Matthew 14:22-33

An idiom is a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.  For instance, when we say it’s “raining cats and dogs,” cats or dogs are not literally falling from the sky, but rather we’re saying that’s it’s raining heavily.

Here are some well-known idioms:

“A hot potato” = An issue which many people are talking about and which is usually disputed

“A penny for your thoughts” = A way of asking what someone is thinking

“Actions speak louder than words” = People’s intentions can be judged better by what they do than what they say.

“Add insult to injury” = To further a loss with mockery or indignity; to worsen an unfavorable situation.

“Back to the drawing board” = When an attempt fails and it’s time to start all over.

What are some other well-known idioms?

The text for today is the familiar story of Jesus walking on the water. But before we get into the story,      we should go over some background details. Backing up a little bit in Matthew’s telling of the story, King Herod has just had Jesus’ friend and confidant John the Baptist beheaded. Grieving from the loss, Jesus left for some time alone, yet the crowds of people followed him anyway. Despite his own grief and turmoil, Jesus had compassion on the people, caring for their ailments and feeding them—specifically in the well-known feeding of the 5,000.

After all this, Jesus really needed some time to himself, so he sent the disciples to journey on ahead of him           and he headed up a hillside for some time in prayer. The disciples meanwhile had ventured out in the middle of the night when a storm arose on the lake.  Due to the intensity of the storm, the disciples were unable to make it to the other side and were instead being tossed about by the wind and the waves. Early the next morning he finds the disciples far out to sea, struggling in the boat. Perhaps sensing their difficulty, or maybe just wanting to go out and take a stroll, Jesus comes walking out to them on the water, walking through the wind and the waves, parting the storm.

The disciples saw Jesus but were fearful, thinking he was some kind of ghost. Responding to their fears, Jesus responded, “take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered Jesus and said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come,” so Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water,   and came toward Jesus.

I want to stop here for a moment.

It’s worth noting what Peter said to Jesus. “If it’s really you, tell me to take a risk in faith.”  Peter knew that only Jesus

would ask him to step out of his comfort zone of the boat and into the risk of the wind and waves. Peter knew that the call to discipleship, to take risks, was unique to Jesus.[1]

We know what happens next. Peter takes his eyes off Jesus, sees the wind and the waves, becomes fearful, and begins to sink, yet Jesus rescues him before it’s too late.

There are three points I’d like us to take away from this passage.

First, is that Jesus asks us to stop being “afraid of our own shadow.”

What does that idiom mean? Right! Jesus wants us to let go of the fear that holds us back. I said it once and I’ll say it again; I believe doubt is not the opposite of faith, rather fear is. Fear can be a debilitating force, stifling our generosity, limiting our vision, holding us hostage to the present (or more accurately, holding us hostage to the past, as evidenced by last weekend in Charlottesville). God assures us that if we “get out of the boat,” Jesus will be with us, but first, we’ve got to let go of the fear that is hold us back.

The second thing I’d like us to notice from this passage is that following Jesus means “throwing caution to the wind.”

What does that mean? Exactly! Stepping out of a boat is not the safest thing to do in the middle of a stormy sea with no life vest or other safety device. The key to faith and fullness in Christ is to follow Peter’s example and be willing to step out of the comfort and security of our own “boat”       and head into the troubled waters       of the unknown, the uncertain, and the unsecure.[2]  Following Jesus means taking risks.

The third thing I’d like to point out, is that if we’re not careful, like the disciples, we can “miss something even if it hit us in the face.”  

What does that idiom mean? The disciples, because of their fear, could not recognize Jesus when he came to them in ways they never expected.[3] Jesus does this even today.  He comes walking to us, in the midst of our turmoil, and tells us “to take courage, it’s me, don’t be afraid.” Yet so often, we do not recognize him, and he walks on by… or worse—we tell him he’s no longer needed. Following Jesus means recognizing and responding to him when he calls us, even when it’s not what we would expect.

“What is so clear from this passage is that we are called to step out in faith, even in the midst of troubled waters, if we are to be faithful to the call of Christ. Stepping out in faith is not a guarantee that we will not face troubled waters or be filled with fear, but it is always accompanied by the assurance that Jesus will not abandon us, that when we need it most,” he will be there for us.[4]

If we are to call ourselves disciples,

if we are to call ourselves Jesus’ church,

we must recognize Jesus when he walks our way

in methods that we would not expect,

and we must respond to his calling

—lest Jesus simply walk on by and leave us…


Jesus comes to us in the midst of our turmoil and says, “take courage, it is, don’t be afraid.”

Are we willing to take the step of faith, to get out of the boat, and follow him into the unfamiliar?

My prayer for this church, it that we would hear Jesus calling to us       in the midst of our turmoil and respond to his call by stepping out in faith. And not miss him all together as he walks on by…


[1] Clifton Kirkpatrick, “Matthew 14:22-33: Pastoral Perspective” in Feasting on the Word, ed. David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Year A Vol. 3 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010), 334.

[2] Clifton Kirkpatrick, 336.

[3] Clifton Kirkpatrick, 334.

[4] Clifton Kirkpatrick, 334.

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