Even after preaching yesterday on Peter’s slippery stroll across the Sea of Galilee, I am still contemplating whether the story paints Peter as a model disciple or a counter-example to avoid. Certainly Peter’s character of being impulsive is frequently mentioned in the Bible. For example, when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, Peter at first refused to have his feet washed, then asked to have his entire body (John 13:6-10). Pete seemed to speak first and think later.
In the boat, I think Simon Peter blurted out his request without really taking time to think about it. His mouth was engaged before his brain. Jesus had given him his nickname of Cephas, which is Aramaic for Petra or Peter, which is the Greek word for “Rock.” Rocks can be fairly dense and do not usually float. Peter discovered this when he walked towards Jesus. His mind caught up with his impulses and he sank. Still he knew the author of his life, so as he sank like a rock, he called out to the Jesus, “Lord, save me.” That impulsive cry was the right one, for Jesus lifted him out of the chaos of the sea and into the lifeboat of faith.
Peter’s impulsive behavior is something with which I can identify. Yesterday, after outdoor worship was finished and people were greeting one another, I impulsively raised my voice and asked all to sing, “Happy Birthday” to my future daughter-in-law, Maggie Thomas, who was visiting. Only afterwards did I stop to think whether this was something she might appreciate. I have been known to shout, “Amen!” during a colleague’s sermon or to impulsively drag a confirmation student to help with a lesson. Sometimes the impulses are great; other times an embarrassment.
Shortly after his walk on the water, Jesus quizzed the disciples as to his identity. He asked them first what the word on the street was. The disciples responded, “Some people think you are John the Baptist returned from the dead, others think you are one of the Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah or Elijah.” Then Jesus asked, “Who do you think I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matt 17:13-16) There is the model of impulsive trust that I want to follow.
Have you ever experienced an impulsive expression of faith?
Lord Jesus, rule the impulses of our hearts as well as the reflections of our minds.