Today we join Jesus right after dinner with 5,000 plus people. This crowd followed Him to a “desolate place” where He was planning some alone time with His disciples. He was mourning the death of His cousin, John the Baptist. When he got to His intended destination the crowd was there to meet Him. He put aside His own needs and ministered healing to everyone who needed Him and concluded His ministry to them by serving them dinner. Now it is His turn.
After concluding the meal and gathering the leftovers, Jesus puts His disciples into the boat they came in on and sent them to the other side of the lake. Jesus then dismisses the crowd. That alone was a miracle! Jesus was in high demand because of what He had to offer. But He was able to send ALL the people away to finally be alone.
Jesus was finally able to have the alone time He was in need of. He spent it with His Father. Jesus knew where real refreshing and relief from the pain of this life was found. He spent several hours with God. He didn’t concern Himself with anything else when He was with His father. This was their special time.
Once He finished His prayer time He set out to meet up with His disciples. He knew where they were at and what they were going through. He wasn’t surprised by the storm; He was on the seashore after all and felt it developing while He was praying. He wasn’t worried though because He knew His disciples were in God’s hands the whole time. This was also an opportunity for faith building in His disciples.
The disciples didn’t know they were safe. They were experienced fishermen and had seen many storms. They had also lost friends to storms. They were in survival mode and doing everything they knew how to do to save themselves. They didn’t have a clue that Jesus was on the way. I wonder if they were praying. I know I would have been.
It was in the wee hours of the morning when Jesus set out walking on the storm tossed sea to meet up with His disciples. Mark 6:48 says that Jesus was “intending to pass them by.” Was He planning to meet up with them on the other side of the lake? Jesus didn’t offer them help until they asked for it. When they noticed Him they didn’t recognize Him at all. I don’t know if it was because of the lightning and storm or because He was in an unexpected place. (Kind of like seeing your doctor in the supermarket. He looks familiar but you can’t place him.) They thought they were seeing a ghost because LIVE people DID NOT appear above the surface of the water without a boat! Sounds very logical to me, not to mention, as fishermen they had probably heard many such ghost stories.
As expected, the sight of Jesus walking on the water freaked the disciples out. They started screaming! They truly thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesus addressed their fear right away by informing them it was Him. He had just performed an AMAZING miracle with the fish and bread, now He was demonstrating another unbelievable act. How could this be?
Peter, ever the spokesman for the group, speaks up. On one hand his comment sounds like doubt, but on the other hand it demonstrates faith beyond anything seen so far. Peter says, “IF it is You”, voicing the uncertainty still remaining. Then he adds, “tell me come to You on the water.” I don’t know if Peter was “throwing down the gauntlet” or asking for permission to enter into Jesus’ miracle. I’m thinking probably the second. Peter was saying, “That’s AMAZING!! Let me try that!” And Jesus did. He told Peter to come on out of the boat.
I wonder what the other disciples were thinking when Peter stepped out of the boat. “Are you NUTS?” “I’m perfectly fine here. If I’m quiet He won’t call on me to try that.” “Peter, ever the adventurous one.” “Why does he always get to have all the fun?” “I wish I would have asked first.” “I’m too busy dealing with the storm right now. Can’t you see I’m trying to keep us all alive?” Any or all of these things could probably be heard in the minds of the others.
Peter starts walking. He didn’t even hesitate once Jesus gave him the command he was dying to hear. Can you imagine the opportunity Jesus was offering Peter? NO ONE had EVER walked on water! This was a once in a lifetime chance for Peter and he wasn’t about to miss it. We don’t know how far away from them Jesus was. He had to be far enough away that His face was obscured by the darkness and the storm but close enough that they could see His form. However far Jesus was, Peter walked that distance.
Once Peter made it to Jesus, which was his destination and focus initially, he had time to look around. That is when the enormity of what he had done set in. He was in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, in the middle of a storm, WITHOUT the safety of a boat! WHAT WAS HE THINKING!!!! It seemed so natural and so easy when Jesus told him to do it. Now that he had time to think about it, fear set in. How could he have actually believed he could do this? He wasn’t Jesus. He was just a plain fisherman. He was not cut out to do this. So Peter started to sink.
Peter did the only thing he could think of at that moment; he cried out to Jesus for help! Jesus didn’t hesitate for a second in giving it to Peter. He picked him up out of the water, and THEN spoke about Peter’s lack of faith. Jesus didn’t try and talk Peter through his faith crisis and tell him to pull himself together and get out of the water. He didn’t even calm the waves and wind to let Peter try again with fewer distractions. He simply and quite thankfully reached out and plucked Peter from the sea. Then He brought them both back to the boat. Once they were both back in the boat, THEN Jesus calmed the wind.
The disciples then recognized that, TRULY Jesus WAS the Son of God! NO ONE but the Son of God could have done what Jesus did. Not only did He walk on water, but He calmed the sea too. So many miracles had been done by Jesus but the times when Jesus exercised dominion over the wind and the waves awed these fishermen the most.
I wonder if Peter entertained the thought of walking on water again now that the storm was gone. Was he embarrassed because of Jesus’ words to him? When he remembered this incident in the future would it be with elation and excitement or fear and regret? Would he be willing to try it again if given the opportunity? Did any of the other disciples wish they would have had faith to ask to step out of the boat? I wonder if I would have asked for water walking time if I had been there. Maybe after the storm was dealt with.
We behave like Peter sometimes when God calls us to do something. He places a desire in our hearts to do something specific for Him. We are so excited about it that we immediately move into it at the first opportunity. As long as we are focused on doing what it is that God has put in our hearts things go great. But something gets our attention and we look away. All of a sudden the enormity of what we are doing hits home. We start focusing on the things that tell us we have no business being where we are. We start to doubt. Doubt our ability. Doubt that we really heard God tell us to do this. Doubt that we can survive the repercussions of the situation we now find ourselves in. And we start to sink.
At this point we need to follow Peter’s next example and call out to Jesus for help. He does not ignore our pleas. He reaches out His hand to us, just like He did for Peter. We may not recognize it as quickly as Peter did that morning, but it is there just the same. It may take a little longer to get back to the boat than it did with Peter, but like He did with Peter, He will walk with us while supporting us right on through the storm until we get to the place of safety. Did you notice that He didn’t calm the storm while walking back to the boat with Peter? He asked Peter to trust Him in spite of the storm for a little longer. Once they were both back in the boat, then he calmed the storm. That was when the other disciples received their miracle too. While Peter and Jesus were busy on the water they were still in the midst of the storm being tossed about in the boat. They may have been so caught up in what was happening on the water that they didn’t notice the storm, but they didn’t receive their saving miracle until Jesus was finished with Peter’s lesson in trust. Jesus didn’t forget about the rest of the disciples in the boat but neither did He reward them for staying where it was at least familiar. They were never in real danger of dying because of their relationship with Jesus. Maybe Jesus was giving the thorns in their nest some time to grow so maybe next time they would be a little less comfortable with the familiar and take the chance to step out.
Father God, thank You for Your protection. Even in the middle of the storm You are there and You keep me safe. I have taken my eyes off You MANY times and found myself in the same situation as Peter. You reached out and rescued me every time I called out, but not before. I had to come to the place where I realized I couldn’t save myself before I was ready to ask for Your help. I’m pretty sure I have never walked on water, like Peter did, and quite often wonder if I have even actually heard You say come. But I’m trying to be faithful in what I believe You have called me to do, but I get distracted by the circumstances too. Help me put my eyes back on You. I know I can trust You to walk me through ANY storm. I trust You to calm each storm when we have reached the destination You were driving us to through it. Thank You for preparing the places of safety in the midst of the storms. Thank You for Your loving arms that support me all the way through. Thank You for Your patience that keeps You wanting for my cry for help when I’m struggling to extricate myself on my own. Thank You that when I do finally call out that You answer right away and save the lecture until AFTER the crisis is averted. Thank You for the lecture too that is a LOT gentler than I deserve.