MATTHEW 14:22-36: "WHY DID YOU DOUBT?"
Come on, press the red button! Obey God's word today.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Preparing to read Matthew 14:22-36
One of the most inspiring faith and flop stories is Peter trying to walk on water.
The story is poignant and beautiful. Jesus had told the disciples to head out on the boat across the lake without him. Later Jesus comes to them, walking on the water! The wind and waves are heavy and they are already stressed, then they think they see a ghost on the water. Nothing new, people in boats have thought these things for years. But this was different.
Jesus was coming toward them somehow levitating on the water, and when Peter sees Jesus he's out of his mind and in full-on impulse mode. "If it's you, tell me to come to you!"
Jesus replies to Peter, "Come."
Wait. Before Peter gets out of the boat, let's do a survey of all the hundreds of sermons that have been preached on this text and they two big points they make. John Ortberg wrote a great book on this one story. Don Lincoln, Minister of Westminster Presbyterian in West Chester, PA, says the two big points we hear in sermons are these: faith means risking your life and keep your eyes on Jesus or you're going to sink!
Great points, except for one thing that Pastor Lincoln rightly points out: Jesus never asked Peter to get out of the boat. That was Peter's idea.
"If you just have enough faith. Is that the point of this story? IS that [the] application of this text?? Amy Hunter, in the Christian Century writes: “I had a classmate in college who repeatedly defined faith as ‘stepping out of airplanes, knowing God will catch you.’ My response was that surely God had better things to do than catch folks stupid enough to step out of airplanes.” Enough faith to walk on water? Perhaps it’s not the point of the story at all!" (Sermon by Don Lincoln, 2014; Amy Hunter, The Christian Century, July 26, 2005)
OK, Don Lincoln, tell us more.
Jesus agrees to Peter’s request for a water-walk, and then both rescues him from, and chides him for his little faith and his need for miracles and spectacles – for not believing it was Jesus all along – for needing just one more magic trick. What happens next? Jesus quietly helps Peter find his place in the boat with the others, and they pick up where the story began.
And where did it begin? Jesus “compels” the text says – instructs – the disciples (us) to take the boat (from the earliest times, a symbol of the church or the community of faith) across the sea (a place of chaotic possibilities and anxiety), to meet Jesus on the other side (in some new place, some new territory, some new land) in preaching and teaching the kingdom of God to whoever is there (our reason for being). Get in the boat, go to the other side, get to a new place, bring the Kingdom there. The going is hard and slow (when isn't that the case with the church?), but even at that there is no suggestion that Jesus ever asks the 4 disciples to abandon ship. He knows how hard the going is, and He is patient with the progress His disciples are making. And He will NOT abandon them. (Pastor Brian Donst, Winona, Ontario; 8/6/14 posting on www.midrash.com to his blog at Fifty United Church)
“Stay in the boat, pull on the oars, stay the course, I am with you,” Jesus says.
From Don Lincoln: Fear and anxiety are sure to beset us. But the One who has compelled us to get into this ship and push out into deep waters says, “I will be with you. Fear not. Be not afraid. Be of good cheer. I will be with you on every pull of the oar. You belong to Me.”
From Don Lincoln:
Sometimes it feels like we’re not making headway. Sometimes the wind and waves that beset the church buffet us, challenge us, and even frighten us. We rub our eyes, and wonder whether we’re seeing things as they really are; if we’re in the right place; if we’re still going in the right direction. But Jesus has compelled us to get in the boat and cross the lake, to the further shore – to meet Him there, to be about the work of the Kingdom. Not to spend our time looking for miracle moments in the middle of the lake – but to keep rowing, together, no matter how distant the other shore may be.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.