Monday, August 8, 2011
Walking on Water - the rest of the story
The story of Jesus walking on water is told in Matthew 14, Mark 6 and John 6, but only in Matthew’s account do we learn of Peter’s feat, too. The disciples had just seen Jesus heal thousands of people and then feed them all (5000 men plus women and children) with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Afterwards Jesus sent the disciples off in their boat to sail to Capernaum while he went to pray. The crowds of people were so impressed with him and his miracles that they wanted to make him king right then and there but Jesus sent them off, too.
Now picture the scene: it’s evening, the disciples only get about three and a half miles out to sea because of the horrible wind and waves, and Jesus (whom they’ve already seen calm the sea on another occasion) is up the mountainside praying (and probably grieving over John the Baptist’s beheading). At about dawn Jesus walks out to them on the water. He walks on choppy, stormy waves and the disciples’ boat is still only a few miles out, having fought against the waves all night long – that’s hours and hours of rough going.
Suddenly they see Jesus coming. They are terrified! Panic sets in. They are sure they see a ghost and they cry out in fear. But Jesus immediately says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (The Greek for “It is I” is the equivalent of “I am”, one of God’s names.)
Some people say that Peter shows no faith by saying, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” I say that he is showing confident faith. The “if” does not show that he doubts it’s the Lord, but rather that he simply cannot see well enough. Jesus says “come” and immediately Peter obeys and walks on the water. See his faith?
Poor Peter. He takes his eyes off Jesus and sees the wind, becomes afraid and begins to sink. Notice that he doesn’t sink completely. He calls on Jesus for help and Jesus pulls him up. Jesus rebukes him for having little faith. See? Jesus doesn’t say he had zero faith, just little faith and some doubts.
It’s hard to imagine how these disciples had spent, at this point, about two years with Jesus and still didn’t totally “get it”. They’d seen tremendous healings and miracles, but this walking on water miracle really changed things for them. Peter and Jesus got into the boat and not only did the wind die down but the boat was immediately at the other shore (John 6:21). That’s when they “got it” – they worshiped Jesus saying “Truly you are the Son of God.” Up until this point only God had said Jesus was His son (at his baptism Matthew 3:17) and demons had called him the Son of God (Matthew 8:29), but now, finally, the disciples worship him as the Son of God.