The first step may be the hardest, but it doesn’t necessarily take the most faith. Take the story that Matthew tells of Peter walking on the water. It is interesting that Matthew is the only one who mentions this. Mark and John both leave this detail out of their retelling of the circumstances surrounding the feeding of the 5,000. At first I was puzzled by this, but then I got thinking that this wasn’t one of Peters high points. Traditionally we hear this story told of the great faith Peter had to step out of a boat on a stormy sea and walk to Jesus (even if he eventually doubts and sinks). Perhaps there is a different understanding to this story.
All three gospel accounts of these events mention that as Jesus approached them on the water this story morning on the Sea of Galilee, and that terrified them. Jesus in all three accounts says the same thing-’It is I, don’t be afraid’. Interestingly, Matthew is the only one that includes Peters bold shout out back to Jesus-’Prove it’. While the exact translation isn’t ‘Prove it’ that is a safe paraphrase. Peter declares, ‘if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water’. So lets recap, Jesus says ‘don’t be afraid it is me’, and Peter yells ‘prove it’. What happens next is pivotal. Jesus tells Peter to ‘come ’ and Peter steps out of the boat. Heres the question, is it his faith in Jesus or his doubt that causes him to get out of the boat. The next question is just as pivotal-is it the faith of the rest of the disciples that keeps them in the boat or their doubt.
Sometimes it takes more faith to let Jesus into your boat than it does to get out and walk on water.
When Jesus says ‘don’t be afraid it is me’, Peter is the only one who yells ‘if it’s you’. I used to believe that great faith was the person demanding great things, and am coming to realize it is sometimes trusting in the small things. Sometimes you need to experience faith on the water, but sometimes you can experience it in the boat. Some have to get wet, others can learn it dry.
One other odd thing from these three separate accounts is found in Mark’s retelling. He records that when the disciples saw Jesus on the water that morning it looked as if he was about to walk past them. Maybe Jesus wasn’t coming out to rescue them from the storm, instead he was trying to beat them across. Sometimes I think God doesn’t intend to stop the storm, but instead meet us on the other side. Amazingly he was aware of the struggle against the waves even while he was on the mountainside, yet he waited till the fourth watch (3-6am) to go out. Sometimes God meets us in the middle, sometimes he meets us on the other side, but he is always aware. Regardless of what you think – in the middle of the noise and chaos of life’s storms if we look-we will most likely see him too. And like the men in this story we will be terrified. I guarantee he is telling us the same thing he told them -’It is I, don’t be afraid’. The real question is will we stand up and yell ‘Prove it!’, or schooch over and make room in the boat.