We all face storms. Grieving the death of a loved one. Losing a job. A dream unfilled. A rebellious child. A friend that lets us down. A flood that sweeps away our belongings. A disappointment.
We can let the storms of life push us away from Jesus or closer to Him. What is our response going to be in the midst of the storm?
There are some amazing lessons to glean from Matthew 14 on life in the midst of the storm.
In the first few verses of Matthew 14, we learn about the beheading of John the Baptist. John spent his life pointing others to the coming Messiah – Jesus. What happened to John? He was put in prison by King Herod and later beheaded (Matthew 14:3,10). John’s disciples told Jesus of John’s death. Now, Jesus, both fully man and fully God, wasn’t surprised. Being God, He knew what was coming. He knew that John would be put in prison and beheaded. Why that had to be the way for John to go, I don’t know. Although Jesus wasn’t caught by surprise, I still believe that He grieved the loss of his friend and the man who sacrificed his life so that others would know Jesus.
Matthew 14:13 (NIV) says, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place…” Immediately after hearing about the beheading of John, Jesus left for some time alone. But He didn’t get the solitariness He was seeking. Instead, the crowds followed Jesus. They traveled by foot while Jesus traveled by boat. Once Jesus reached the shore, a large crowd had already gathered for Him.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I am getting tossed about by the storms of life, my natural inclination isn’t to reach out and serve others well. When we’re in the midst of a deep, dark storm, we’re battling just to make it through. I think it’s pretty natural to want to retreat to a solitary place like Jesus did and grieve. We also need our community of people – friends and family – who will pray for us and continue to love and support us through the storm. But what do we do when there are people clamoring for our attention and needing us to serve them well even in the midst of this storm we are battling?
Are we willing to be used by God even in the wake of our own storm?
I want to be like Jesus and have compassion on them. In the wake of the storm of John’s beheading, Jesus had compassion on the large crowd that followed Him, and He healed the sick among them. Evening approached, and Jesus’ disciples wanted to send the crowd away so “they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food (Matthew 14:15, NIV).”
But Jesus didn’t want to send the crowds away. He had a miracle in the wings. He told the disciples to feed the crowd of 5,000 plus people. All the disciples had, though, were five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus had the disciples bring Him the food; He blessed it and gave it back to the disciples. The disciples began to pass out the bread. Every single person ate until they were satisfied, and yet there were still twelve baskets of broken bread leftover.
Jesus performed one of His greatest miracles that we know of in the wake of the storm of hearing about John’s death.
Right after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus sends the disciples ahead of Him, dismisses the crowd, and sets out to have some time alone to pray. The disciples get into the boat and head to Capernaum, on the other side of the lake. While the disciples traveled across the lake, they faced a storm of waves buffeting against the boat. “A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough (John 6:18, NIV).” Many of the disciples were seasoned fisherman. They were probably used to battling storms on the sea. They were fighting against the storm in their own strength. Then they saw Jesus, and they were terrified. They thought Jesus was ghost because He was walking on the water to catch up to the boat. Peter, the one disciple brave enough to try, steps out of the boat and begins to walk on the water towards Jesus. As long as he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, he was fine. But as soon as Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on the wind, he began to sink. He cried out to Jesus, who immediately saved him.
What can we learn from the stories found in Matthew 14?
- Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus at all times.
- Don’t try to face the storms of life in our own strength.
- Let God use us and work through us to serve others well and point people to Him in the midst of the storm we are facing. Who knows but that God doesn’t have a miracle waiting on the edge of the storm?
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV).”