Today’s Gospel reading takes place immediately following the feeding of the 5000. Jesus had sent His disciples by boat toward the other side of the sea while He stayed behind to dismiss the people.
After sending the people away, he went up a mountain to pray by himself. When evening came, he was there alone.!
It had been an amazing day of teaching and miracles. Jesus had been surrounded by and sought by thousands of people clamoring for His attention.
He had not only been teaching the masses, but also training the disciples.
Now, He sought time alone to be with His Father in prayer. I can imagine the conversation going something like this:
“Hey, Dad, I had a good day today! A few of them actually saw past the miracles and understood that it wasn’t about filling their stomachs. They really got it!
I tell you, being human isn’t easy, this body is so worn and tired that I think I could sleep through a storm at sea!
Well, I’d better go check on the disciples. They’ll be starting to worry. They’re coming along but its slow going with some of them.
By the way, You’ve got some sense of humor giving me Peter as a disciple. And James and John! What a pair!
Anyway, they are like children at times, and at others they show great insights of understanding about what our purpose here is all about.
I’ll call ya later. Bye, Dad, Love you!
So, by now the boat was hundreds of yards from shore and bouncing like a three-year-old on a sugar high; and trying to sail into the wind. If you have ever tried to stand up in a small boat that is being tossed around by the waves and the wind – or tried to walk on a water bed, you can get some idea of what it was like for Jesus to walk on this rolling carpet of water.
Okay, so sometime in the darkest part of the night – that part before sunrise and when the moon has gone down – Jesus comes hiking through the peaks and troughs of the waves like he was strolling through a meadow.
The disciples see Him and begin screaming like little girls in a snake pit. They believe Him to be a ghost. It’s not clear if they think He is just any ol’ ghost of if they recognize it is Him and believe Him to have finally been killed by His many enemies.
I am sure He was bewildered by their behavior. As far as He was concerned, He was not doing anything so incredible. However because He is ever compassionate, He yells out, “Dudes, it me, calm down!”
At this point, Peter (ever rash, impulsive Peter) says, “Okay, if its you, command me to come to you on the water!”
I doubt Peter had thought this through – he quite often did not think it through until after the fact – however, he had some concept of the fact that, alone he could not step onto the sea and walk, but that if Jesus “commanded” him to do it, that he would also give him the ability to follow through on it.
There is a lesson there for us. When we are commanded, we are also empowered. This goes beyond what Paul means when he says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "(God) will not let you be tested beyond your strength.”
It means that we do not have to rely on our own strength when we are doing the will of God. God’s strength is sufficient to what ever the task is that is set before us.
So, Peter asks Jesus to order him out of the boat. I’m sure that Jesus smiled like a proud parent when their child takes that first unaided step, when He said, “Come on ahead!”
So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. – UNTIL - he noticed how strong the wind was, at that point his fear of the wind and the water became stronger than his faith in Jesus.
The result was that he started to sink. In his fear, he shouted, “Lord, save me!”
Jesus could have used him as an object lesson to the other disciples and let Peter struggle in the water and find his own way back to the boat.
However, in His compassion, He immediately, reached out, caught hold of him, and said, “You have so little faith! Why did you doubt?”
I do not think that Jesus was speaking only to Peter here. After all, Peter had shown enough faith to get out of the boat while the others were still cowering and whimpering. Peter’s small faith had let him walk on water – if only for a little while.
When they got into the boat, the wind stopped blowing.
At this point, the men in the boat bowed down in front of Jesus and said, “You are truly the Son of God.”
This was not the first time that they had said this. But here again they had just been reminded of it.
We are like that sometimes too, we “know” that Jesus is Lord. However, sometimes we fail to act on that knowledge. We, at times, forget the times when Jesus has been our strength, our rock, our guide, our savior, and let our gaze shift to the troubled world around us.
We become overwhelmed with the size of the situation we face.
It is times like this when Jesus reaches for us with outstretched had and lifts us from the sea of troubles in which we would drown.
Is He hurt by our lack of faith? Yes, I think He is.
Is he disappointed in us for our lack of faith? Yes!
Does He abandon us, give up on us? No!
In love he lifts us and sets us on solid ground. Amen.