Yesterday morning I was reading Matthew 14 and while there was much food for thought, one verse made me chuckle and then made me think.
As I re-learn to read the Bible with an open mind and an open heart, I’m not putting pressure on myself to have to be moved by something or have an ‘aha’ moment every time I read. Instead I come to the text conversationally and relationally. I listen to the words that I’m reading, I comment, I ask questions, I ponder, and then I listen again. When something stands out I stick around that part for a little while longer. Why is the part standing out to me? What thoughts are being invoked? What strings are being pulled? What buttons are being pushed?
I listen and I enter the conversation.
First, the part that made me chuckle.
So … it had been a long day for Jesus and his disciples. It started when they heard the news of John the Baptist’s decapitation. Jesus was shaken by this so he went for a walk to be by himself for a while. Word of Jesus’ whereabouts got around and crowds from nearby villages started gathering and following him. So much for quiet time! Fast forward a little bit and later that day, into the evening, the disciples are cleaning up and gathering the leftovers after the crowd (apparently anywhere between 7000-10000 give or take) had finished eating what started as 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. – Story for another day!
Jesus then sends his disciples off to cross the lake (aka the Sea of Galilee known for its sudden storms, bursts of wind and 10 foot waves) in a boat while he did a take two at getting some quiet time.
At around 3am in the morning the disciples find themselves in a bit of a pickle. They are far from land and stuck in the middle of one of those sudden storms. Jesus decides to meet up with them, in the middle of the very big lake, on foot.
Now keep in mind, it has been a very long day. The disciples are in the dark, somewhere on the lake fighting their way through the storm and trying to stay afloat. They are probably tired and at the end of their strength. Then, in the middle of a hectic moment, they see something, or maybe it’s someone, floating, or maybe walking, across the water. Some of them were used to the rough nature of the sea of Galilee but they had never seen this. Panic overtakes them. They are terrified and are convinced they are seeing a ghost.
Jesus quickly tries to reassure them and says, “It’s all right, I am here, don’t be afraid!”
Now, this next part is where I chuckled. Peter, always one to put his foot in his mouth, decides to throw a little challenge just to confirm that this really is Jesus. So he yells, “Jesus, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you by walking on the water.“
Jesus responds (I hear him responding in a kind of reversing the challenge voice) and says, “Ok, come!“
*Not in the text but I think the other disciples probably starting placing bets at this point*
It seemed like a good idea at the time but Peter is now seriously second guessing himself and regretting having opened his big mouth!
Keep in mind though, Peter had already seen Jesus do something pretty amazing that day with the 5 loaves and 2 fish. He was probably partly confident this could work but I think he somehow wished he had kept his mouth shut. He’s the one who brought up the idea, not Jesus. Peter felt this was a necessary step on his journey of faith; talk to the floating ghost calling himself Jesus and offer to join him on the water, on foot, in the middle of a storm. What could go wrong?
He steps over the side of the boat and unto the water ….
He starts walking toward Jesus. “Ok, this is working. So far so good. Not to bad after all!” Peter’s attention then turns to the still blowing wind and the waves as he begins to sink. “Oh crap, this is what I was afraid of! I knew this was a bad idea. I should have stayed in the boat!” Jesus reaches out to him, pulls him out of the water and they both step/jump back into the boat.
Here’s where my mind went and I’ll try to take you there for a few minutes. Setting aside what I imagine Peter’s face looked like when Jesus responded to his challenge, I think he was still processing what he had seen Jesus do earlier that day. He was astonished and beginning to grasp just who this man was. In light of that, he was willing to take this step. It took courage for him to even propose the idea but somehow he believed that Jesus might be able to make him walk on that water.
He was right. Jesus could do that. Perhaps Peter thought that Jesus would calm the storm first, remove the wind and stop the waves. Maybe he wasn’t expecting Jesus to call him out in the first place but if Jesus did, he would at least smoothen the way. This was after all Peter’s first time attempting this. Surely Jesus would recognize his timid faith and reward him for it. Yet, the storm kept raging as Jesus responded to Peter and said, “ok, come.”
Ok, I’ll extrapolate here a little bit since you and I won’t be stepping out of a boat to walk on water at Jesus’ invitation anytime soon. But we can take this back to shore and ask ourselves some simple questions. This is what I did when I reflected on the story.
- What is your storm or challenge right now? It might be something or someone or it might be something within the depths of your very own mind, heart, soul.
- What is something you’ve been meaning to do, change, improve in your life but struggle to maintain without reverting back to what you are trying to change?
- What or where is your source of motivation and strength? If you’re a person of faith, this might be God or Jesus or the Spirit. Otherwise, perhaps it’s someone or the promise of a reward. For the purpose of this particular pondering moment, I’ll stick with Jesus.
- Who or what do you call to once you determine that you want to step out of the boat, face the storm and walk on water (figuratively of course)? Who, or what, will be the voice responding to you saying, “ok, come! Do it” ?
- When you venture out but the storm remains fierce and your attention begins to turn toward the wind and the waves, do you start doubting yourself? Do you begin to doubt the one, or the thing, that you had put your trust in to get you through?
- When you begin sinking, do you ask yourself why you are sinking? Do you ask yourself why it is such a struggle to navigate that storm, that challenge, and remain true to your good intention?
Ya, same. I get it.
When Peter looked around at the high waves, he was terrified (again!) and began to sink. “Save me Jesus” he shouted. Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him.Matthew 14:30-31
Peter and Jesus then headed back into the boat but before they climbed back in Jesus asked a simple question for Peter to ponder, “Why did you doubt me?” We don’t have Peter’s answer but can assume the whole endeavour left him with much to think about. When they were back on the boat, the wind stopped.
“Why did you doubt me?” It’s like I can hear the question and while I have a list of reasons why, I stay silent like Peter.
I’m going to stop here and let the story and questions sink in 😉