It was scary.
It was nothing any sane person would ever think of trying.
It wasn’t safe.
No practical, reasonable, and thoughtful man or woman would dare do it. It made absolutely no sense. Had studies existed on such an attempt, they would have been clear in their consensus.
It wasn’t prudent – not by a long shot.
You just don’t get out of a boat in the middle of the sea in the midst of a storm. And try to walk on water. Besides, it was dark.
Peter, what in the world were you thinking?
Matthew tells us about this in his gospel account; Mark omits it. At around 3:00AM, Jesus was coming toward the disciples, walking on the water. Understandably terrified by what they thought was a ghost, the men heard a familiar voice. Jesus told them three things immediately (Matthew 14: 27, NLT):
“Don’t be afraid.”
“I am here.”
Banish fear, buck up, you know who I am. That wasn’t quite enough for Peter – nor probably for his comrades, who sat soaked and cold, shivering in their sandals.
“Then Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’” (Matthew 14: 28, NLT).
Doubt often precedes faith and, by its contrast, defines it. Without comparing it to doubt, how would we know what real faith was? So Peter begins with some skepticism, as we all must. Jesus accepts Peter’s wager with one word:
Was it an invitation – or a challenge? Peter had doubts, Jesus had none. Peter didn’t know for sure what he would do, he didn’t know for sure who Jesus was and he didn’t know for sure what would happen if he got out of the boat.
Jesus knew – for sure.
We start with doubt. Then Jesus invites us to do something. He challenges us to trust him and to act on that trust. What he tells us to do may be just as improbable, just as impractical and just as fearful as asking a man to get out of a boat and start walking on water in the middle of a violent storm.
His friends looked at each other. “He’s crazy!”
He left the security of the boat, stepped out onto the troubled Sea of Galilee and began to walk toward Jesus. Peter began well and we’re proud of him. But almost immediately the winds whiplashed Peter’s faith. He had seen Jesus but now “he saw the wind boisterous” (vs.30, KJV). Circumstances, not Christ, became his focus.
“He saw the wind…”
All Peter could see was what surrounded him – “the strong wind and the waves” – and “he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he cried.” (vs. 29-30, NLT). Jesus reached out his hand and pulled Peter up. He might have smiled and gently shaken his head when he said to Peter, “You have so little faith, why did you doubt me?” (vs. 31).
Have the circumstances of your life ever undermined the moorings of your faith and cast you into a churning sea of doubt? Have you ever felt like you were sinking beneath the waves of a bleak uncertainty? Have you ever cried out to God at 3:00 AM and shouted “Save me, Lord”?
If life has ever seemed less than serene, then perhaps you can identify with Peter.
As followers of Christ, we sometimes feel as though we’re in a little boat tossed upon the wide, uncertain sea of life. The howling winds of adversity blow against us and the angry waves of circumstance break upon us. We are confused and frightened. It’s dark and we can’t see much. Then we see Jesus and he bids us “come.”
He invites us to get out of the boat. To let go of whatever we’re clutching in a false security.
In that moment we must choose between fear and trust. They argue within our soul.
Fear says, “Stay in.” Trust says, “Step out.”
Fear says, “Why?” Trust says, “Why not?”
Fear says, “I’m on my own.” Trust says, “I’m in God’s hands.”
Fear asks, “What if…?” Trust answers, “So what?”
Fear says, “Impossible!” Trust answers, “Not with God!”
Two choices. Two attitudes. Two ways of living. Jesus tells us, “Come.” And even when we do and even when we doubt and even when we look around and begin to sink, Jesus reaches out his hand of grace and lifts us up again to himself. And he smiles at us and says, “Why did you doubt me?”
Only two men in recorded history have ever walked on water. One was God, the other was a man called Peter. But before he did – and before he could – Peter had to get out of the boat. So do you.
It may be a crazy thing to do but sometimes faith is like that.
May God bless you and your family.