But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. Matthew 14:22-33
Imagine spending all night on a fishing boat, battered and carelessly tossed by the waves of an angry sea. Then as your eyes scan the horizon, you notice a man walking on the water towards you. What would your first thoughts be? Ghost, apparition, lack of sleep, a trick of the eyes? How would you feel? Intrigued, overwhelmed, terrified?
Scripture tells us that Jesus’s disciples felt terror. (Isn’t it nice to know these 12 men’s feet, feet who walked in step with Jesus, were made of clay, just as ours?) Jesus, sensing their fear, spoke reassurance: Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid. Peter, suddenly emboldened, responds, “Lord, if it’s You, command me to come to You on the water.” Climbing out of the boat, eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, he gingerly places one foot on the raging sea to discover that He doesn’t sink, the next step produces the same result, like an uncertain toddler uneasily wobbling his first steps. With Jesus in view, surely, Peter begins to walk with more confidence. Until…..
Until, perhaps a sudden gale sprayed water in his face or an intense wave forced him to lurch forward; whatever it was Peter noticed the “strength of the wind and began to sink.” He took his eyes off Jesus and the stormy sea, which had been slowly fading into the background with each timid step, suddenly roaring into sharp focus. In fact, it is all Peter could see. His surrounding circumstances swallowed him up, and he began a sudden descent to what He must have thought was a watery grave. “Lord, save me!”
Immediately, immediately, Jesus reached out to his weary disciple and caught hold of Peter’s hand, pulling him to safety. Jesus’s simple question pierces to the very heart of the matter: You of little faith, why did you doubt? I hear in the silent pause that followed Jesus saying to Peter, “It is I, the raiser of the dead, healer of the sick, Savior of the world, calmer of the raging seas, why, then do you doubt?”
When the wind brought everything crashing down, Peter looked at his circumstances rather than Jesus. Jesus, who had exercised power over nature, worthy of our trust. Oh how often do I forget His promises, how many times do my eyes furiously scan the horizon and does my heart quake when my eyes see the looming battles that threaten to overwhelm: a sick child, financial woes, a demanding schedule with no margin, anxiety, internal battles, and I haven’t even turned on the news yet. And Jesus’s question echoes throughout the centuries, You of little faith, why do you doubt?
Faith is required, and faith comes from keeping our eyes firmly locked on the author and perfecter of our faith: Jesus. Faith is the key that unlocks the door to peace and access to a Savior who promises to replace our heavy yoke of weariness with His light one of rest. Faith, not works, is credited to us as righteousness, to the one “who trust God.”
If you’ve read Matthew 14, perhaps you noticed, that as soon as Peter and Jesus got in the boat, the wind ceased. The wind could have ceased when Peter stepped out into the water, but it was the return to the boat in the safety of Jesus’s presence. Perhaps another lesson in this story of Peter is that it is the storms that strengthen our faith. It would have been easy to run to Jesus on the smooth waters of the sea, but life isn’t a smooth sea, it’s a tumultuous churning of waves and storms in the midst of sunny, smooth days. Jesus, aware that we will face battles, seeks to prepare us for all that the sea may throw our way, so He allows the storms to increase our faith to reveal to us who He truly is and that He is faithful and trustworthy, that even if He chooses not to, in our particular moment, that He does have the power to calm the storms.
Like Peter we will have moments of incredible faith intermingled with moments of crippling doubt, and notice, too, that when Peter’s faith faltered and He cried out to the only one who could save him, that Jesus immediately grabbed his hand. As we wrestle in this life of doubt and faith, we won’t always get it right, but isn’t it wonderful to know, that our Jesus is only a handbreadth away.