Operation Overboard (Matthew 14:22-33, Hebrews 11:1)

By | August 5, 2012

Not Just Another Fish Story: #3
What Can We Learn From The Great Fish Stories In The Bible?

Matthew 14:22-33 (NRSV)
[22] Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.   
[23] And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,   
[24] but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.   
[25] And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea.   
[26] But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.   
[27] But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”   
[28] 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, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.   
[30] But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”   
[31] Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”   
[32] 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.”   


      As you can tell, this past week was Vacation Bible School and the kids had a great time, Mel, Owen and all the volunteers did a great job. Would you please thank them with me because it takes a lot of commitment and a lot of time from a lot of people to put on Vacation Bible School.

     Now, if you remember our first passage of Scripture from Matthew: Jesus had gone up the mountain to pray, and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in their boat when a sudden storm blew in. What we would call it a Blue Norther. This one was really bad but in the middle of the storm, here comes Jesus, walking across the waves like he was out for an evening stroll. 

     Well, they thought he was a ghost. Jesus assured them it was him and he had everything under control but Peter, being Peter, had to stick his foot in his mouth. “If it’s really you, Lord, then make me come to you by walking on the water.” Jesus response was, “Well, come on.”

     So, Peter steps out of the boat and starts walking on the water toward Jesus. He’s probably thinking, well look at me. But then he notices the storm and starts to sink. Jesus has to reach out, rescue him and take him to the boat.

     Strictly speaking, this isn’t a fish story unless you count Jesus fishing Peter out of the water when he started to sink. You could also say that because Peter made the effort and started to sink that he was the first Diver, who Dove Deep into what it means to be a follower of Jesus, which is what the kids we doing this past week in VBS. Like the song they song, they were and hopefully will continue diving deep so they can serve Jesus. Because we all want to God Deep With God.

      Their key Scripture for the week was Hebrews 11:1 from the CEB

     [1] Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.

      No one could see the faith it took for Peter to step out of the boat and on to the water. The fact that his faith didn’t last very long is beside the point, he had enough faith to try and even to take a couple of steps as proof of what we couldn’t see. He faith just wasn’t strong enough to sustain him for very long.

     This past week, the kids were given some valuable lessons on how to Dive Deep into relationship with God so we can develop a faith that will sustain us and help us grow.


      A. We learned that the first step to a deep faith is to Depend On God. The key verse of Scripture for Monday was Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, don’t rely on your own intelligence.” The application came through story of Noah and how he depended on God.

     I we are going to live a life of faith, if we are striving to live as Jesus taught, then the first thing we have to do is Depend solely on God.

      There’s an old joke about guy who was standing at edge of cliff admiring the view when suddenly he slips and falls over the edge. Luckily he grabs hold of a root sticking out of the side of the cliff, it stops his fall but he’s hanging there about 100 feet from the ground. Of course he starts hollering, “Help. Somebody help. Is there anybody up there. Help.” And then he prays. “Dear God, please help me.”

     Suddenly he hears a deep booming voice from the heavens say, “I’m right here, my Son. I’ll help, what do you want me to do?”

     The guy says, “Oh, thank You, thank you. Please, save me. Save me.”

     God says, “OK, I’ll save you but you have to trust me and do what I say. Let go of the root.” 

     The guy pauses for a minute and then yells, “Is there anybody else up there?”

      B. Sometimes we’re just like that guy. We hear what God wants us to do, we know what Scripture says and how we’re called to live as disciples of Jesus but then we start looking for other answers. We turn around and look to see if there’s a better game in town. Deep down we know the answer. And it’s simple. We’re called to Depend On God.


     A. Secondly, we learned that when we Depend On God we’re challenged to Dare To Care. The key verse for this lesson was from Matthew 22:39, “You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” And it was illustrated by the Israelite servant girl in II Kings 5 who told Naaman, commander of King Aram’s army who suffered from leprosy, how he could be healed.

     Naaman followed her advice, went to Israel and talked to Elisha and then reluctantly bathed seven times in the Jordan River and was cured. All because an unnamed servant girl Dared To Care.

     Simply by caring, you and I can make a difference in the world. How many of you have seen the story about the bear cubs stuck in a dumpster in Riodosa, New Mexico. Watch what one caring couple does after they’ve heard the cubs bawling all night, with Mom outside the dumpster watching.

      B. We share the planet with all of God’s creatures as well as our neighbors and we’ve been made stewards of all the God has created. We’re even Stewards of the Love, the Grace and the Forgiveness that we’ve received and experience through Christ. We’re called to share them and pass them on to everyone around us. So, Dare To Care.


      A. On the third day we were all challenged to Claim JESUS. Our key Scripture was John 3:16.

     “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” This passage was brought to life through the story of Jesus’ cousin John, commonly known as John the Baptist.

     John was a popular preacher. He had lots of followers. Lots of people came down to the river to hear him preach. People were renewing their relationship with God left and right. Then along comes Jesus and John’s audience begins to dwindle. John’s disciples are loyal to John and they get upset when they see his popularity waning. But John basically tells them to get over themselves, this is why he came, to point the way to the Messiah. And John believed Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God; the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. John was the first to Claim JESUS. He said he had to decrease so Jesus could increase. And that’s exactly how he lived. Everything he did pointed to Jesus, not himself.

     B. We Claim JESUS by striving to live as Jesus taught. It’s not enough to believe in Jesus, a lot of people believe IN Jesus they just don’t believe Jesus. Or they don’t LIVE what they say they believe.

     These people remind me of the guy who went to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist asked, “How can I help you? What seems to be your problem?”

     The patient said, “Well, it’s like this, I think I’m a coke machine.”

     “Well, that’s rather unusual,” said the doctor, “but I think I can help.”

     That began a series of sessions that went on for over six months. Each time the psychiatrist got more and more frustrated. Nothing he did seemed to be working. They guy would just sit there with a blank look on his face and shrug. Finally, one day, the psychiatrist had had enough. He reached in his pocket, pulled out four quarters, walked over and shoved them in the guy’s ear, then popped him in the nose and said, “If you’re a coke machine, then give me a coke.”

     Once the guy’s eyes quit watering and he stopped his bloody nose, he looked at the psychiatrist and said, “Well, that’s the other thing, doc. I’m broken. I’m out of order.”

     When we Claim JESUS, it means, like John, we have decrease, so Jesus can increase.    


      That leads us to the fourth lesson Choose To Follow. The Scripture focus for the day was from Joshua 24:15 “Choose today whom you will serve…. But my family and I will serve the Lord.”  That was the challenge Joshua made to the people of Israel after they had occupied the promised land. He reminded them God had been faithful and challenged them to put aside all their old beliefs and follow only God. Jesus did much the same thing with the Disciples. He challenged people to Follow Him.

     Just like Jack asked the kids to play follow the leader with him during the Children’s Time last week, God asks us to Follow the Leader, too. And Jesus is the leader we’re asked to follow. But here’s the thing about God, God doesn’t force us to follow. God leaves that choice up to us.

     We get to choose whether to follow or not. God could force us to follow but instead God gives us the choice and we get to choose. But we have to choose wisely, one choice leads to life eternal the other . . . well, it doesn’t. To quote Joshua “Choose today whom you will serve…. But my family and I will serve the Lord.”


      In conclusion, Yes, Jesus had to rescue Peter but as we all know, Peter finally got it. He stumbled several times along the way but he got it. He was able to Depend On God, Dare To Care, Claim Jesus and Choose to Follow and we’re here in part because of Peter’s faithfulness.

     I’ve asked that the kids come back up and help us with our conclusion and the challenge.

      We’re all invited to be a part of Operation Overboard. We’re all called to be Divers and to Go Deep with God by Depending on God, Daring to Care, Claiming Jesus and Choosing to Follow. When we do all these then we can fulfill the great commission, the greatest Fish Story of all, Fishing For People.

     Dive Deep: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.