I like to close my eyes and imagine this story and put myself in the moment, the dark night on a stormy sea where life itself is threatened. The picture is painted in the details of the story. The boat was buffeted by the winds and it was the fourth watch of the night. I have read that the fourth watch of the night put the time around 2am when this occurred. It is late at night, the end of a long day, where Jesus fed the 5,000; the disciples are alone in a boat in stormy weather sailing to the other side where they will meet Jesus. I would think the conversation in the boat was infected with the excitement of the day and the miracle Jesus did feeding the 5,000. So far the Disciples have seen many miracles. They have seen a Leper cleansed (Mat 8:1-4, Mark 1: 40-44, Luke 5: 12-14). They have seen the Centurion’s servant healed (Mat 8: 5-13 Luke 7: 1-10). Peter’s Mother-in-Law is healed (Mat 8: 14-17, Mark 1: 29-34, Luke 4: 38-41). Jesus calmed the seas (Mat 8:23-27, Mark 4: 35-41, Luke 8: 22-25). Jesus restored life to the Rulers daughter and the woman with blood issue was healed. (Mat 9: 18-26, Mark 5: 21-43) The blind received sight and Dumb speak. (Mat 9: 28-34) Jesus has begun to revel Himself and the Pharisees have begun planning how to get rid of Jesus. The confrontation is building and the works of Jesus are growing in magnitude, which will culminate with Lazarus being raised and Jesus’ triumphal entry.
That is the scene, the disciples I’m sure are starting to understand who Jesus is and their confidence is growing as well. Now they are in a boat, it’s late and the sea is stormy. I wonder if they wished Jesus was with them to calm the seas as he did before. Then Jesus approaches them, walking on the water.
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."
I’m struck that the disciples were “terrified”. I think some were sleeping tired from the day and although they had seen many miracles, seeing someone walking on the water at 2am was scary. And although most people picture Jesus walking on a calm lake, remember it was a windy night and the boat was buffeted by the winds. No it was anything but a glassy smooth lake. Jesus sensing their fear, tells them “Take courage, do not be afraid.” I found it interesting these are the same terms the Lord told Joshua when He told Joshua to arise and go into the promise land, but “be of good courage and do not be afraid, nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I think Jesus was teaching them that even though they will face trails they are never alone to prepare them for what lie ahead.
28"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." 29"Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Peter is his usual boldness, is the only disciple to respond. The story now becomes a one on one between Jesus and Peter. But first Peter asked. “Lord if it you, tell me to come to you on the water.” I found myself asking God much the same question when we found ourselves in this storm, feeling somewhat alone being buffeted by the winds. Andrea and I began to seek God and His will. I did not want to believe in me or my desires I wanted to know what God's will was, I wanted to know if what I wanted, if my desire was the same as God’s will. I did not want to project my earthly desire onto God and claim that as God’s will. So when we heard God speak to us and we truly felt we could claim Andrea’s healing I found myself asking, “God is that you? If it is, call me to come to you, call me to get out of this boat and onto the crashing waves where you are.”
The boat represented safety, outside the boat was the sea, waves crashing and wind blowing, and do not forget it was the dead of night. I assume a cloudy night since it was stormy, so there was little light. So climbing out of the boat into a dark and stormy sea was truly a step of faith. And Peter no matter where he was knew that to be with Jesus was where he wanted to be. That is how we feel. There was some safety where we were, we had a good doctor and some new medicines but I wanted to be where Jesus was, and he was beyond my own security zone he was out on the waves where you have to keep your eyes on Jesus and ignore the reality of the physical world around you. I can tell you that every day, I feel I need to get out of the boat, and ignore the physical the pains Andrea feels, the doctors words “there is no cure.” No getting out of the boat for Peter must have seemed crazy to the other eleven disciples, but to Peter it was the safest place to be. Peter knew the miracles Jesus had done and I think he was beginning to understand who this Jesus was.
In fact in Mat 16: 13-17 Jesus asks the disciples “Who do you say I am?” And Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
I think Peter's understanding of who Jesus was did not happen the moment Jesus asked the disciples Who do you say I am, it was being reveled to Peter as he walked with Jesus, and that night on the stormy sea, Peter began to act on what God was reveling to him.
30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
We always remember Peter losing faith and sinking and crying out for help. And we think oh, poor Peter he had so little faith. But I think wow he was the only one with the faith to get out of the boat. Although Peter was not perfect in his faith, Jesus was there to catch him. I have experienced this many times, where I took my eyes off Jesus and looked at the wind and became afraid. I have tried so hard to not doubt, but I have had many days where I was overcome by the waves of this cancer. I have had more days then I would like to admit to where I did not want to go on. But every time, every single time, when I cried out “Lord help me!” He would take my hand, and catch me. I would feel convicted not to doubt. 32And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
Now Peter, having been so bold leaping over the edge of the boat, now has to get back in, somewhat embarrassed with soaked clothes pointing to out failure. But Jesus calms the storm, and then the story mentions the other disciples, and they worship him. So when I fail in my faith, and have days where I doubt, I know that God uses those times to grow my faith. But when He catches me in my weakness, He uses that to show His power to help others to worship Him.
I love the end of the chapter where Jesus reached the other side and the people bring the sick hoping to touch the edge of His cloak. And all who touched Him were healed. Jesus’ continues His miracles and His disciples are growing stronger in their faith every day. Stronger, though they will still face some difficult days ahead, stronger even though they will falter in the days ahead. And God was with them, taking them from their moments of weakness and growing them stronger, so one day they would see Jesus taken away, beaten and killed. They would scatter but God was with them, and they would return to preach on the day of Pentecost, now emboldened and ready to do the work God had called them, to spread the Gospel. I don’t know what God is preparing Andrea and I for down the road, but I know that every day we face a storm and every day we learn to get out of the boat in faith, I know He will be faithful to us, and we will be perfected in our weakness and we will be ready for what He calls us to do. It will not be by our strength that we succeed, but by the hand of God. You see when Peter started sinking he did not just swim back to the boat, and when he cried out to Jesus, Jesus did not say, start kicking and swim back to the boat. No He reached out and saved him. Peter got back in the boat with the help of Jesus, not on his own, and Andrea and I are able to do what we do, not by our own strength but by the hand of God lifting us up. Trust me the challenges we face are well beyond our ability, but with God we make it.
As it says in Mark 10:27, Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." And in Philippians 4: 13-14 “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.”