In the New Testament, three of the Gospel writers record an event where Jesus and Peter walk on the water. I have always been fascinated by this account. There is so much here that applies to so many circumstances we go through all the time.
The disciples were sent ahead of Jesus to cross the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida. Jesus was hanging back to spend some time alone – he had just fed the 5000 and everyone went home. The disciples set out, but then things got rough.
Jesus saw that the boat is getting beaten on the sea. Just before dawn, the bible says ‘in the fourth watch,’ Jesus walked out to them. Mark tells us in his Gospel that Jesus was going to pass by them.
Jesus could have walked as far from the boat as he liked, but he walked near enough for the disciples to see him. He would have kept walking, but he recognized that they were in trouble. He let them see him ‘passing by’ walking on the water. When they cried out to what they thought was a ghost, he answered and calmed them. God wants to help you in your distress, but you need to call on His name.
When the disciples saw Jesus, they thought he was a ghost. They were terrified and were screaming and yelling. Jesus spoke to them and Peter wanted to know for sure that it was Jesus. Peter said that if it was really him, to call Peter out to the water. Jesus said to come and Peter got out and walked on the water and in the midst of the storm.
Many years ago, in a bible study I was a part of, we talked about this story. We looked at a few different details.
The disciples were far from shore. They were passed the point where they could turn around. The water where they were was deep. The place of most danger for the disciples was in the boat. The very vessel they were putting their immediate faith in to bring them to where they were going was the thing that could hurt them the most. The safest place to be was walking on top of the waves.
How many times in your life have you set off on an endeavor that you felt called to? Have you ever faced adversity at the point of no return?
Even though the disciples had lost sight of Jesus, Jesus never lost sight of them. He came close to them, and let them catch a glimpse of his deity. Much like when Moses was able to catch a glimpse of God on the mountain in the Old Testament. Jesus did not force his way into their scenario. Mark tells us that Jesus would have continued to the other side had the disciples not cried out to him. God will not force his way into every situation, much like a parent. I see my kids getting into all sorts of situations, but I love them enough to let them fail sometimes. We can learn more from our failures than our success.
Peter wanted to know that it was truly Jesus. Have you ever come across a help or possible solution to a problem, but were unsure whether it was a God thing? So did Peter. Peter trusted Jesus when he called him out onto the water. But once Peter stepped out, the further away from the boat, the more his fear crept in. When Peter saw the wind and the waves, he took his eye of Jesus and focused on the storm around him. This is when we sink, when we lose our focus.
Peter cried out for Jesus’ hand and Jesus pulled him up and walked him back to the boat. Once they got in, the storm abated.
Peter had an encounter with Jesus in the midst of a storm by stepping out in faith. The things of this world that you put your faith in (your boat) are going to fail you and in some cases hurt you. Jesus is asking you to trust him and walk above the water with him. Get out of your boat and go to where Jesus is. Even if you lose your focus, God is faithful to reach out his hand.
When the disciples got to the other side, there was breakthrough. A man oppressed by demons was healed and set free. When storms come up in our lives, it may be because our enemy is trying to keep us from breakthrough.
When Peter was on the waves, it wasn’t the waves or wind that physically stopped him. It says when Peter saw the wind and the waves, he was afraid and took his eyes off of Jesus. When we are trusting and keeping our eyes on God, he protects us. Things may look dire, but God is in control.
What are you in the midst of? Are you putting your faith in your own vessel? Get out of the boat and focus on the one who never loses sight of you.