as the incarnate Son of God, which of course he is. Jesus, as messiah, is the "revealer of the Father", D&A, "the unique messenger of God, God's messianic agent", Hagner. This affirmation of Jesus as messiah rests on the disciples' observation of Jesus doing things that only God can do.

 
v34

iii] The healings in Gennesaret, v34-36. This episode illustrates that all the people, not just the disciples, share in the blessings of the coming kingdom in the person of Jesus. In faith they need only touch the hem of his garment and are saved - the Word of God saves.

diaperasanteV (diaperaw) aor. part. "when they had crossed over" - [and] having crossed over. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

epi + acc. "[they landed]" - [they came] upon [the land]. Spacial.

Gennhsaret "Gennesaret" - [at] gennesaret. A region on the Western shore of lake Galilee; a well populated area.

 
v35

epignonteV (epiginwskw) aor. part. "when ...... recognized [Jesus]" - [and] having known, recognized [him]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV; "when the people found out that he was there."

oi andreV (hr droV) "the men" - Nominative subject of the verb "to send." The use of oiJ andreV, "the men", possibly indicates elders, community leaders, etc.

tou topou (oV) gen. "of [that] place" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, limiting "men", "the men who belonged to that place" = "lived there", but possibly source / origin, "the elders from there."

apesteilan (apostellw) aor. "they sent word" - sent word [into all that region around]. The object is unstated, but probably it is "word"; "they spread the news throughout the whole neighborhood", JB. The popularity of Jesus' ministry is now at its height.

touV ... econtaV pres. part. "[all] their [sick]" - [and they brought to him all] the ones having [illness]. The participle can be taken as a substantive limited by the adjective pantaV, "all", "all those who were sick", or as an attributive adjective limiting the substantive adjective "all" = "everyone", "everyone who was sick."

autw/ pro. "to him" - Dative of indirect object.

 
v36

parekaloun (parakalew) imperf. "begged" - [and] they were beseeching, entreating, imploring. Imperfect expressing continued action; "continued begging him."

auton acc. pro. "him" - We may have expected a dative of direct object, but the pronoun is accusative. Olmstead classifies the accusative as a common cross-linguistic phenomenon where the expected indirect object (the recipient of the request) has advanced to become the direct object.

iJna + subj. "to let the sick [just touch]" - that [they might touch]. Possibly introducing a purpose clause where the purpose of the begging was that the sick may be allowed to touch Jesus' robe for healing, although better taken as introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the people begged. Matthew's image here seems to describe crowds of sick people imploring to be healed, pressing in on Jesus, clutching at him and finding that even if they happened to touch the hem of his garment, they are healed. The description is dramatic and therefore concise. Again describing the height of Jesus ministry. When crowds of sick people are healed by just touching the hem of a person's robe, then you know that the kingdom of God is upon you.

tou kraspedou (on) gen. "the edge" - [only] of the edge, hem, fringe. Genitive of direct object after the verb aJptw, "to take hold of." Referring to the tassels on the edge of Jesus' robe, so "fringe".

tou iJmatiou (on) gen. "of [his] cloak" - of the garment [of him, and as many as he touched they were cured]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

 

Matthew Introduction

Exposition

 

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