Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Water Walking, Part 2

Continued from yesterday:  Part II of Water Walking

Hear these words from the 14th chapter of Matthew, verses 22-33
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
John Ortberg – great author – has written a book called, If you want to walk on Water, you have to step out of the boat. It wasn’t easy, as I’m sure you can imagine, to send in a resume to someone I barely knew, saying, in effect, “I know I don’t have the expected education or qualifications for this position, but God says, “Apply.” It very much felt like stepping out of a boat and trying to walk on water.

Picture the scene from the passage in Matthew. Focus for just a moment on Peter. He and the other disciples were sent out in a boat by Jesus. Unexpected storms had arisen, and I imagine there were afraid for the very lives. The passage says that it was early in the morning – the Greek specifies a time between 3am and 6am. It was dark, just before dawn. Think about being outside in the dark, with no electricity, your only source of light being the moon. Peter had had a rough, fear-filled night, and it wasn’t over. On the water, he can barely make out a figure approaching, walking on the water. Impossible. The figure on the water tells all of them to take heart, and he reassures them that he is Jesus. Still, Peter isn’t sure – he can’t see who it is, it is too dark. He can’t be sure of who it is by the voice – it must have been noisy in the storm and on the water. He says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replied, “Come.”

How did Peter know it was Jesus? Not by what he saw, not by the voice he heard. Peter asks Jesus to command him to do the impossible – to walk on water. Bishop William Willimon preached in a sermon about this scripture, “Jesus is the one who extravagantly, recklessly, commands you to leave the safety of the boat, to step into the sea, to test the waters, and show what your faith is made of. That's Jesus.” Peter knows it is Jesus because Jesus commands him to do something seemingly impossible.
That’s not particularly reassuring for those of us who follow Christ. I’m pretty certain we don’t want to be called to do what we don’t believe we can do. And I know that gathering the courage and will to do the impossible is a tough job. This passage offers us some help for this type of radical discipleship.

Continued tomorrow.



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