REFERENCE SCRIPTURE: MATTHEW 14:22-33
As the dawn approaches, Jesus goes out to the disciples walking on the water. With a loud resonating voice so he could be heard over the wind, Jesus speaks to the men with God-like overtones. His words echo those that Moses heard in the desert. “It is I” or literally, “I am.” The reaction of the disciples is not unusual given the circumstances. They were tired from the lack of sleep and a night of hard labor. They had not eaten for several hours.
They were quite a distance from shore. With the strong wind, they had not expected to see anyone else on the water even in a boat much less walking on the water. They were understandably mystified and frighten at the sight of a man standing on the water. They mistook him for a ghost but he quickly reassured them with the most frequent command in the Bible, “Fear not!”
How much like the disciples, are we? We labor for what seems like an eternity but when God finally comes to us, we fail to recognize him. He may not walk on water but his appearances are no less startling and mystifying. Circumstances fall into place, a person comes by for a visit or offers to help us during a time of crisis.
THE STEP OF FAITH
Peter responds to the words of our Lord by asking permission to come to Jesus. I have often wondered about Peter’s reasons for asking to walk on the water. Was he testing Jesus? Did he want to verify if this was really his Lord? Was he trying to prove the miracle to himself? Was he driven by his ego, to be the only disciple who would walk on the water? The point of the story is that Peter took the step of faith.
At some point in our lives, we have to leave behind the safety and security of the boat. We have to step into the realm of the unknown. We must be willing to trust our life to our Lord’s care. That is a difficult step. We spend our lives building a security net around us. We work hard to insulate ourselves from the danger of failure, the threat of the unknown and the terror of uncertainty. We get pretty comfortable in our boats. They are not fancy but we have everything we need.
Then God asks us to step out of our boat. To go and talk to a friend about their faith; to volunteer for a committee that requires us to do something we have never done before; to serve as a missionary. We do not feel prepared. We are not good public speakers. We do not have any teaching gifts. We do not know what to say to someone who is dying. What water is God expecting you to walk on?
Peter may not have leaped over the vessel but he took a certain step nonetheless and in that step, he captured of the essence of faith. Faith is belief expressed in action. It is trust declared in danger. It is courage revealed in the presence of the unknown. Peter, for one brief moment, expressed his belief, declared his trust and revealed his courage and he walked on the water.
THE WIND ON HIS FACE
After a few steps, Peter catches the wind in his face. It is said, “it is one thing to experience faith in a flash of enthusiasm, and quite a different thing to keep our courage seaworthy amidst the ups and downs of daily living.” Peter’s faith is now mixed with fear and “wondering whether Jesus or the raging wind will finally prevail, he begins to sink beneath the waters.”
Even in his faltering faith, Peter teaches us a valuable lesson-Jesus continues to save. He pulls Peter to safety and the two join the others in the boat. The disciples are startled by the events and in that moment they “discover that they are not at the mercy of the angry sea; they are in the mercy of their compassionate Savior.” Matthew tells us, “those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.'”
FROM DOUBT TO FAITH
Peter learned a difficult and pain lesson of faith. Faith requires risk and risk exposes us. It strips us of all the artificial camouflage behind which we try to hide. We are forced to stand with Peter and the other disciples to hear Jesus words, “You of little faith, why did your doubt?”
And so like the disciples we must learn to move from doubt to faith by:
Resisting the temptations of the world
Laboring against the wind
Seeing God when he comes
Taking the step of faith