Continuing our series “Tales of the Sea”, we’re now going to be looking at a story that is set on the Sea of Galilee. Literally. This story of Peter’s bold faith in stepping out of the boat — and the fear that overtook him — captures many of the emotions we’ve all experienced as followers of Jesus, ever since the Disciples first walked with Jesus in Galilee nearly two millennia ago.
It is the story of Jesus walking on the water.
So here are the Disciples. They are exhausted, frightened, skeptical, hopeful, confident, courageous, doubtful — and amazed. As this story unfolds we know that surely the members of the Early Church could see themselves in this story.
These early Christians were trying to be faithful followers of Jesus, and they, like the Disciples in the boat, were fighting (this time metaphorically) a strong headwind of resistance, a battering by the waves of experience and expectation, and an experience of the deep insecurity of being far away from the firm and sure ground they had grown up with.
And then they experienced the presence of Jesus, coming to them in a way and a place they least expected. He came to bring them comfort, just as he did with those first Disciples.
Like Simon Peter, they were skeptical at first, saying, “Lord, if it’s really you, order me to come to you on the water.” And when Jesus then said to them, “Come,” it was not so much an expression of comfort as it was a challenge.
Imagine for a moment what this request from Jesus must have felt like for to those early followers. They were very much a persecuted minority in the Roman Empire in which they dwelled. So hearing the call of Jesus to step out of the boat, to do something daring, to be willing to step out, not on firm and sure ground, but to step out in faith, had to be terrifying to them.
Thinking symbolically now about how often the early church retreated out of fear before stepping out again — and how often they stepped out and become terrified, I think they most certainly could see Simon Peter’s experience in their own.
Now here we are, almost 2,000 years later. Can you find yourself in this story? Can we, as a church, collectively, find ourselves in the same boat as the Early Church? Where in our lives do we experience headwinds, waves, exhaustion, and fear of what the future may hold — finding ourselves far away from what we thought was firm, sure, solid ground?
I encourage you to read this story before we worship together on Sunday, and I look forward to our exploring these questions together.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster,
Walking on the water
Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.
Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”
And Jesus said, “Come.”
Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”
Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” When they got into the boat, the wind settled down.
Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!”