Thursday, September 27, 2012

Walk On Water: Where Faith and Fear Intersect

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. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn 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.”

Matthew 14:22-33

I think we read things and hear stories so many times that they can lose meaning to us and we miss little things. Or we are so familiar with a story and it's concepts and life applications that we miss out on it affecting our lives and challenging us in our current season because we already know the outcome.

But I was hit with some principles this morning reading the story of Jesus walking on the water.

First is Jesus' relationship with God. Jesus has just performed a HUGE miracle feeding 5,000+ people with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. So with the 12 leftover baskets of food Jesus sends the people on their way and sends his disciples sailing.

First off, how did the disciples think Jesus was going to get back to them?

Jesus - "Hey guys. Why don't you guys get a head start while I finish sending these people on there way. Go get the boat ready and start sailing for our next destination. I'll catch up with you guys later."

Don't you think someone would've said, "Hey Jesus, we only have one boat. How are you going to catch up with us?" Maybe it was faith, or maybe someone put up an argument that wasn't captured by the writer. We may never know.

But after that Jesus finds a secluded place for him to pray. I imagine Jesus was pretty tired. He spent the afternoon healing people and making a feast where there was no food. But Jesus still makes the time to spend with God.

So Jesus prays just about all night, giving the disciples a nice head start. The bible says they were a considerable distance from land. No big deal to Jesus. He just starts walking. And not speed running like Dash in the Incredibles ( So it's gusty and the waves are going nuts and Jesus comes out of the dark nowhere, walking on the water and scares the living daylights out of the disciples.

I can kind of imagine that. I went sailing a couple months back and it rained the entire afternoon we sailed. The water was choppy and it made steering and see difficult. I imagine a really windy night is not what one would consider ideal sailing conditions.

So picture the scene: You and some friends are out sailing one night and the wind gets pretty rough. You're already a little on edge that the boat might tip or something bad is about to happen. The sun is starting to come up. That'll be helpful. But way off in the distance you see... A person walking towards you. You're not dumb. People DO NOT walk on water. So obviously your mind goes to something much more sinister. It must be a ghost. Full blown panic sets in and the commotion and distress probably has the boat rocking and tipping even worse.

I bet Jesus chuckled for a second. Walking towards the boat and seeing the panic grip the disciples and the boat start to really rock and tip. But He regains His composure and reassures the disciples.

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Verse 27).

It doesn't say panic stop. It says Peter issued a challenge. “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Peter isn't waiting around to see if it's really Jesus. He's going to find out if it's really him.

Peter: Alright... If you really are Jesus, tell me to walk on water towards you and if I can, then I'll believe it.

And Jesus says go for it. "Come."

I like this interaction. It's faith in action. Peter isn't waiting for Jesus to come to him. He's willing step out trusting that it is Jesus and if he steps out on that boat he'll either walk or sink. If he walks, then it is Jesus and there's no reason to be afraid of what will happen. If he sinks... Well, he'll probably send that boat into an even bigger panic. The disciples don't really seem to be the type of people who might fight the guy walking on water, scaring them.

So Peter steps out... And he walks on water. The disciples' fear is put to ease that it is Jesus walking on the water and Peter is experience something no one else in human history gets to experience.

But then the saying. "Don't look down" comes into play. Peter is having an awe inspiring moment when he looks down. He takes his eyes off Jesus and starts taking in the world around him. And panic resets itself in Peter and he's goes sinking. He has this amazing experience, yet forfeits it's full reward by letting fear grab a hold of him.

Peter's issue is an issue that plagues me. Fear and the world around me, keep me from fully trusting God and have me forfeiting full blessings. Yes, Peter still got to walk on water and claim that. But his lack of faith and letting fear over take him cause him to miss out on the full reward.

Jesus' response could be the response to me on a million different things each and every day.

"Why did you doubt?"

The list of all the awesome things God has done for me is super long and grows with each and every breath. But I still doubt that God will come through at times. I did it yesterday and I'm sure I'll do it at some point today and fear will win the battle over faith and trust.

God has got this. And by this I mean everything. There's no need to fear and let fear rule us and let doubt overtake us where we are forfeiting the full rewards and blessing from God.

One last note.

After Jesus rescues Peter he get's on the boat, he calms the wind and eases all panic and threat. And that's when the disciples worship him and say "Truly you are the Son of God."

Not after the miracle of him feeding 5,000+ people with so little food. Not when Peter stepped out and walked on water. But after he had eliminated the threat and saved their lives.

Human nature hasn't changed. We worship God only after he has saved from the threat or disaster. Not on land after the miracle where we're still safe and sound. But on the boat, after the wind has died down and there's no more threat of harm.