Walking On Water
While the disciples - and more than five thousand other people! - were all sitting out in the sun on a rocky hillside, Jesus took two smelly fish and five crusty loaves of bread and fed them all!
“WOW!” The disciples must have thought, “We should open a restaurant!”
Well, maybe they didn’t think that exactly! But they were amazed by the miracle they just saw Jesus do.
The crowd was still buzzing about the whole thing when Jesus took Peter by the arm and said, “You guys go on ahead to the other side of the lake. I’ll catch up with you later.”
Okay, we don’t really know what Jesus said exactly. For one thing, he was speaking in Aramaic and not English. And chances are pretty good he didn’t call the disciples ‘you guys.’ But we do know that Jesus told the disciples to get in their boat and go across the lake. He needed some time to be alone.
Well, imagine if you had crowds of people following you around everywhere you went, always wanting something from you. You’d want to get away to be alone sometimes too! But what Jesus really needed was time to pray. We all do!
So Jesus blessed the people and sent them on their way home. And he sent them away full - not just with a good meal, but with the word of God. They all left knowing a little better just how much God loved them. So Jesus watched the last few stragglers pick their way through the rocks, and then he turned and climbed up the mountain a ways.
When night came, Jesus was still there praying, alone on the mountainside. Of course, he wasn’t really alone. He was with his Father. No one is ever really alone. God is always with us.
Meanwhile, the disciples were on the lake below, trying to row across it.
It was very dark now, and a strong wind was blowing right in their faces. Well, right in the faces of the lucky ones who weren’t trying to row against it. Those poor guys had their backs to the wind and were rowing against it with all their might - and hardly getting anywhere!
“This is just great!” they were probably grumbling to each other as sprays of water splashed in their faces and the waves tossed their little boat every which way - except the way they wanted to go! “Jesus sends us out across the lake with this blasted wind doing its best to blow us back! Couldn’t he do something about that?!” (We like to grumble whenever things get hard, don’t we.)
But Jesus could see that they were in trouble.
The wind was howling, the sea was still tossing their boat this way and that, when one of the disciples happened to look out into the night.
“WHAT IS THAT?!!!”
There was a man walking on the water!!!
In the dark of the night they saw a man coming towards them on the water - his hair was blowing wildly, his robe was being whipped by the wind like a flag in a windstorm.
They were terrified!
...well, wouldn’t YOU be?!
“IT’S A GHOST!!” they screamed.
But just then, they heard a voice say, “Take courage! Don’t be afraid. It is me!”
It was Jesus!
“Lord, is it really you?” Peter said, holding his hand over his eyes to block the spray of the splashing waves.
“If it really IS you, tell me to come out to you on the water!”
Peter was a brave man! Or he was crazy!
Jesus said, “Come.”
Peter stuck one leg out over the side of the boat and set his foot on the water. It didn’t sink in!
He stepped out with his other foot, and it didn’t sink. He stood up. He was standing on the water! He took one step, and then another, and then another. He was walking on the water, just like Jesus!
Peter was walking on the water!
He might have even been thinking to himself, “Hey! Look at me. I am walking on the water! Aren’t I great!”
But wait a minute. People can’t walk on water. And then Peter started to look around him. All of a sudden, the boat seemed awfully small and far away. There was nothing but black, churning water all around him. The waves were lapping at his feet, water was stinging his eyes.
And then, just like that, the water under his feet let go.
“Help me, Lord!” Peter gulpped, splashing wildly as the cold water swallowed him down. “Save me!”
But before the water could gulp Peter down entirely, Jesus reached down with his strong hand (he WAS a carpenter after all) and grabbed him by the arm.
“Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
And with that, Jesus pulled Peter up out of the water and carried him, dripping wet, back to the boat.
Just as they were climbing over the side of the boat, the wind died away and the sea turned smooth as glass. Everything was suddenly peaceful and quiet.
One minute the wind was roaring and the sea was crashing, the next all was peaceful and calm. Some of the disciples must have remembered just then the Psalm they learned in Hebrew school -
“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper, the waves of the sea were hushed.”
(That was from Psalm 107, in case you haven’t been to Hebrew school yet.)
Those disciples knew that only God has the power to calm the wind and the waves - and that’s just what Jesus did.
“Truly you ARE the Son of God!” they said to Jesus in awe and wonder. And they bowed down and worshipped him right then and there.
Now, we don’t know for sure, but maybe Peter sat there shivering in the back of the boat with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, thinking about all that had just happened. And maybe he was hearing over and over in his head the words Jesus had calmy said, ‘Why did you doubt?’
‘Oh, you of little faith. Why did you doubt?’
Why DID Peter doubt?
Just the day before he saw Jesus turn two fish and five loaves of bread into enough to feed five thousand people. And now he saw Jesus walking on the water. Jesus said it was okay, so he stepped out onto the water. He trusted Jesus.
He stepped out of the boat because Jesus had called him, and his faith held him up.
But then he saw the darkness all around him, he felt the the wind stinging his face, he saw the swirling black water beneath him... and he doubted. He took his eyes off Jesus and he became afraid.
He forgot about Jesus.
And he sank.
And it may be that Peter learned a lesson that night that he never forgot. When trouble is all around - keep your eyes on Jesus. He will never let you sink.
“O Lord, Almighty God, who is there as strong as you? Who is there more faithful? For you rule the raging sea, you have the power to still the pounding waves.”
Psalm 89. 8,9