Panasonic FZ50, 1/500 sec, f6.3, ISO 100, 10mm
In today’s reading from Matthew’s gospel (chapter 14, verses 22-33), the Lord Jesus had gone up on a mountainside by himself in order to pray. Before he did so he told the disciples to get in the boat and go across to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. According to John’s gospel they had got about three and a half miles across the water when a strong wind started to blow and they were being thrown around by large waves. Then during the forth watch of the night, at about 3 am, we learn that the Lord Jesus went out to them, walking on the water. On seeing a figure approaching them across the water, the disciples are understandably terrified and they think they are seeing a ghost, but then as the figure draws nearer He says to them “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”.
Peter still isn’t sure, so he says “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come out to you on the water”. So the Lord says “Come Peter”, so he gets out of the boat and also walking on the water makes his way to the Lord Jesus. But then Peter takes his eyes off the Lord and looks at waves and notices the wind and so he begins to sink. He cries out “Lord save me”. Jesus reaches out his hand and catches hold of Peter and says: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When they had got into the boat we are told that the wind and waves died down, and not surprisingly all those who were present in the boat worshipped him and said “Truly you are the Son of God”.
What an absolutely amazing story this is, that the Lord Jesus would go out to his disciples in distress, walking on the waves as if they were solid ground. Of course if we look at this rationally, it’s absurd, something that is completely impossible. So what does it tell us? One of the main purposes of the gospel is to tell us who Jesus is. We see through his teaching, his miracles, and above all through his death and resurrection that he is indeed portrayed to us as God in the flesh. The Lord Jesus the second member of the trinity of God, becomes one of us, he becomes like us in every way except without sin. The Lord Jesus became fully man, whilst at the same time remaining fully God. A person cannot walk on the water in his own strength, but with God as we see from our reading, this is possible.
In Colossians chapter 1, speaking about the Lord Jesus, the Apostle Paul writes:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible… all things were created by him and through him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And in paragraph 291 of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, we read “The New Testament reveals that God created everything by the eternal Word, his beloved Son.”
So if we try and get our minds around the fact that along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus the Son of God is the creator of the world, then it is not hard to understand how the creator of the wind and the waves has ultimate power over them. Jesus can walk on the water because He is the One who created water in the first place. He can command the wind and the waves to be still and calm because it was by his word, his command that they came into being in the first place. And vitally, for us, he can save us from our sins, he can wash us from the inside out, he can make us new, he can wipe the slate clean and he can give us a fresh start and a new beginning, because, it was He who made us in God’s image.
Let’s not be too harsh on Peter for taking his eyes off the Lord Jesus and sinking as a result. At least he had the courage to get out of the boat in the first place! No doubt the other disciples, and probably me and you if we were there, were huddled together in fear in the far corner of the boat. Peter has faith. He believes that if the Lord calls him out on to the water, then his Lord has enough power to do that. But then Peter was to learn an important lesson and it’s a good one for us to remember as well. He took his eyes off the Lord for a moment and instead looked at the rolling waves and he let himself notice how strong the wind was and as a result he succumbed to them and began to sink. But to his credit he knew what to do, he cried out “Lord save me” and so the Lord took hold of him and held him up.
Peter learned not to take his eyes off Jesus, and how important that is for us as well. Especially when we are in the midst of the storms and troubles of life, we must not lose our faith to such an extent that we stop trusting in the power of our Saviour to rescue us and to help us. If we do, then like Peter we will begin to sink under the weight of our stress and troubles. We too are of little faith when we fail to turn to Christ. As with Peter, He holds out his hands to save us, but how often we turn away thinking that we can get through life on our own. Only the Lord Jesus has the power, and the love to forgive us our many sins, only Jesus is able to rescue us from ourselves and the mess of our lives that we make - when we selfishly live our lives for ourselves rather than live them for God.
When the wind and the waves had died down, the disciples were absolutely astounded at what they had just seen. They worshipped their Lord and Master and said to Him “Truly you are the Son of God”.
What do we think of Jesus? Do we think he was just a good man and a teacher of morality? Or do we believe that He is who He said He is, namely God’s son and our Saviour? It is a very sad thing indeed when someone has heard about the Lord Jesus many times and fails to act upon what they have heard and read for themselves in the Bible. It’s like being “man overboard” and refusing to grab hold of the life-line that’s been thrown to them and choosing instead to sink and drown.
Many of us just go through the motions of life without really thinking or questioning the meaning or purpose of life, why we are here in the first place and what we are to do with the short number of years that we are given. Meaning, purpose, truth and certainty are found only in Christ. It is only by giving our lives to the One who gave His life for us that we grasp what life is about. It is only in Jesus that we know what it is like to be at peace, only in Him do we truly know what it is like to be really happy, and secure in the knowledge that death rather than being the end, is just the beginning.
In Romans 8:38 the Apostle Paul writes:
For I am convinced that neither death, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The single most important fact in the universe is that God loves us. He reaches out his nail pierced hands for us to take hold of. What are we going to do, are we going to look away and sink or are we going to turn to Him with all our heart?