I am thinking about the storms of life; how they toss us about, shake our courage, leave us feeling desperate and alone. But here’s the truth we so often forget in times of trial. No matter how rough the waters, our Savior still walks with us through it all.
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.” 29 “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?”
Matthew 14:22-31 – NIV
I don’t know about you, but I am a big fan of Peter. I can relate to him. He is just so human. Strong and capable, a leader among his peers, Peter is your “go to” kind of guy. Jesus called Peter his rock. He was full of faith, willing to follow his Master wherever the journey might lead.
Still, this bedrock of faith had his moments of frailty. Instead of standing strong as you might have expected, sometimes he withered under the weight of the situation. Sometimes, Peter showed us his frail human side.
Just hours away from watching Jesus feed 5000 with five loaves and two fish, Peter and his friends find themselves in rough waters. Things are not going well and they are struggling. They are on their own, their Master left behind on shore. Were they grumbling to themselves? “Where is He when we need Him? How come Jesus is not fixing this? Doesn’t He know we are drowning out here?” Maybe not those exact words, but I bet something like that went through their minds as they strained at the oars.
Without warning, they see a man walking on the water. What was their reaction? Fear. Terror. “It’s a ghost!” Instead of believing that the same Jesus who could feed 5000 could be coming to help them, they choose instead to fear and tremble. They don’t even consider it could be their teacher until He speaks.
I love Peter’s response at this point. “Lord, if it’s you…” He doesn’t say, “Lord, thank God it’s you!:” or “Lord, we’ve been waiting for you!” No, Peter wants Jesus to prove who He is. But, here is the part I love. Peter wants Jesus to prove His identity by letting Peter walk on the water too.
Now, that is a boatload of contradictions, isn’t it? Peter is demanding a sign of Jesus’ power, while at the same time, he is willing to step out of the boat and risk his life to prove Jesus is who He says He is. On the one hand, Peter is saying, “Prove it so I can believe you.” On the other hand, he says, “If you are real, then I can walk on water with your help.”
Jesus says, “Come!” and just like that, Peter gets out of that boat. He believes Jesus is real, that He has the power to allow Peter to accomplish the impossible. Peter believes and he receives what he needs.
As long as Peter kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, he could weather the storm, waltz upon the waves. Yet, when he looked down at his circumstances, when he heard the howling wind, felt the spray of the stormy sea, Peter lost sight of his Savior. Peter doubted and fear overtook him. The weight of carrying his circumstances on his own shoulders started him sinking. Peter, that bedrock of faith and strength, faltered and failed. He doubted and the downward spiral began.
But just when you think all hope is lost, Peter rises to the occasion once more. He knows he is sinking and he cries out to his Lord. He knows he has stumbled and he needs a Savior. Yes, Peter doubted, but then he reaches for his faith. “Lord, save me!”
Does Jesus turn away from the man who turned from him? Does he despise the one who demanded He prove himself to this terrified crowd? Not hardly. Jesus reaches out, takes hold and lifts Peter out of his desperate circumstances.
Yes, I like Peter. I like him because he is a man of contradictions just like me. He is full of faith, yet sometimes, he falters. He has his moments of doubt and still, he rises up and reaches for his Savior. He finds himself sinking in his circumstances because he has a little crisis of faith. Yet, instead of drowning in the rough waters of his bad decisions, he digs deep and finds his faith once more.
And what a faith he has, a faith that spurs him to step out of the boat and walk on the water.
May you and I be so filled with the faith that we would trust without question, that we would keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. And…when we do falter in our human frailty, when we glance down at our stormy circumstances, may we, like Peter, stop and force ourselves to look up. For when we let go of our fear and doubts and finally look up, we will find our Jesus waiting on the water, waiting for us with his outstretched arms of love.
O Jesus, how we need You. We want so much to believe, to keep the faith, to walk upon the water with You. Still, we find ourselves alone and afraid, struggling on the stormy sea. Our faith falters, and doubts threaten to pull us under. Help us, Lord, to find our faith, to trust and believe. Let us fix our eyes firmly on You, knowing that You alone can see us through the storms of life.