So we read the story of Jesus walking on water found in Matthew 14. Jesus' disciples headed out in a boat while Jesus dismissed the crowds He had just been teaching. After spending time alone to pray, Jesus headed out during the fourth watch of the night to the boat full of disciples which was being beaten about by the waves far offshore. When the disciples saw him, they freaked thinking it was ghost. Jesus reassured them by saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."
Peter responded by saying, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." Jesus commanded Peter to come, and Peter stopped out of the boat and headed toward Jesus. Of course, we all know that when Peter saw the wind and waves he began to doubt and sink, but Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of Peter saying, "Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
As I listened to Jude reading this story I had a few thoughts come to mind.
1. It is of great encouragement to me that Jesus had to go off alone and pray after teaching the crowds that day. Although our ratios are slightly different (Jesus and, say 5000, compared to me and my two kids), I feel like this one sentence gives me permission to step back regularly and spiritually regroup. I confess that at times I feel overwhelmed by the "ministry" that takes place in my little corner of the world, and it is freeing to remember that the Son of God who created the world by merely speaking it into existence took a little "God and me" time. (Which is not to be confused with just "me" time, but I'll save that tangent for another post.)
2. I have absolutely no idea what time "the fourth watch of the night is". And the curiosity is nearly killing me. (Yes, I'll inevitably look it up before bed or I won't sleep for thinking about it.)
3. If Jesus had a nickel for every time He said, "Do not be afraid", He would have a hefty treasure stored up where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. Fear is something Jesus doesn't want hanging around His followers for any length of time. I have heard that the phrase "do not be afraid" is found in the Bible 365 times. Coincidence? I think not. (Well, except for the Leap years. Then it's just trivia.)
4. I love that Peter goes big. Peter could have said, "If that's you Jesus, come on over to this boat and give me a high five" or "Great! Come on in, there's plenty of room!". But who Jesus is (and the evidence we see that testifies to who He is) needs to move us. Seeing Jesus do the miraculous made Peter want to go to Jesus. I hope that is my immediate response more often as I see God doing the miraculous in my life.
5. Often our area of expertise is the area in which we trust God the least. I think I have blogged about this before, but I love this story because here you have Peter, expert fisherman, trying something completely new in his field - walking on the water. How many hours had Peter spent in a boat at night in his life up to this point? Hundreds at least. He knew about boats. He knew about water. He knew about wind and waves. Yet this was the first time he tried walking on them! But what caused him to sink? Weighing more heavily what he knew cognitively against what he knew spiritually. It's the biblical equivalent of "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" all rolled into one moment for Peter. 'Look! I am walking on water to Jesus! Oh wait, I don't walk on waves. In all my years of fishing, I have never walked on waves!' The areas in my life where I have the most faith in myself usually take up valuable space that needs to be filled instead with faith in God.
6. "Immediately" is soon enough. I love, love, love that this is my Jesus. Let's face it, if I were Jesus (and take a moment to thank our gracious heavenly Father that I am not...) I honestly would have watched Peter sputtering and coughing in the waves for a second or two while chastising him, "See? Now let this be a lesson to you to believe what I tell you. How does that doubt feel now? I'm sorry, I can't hear your faith statement for all the 'glub-glub-glubbing' you're doing down there!" And then I'd reach out my hand. Our God is so good. So good to those He loves. He immediately rescues us when our faith fails us...and Him. Jesus' question, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" helps me to hope that perhaps next time, I will not give in to doubt.
7. When Jesus gets in the boat, a dripping wet Peter in tow, the disciples response is to worship Him. I think sometimes believers start to "sissy down" who Jesus was, as if in this case He'd say, "Aw shucks, guys. Get up. Let's just hang out together. You're embarrassing me!" Jesus knew who He was. And He knows a right heart is compelled to worship Him. There have been times in my life when I have seen the marvelous works of God, and yet held back my worship. Whether I succeed in being faithful or whether I doubt, I need to remember to worship the Jesus I serve.