We have been talking about the importance of faith – and today’s lesson, from the account of Jesus walking on the water, brings another essential truth to our attention.
We recall the scene… the disciples were in a boat, headed to the other side of the lake, and Jesus was going to meet them on the other side. A storm was raging, it was night, and in the light of the lightning strikes, the disciples suddenly see someone walking toward them (ON the water). They were terrified. They thought it was some sort of ghost or apparition – they had no clue that it was actually Jesus.
Once they recognize that it is Jesus, Peter does something utterly amazing. He calls out to Jesus and asks to join Him out on the surface of the water. Jesus grants this request, and Peter jumps out of the boat to join Jesus.
Now, we need to stop right there… What person, in their right mind, would ever think about leaving the relative safety of a boat to enter the “unsafety” of a stormy sea. People drown in storm-driven waters. The “reasonable” place to be was in the boat, waiting for Jesus to enter it. But Peter saw Jesus – observed what He was doing – and had the audacity to want to join Him.
Now, Jesus could have stopped him. He could have told Peter, “Hey, bud, wait there in the boat – I will be right with you.” That would be the sensible thing to do. But Jesus actually encouraged Peter to do something that was impossible for human beings to do. For Jesus, this was a teaching moment that was just too valuable to disregard. The next few seconds of Peter’s life would bring more to define him than all the words Jesus had ever spoken to him.
We know the rest of the story… Peter walked on the water towards Jesus, but then he turned his gaze from Jesus to the raging wind, and Peter began to sink into the waves. In great peril, he cried out, and Jesus saved him.
At this point in the story, Jesus turns to Peter and asked a vital question: “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Peter was experiencing the miraculous – but lost sight of the Source of his miracle.
Now nearly every minister I’ve heard teach on Jesus’ words gives the impression that Jesus is severely disappointed with Peter. His words are surely a rebuke to one that always seems to start things he is unable to finish.
But they are wrong. When Jesus speaks these words, I am willing to bet that He had a smile on His Face. He is proud of Peter for having enough faith to do something that was so utterly foolish that it was unbelievably brave. Peter was actually displaying the character of a person that has God’s kind of faith – the faith that can see the impossible, and yet, press through to the experience the miraculous.
We must keep in mind, Peter was the only one who had the courage to get out of the boat to be where Jesus was. All the other disciples stayed in their human security – only Peter risked everything to discover something. At that very moment, he was the only person, who was NOT divine, to ever walk on the surface of water.
I think this adventure in faith (even such “little faith”) brought something to Peter that only faith can bring… revelation of truth!
In just a few days, Jesus would ask another question, and Peter would be the only one to respond. Because Peter was the only one to step out in faith, He KNEW Who Jesus was. Only people who are really willing to leave the safety of boats and walk on water can find the truth of what their hearts seek.
The question Jesus asked? “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter’s response was decisive and immediate: “You are the Christ; the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
It is no coincidence that revelations from heaven come to those who choose to leave human comfort and security behind – to experience the fullness of all that Jesus offers us!
Prayer focus: God, help me to define the “security” of my own human “boat” – and to have a heart that is willing to risk everything to be where Jesus is.