Jesus walking on the water is a familiar miracle (Matthew 14, Mark 6 and John 6). In Matthew’s version not only Jesus walks on the waves, but Peter asks to join him. Many Christian pastors and authors see Peter’s actions as a Christian model of what discipleship and trust means. John Ortberg wrote a book called, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat. He writes,
Deep within you lies the same faith and longing that sent Peter walking across the wind-swept Sea of Galilee towards Jesus. In what ways is the Lord telling you, as he did Peter, “Come”? Out on the risky water of faith, Jesus is waiting to meet you in ways that will change you forever, deepening your character and your trust in God.
I remember preaching an ordination sermon that basically said the same thing. I preached about our need to take risks, climb out of our comfort zone and step in the liquid uncertainty of life. But I am beginning to have second thoughts about that being the sole interpretation of the story. The great thing about scripture is its ability to call forth new insights and wisdom.
After all, Peter sinks beneath the waves and needs to be rescued by Jesus. Peter is chastised for his doubts, not the disciples who stayed in the boat. And when Jesus and Peter step into the boat, the wind stops and all is calm.
The ship was an ancient symbol of the church, the community of faith. At the beginning of the story, Jesus compelled the disciples to enter the boat and head to the other side (Matthew 14:22). At the end of the story those in the boat worshipped him, saying “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33). I am beginning to wonder, “Should Peter simply have stayed in the boat?” What do you think?
Do you think Peter’s actions are a model of discipleship or a distraction from Jesus?
Lord Jesus, thank you that you are always ready to rescue me whenever I begin to slip beneath the waves.