I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Jesus walking on the water to meet His disciples who had gone ahead of Him to their boat. While amazing and startling to His disciples, I’m not talking about His action of walking on water. Jesus on the water is referenced three times in the New Testament, but I especially like Matthew’s account of that day’s events (Matthew 14:22-33).
I’m not surprised by Jesus walking on water – He is the Son of God. He can turn water into wine, then turn the wine into a beautiful Jell-O mold and walk on that if He really wanted. What amazes me is Peter walking on the water to meet Jesus.
Jesus himself often taught in parables, and Matthew – possibly unknowingly – gave us a parable about ourselves by presenting his version of this miracle, which includes Peter walking on the water.
In all three accounts (the others: Mark 6:45-51 and Jon 6:15-21), Jesus says the same thing when His disciples think He is a ghost. He says, “It is I. Don’t be afraid,” – (New International Version).
In Matthew, Peter replies, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water,” – 14:28.
And Jesus says, “Come.”
Verse 29 continues, “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”
Often, I have known that God wants me to use the gifts He has given me to bring people closer to Him. However, I also hear my voice in my head saying, “Who am I?” And, “Who am I to tell people about God? Who am I to speak to God’s people?” And of course, my favorite, “Who am I to attempt to step out of a seemingly safe boat to tread the water for Christ?”
The answer to all of those questions is the same: I am a saved, sealed and soon to be delivered child of the Great ‘I Am!”
I trust Him as my savior! I trust that He has cleansed and forgotten my sins! But it’s a scary thing to step out of our personal safety zones to tell others about how He saved us. Scared to tell them that He has cleansed our sins, and can do the same for whomever we are talking to in that moment.
As Christians, we often go to church, sit in our safe pews, and jingle our keys when it’s close to noon or even during the Invitation.
What is an “Invitation?” It’s the time of our worship services in which the speaker gives us – as individuals – the opportunity to come up front, pray and allow God to get closer to us, individually. More importantly, it’s the time to accept that we need to be closer to Him. We need Him.
Sometimes, and to some of us, it’s just the next cue that lets us know we’re a little closer to lunchtime at Shoney’s, KFC, or any one of the many after-church hotspot eateries.
But spiritually, it is much more than that. It is an opportunity to submit to God’s will and spirit. It is our opportunity to become Peter. Why would you step out from a seemingly safe pew, putting it all out there for the rest of the church to see?
Simple! Because Jesus says, “Come!”
It is difficult for us, as imperfect humans, to step out onto something that we are told cannot hold us up – faith – uh, I mean water. Our mind and its knowledge of things on Earth keep many of us from truly giving ourselves to God, myself included sometimes. And those of us, who do dare to take that first step onto the water, or out of the pew, are amazed when He does exactly what He says He will do – keep us afloat.
Sometimes, just as Peter did, we take our eyes off of Jesus, we look down and see the choppy water and realize how far from the clearly safe boat, or seemingly safe world, we have come. Fear and doubt, tools of evil, come back into our mind, and just as Peter did, we start sinking.
I believe in Matthew’s unbeknownst parable, the water represents the safety we think we have in the world. Walking along safely in the world seems easy enough for all of us until that very water becomes unsteady – when the wind picks up and the water we are treading becomes violent. The wind, and again the water, represents just how unstable our world, and its vessels – or boats – are. Jesus on the water, to me, represents His Supreme ability to stand over the choppiness and insecurity of our world. It’s His desire to show us that safety in Him is far stronger than the safety we find in our manmade “boats.” When He says, “Come,” that simply shows God’s desire for all of us to come to Him. He wants all of us to be near to His side, all of the time. But our sin, and love of sin, gets in the way of that.
My favorite part of this chronicle comes after Peter cried out, “Lord, Save Me!”
Verse 31 reads, “Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.”
It doesn’t say, “After five minutes of Peter flailing his arms trying to swim on his own.”
It doesn’t read, “When Peter grabbed Jesus’ leg and pulled himself up.”
And it certainly doesn’t say, “Eventually, Jesus….”
The verse recounts what many sinners have experienced when they have sought God’s forgiveness. “Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him,” the Bible states. “You of little faith,” He said. “Why did you doubt?”
So why did Peter doubt? Peter, a disciple of Jesus, an eyewitness of many miracles, has doubts? And again — as I have written about him in the last several writings — Peter, one who had left everything to follow Jesus during His ministry here on Earth. He doubted?
Who is Peter to call himself a follower of Jesus, a disciple of Christ, to doubt Him? Again, who am I to help someone to know God when I have had doubts myself? The answer was staring me in the face. The final conundrum of Matthew’s riddle of a parable:
I am Peter!
Peter is me. Peter is you. Peter is all of us who have stepped out on faith – on the unsure, unstable, wavy, choppy, violent waters of faith. It isn’t unsure or unstable to Jesus. The water isn’t choppy or violent to God. He is still standing there with His hand stretched out to us. He is still standing at the altar waiting for us to step out of the safety of our wooden and padded pews.
Maybe some of you reading aren’t in a padded pew regularly, or ever. Maybe you’re sitting at a restaurant booth or your living room couch. Maybe you’re in front of a computer or glancing over someone’s shoulder at their newspaper.
Wherever you are sitting, no matter where you are in your life, Jesus is in the same place. He is standing there, on the water saying, “Come!”
And if we answer His call and keep our eyes, our minds and our hearts focused on Him, we will never even notice the harsh waves beneath our feet.
It’s not that any of us should doubt after experiencing Him changing our own lives and after seeing Him change the lives of others around us. But should we falter, He’s waiting at the altar. And when we call out to Him, “Lord, Save Me,” He is there,
“Immediately!”