Thoughts on Matthew 14:22-32 English Standard Version
v.22 Immediately, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side (of the Sea of Galilee) while He dismissed the crowds. What does it mean, Jesus "made" the disciples get into the boat? Was He stern, creating distance between Himself and their verbose plans, their plots to make something happen? Was He gentle as a mother, tenderly, firmly urging an exhausted child to climb into bed? Were they emotionally spent, utterly weary from the events of the day… grieving the death of John Baptist, spending the whole day with the crowds, handing out bread and fish to five thousand men, plus women and children, gathering all of those leftovers… (Were they cranky?!?) Whatever the reason, Jesus sent them on their way.
v.26 But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" and they cried out in fear. This isn't a gang of junior high boys at an all nighter, trying to scare each other with horror movie stories; these are grown men, rugged fishermen, and they are scared enough to be yelling about it. They were looking right at Jesus, but they didn’t recognize Him. How many hours of how many days had He walked right beside them? How many times had they seen Him walking toward them, along the sea, down a dusty road; day after day, they walked with Jesus. But this time they didn't know Him? I'm ready to cut them some slack when I think about their circumstances. Sometimes in my "3 am moments", when my life is stormy and the wind is against me, I don't recognize Jesus either.
v.27 But immediately, Jesus spoke to them saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." Immediately. I like that. As soon as they cried out in fear, right then, Jesus spoke into their lives.
He didn't stop the storm, but He gave them Himself.
v.28 And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." It almost sounds like bold, wild, hopeful Peter is issuing a dare. He wants to be where Jesus is, to go to Jesus - no matter what. So many times I want Jesus to come to me, to meet me where I am, and soon enough, Peter will want that too. But for this moment, I give the man credit. He wants to be called to go where Jesus is.
v.29a He said, "Come." How did Jesus say that word? Was it a simple welcome, a challenge, a gentle beckoning? Was Jesus smiling? What did Peter hear in that voice to make him throw his leg over the edge of the boat and into the sea when they were "a long way from land, beaten by the waves, and the wind was against them"?
v.29b So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. Peter gets no respect, and I can't understand why. Cut him a break already. He was light years ahead of the other disciples, ahead of me. (You too?) He talked to Jesus, heard Him call, obeyed, and walked on water. We generally move right through this verse to the next, but it is good to pause here and ponder what happened. The man walked on water! What if, after I talked to Jesus, I would listen to His call and obey. What if you would? What might that look like in my middle-of-the-night stormy moments?
v.30 But…when he saw the wind, We smile. Silly Pete, you can't see the wind. No, and the fears that stymie me, can I can see them? Future vistas, all unknown, wild winds, they are taking my little boat down, never mind walking on water!?! But he did see something. He saw all that the wind could do, remembered the violent shaking of the ship ("beaten by the waves, remember?) Was he getting wet? Did Peter lose sight of Jesus in the trough of a wave? (Me too, Pete.) Did Peter look around, did he see too much? Would it have been have been better to close his eyes, pretend it wasn’t windy and wild and stormy? (Don't want to be guilty of a negative confession, right?)
I don't think Peter saw too much, I think he saw too little, way too little. He forgot how he got there, that he was called, he forgot the sound of "come", he forgot Who had called him, and he forgot all he had already seen. He lost perspective; it can happen in a moment. A single sentence can completely blind you, violently shake your world...
"I can't hear a heartbeat."
"We've done all we can do."
"There will be no more loans."
"I'm sorry, we're restructuring, I have to let you go."
"I don't love you anymore."
"There's been an accident."
"Mom, I'm pregnant."
"We have your son in custody."
"It's stage 4."
Life's waves are real, the winds of circumstance blow wild around shaking legs; "I'm getting wet here," you call. And then, you're going down.
v.30a He was afraid. Yep me too, Pete. I'm scared skinny some days, of the storms I face and the ones I fear may come.
Dear Peter, he takes a lot of flack for his impulsivity, his "ready, fire, aim" approach to life. But what does he do when he's out of the boat and going down? Does he call to his fishing buddies, his co-workers, as I'm sure he'd done a hundred times through their fishing years, "Hey, throw me the rope!" Surely they are watching, ready to help, to do something, to rescue him.
v.30b Beginning to sink, he cried out, "LORD, save me." Let this be my prayer right now. And ten minutes from now or four hours, or tomorrow, or at 3am, when the waves of unexpected circumstances splash and slap and beat on me, when the wild winds of life-with-autism sweep across my day, when I am beginning to sink, in those Prayer of Pooh moments, "Oh help. LORD save me."
Again. Still. Always. May I return and return and return (yep, going in circles could be a metaphor for some of my days) to the One who walks with me through storms and/or stills the sea. Sometimes one way, sometimes another. I don't call the shots or control the weather. But I can call to the Storm Stiller, the Wave Walker, the Wind Whisperer, the Hand Holder: "Oh, help. LORD, save me."
v.31a Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him... This is what He did first. Not waves calmed nor wind stilled, not beamed back to dry land or even into the boat. He simply took hold of him. Do you take hold of me too, LORD, even as the waves rise and I can't seem to hear your Voice for the screaming wind of life?
v.31b saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" Why indeed. Did he not know that this One who called him was a Man of authority who fed thousands and stilled storms and healed lepers and forgave sins? For once, and for good reason, Peter was speechless, without reply or explanation or answer.
v.32a And when they got in the boat… Who pulled whom over the side? Was Jesus half dragging half drowned Peter? Did they simply stroll on the water over to the boat or was Peter wrapped around Jesus leg like a drowning man? Jesus was in no danger of sinking, and holding His hand, no, with Jesus holding Peter's hand, neither was Peter. What would it take for me, grasping His hand, to grasp this truth?
v.32b the wind ceased. Ahhh, timing. God's that is. If I'd been directing, I'd have said, "Let's have the storm cease just when Jesus's fingertips touch Peter's flailing arm", you know, that magic moment when the sea goes glass and they stroll back to the ship. But no. God's sense of timing is inimitable (and mostly indecipherable as well.) The wind continued, the waves pounded the ship, and and the walkers? They might have been walking on water, but I'll bet they were wet. But where is Peter looking now? I think his eyes are glued to Jesus. Lesson learned, focus shifted, perspective regained.
v.33And those in the boat worshipped Him saying, "Truly You are the son of God."
This worshiping group included Peter.
who called and was called,
who got out and got wet,
who saw and sank,
who cried and was carried.
Peter walked with Jesus and worshipped.