Jesus Walks on the WaterMatthew 14:22-33 (NRSV)
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land,[d] for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Hey, thanks for taking the time to watch this week’s Oldtown Short. There is a sweet man at our church; his name is Steve, and he loves the band, Journey. During in-person worship, whenever he would hear someone say the word “journey,”–even if it was me from the pulpit–he would quickly reply, “Don’t stop believing!”
Sometimes, it’s hard to just keep believing, isn’t it? I wonder. Have you ever tried to do something and when it didn’t work you gave up? Or have you ever stopped believing something because it didn’t go the way you planned?
There is a story about a group of friends out in a boat. They are traveling to another city to meet up with someone, and mid-journey, a storm comes. The winds blow and the waves crash over the bow. The friends do all that they can to keep one another safe and their boat afloat. Well, they end up spending all night amid the waves, and by morning, they are exhausted and frustrated but they are alive, and the boat is still intact.
In the mist of morning, just as the sun is just beginning to rise, one of them spots something in the far distance coming across the water towards them. Is it another boat that had weather the storm along with them? Is it a fisherman out for his early morning catch? Or is it some kind of a mirage or sea creature?
As the figure comes closer, they realize that it’s not a boat, or a fisherman, or a sea creature; it’s a person! A person walking on the water? How could that be? Well, the friends, can’t believe what they’re seeing, and because they don’t understand, they become afraid. They decide it must be a ghost! But suddenly, the man walking on the water calls to them saying, “Don’t worry guys, it’s me!”
Peter, one of the friends in the boat, realizes that it is Jesus, the one they were going to meet. You see they had been following Jesus and Jesus had been teaching them. They had seen him do some amazing things, so somewhere deep in his heart, Peter believes and knows that it is him. Peter, calls out to Jesus saying, “Hey, if that’s really you, let me come out and walk on the water with you.” Now, I don’t know about you but that wouldn’t have been my choice! But Jesus says to Peter, “Come on out!”
Now, Peter has enough faith to trust what his eyes are seeing, and though he’s just as tired and frustrated as everyone else, he looks past his fear and exhaustion to the Jesus he knows. He’s seen Jesus do amazing things before. So when Jesus says “Come,” Peter steps out of the boat, onto the water, and begins to walk to Jesus.
Now, we all know what happens next, right? This is the part, everyone loves to talk about. Peter fails. He looks away. He gets distracted. He gets nervous, and he starts to sink. The truth is, we are all human and it happens to all of us!
Friends, if you try to live a faithful life, even if you trust God enough to step out of the boat, sometimes you will get distracted. Sometimes you will get nervous. And sometimes you will even start to sink. It will happen. But when it happens, remember to be like Peter. Because Peter doesn’t give up and swim back to the boat. No, he reaches forward, saying, “Jesus, help me!” And then, at that moment, even his failure becomes an act of faith.
What happens to Peter in today’s story isn’t a warning about what happens when you lack faith. On the contrary, Peter is an example of what it looks like to have abundant faith. Why do you think Jesus eventually said that Peter was the rock? Because he was an example of what real faith looks like.
Now the truth is Peter tends to get a bad rap in this story, being labeled as the one who wavered in his faith. But I bet Peter remembered that day for the rest of his life as the day he walked on water.
Friends, please, don’t stop believing, but also remember that sometimes having faith means stepping out of your comfort zone and out of the boat that you’re in!