The disciples, with their belly still filled with the bread and fish they had eaten among the five thousand, got into a boat. Jesus would meet them on the other side. No doubt the disciples were talking about the miracle they had just witnessed. Five loaves of bread and two fish for more than five thousand people! And they got to pass it around among the hungry! And, Oh, how it tasted… like heaven for sure! The conversation was lively until darkness came. The waves roared and hit them so strong that their laughter was washed away. The winds were against them and as they clung to their boat they let their peace go.
Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, who is “mightier than the waves of the sea, and the thunder of many waters,” (1) came to them, walking on the sea. They had read the book of Job, they knew that only God can tread on the waves of the sea (2). So, when they saw him they were not only terrified, but very terrified. (3) “It is a ghost!” they cried out.
The waves had not ceased to hit them. The winds kept lifting the waves higher. And Jesus was not asleep. He was not in the boat. He was walking on water watching the scene and approaching it slowly. This time, however, He did not speak to the waves and the winds, but to His men:”Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid!”(4) His voice had to be louder than the roaring of the winds for them to hear Him.
Peter put his hands around his mouth and yelled through the storm, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (5)
And there he was, a man walking on the Word of God. Had anyone seen such a faith before? Such an obedience? Not a moment to hesitate. Just one word was enough for Peter. But all of a sudden his fears were more real than Jesus’s Spoken Word, and being afraid he started to sink.
But we must the stop the story here for a minute. Why, you say? Because we are -again- judging Peter too hard and too soon. (“Oh, Peter, just keep your eyes on Jesus, take him at His Word! Stop looking at the circumstances around you. You know better, Peter!”)
Put that Bible-Story narrative aside and keep reading. The big lesson is coming.
When Peter “saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”(6)
Who among us has never been afraid? Who never looks at the winds and the waves and trembles? Who among us hasn’t taken one step of obedience (because that is what steps of faith actually are, right?) and then starts sinking just thinking about taking the next?
We know the answer, we all are like Peter that way. Imitating Peter in that is not hard, it comes pretty natural for us. We all freak out and are quick to doubt the Word of the Lord, the Word that the Almighty speaks to us in the midst of the storm.
But we must learn to imitate Peter in the next thing he does, or we will sink.
As Peter began to sink, as his faith began to fail, he didn’t get mad at God for commanding him to come to Him (Why did you ask me to come if you knew I would sink, God?). Peter didn’t start making excuses. He didn’t even try to save himself. He knew, as he was starting to drown, what he had to do. Most of his faith had sank to the bottom of the ocean. He was thinking of nothing but the storm, that was all he could see now, but in his darkness, he found enough faith in his heart to cry out, “Lord, save me!” And that was enough.
“Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”(7)
Immediately Jesus took hold of Peter. Jesus had called him to come, he would not let him drown.
When Peter cried to the Lord the first time, Jesus heard his loud voice through the storm and answered him. This time, Peter’s voice was a faint and desperate cry, but it didn’t make a difference in the ears of the Lord. He heard him again, and again answered him.
In Jesus’ reproof, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” there is comfort for us. He knows that our faith weavers, that it is small, and yet He still comes when we call on to Him. What a comfort to know that Jesus knows that our faith is small and our weaknesses are big! Because He knows our frame and is compassionate toward us, He is interceding for you and me even now.(8)
“And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”(9)
Sometimes this happens. Well, actually many times this is the way things happen: The Lord will carry us to safety only after we have been close to seeing our end, thinking that we would for sure drown. Many times he calms the winds and the waves only after we stop having faith in our own faith to keep obeying.
When the only prayer we can mutter is, “Lord, save me!” we must remember that our Savior is already there, closer than we think, ready to take us to a safe place in His arms.
The disciples saw the whole scene. And we know that in God’s story no one gets the role of spectator, so their part came and they did the right thing, “they worshiped Jesus, saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”
We might be going through something similar than what Peter went through in this story. Friends and family are watching us. But you know what? It is not our super strong faith that will draw them to fall on their knees before Jesus, no, it is the mercy and goodness of the Lord that will draw them to their knees.
It is not about trying to impress others with our radical obedience, our big faith that takes us to walk on water. It is neither about our weaknesses or our lack of faith when storms come. It is always about the faithfulness and goodness of our God who calls us to obey him and sustains us as we learn to obey Him.
Peter, who almost drowned, years later wrote:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”(10)
He learned the lesson well so that we can learn it too. May our faith, big or small, after being tested be found to result in praise and glory and honor for Jesus.
Under His sun and by His grace,
(1) Psalm 93
(2) Job 9
(3) Mt. 14:26 ESV
(4) Mt. 14:28 ESV
(5) Mt. 14: 28-33 ESV
(8) Hebrews 4 and 11
(9) Mt. 14:32-33
(10) 1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV