My feet were barely touching the earth. I had just come home from a spiritual retreat and was feeling the effects in the most marvelous of ways. For a week I had listened to some of God's most talented musicians and singers lift praise and worship to Him. I had heard some of His most inspiring speakers expound on His Word. I had fellowshipped with brothers and sisters of the Faith.
My joy knew no bounds. Every day - from daybreak to daybreak - had been about Jesus. I can't think of a single moment that wasn't focused on Him...His love...His glory...His love...His majesty...and His love!
Before I had gone, however, I'd undergone a few days of "stormy weather." It seemed life was closing in on me and I was so ready for the change a few days away would bring. When I returned home, I thought, "Nothing but nobody can bring me down from this high." Naturally, I was wrong in that assumption. Within 48 hours, I had taken my eyes off Jesus - looking to the natural "disasters" about me - and I began to sink.
There's nothing like a good storm to bring you down from a good high. The Disciples had just participated in the feeding of the five thousand; had seen Jesus turn five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food to feed the hungry crowd and have some left over. Immediately afterward, Jesus put His men in a boat and sent them on to Bethsaida, the boyhood home of Philip, Andrew, and Peter, while He went up on a mountainside to pray alone.
In Mark's version of the story, it reads: When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. (Mark 6: 47, 48a)
The "lake" is the Sea of Galilee, a body of water 12 1/2 miles long and - at its most broad - 7 1/2 feet wide. The Jordan River empties into it at its northern end and passes out of it at its southern end. An almost unbroken wall of hills - which gives it a bowl-like appearance - can cause sudden outbreaks of storms.
Such was the evening the Lord sat on a hillside watching His men struggling with the circumstances surrounding them.
Walking on Water
Somewhere between 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning (also known as the fourth watch of the night), Jesus must have thought, "Well...I guess I'd better scoot on down this hillside and trot over to the Lads of the Lake." According to the three gospel writers who record this story (Luke is the only one who doesn't), Jesus didn't find another boat and row over. That in itself would have been miracle enough, seeing as He would have had to do so alone.
No. Rather Jesus walked on the waves that threatened to destroy His Disciples.
When they saw Him, they assumed He was a ghost. As if the storm were not enough...now this.
But then Jesus, the one who literally sent them into the storm said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
Zondervan's NIV Bible Commentary remarks on the passage thusly: Although the Greek words for "It is I" ("I am") can have no more force that that, any Christian after the Resurrection and Ascension would also detect echoes of "I Am," the decisive self-disclosure of God (Ex 3:14; Isa 51:12; cf Jn 8:58). Once again we find Jesus revealing himself in a veiled way that will prove especially rich to Christians after his resurrection.
Think about it; if this is true, what the Disciples heard was, "There's no reason to be afraid...God is here."
Do you remember being a child and crying out in the night after having had a nightmare? What happened next? You jumped out of bed, scampered into your parent's room, and crawled between them. They wrapped their arms around you, shushing you, saying things like, "It's okay now. Mommy's here..." or "Daddy's here." There was significant comfort in those words. Why? Because no monster (or ghost) can get to you without going through them first.
I believe when Peter heard these words he vacillated between overjoyed and uncertain. Yes! God is here! Nothing to be afraid of now! The Almighty Night Light has come...
...I think. It sounds like Him...it sorta looks like Him...then again, with these waves and the fury of the storm...it's so difficult to know for certain...it may be Jesus...it may be...
"Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water," Peter called out.
Perhaps Peter thought back over the past twenty-four hours. When the large crowd began to get hungry, the Disciples had gone to Jesus and expressed concern about feeding them. "Send them away to the villages to get something to eat," they said. But Jesus said, "You feed them." (Emphasis mine) An order, commanding His Disciples to do something miraculous...and they did.
Later, Jesus ordered the people back to their homes for the evening...and the people obeyed Him. Then Jesus instructed His Disciples to get into the boat while He went off alone...and with that, they did so.
There is power, Peter knew, in the very instruction of Jesus.
"Come!" Jesus told Peter. And, Peter got out of the boat.
Six Feet High and Rising
Some people say that Peter was being a show-off when he stepped over the ledge, but I don't think so. Remember the nightmare scenario? Afraid of monsters, it took real guts to get out of bed and run through the darkness toward the safety of our parents, didn't it? But we did it...because we knew what we'd find there. All the comfort and protection they could give.
There is absolutely nothing within me that would lead me to believe that Peter thought, "Well, I'll show these guys. I'll just hop on out of the water, ski on across it, and bring the Lord back with me."
No. It took faith to get out of the boat and head for the safety of the Master.
Everything went fine, too...as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus.
I'm reminded of when my daughter Jessica was learning to walk. She'd already taken some tentative steps, holding on to pieces of furniture, diapered tushy sticking straight out as some measure of a balancing act. This time, however, I sat on the floor - not too far away - and coaxed her with my hands. "Come on, Baby. Come to Mommy."
She grinned at me - that precious little open-mouth smile with a few teeth showing - and took a wobbly step...then another...and another. My eyes held hers...and they trusted me completely.
Then, she paused, wobbled a bit, looked down at her feet and realized, "Hey, these aren't my knees on the carpet anymore...and if I fall...it's gonna hurt baaaa -"
She fell...and the wailing began.
Peter was in a more serious predicament. He was neck high in water in the middle of a deep lake. "Lord, save me!" he called out.
Immediately, the Word says, Jesus reached out His hand and pulled him up. "You of little faith...why did you doubt?"
Back in the Boat with Jesus
It is not secret to anyone who knows me that one of my favorite movies is The Gospel According to Matthew in which Bruce Marchiano portrays Jesus as the "laughing" or "smiling" Jesus. Jesus, the Man of Joy. In this particular scene, in which Peter sinks like a stone, Jesus did not rebuke Peter, per se. Rather, He responded like a parent to his child.
When my daughter fell, do you think I scolded her for taking her eyes off me? Certainly not. With a bit of a chuckle, I lifted her into my arms and cradled her. "Oh, goodness!" I teased. "That was a bit of a fall, wasn't it, Baby?" Soon she was laughing with me...cooing in the security of my arms.
Marchiano's impression was that Jesus would have chuckled as he said the words, "Why did you doubt?"
Jesus must get a real kick out of us sometimes. Just as a toddler has the ability to walk, so we have the ability to do anything God has called us to do! If Jesus has called us out of the boat and instructed us to walk on water, you can betcha you can do it...as long as you keep your eyes firmly on His. But, even if we look away and begin to sink in the natural disasters of our lives, He will lift us back to safety.
And when would that be? When we call upon His name.
When Peter and Jesus got back in the boat, the Scriptures say the wind immediately died down and the men declared, "Surely you are the Son of God."
Ya think? What gave it away? The feeding of the five thousand? The walking on water? The calming of the storm? Or the love of the Creator to His creation when death seemed but a breath away?
Questions for Personal or Group Study
1. Think back to a "mountaintop experience" you've had with the Lord. Write or talk about it.
2. Think about it: Jesus ordered His disciples into a boat and onto a lake knowing a storm would come. But, He also knew He'd be right there...and would never have His eyes off them for a second. Can you think of a time when Jesus sent you "into a storm?" Were you initially aware of His watching over you?
3. Have you ever had a "walk on water or stay in the boat" experience? Talk or write about what happened.
4. There is absolute comfort and security in the arms of the Lord. Talk or write about a time when He rescued you from the disasters around you.
5. What did it take for you to say, "Surely you are the Son of God?"
Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson's work includes Intimate Moments with God and Intimate Encounters with God (Cook). She is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows and Shadow of Light. (Barbour Fiction) She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at www.EvaMarieEverson.com.
Other Articles in This Series:
Getting Acquainted With Peter, 5: The Confession
Getting Acquainted With Peter, 4: The Inner Circle