“And straightway Jesus constrained [compelled] His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea…And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased” (Matthew 14:22-25,32).
Jesus had just performed the miracle of feeding more than five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fishes. This was one of many tests of trusting God for His disciples (and the people as well). And now God was planning another test for them concerning faith and obedience. Therefore, Jesus insisted that the disciples get into the ship and sail without Him to the other side. Then, after sending all the people that had just been fed on their way, He quietly slipped up into the mountain where He could get alone in prayer to His Father without anyone knowing.
Take note here how Jesus urged His disciples to cross the sea alone. He knew that something needed to happen that would test their resolve. But this would not be possible if He was with them.
They had to go on without Him. Yet, the key word here is that He compelled them to go—it wasn’t a mild suggestion. He left no option open to do something else. If He had, they might have sensed that the waters and sky were not normal and refused to leave. They might even have stayed at the shore and waited until He finished praying.
Jesus had to push them on out into the waters so He could have an opportunity to demonstrate His faithfulness in their time of need. Not long after they left the shore, the winds blew hard against them and the waves increased in height and frequency. As their boat was drawn farther out from their destination, it was very likely that fear and consternation developed in everyone on board. They were quickly losing control of the situation, but no one was around to help.
Yet all hope was not lost. Sometime between three and six in the morning, Jesus came toward them, actually walking on the water, moving in their direction!
Then, after Jesus had “…come into the ship, the wind ceased.” Jesus surely could have calmed the waters long before this point. Or He could have waited until they capsized and were struggling to stay afloat. Actually, in Mark 6:48 we find out what did happen—Jesus “would have passed by them”!
The point is, Jesus compelled them in the first place to enter into the ship and go. When the Lord presses us to go, we need to obey, even if it later seems hopeless.
It is actually reassuring when He compels us to enter in and go forth. He already knows what lies ahead, and He is not going to leave us alone. The Lord does this because He wants us to learn to trust in Him, not in ourselves. The disciples could have become so focused on their desperate situation that Jesus could have passed right by them unnoticed. It was only after they noticed Him and asked Him to come into the ship that calm ensued.
Where are you right now?—still waiting on the shore with uncertainty, even though He has already compelled you to get into the ship and travel to the other side?
Don’t contemplate the situation and agonize over it; do as He has commanded—go!
Maybe you have obeyed Him and are now struggling against the wind and waves, feeling very much alone and ready to give up. Remember that Jesus was the One who sent you forth alone in the first place, and, just as He did with the disciples, He will arrive at just the right time and tell you, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (Matthew 14:27).
[Image credit:Henry Ossawa Tanner [Public domain]]