Lent 2023 Day 3: Fri 24 Feb
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’
‘Come,’ he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
Jesus is on a mountainside late at night, and it seems that he can see the boat in trouble – the moon must have been shining bright that night. Jesus comes to their aid – does he walk down the mountain and then out to sea a considerable distance, or does he simply appear by some miracle where the disciples see him? All we know is that he got there, and it was now almost dawn.
It’s not unreasonable for the disciples to wonder who this figure walking towards them on water was, and to conclude that it had to be a ghost. Jesus calls out to calm them down.
Peter’s logic defies me. If I wanted proof that this was Jesus, I’d invite him into the boat. I would not ask him to invite me overboard If it was a ghost or some malign presence, I’d be doing their job for them were I to come off the boat and consequently drown. But that’s what Peter asks. Perhaps he recognises the Master’s voice (click on underlined links to take you to a Bible passage), and this assures him.
Peter does the crazy thing, but it’s not crazy – Jesus responds, “Come”. And Peter goes out to him. He’s good while his eyes are on Jesus. Jesus has not made a motorway for Peter. He’s not even calmed the wind or the waves. Peter debarks into the same storm that was buffeting the boat. That is great faith. Faith is not something you can stockpile. The greatness of Peter’s faith is not reckoned in the amount of faith he had gathered over time, but by his trust that when Jesus calls, he will be good to his call. Jesus calls Peter, and Peter steps out because Jesus had called him.
He wobbles, but Jesus catches him. He’d taken his eyes off Jesus. Jesus’ comments seem quite harsh (after all, no-one else was rushing out behind Peter), but his comment and question to Peter are both valid. Peter looked aside because fear had gripped him. Some might say that reality gripped him. The wind and sea were real enough, and they did not calm down to assist Peter to come to Jesus. There was no need for that, because Jesus was there, and he has authority over roaring winds and waves.
Could Jesus jog down the mountain or did he appear miraculously at the scene? What do you think?
Do you recognise the Master’s voice?
Did Jesus believe that Peter would come out to him?
Do you wait for Jesus to come in, or do you go out to him?
Was Jesus reckless to call Peter out in those conditions?
Could you promise to follow Jesus through the storms of life?
Father God, You have a perfect plan for my life. You call me to serve you and you have promised to keep me safe for the duration. Would you make your call clear to me and give me the wherewithal to respond? Be real to me and call me beyond the safety of my worldly life to walk with you in holy places. Amen.