JESUS IN THE MOONLIGHT
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
December 7, 2014
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
— Matthew 14:22-33, ESV
When the sun is out you cannot see the other stars. The sun is just too bright in the daytime. However, when the sun goes down, the other stars in the sky begin to appear.
Watching the Son of God walk on the water is like looking into the sun. It is a beautiful, powerful, remarkable miracle. It is so bright, that it overshadows an assortment of other miracles that were taking place at the same time. But Jesus didn’t do this in the sunlight, He walked on water in the moonlight. So, if we look closely enough, we can see this miracle and a few others, and marvel together at the greatness and glory of God.
Please let me preface this sermon with a brief disclaimer about the difference between providence and miracles. Both flow from the sovereignty of God, His total control over all the cares and affairs of all things. By His providence, God provides for life and its sustainability through natural means. In the previous text, a boy possesses five biscuits and two fish for lunch, which he received by the good providence of God. A miracle, on the other hand, is the supernatural provision of God through an act that cannot be attributed to natural means. Twenty-thousand plus people were fed by those five loaves and two fish, which is an absolute miracle of God.
In the story at hand, God providentially provided the disciples of Jesus with a boat that could float. I’m sure oars and other necessities were on hand as well, and Jesus ordered them to get into the boat and cross the Sea of Galilee to their next ministry appointment. Providence procured them a way of passage to the other side of the sea. But miracles lit their way.
That I can pick up a phone, even a cell phone, and speak with family and friends is a great benefit of the providence of God. That I can speak with God Himself, anytime from anywhere, is a supernatural miracle. Prayer is probably the most powerful and at the same time most neglected miracle in the arsenal of the Christian and the Christian church.
Before our Lord displayed His miraculous walk on the water, He took time to pray. As a member of the Holy Trinity, the Son was in constant contact with the Father and the Spirit. As the sacrificial, self-emptying Savior of the world, the man Christ Jesus often stopped what He was doing to make time to pray with the Heavenly Father. Heavenly communication without wires is a miracle.
This is not to say that if you pray hard enough that you can make any miracle come to pass. This is to say that the praying itself is a miracle. It transcends anything Alexander Graham Bell or Verizon Wireless could ever think or do. Prayer does not bend God to do you bidding, it bends you to do God’s bidding. It is the miraculous means of preparation that enables you to embark on the Godward life. Prayer transforms you by making your rejoice in the glory and goodness of God, grieve over sin and strife, hope for the salvation of souls, care for the needs of people, and begin to see on earth at least a glimpse of what God sees from Heaven.
Through prayer Christ kept humble, even in the face of a crowd who wanted to make Him an earthly king. Through prayer Christ sensed His disciples in trouble on the sea, and determined to make His way to them. Through prayer the man Christ Jesus kept His eye on the providence of God, and the miracle of prayer paved the way for another miracle to follow.
Not only does Jesus perform miracles, Jesus is a miracle. He was, is, and always will be our supernatural God and Savior. That God became a man, and that a man could do what only God can do, is the greatest miracle of all time. This greatest miracle did great miracles, one of the most notable of which is walk right on top of the water.
I’ve set sail on the Sea of Galilee. It does not have sand bars. It is a small sea, about six by twelve miles, but it is deep. And Jesus walked on this water.
Jesus performed the miracle of walking on the water to demonstrate His deity. All of His miracles were done, at least in part, for this plain purpose. The deity of Christ is essential to the doctrine of salvation and virtually every other important doctrine of Christianity.
Jesus performed the miracle of walking on the water to get to the people He loved. That God would love any of us seems like a miracle to me. Christ came to His disciples in the moonlight, sometime between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., an early time to go the extra mile, especially on water.
Jesus performed the miracle of walking on the water because He is God, and only God can do miracles, sovereign miracles, anytime He wants, anyway He wants, and for anyone whom He wants. And in this miracle, the Lord shed some light on Simon Peter.
Jesus was not the only one who walked on the water on that moonlit night. Simon Peter did too, at least for a moment. So in the moment, Simon Peter was like Jesus Christ.
Christ-likeness is a miracle, because it requires supernatural ability. Every human being is born depraved, which does not necessarily mean we are all serial killers. Depravity means inability, the inability to do anything truly spiritual.
To walk on water required spiritual ability that Simon Peter did not naturally have, so Jesus granted him this supernatural ability for a moment. Peter began to sink because in another moment he tried to do things in his own strength rather than trusting in Jesus’ word.
If Jesus commands, Jesus will give the supernatural strength to obey. All obedience, all discipleship, every part and parcel of the spiritual life in Christ, also known as Christianity, also known as Christ-likeness, is owed to the miraculous power of God to save a human soul by coming to live inside and take control. The way some people can pray like Jesus prayed, walk like Jesus walked (rarely on water and often on land), live like Jesus lived, worship like Jesus worshiped, and go to where Jesus went, is a testimony to the miraculous, supernatural grace of God. Such supernatural grace has a trigger, and that trigger is faith, perhaps the greatest miracle of all.
“And those in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” The only people that can truly worship God are those who have professed true faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The disciples worshiped Jesus because they believed in Him, but it was their belief in Him that made them worship, led them to prayer, convicted them to be obedient, caused them to love God and others, and made for them a place in Heaven. All of this is accomplished by faith, and faith is the greatest miracle God ever gave to man.
Some say faith is a decision of man, an action of the mind that triggers spiritual awareness and action. I do not dispute that entirely. Neither to I dispute the Big Bang Theory, that life as we know it began with a cataclysmic, cosmic blast that eventually put into place all that we can see and experience. But I believe strongly that God caused the Big Bang with His holy word. I also believe that God’s grace causes people to have faith and it is God who puts it into the heart of all those who truly believe. Just check out Holy Scripture, especially key texts like John 6:44 and 6:65, Acts 11:18 and 13:48, Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5, and 2 Peter 1:1.
Faith is not natural and cannot be triggered by the energy of man. Faith is supernatural, and is activated by the grace of God. It is just as great a miracle, if not greater, that feeding thousands with a little food or walking on top of the Sea of Galilee. Those on the hillside would get hungry again, no one except Peter (and that just for a second) has walked on the water again, but every person who receives faith will live for Jesus in this life and live again with Jesus in the life to come.
A golden oldies song kicks off, “We get it on most every night, When that moon is big and bright, It’s a supernatural delight, Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight.” I don't know if Jesus was dancing in the moonlight, but I know He was walking on the water. I also know it wasn’t the only miracle that was performed by God that night. And, I know that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ right now, that miracles still happen all around us. Enjoy the moonlight. See the stars. Believe in miracles. Have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org