Above the Waves
Here’s where you’re going to find out what a strange child I was. Keep in mind, I was a church kid- and if you were a church kid too, don’t even try and tell me you never did this. I won’t believe you. I tried to walk on water.
It was summertime and I was five or six. I was visiting my grandma in Grand Coulee, and I was at the city pool every minute that it was open. I played mermaid, I pretended I was a synchronized swimmer (like Miss Piggy in The Great Muppet Caper) and I repeatedly walked off the side of the pool, trying to walk on water.
I had heard the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water many times, and someone had told me, that the reason Peter walked on water was because he had enough faith in Jesus. Did I really think I could walk on water? No. Not for a minute. But that didn’t stop me from trying. I blamed the fact that I couldn’t do it on my lack of faith, not on the laws of physics. Because no matter how much I wanted to believe that I could walk on water, being honest with myself, I knew I couldn’t make myself have that much faith.
But that was just fun. It was hot out, and sinking down into the cold water felt great. The ever present shriek of the lifeguard’s whistles and their repeated requests to, “walk please!” were a reminder to me that I was in no danger. I had no need to walk on that water. I was just being silly and I knew it.
I was right. I couldn’t make myself have that much faith. Yes, Peter had faith in Jesus, but it didn’t come from his own efforts. I think the point of the story is that Peter walked on water because he had his eyes on Jesus. That’s where his faith came from.
The story is told in Matthew chapter 14; Jesus had just found out that his friend and cousin, John the Baptist, had been killed. He wanted to be alone, but the crowds followed him. So he had compassion on them and spent the day healing their sick, and when the people got hungry, he fed them- 5,000+ of them, with five loaves of bread and two fish, a miracle. Peter and his disciples saw all of this, first hand. Finally, at the end of the day, Jesus had a chance to be alone and he went to pray on a mountain. He sent his disciples ahead of him in a boat. In the middle of the night, after they were far from shore, there was a storm. Jesus walked out on the water to his friends. When they saw him, they were terrified, thinking he was a ghost. But Jesus told them it was him, and not to be afraid. Then Peter said,
““Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:28-33)
It was only when Peter took his eyes off Jesus, and began to look at the wind, that he began to sink. But Jesus reached out and helped Peter when that happened. I believe that this is a literal telling of this story, that Jesus and Peter really did walk on water, and that it happened for a purpose, and for reasons beyond just saving Peter or making him look good in front of the other guys. Jesus was showing them that he really was the Son of God, and that he was in control, that he could be trusted. And those are truths that we can take beyond this story and apply to our own lives.
I’ve never been on a boat in a big storm. I’ve never needed to literally walk on water. But I have had storms in my life. In some of those storms, I’ve kept my eyes on Jesus, and in some, I’ve looked around at my circumstances and started to sink- and I’ve called out to Jesus, and he has saved me. He wants to do the same for you, too.