Miracle On Top of Miracle

Jesus Walks on Water – Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. [23] And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, [24] but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. [25] And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. [26] 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. [27] But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

[28] And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” [29] He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. [30] But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” [31] Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” [32] And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. [33] And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (ESV)

This story of Jesus walking on the water is a miracle on top of another miracle. Not only did Jesus walk on water, he gave Peter the ability to do the same. It is one thing to be able to do something great or miraculous, quite another to have the ability to transfer that miraculous power to someone else.

Matthew places this miracle story right after he records another of Jesus’ miracles, the feeding of the 5,000 (14:13-21). Jesus had taught the people, healed the people and then miraculously fed the people. Now it was time to move on.

So Jesus made the disciples get into the boat to cross over to the other side of the lake, then he dismissed the crowd and went up on a mountain to pray.

In the fourth watch of the night, basically the middle of the night, he comes walking towards them on the water. They thought it was ghost but Jesus assured them that it was he.

Some propose that Jesus never had a real body so to “walk” on water was no problem. This is not at all what Scripture says. He had a real body that could easily have slipped under the water just as any other body would.

Then, clever, quick-thinking Peter thought of a way to see if it was really Jesus. He said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

And here is where the other miracle takes place. Jesus immediately transfers to Peter the ability to walk on the water.

But as we see, because of his lack of faith, Peter is not able to hold on to that ability to walk on water. Jesus has to reach out and save him.

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This “double miracle” raises a couple of questions.

Is there any supernatural power that Jesus transfers to us today, and if so, is it possible for us to lose that power through unbelief as Peter lost his ability to walk on water?

The answers are yes and yes.

Yes, still today we have a supernatural power that Jesus has given us. We have the authority to forgive sins. And we are not just talking forgiving each other, we are talking forgiveness that is valid before our Father in heaven. Whole and total forgiveness.

Just as surely as Jesus gave Peter the ability to get out of that boat and walk on water, Jesus has given us the divine, supernatural authority to forgive sins.

Jesus himself says this on the day he rose from the dead as recorded in John 20:

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (ESV)

On the basis of this passage Martin Luther writes in the Small Catechism:

The Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to his church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.

This forgiveness is the forgiveness that Jesus won for us by his death on the cross. It is held corporately, never by just an individual. Congregations call pastors to exercise this authority on their behalf.

Paul explains this in Romans 10:14-15

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? [15] And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (ESV)

As Paul points out, someone needs to preach and the preacher needs to be sent. The congregation is the sending body. The preacher preachers on behalf of the congregation which has the authority to forgive sins.

Can we lose this authority as Peter lost the ability to walk on water? Yes we can.

Satan throws up all kinds of storms to get us to take our eyes off of Jesus.

If storms don’t work he tries blessings. He showers us with earthly blessings to get us distracted from Jesus. He also tries to keep us cowering in the boat, never willing to venture out and share this good news with others.

But when we start to sink in preaching the forgiveness of sins, Jesus intervenes. Because He died to purchase our forgiveness, He will always intervene when the power of the forgiveness he earned for us is threatened.

It’s one thing to be able to do a miracle, quite another to be able to transfer miraculous power to someone else. Jesus has the power to forgive sins and has transferred that power to us. We are not to cower in fear with this power but boldly proclaim it to the world.

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