As mentioned in an earlier posting, I find the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water to be quite interesting. If you would like to read the first observation I made about the story, it can be found in the April, 25, 2012 column titled Jeremy’z Journey: Of course Jesus can walk on water! But who is Peter? As I read over this historical account in the gospel of Matthew, I realized another analogy that can be made from this passage that can teach us Christians a lesson.
If you would like to read in the Bible, it is Matthew 14:28-33. Here are those verses from the New International Version:
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” He said.
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!”
Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
When discussing Matthew’s unbeknownst parable in the writing earlier this year, I had no idea there would be a part two. But while studying in another book of the Bible, my mind wandered back to this passage. I think God allowed my mind to come back to one of my favorite passages in Matthew because both are about the Church.
The disciples were on the boat, possibly wondering when Jesus would meet up with them again. They were most likely discussing the miracle He had just performed before sending them out to sea. The “crowd” mentioned in the above verses was a crowd of 5,000. Jesus had just fed all of the 5,000 with a mere five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21). They were probably praising Him and God the Father for this miracle they had just witnessed.
Then Jesus came to them, walking on the water and Peter asked to come out to Him.
This account has taught me a number of things about Jesus over the years, and Peter as well. But this week, I think I have discovered a new hidden parable for this modern world in which we live.
Again I’m not a college-degreed Bible theologian, but I will present you this new lesson I feel can be learned from this. The boat could represent the Church. Not just my church, or your church or the church down the street from your house, but the Church as a whole. The church, with us believers in tow, makes its way through the choppy, buffeting waters. Again, the water represents the world around us – around the church.
We, the boat’s crew, or church members, get in our boat every Sunday, have a lesson or discussion about the Bible (Sunday school) and then come together for music, praise, prayer and a message. We feel safe in the boat. We know people in the boat. We are comfortable in the boat. There’s usually even a time period when we walk around the boat and shake hands with other crew members we haven’t seen since last week’s boating adventure. Some of us even venture to say, “Amen,” during the message the pastor is sharing, while others are brave enough to send a hand upward in praise during a spiritually touching song.
But would we ever dare to step out of the boat? We share our faith with an upstretched hand while at church, but do we have the courage to praise Him outside those walls? Would we dare say “Amen” once those doors are shut and the “day” doesn’t start with “Sun”?
So I will once again pose the question: Who is Peter? I am Peter! You are Peter! Jesus wants us all to be Peter. He wants us all to have the courage to say, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
Don’t get me wrong, God loves it when we go to church regularly, and I wouldn’t dare tell anyone not to. It is the place where we gather together to worship Him; to pray together and to learn about God together. It’s the place where we share with the crew what God is doing in our individual lives. It is also the place where we find our strength – where we can find our courage – to stand up in the world and tell someone about what God has done for us. God wants us to have that fellowship with one another.
God puts us in the lives of people who need to know Him, and man, they’re sinking in the world – or water. He wants us to help those people up out of the water, so that they can join us on our walk. He has already given us redemption, and is continually granting us His forgiveness. He just wants us to take hold of His courage and ask to come join Him on the water; to join Him on the shifting waters of the world; to join Him in the mission field all around us and all around the church.
He will give us the courage, strength and the words to speak to those around us. All we have to do is ask Him and to trust in Him, and He will guide us. He has the power to help our lost and sinking friends and family members up out of the rough waters just by sticking out His loving hand.
And just as I pointed out in the earlier writing; just as He rescued Peter; just as He rescued and saved each of us Christians; just as it states in the scripture above: He will forgive, and pull those around us up out of their sin, “Immediately!”
Father God, We pray that our lives will serve You as a constant reflection of Your love and forgiveness; Your saving grace and Your light. Please give us the strength and understanding to recognize the opportunities You give us to share Your light, love, grace and forgiveness with others. But most importantly, give us the courage to act on each-and-every one of those opportunities. We love You and thank You for everything You have blessed us with and we want to serve You by telling those in our lives who don’t know You, exactly how wonderful You have always been for all of us. Amen!