There is a book by John Ortberg with the title, ‘If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat’! If we stay within our comfort zones nothing much will happen.
The disciples were not comfortable that night after the feeding of the five thousand. First, Jesus had sent them across the lake without him. (Jesus needed time alone with his Father.) Then there were the wind and waves making progress painfully slow – hard rowing, especially with a boat load of men. Then, to top it all, they thought they saw a ghost! What they felt when they heard Jesus’ voice telling them not to worry, we can only imagine.
Peter’s response was daring, if not quite logical: allay my fears by telling me to do something miraculous!! He did not sound totally convinced that it was really Jesus; yet if it was the same Jesus who had given them power to work miracles, and Jesus had just walked on the water, then Jesus could give him power to walk on water too! So he asked, and Jesus said, ‘Come!’
It is difficult to imagine what it felt like to walk on the rough sea. Peter was used to walking about on a boat, so maybe keeping his balance wouldn’t have been as hard for him as it would be for me – unless it was more like paddling in the breakers. But we must not let our speculations hinder our faith. The people of his day would have been just as sceptical or incredulous as people today – walking on water was just as impossible then as now – and just as much faith would have been required to believe this story when it was first told.
Jesus expected Peter to have enough faith to obey his call to come. At first, all went well. But suddenly, when he had nearly reached his goal, ‘reality’ hit Peter: I suspect he remembered that wind on water spelt danger for boats, and he realized he was even more exposed than he would have been in a boat. Natural fear took over, and he began to sink. At least he knew what to do next – to cry for help – and Jesus saved him. But Jesus rebuked him for his doubt. Often we too start well on the way of faith, but shift our focus from the invisible to the visible and find our faith fading.
The response of the disciples in the boat was to worship Jesus. They had seen his power over nature in two remarkable instances – the multiplying of loaves and fishes, and now this. They realized that Jesus was no ordinary man. When they said, ‘You are the Son of God’ they may not have meant that Jesus was actually divine (that would have been a huge step for a Jew to take); it may simply have been a reference to Psalm 2, where God says to his Anointed One (the Messiah), ‘You are my Son’, and the disciples were simply acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah sent by God. But that did not stop them deserting him in the garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus rebuked Peter. But Peter was right to ask to do the same thing Jesus was doing. See John 14:12
1) In what ways is God asking you to step out of your comfort zone?
2) How can we keep our faith growing even when circumstances make life hard?