A few weeks ago I intended to get us back to Matthew 14--to the scene where Jesus walks on the water in the middle of a storm to get to His disciples. I got sidetracked on a couple of other meaningful passages (not the least of which was last week's between-the-eyes hit on the necessity of rest--which I needed desperately--I suspect you might have needed it, as well). But I do want to come back to Matthew 14 today.
Here's the passage:
Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear.
Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.”
“Come!” He said.
And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!” Matthew 14:22-33 (HCSB)I guess I love this passage so much because I see both what I am (in Peter leaping out in faith, thinking better of it, sinking, and crying out for Christ's help) and what I could be (in Jesus creating a space for His quiet, intimate, personal relationship with His Father in the midst of a chaotic and exhausting season of life).
More often I'm sinking and crying out in desperation than intentionally carving out a time and place for communing with my Father in heaven. Perhaps you are too. Reacting to the crises roiling around you. Leaping out on the water and praying there will be rocks under foot to keep you from drowning--not realizing there was no trick to walking on water--only well-placed, unwavering faith in the Son of God.
I love that Jesus works with the little faith of Peter--and of each of us. He doesn't chide Peter ahead of time for not having enough faith to follow through with the whole walk. Even though He knows how it's going to unfold, He doesn't keep Peter from making the leap. He sustains the miracle so Peter does indeed take a few steps out there on the water (the only other human ever recorded to have done so, other than Jesus Himself).
And when Peter's faith peters out (it had to be said), He doesn't say, Peter, you have no faith, or your faith is of absolutely no use. Just , my friend you have small faith, weak faith, "little" faith -- enough to start, which is good (better than the others still cowering in the rocking and rolling boat) -- but not enough to finish. It's great, though, that Christ does have the supply of what we lack. He simply reached out and lifted His disciple to safety. And, do note that Peter knew enough to call out for Christ to save him as he sunk into the white caps of the stormy lake.
That, I suppose is the most powerful observation from the scene. Jesus has the power to lift us to safety--not just barely, as if the effort of it will put Him in peril or drain His strength supplies--but plenty of power to lift each of us out of the waves, limitless power, unsappable power, uninterruptible power to carry us to safety in the storm and through the storm. Ultimately, as with the end of this scene, to overcome and calm the storm--and in so doing to bring honor and glory to Himself. And He is as near to us as to Peter--near enough to hear us when we call; near enough to offer His strong arm to keep us from sinking in defeat.
Another passage I've been reading for a writing project I'm doing today is from the Gospel of John (chapter 9) where Jesus heals the man born blind--after His disciples want to know whether the man's sins or his parents' caused his blindness. I love that Jesus sluffs off that question entirely and points out that the man's suffering will result in ultimate glory for the Son and His Father in heaven. It's nobody's business what got him there. Only that God has a plan in and through it--one that's good for the man and good for the King's reputation.
That's the way I want to see the storms I'm facing today--through the eyes of faith--even if it is Peter's "little" faith. Even then, it's well-placed faith in the Christ Who not only walks on the water to meet the disciples in the storm, but holds the power to bring them through safely and restore calm to all the forces of nature at work against them.
Perhaps the key to that healthy and God-centered outlook comes at the opening of the scene: in getting away quietly to be alone with God. To seek His perspective. To ask His wise counsel. To submit to His ultimate authority over my life and that of my loved ones.
If you have more thoughts on this passage and how it speaks to you, I'd love to hear them. Post a comment here, or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to know how God is at work in your life through the challenge and encouragement of His Word.
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