The Fourth Watch

22 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.”

– Matthew 14:22-33 (ESV)

These guys were tired. They had to be. The day just ended had been a long one. They had just learned John the Baptist had been beheaded at Herod’s command. They had participated in the miraculous feeding of five thousand hungry seekers (probably more lime 10-15,000 because the women and children weren’t counted, just the men).

Now the disciples find themselves on a boat trip Jesus Himself had commanded them to take. They were far from the shore. It’s the middle of the night (between 3:00-6:00am).

And a fierce storm hits.

We’ve all been there. We’ve had a rough day – to say the least. We’re stressed out. Life has had its way with us. And, in the middle of the night – WHAM! – the anxious thoughts begin. The “what ifs” begin swirling in our minds, crashing over our thoughts like ways on a stormy size. We feel like our boat is about to capsize.

When we’re in the depths of anxiety, it can be hard to see Jesus. Even when He is right before us, our eyes are so transfixed on the storm raging around us that we see nothing else. The disciples had, only a few hours before, played an active role in Jesus feeding a crowd that would fill a small stadium with a mere five loaves of flat bread and two fish. Still, they missed the Lord right in front of them.

But look at Peter. He recognized the voice of the Lord. He stepped out into the storm to get to Jesus.

And he nearly drowned when he took his eyes off Christ and onto the storm. Peter cried out in fear to Jesus.

And what did Jesus do? He saved Peter.


Despite the storm, Peter – and all the disciples – were safe in Jesus. They couldn’t see Him. All they could see was the danger all around them. Jesus was right there in the middle of the maelstrom, and they couldn’t see Him. These guys walked with Jesus, witnessed so many miracles, heard His wisdom and teaching, and still couldn’t recognize Him on the rough, choppy, wind churned waters. The Lord was the last place they expected to see anyone: walking not only on water, but storm swelled, wind-driven waters.

The lessons to glean here are many. But it’s three in the morning. The fourth watch. So let’s keep it simple for our anxious, stressed out, tired brains. The fact of the matter is we don’t know what we don’t know. We perceive trouble. We worry about the future. We get to a point where the stresses of life build up and crash around us to the point where we can’t tell which way is up anymore. The shore – safety – feels a long way off.

But, despite the appearance of our circumstances, Jesus is right there. In the midst of the storm, He is right there. He waves don’t swallow Him up for He is in control of it all. When Jesus says “calm”, the storm calms. And notice the storm didn’t abate as soon as the Lord grabbed Peter, but when He delivered the apostle back to the boat. Jesus carried Peter through the waves, the wind, the lashing rain, the life-threatening danger.

And Jesus does the same for us.

Do not worry. Do not doubt. Remember this: we see the storm. We perceive danger. But we are limited in our cognitive abilities. We don’t know what we don’t know. And what we do know (or think we know) is easily misinterpreted. Thankfully we have Jesus to save us. To carry us through the storm. All we need to do is cry out to God and believe.

Seek Him always. Rejoice in the Lord always! Rest in the Lord despite the rocking of the boat. The LORD is with you always, even when you can’t see Him.

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