This Is One Of My Favorite Stories In The Gospels!

This is one of my favorite stories in the Gospels. It has all of the elements of a classic drama. It has dilemma, fear, and hope. It takes our emotions on a rising roller coaster of tension to a climactic moment where success or failure rest on the stillpoint of faith and ends with salvation and an challenging lesson to be remembered. In this powerful story, Peter stands for us as well as for himself. We can see ourselves in Peter, reacting in the way he does when he sees Jesus walking on the water. We feel his faith, his desire to be out there on the water with Jesus. And, yet, when he begins to sink, we also know the experience of his overwhelming fear of doubt.

What a powerful scene we have here. The boat that the disciples are in is being tossed about by powerful winds and waves. It is dark, just before the dawn and, already fearful from being battered about by the heavy winds in the middle of the great lake, they are suddenly stunned by a vision that is beyond their comprehension. They see a human figure coming toward them out of the darkness, walking on the water. They cry out in fear, “It is a ghost!” We can imagine their hearts frozen in unspeakably intense fear here. It is beyond all experience.

But they suddenly hear the figure speak. “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” (verse 27) Peter’s fear is suddenly replaced with awe and wonder and he responds, “Lord, if is is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (verse 28) Peter’s faith is being tested here. He wants to believe that it is truly Jesus out there on the roiling waters. With all of his heart he wants to be able to walk out to Jesus himself. Jesus takes the opportunity to test Peter’s faith then and says, “Come.” and Peter actually climbs over the gunwale of the boat and begins walking—on the water—toward Jesus. His eyes are fixed on Jesus with both awe and love. He is actually walking on the water!

But, for the briefest of moment, he takes his eyes off of Jesus and becomes aware of the raging waters and, once again, he feels the power of the wind. He has lost his focus on Jesus and is suddenly overwhelmed by the turmoil of the world. This is the moment of doubt. It happens this way for us as well. When we take our eyes off of Jesus and begin to focus too much on the “sea of troubles” that we find ourselves in, our doubts can suddenly replace our faith and we can begin to sink into their winds and waves. With faith we can keep, “walking on the water.” It is our faith that makes great things possible to us, if we keep our eyes on Jesus. The story also reveals the depth of God’s love for us. When Peter cries out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reaches out his hand and [takes} hold of him.” Jesus does this for us too when we cry out for help. Yes, we too will hear Jesus say to us, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” But we will also feel his strength as he embraces us and takes us back to the boat. He knows our weakness and the desires of our hearts. He will not forsake us, even when we doubt.

Lord, you are our strength in times of trouble. Help us to fix our eyes, our minds, our hearts and our souls on you at all times. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.