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Aug 11

Rediscovering the Familiar

Every morning my wife reads our two children a story from their children’s Bible. When we were sitting at the dinner table this evening, Katie (my wife) asked the kids to tell me about the story they read. When I heard them say the words “Jesus,” “water,” and “storm”—I hoped it would be about Matthew 14:22-36 so I could hear their thoughts on what this week’s sermon will be about. However, they read the story of Jesus sleeping on the boat and then calming a storm around Him and the disciples. After brief moment of disappointment that it wasn’t what I’d hoped, I remembered that there is nothing stopping me from reading them a second story from the Bible in one day. So I did.

It was fun getting their reactions. My son’s eyes got wide when he heard Jesus and Peter walked on water. He was also gracious towards Peter’s lack of faith and subsequent sinking because, as he said, “the water’s deep.” When I asked my son if he would have sank too, he casually answered in the affirmative as if it were the only possible answer.

It’s easy to forget, if you’ve been around the Bible for a long time, that the miracles in the Bibles were not normal. Five Thousand People didn’t eat their fill from three loaves of bread and two fish. Storms didn’t stop at the sound of somebody’s voice. Grown men didn’t walk on water—they sank.

Ironically, familiarity can blind us to the obvious. Rather than reading the accounts given in the Bible with the awe and wonder they should rightly inspire in us—we can glaze over them. We begin to treat these stories as the new normal, forget their significance, and become placid.

So should we read them less frequently so we’re not too familiar with them? By no means! That certainly wasn’t Jesus’ take on the Old Testament scriptures, nor was it the early church’s take on all scripture.

Instead, the more familiar with scripture we become, the more we should spend time contemplating its significance. Precisely because familiarity can blind us to the obvious, we should think about it more. Not as an end to itself, but because how we understand and interact with scripture dramatically influences how we view and respond to the God it points to. So today, here are several areas for you to think about as you dig deeper into Matthew 14:22-36…no matter how familiar you are with the text:

  1. Peter gets chastised for having little faith, but before you’re too harsh on him—where were the other eleven disciples?
  2. The sea was the place of chaos and destruction in the eyes of the first century reader of this Gospel. What would they realize about Jesus when they see He has authority over the sea?
  3. This isn’t the first time in Matthew that Jesus talks about faith. Read several chapters on either side (or all of Matthew!) and notice the theme of faith. Take note of how the ‘insiders’ and those closest to Jesus show a remarkable lack of faith, while ‘outsiders’ show “great faith.”
  4. When Jesus identifies himself in response to the disciples fear in 14:27, you could just as correctly translate it “it is I” as you could “I am.” The latter is how God referred to Himself in the burning bush when Moses asked God who he should say sent him (Exodus 3:14). Coupled with Jesus showing authority over the sea & the disciples response to Him when He enters the boat—Matthew foreshadows what Jesus’ followers would soon learn about His identity: He’s quite literally Immanuel—”God with us.”

There’s much to learn in scripture. Whether you’re familiar with it or not—take the time to meditate on what’s being said, the context it’s said in, and the conclusions the author intends his readers to draw. Understanding the God that all of scripture points to is worth the time and effort. Don’t let familiarity rob you of the joy of discovery.

For Further Conversation:

1.) Think of some famous daredevils in history: Houdini, Evel Knievel, Roald Amundson, Neil Armstrong, Lewis & Clark. Which of these (or others not named here!) resonate with you the most? Why?

 

2.) When you hear of someone taking risks for their business, do you root for success or secretly hope they’ll get their comeuppance?

 

3.) Recall the biggest risk you ever took. Did it have to do with finances or relationship or even physical danger? What was the outcome

 

4.) The message suggested that the disciples were more scared of Jesus walking on the water than they were of the stor causing the water to roil. Do you agree? Why or why not?

 

5.) Why do you think Matthew goes to such lengths to connect Peter will so many movement verbs? What kind of picture emerges of Peter from this story?

 

6.) In what ways have you “stayed in the boat” in your life of faith? What has been the result of your spiritual timidity?

 

7.) What is one adventure you will take this week to increase your proximity to and intimacy with Jesus?

 

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