He tells them to get into the boat. To go on ahead. Go to the other side and He would dismiss the crowd.
He knows what he’s doing.
The crowd, little by little, disperses. Some continue to hang around and chat. Ponder collectively over what they have just heard. Words that have spoken to their heart. Changed their lives.
While some remain, pondering His words, He hikes up the side of the mountain alone. He is going to pray. The air begins to cool. The sun begins to set. And there He is. Sitting. Kneeling on that mountainside. Alone. He is praying to his Father.
In the meantime, the boat, now a good distance away from the shore, begins to rock back and forth. Those inside the vessel begin to grow fearful.
Meanwhile, up on the mountainside, He continues to pray as the cool breezes began to blow past Him.
He knows. He is God and, He knows.
He knows who is in that boat which is swaying more fervently with each sharp gust of wind. Wind that is biting at their flesh.
They are doused with ice cold water that washes over them, drenching their hopes for a safe return. It threatens to fill the hull that holds them in what little refuge they have. It mocks them. Its intent is to sink and drown them. To bury their hopes. Their faith. Their trust. Their belief for a better way. If it has its way, the storm’s crushing waves and chaotic winds will leave them for dead.
And He knows this.
It is the fourth watch of the night. Almost sunrise. They have battled through the night with a ship destined for destruction in the wake of disaster.
He has battled all night in prayer. Were His prayers for their faith to increase and their fears to subside?
There are boats by the shore. He could probably get a ride. But instead, He walks. Right onto the water. And the waves lap high around His ankles.
On the water.
How many times have we read or heard stories from the Bible that they’ve seemed to become commonplace and bring nothing into our humdrum lives? Our response?
“Oh yes. I’ve read that one – Jesus brought a little girl back to life. Pretty cool.”
Cool? COOL? It’s miraculous! It’s incredible. Incredibly miraculous. And if I think about it for any length of time, at any depth, I realize – it isn’t cool, it’s unfathomable.
And so He walks. And fear rocks each disciple as the waves rock the boat. Then they spot Him. When that fear has clawed its razor sharp talons into the depths of their beings – they see Him. But through fear-tinted glasses they don’t really see Him.
They see a man.
They see a figure.
“Peter! It’s. a. ghost.!!!”
But He is not a ghost. He is the One who will save them. Now. At this moment. And three years later. And every day after that.
Immediately He calls out. “Guys – it’s okay. Don’t be afraid. It’s me – Jesus.”
Peter gathers his thoughts.
“Lord, if it’s really you then…”
Should he risk it? Should he sound and look foolish should the far-off man really be a ghost? Will his request make him look brave so that when he appears foolish in three years on that day of denial, his companions may overlook his shame?
He risks it.
“Lord, if it is you, then tell me to come out there to you on the water.”
Does Peter, at this point in time, have an inkling as to who Jesus really is?
There is no bravery here. There is no foolishness. But, there is relief. Relief that Help has come. But still the winds toss the boat about. And in the tossing and the rocking and the swaying, Jesus says, “Come.”
At this point, Peter may have wished it was a ghost he had seen for now he had to show by works what his faith meant to him. Could he walk over to Jesus, who had been coming to them but now waited for Peter to come to Him?
I don’t think Peter jumped. I think it was more like he wanted to jump ship as he slowly, cautiously, put one leg over the boat and then the next and then with both hands anchored tightly to the rim on the side the boat, with eyes closed, he lets loose. And he is standing.
I can imagine his surprise. He really is standing!
He probably smiles a sheepish grin to no one in particular and turns around and begins walking toward Jesus. You couldn’t wipe that grin off his face. You couldn’t squelch the pride coursing through his very being.
His shoulders are broad and he could have moved a mountain. If only the waves at his feet would settle. If only the wind would calm. As he looks at the waves and feels their sting against his legs, he looks to the horizon, watching the clouds rush toward him, while his faith flees and fear fills him once again and… he begins to sink.
Because that’s what fear does. It pulls you down and makes you feel like you’re sinking. The storms in life pound down so hard upon you that you will drown and no one can save you.
But Jesus knew. He knew what was going on in that boat while he was in prayer up on that mountain. He knew what they were thinking while he was intervening. He knew their battle with fear while he was battling for souls. And He knew what Peter would do.
“Lord, save me,” Peter cried out as he began to sink.
He knew the very second Peter quit looking at Him, is the very second Peter would begin to sink.
Peter didn’t sink immediately, but instead, “when he saw the wind”, we’re told he began sinking and cried out for Jesus to save him. And what did Jesus do?
Immediately He reached out and caught him. Not down, not under the water, but out. It shows Jesus was ready for that moment. Because He knew – before he even sent those boys across the lake, before he spent the entire night in prayer – He knew what was going to happen. Peter didn’t have time to sink because Jesus was in the process of saving him before Peter knew he needed saving. Before he cried out, “Lord, save me,” Jesus was in the process of reaching out before Peter had time to go under.
And Jesus meets Peters fears and faltering faith with tenderness.
With an arm around Peter’s shoulder and steadying his weak knees, Jesus asks, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
What do you say to that?
What could Peter say? What could he do? He said nothing.
The story goes on…
‘When they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.’
The wind died. In the mere presence of Jesus, the wind died. Not a word was spoken.
And, as the wind died, the disciples were saved. As the wind died, their faith grew. As the wind died, they began to live. Really live. And in their living, they worshipped Him. Why? Because they realized who they were hanging around with. They knew this Jesus – their Jesus – wasn’t some mystical, magical being that appeared as a ghost upon stormy seas. They knew this was the Son of God. The One that had the power to change hearts and minds. To change lives. To turn fear into faith and worry into worship.
There are a hundred and one things I could list that could cause me to worry. And fear. And many things on my list I have granted permission to cause fear and worry. Health issues. Financial issues. Family issues. Failures. On and on.
But God doesn’t want us to live there. We can’t live there for Jesus showed us that to live in fear is to sink in the storm. And His way is much safer: keep my eyes on Him, reach for His hand, and trust Him.
Above all, trust Him.