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.
would like to borrow the pic for the same series which we are doing in New Zealand – is that ok?
This is a really interesting thought- what if Peter wasn’t supposed to leave the boat? But I can’t help but come back to two things:
Jesus said, “Come.”
And when Peter stepped out of the boat, he walked on the water.
The other disciples weren’t chastised for staying in the boat in the narrative, but if I had been in the boat, watching Peter walk towards the living Son of God, and then watching Jesus pull him from the depths (in typical Peter fashion), I can assure you that I would never again have been comfortable to sit back and watch ever again.
Natalie, your reflection on the danger of sitting back and staying comfortable is well stated. Peter is such a fascinating character, from his brash confession to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God,” to his rebuke when he tried to caution Jesus about his upcoming suffering and death (Matthew 16:16,23). Even Paul had to challenge Peter when he came to Antioch (Galatians 2:11-14). I confess that if I were in the boat, I probably would have said, “Peter, why leave a perfectly good boat?” but God created us each with different temperaments and callings so my reaction is not for everyone. Praise be to God!
This is true: Peter IS a fascinating, foot-in-mouth character. He always seemed to be in more trouble than he was worth.
And it’s on THIS man, this loud mouthed, over excited, shameful-denier-turned-preacher that the church’s foundation is built.
WHAT was Jesus thinking??
Yet this is so encouraging for me, because I think I identify with Peter the most, and if God can work through that man, then He can work through me, too. 🙂