There is a famous event in the Gospels that most of us know. It is the story of when Jesus walked on water. If you’re not familiar with what happened, let me fill you in. It had been a crazy day for Jesus. It started by him getting the news that his cousin and friend, John the Baptist, had been killed by Herod in one of the most debased scenes that you will see in all of scripture. After hearing of this, Jesus decided to go off on his own and spend time with the Father. Any time that things got particularly hectic or stressful, Jesus always made it a point to spend some alone time with God. Perhaps, we should imitate him in that. However, he was not able to stay alone for long.
A crowd found out where he had gone and followed him. Rather than sending them away, he fed them. This became the largest-scale miracle of Jesus’ earthly ministry— the feeding of the five thousand. The crowd was dismissed after they had eaten and were satisfied, and Jesus again went off on his own for a while. That sets up the scene that I alluded to at the beginning of this post.
The disciples were afloat in their boat on the Sea of Galilee heading to the other side as they had been instructed to do by the Teacher. The wind picked up and waves started beating against the boat. The men were fighting the storm and trying to get to their destination when they saw something unexpected. It looked like a man was walking on stormy waters. They were frightened (that’s the correct response when seeing such things). Matthew 14:26 tells us that they believed it was a ghost. But the figure moved closer and said to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). With those words, they knew that it was the Lord.
Peter wanted a little more proof, though. He told Jesus that if it was him, then allow him to walk on the water as well. His request was granted. Matthew 14:29 reads, “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” Of course, a few steps into his stroll across the stormy sea, Peter began to doubt and plummeted into the water. Jesus then reached out and grabbed his disciple, and they walked hand-in-hand back to the safety of the boat.
Most of the time that this story is told, it focuses on Peter’s doubt and our need to keep our eyes and faith on Christ. I want to take it in a little different direction. While it’s easy to put Peter down and use him as an object lesson, we forget that he did something amazing. To the best of my knowledge, there have only been two people who have ever walked on water. While he did eventually doubt and sink, he also did the impossible. Peter took a risk of faith and did something no other mortal man has ever done.
We need to follow Peter’s lead. We need to be willing to step out of our comfort zone. We need to ask God to allow us to do the impossible. He could have easily said to Jesus, “Come to the boat.” He could have said nothing at all, and this would simply be a story about Jesus doing a miracle. Instead, this is now a story about Peter joining Jesus to accomplish something previously inconceivable. Isn’t that what we should desire, to unite with Christ to accomplish something that we could never do on our own?
The seemingly impossible thing that we should strive to do is to establish God’s kingdom in this world. That is done only by loving God, loving others, and telling them about Christ. If we want to do that, we will have to leave our comfort zones and enter into the stormy waters. It won’t be easy and will certainly be risky. There’s a chance that it could go poorly, and we’ll begin to sink. If that happens, take heart. Your savior will reach out for you, and you will walk with him, hand-in-hand, back to safety. He won’t let you drown— I promise.
We all have a choice to make: do we want to stay in our boat where we feel comfortable or do we want to do something daring and crazy like Peter did? I know one thing: Peter encountered Jesus like no one else ever has because of his choice. If we want a similar experience, we need to get out of the boat and head out into the impossible. If we want to be with Jesus, then the impossible is the place where we are most likely to find him.