What a day! Peter, Andrew, and the others had never seen anything like it! Thousands of people following – even chasing Jesus until he agreed to talk to them. Then his lesson took so long the disciples were afraid people would start to get rough from hunger. And instead of sending them home, Jesus performed a miracle – that’s all it could be – feeding thousands of men from 5 loaves and 2 fish! It was just…incredible.
After everyone finally headed for home, one of the disciples had suggested they go out to celebrate the successful day, but Peter had seen that Jesus was losing steam fast. So he wasn’t surprised when Jesus suggested they head over to the boat on their own and get started crossing the Sea of Galilee. Jesus wanted some alone time to pray and re-generate.
But Peter was a little confused – how could Jesus catch up with them if they took the boat? when Peter asked Jesus, he had just smiled at him and said he would see him later. Who knows, Peter thought, maybe Jesus had friends with a boat who agreed to take him across. So Peter and the others left Jesus alone and headed out in Andrew’s boat.
The diciples made a happy crowd as they started across the Sea of Galilee, reminicing over the exciting day and the miracle Jesus had performed with the loaves and fish. But their moods darkened with the sky as the wind picked up and storm clouds gathered.
Before long, Andrew’s boat was being whipped by the winds. Waves washed over the edges and the disciples were hanging onto the sides to prevent falling into the angry sea.
The next thing Peter knew, one of the other disciples let out a huge, terrified yell. “A Ghost!” he exclaimed in alarm – pointing into the sea.
“A ghost,” another replied peering into the dark night. What does he want? What will we do? We can’t run!” A clamor of terrified voice rose up in horror around Peter.
Peter stood near the side of the boat and peered out into the sea. Yes, there was a figure smoothly approaching the boat. He was gliding…no walking (although that seemed impossible)…over the rough water. But Peter sensed nothing frightening or evil from the figure as you might expect from a ghost. And, something else made the apparition look vaguely familiar to Peter.
And…then it spoke. “Be still, it is I, you have nothing to fear.”
It couldn’t be but…it sounded so much like Jesus!
Peter leaned further out and saw as the figure drew closer that the ghost did, indeed, resemble Jesus. He exclaimed “Jesus, is it really you?” Jesus nodded and Peter laughed in excitement. The other disciples quieted and gathered around Peter.
“Can I come out there too?” he called. “Yes, Come!” Jesus replied.
And without another thought, Peter leapt over the side of the boat and made his way toward Jesus, walking nimbly over the strong waves of the Sea of Galilee. The other disciples were amazed, exclaiming eagerly as they watched.
But then something, perhaps Satan’s last ditch attempt to thwart Peter, happened. The wind increased and a huge wave distracted Peter from Jesus, who was now only a reach away. When Peter took his eyes away, he remembered the strong wind, and felt the cold waves lapping his legs and his courage failed him. He took his eyes away from Jesus, looked around him in fear and began to sink.
Peter’s story in the 14th Chapter of Matthew is so relevant to me because the same thing happens to me over and over and over again as I walk in my relationship with Jesus. I am so “high” on Jesus, excited and giddy over the good that is happening around me. Then a storm picks up and I quickly forget my blessings and the good Jesus brings to the world. Instead, I focus on the waves of fear and anxiety.
Then, through the dark, I see Jesus again. Is it really him, I wonder, but tentatively venture out across the unknown, hopeful once again. But in my weakness, Satan causes something, anything really, to happen that takes my eyes off my Saviour once again.
And I look around in fear and sink, just like Peter.
Which is why I love, love, love the end of the story!
Jesus doesn’t just look sadly at Peter as he sinks to the bottom of the sea. He doesn’t turn and move on, looking for someone with more faith and trust than Peter.
No, Jesus reaches out his hand and catches him, just as Peter is wailing once again “Master, save me!” Jesus gave him a second chance, despite Peter’s constant flip flop between faith and fear.
just as he gives me and you a second (and third and fourth) chance, whenever we call. Despite how it feels in the dark of the night, FEAR DOESN’T WIN! Jesus wins, and so do we so long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, reach out and call “Master, save me!” when we begin to sink. Allelulia! Amen!