Imagine that you are Peter, disciple of Jesus Christ, out in a boat on the Sea of Galilee with the other disciples. You are out at night, in a storm. You are out there because Jesus sent you to go on ahead…without Him. (Matthew 14:22-33)
He said that He would follow, and you try to remind yourself of this as the wind picks up.
But soon the boat is “a considerable distance from land” and is increasingly being “buffeted by the waves” (vs. 24). You begin to wonder how Jesus will even find you. Your short term memory of how He miraculously fed 5,000+ people earlier that day is drowned in the immediate and tangible crisis, and your rising doubts and fear.
What thougths might be going through your mind?
‘Where is He? Doesn’t Jesus know or care about what is happening to us? I thought He came to make things right! This isn’t what I expected. This isn’t what I had hoped for. Why did He call us to follow Him just to send us out here by ourselves? We’re not strong enough for this! This will surely destroy us! Has He forgotten us? Has He abandoned us? Is He really who He says He is?’
In Sunday’s sermon, Pastor Dan helped us to see that when Jesus came out walking on the water to the disciples in the boat that night, He showed them that He is God and reigns over all of creation. Jesus reassured the men that He was with them, even in the storm.
“Take courage,” He said. “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (vs. 27)
I used to think that Peter was a hero when he got out of the boat and walked on the water with Jesus, even if he did sink when he took his eyes off of The Lord to look around at the wind and the waves. But as Pastor Dan also pointed out in his sermon, Peter was only out there on the water because he doubted.
“Lord, if it’s you…” he had said (vs. 28). We must not overlook that “if”. Two miracles in one day, and still Peter needed reassurance.
Our most powerful confessions of faith in Jesus often come precisely after those times of trial and testing – those storms – that would cause us to question not just “where are you Lord?” but “who are you Lord?”. After Jesus stepped into the boat and calmed the storm, the disciples worshipped Him, confessing “Truly you are the Son of God.” (vs. 32)
Peter learned to ‘stay in the boat’ during the many ‘storms’ that followed. When Jesus claimed to be “the living bread”, many of His disciples were shocked and dismayed, and they deserted Him (John 6:41-71). How could they have understood what Jesus meant when He said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…”? (vs. 54) At the time it sounded outrageous, and Jesus wasn’t explaining – yet. This called for great trust. It called for faith, that Jesus was who He said He was, even when nothing made sense and everything seemed to be unraveling. It called for sitting tight in the boat! It called for a confession of faith.
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (vs. 68-9) Surely Peter’s confession strengthened his own heart and the hearts of those disciples who remained. Surely Peter’s confession came from a heart strengthened by his Lord, who had walked with him, who had walked on water for him!
It was Jesus’ “words of eternal life” that created such faith in Peter, making him strong and steady, able to use his own words to confess Jesus as “the Holy One of God”.
The faith that saves comes from God.
Jesus said that “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent”. (John 6:29) That means we stay in the boat and ride out the storms, confessing our Lord’s power to save. We tell others about Him, speaking The Word, so that they too may have this saving faith.