Scared To Life (Matt 14:22)
Jesus sent his disciples ahead on boat so he could spend some hours in solitary prayer with his Father. They assumed he would walk around on foot and join up with them on the other side. But a storm arose, and instead of making land before nightfall, they found themselves exhausted; in the middle of night; far from shore; and unable to make progress against the wind and the waves.
In those days, the sea was the Abode of Terror, where fearsome creatures hid in its unfathomable shadows. To find oneself in its death grip; in the dark of night; struggling for life, would stretch the courage of even the bravest to the breaking point. Into this scene of chaos and terror, Jesus presents himself as if a ghost walking on water. To an uninformed observer, it would appear he was playing a tasteless joke the disciples -provoking them into sheer panic.
Matthew recounts the moment, “…they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and they cried out in fear.” These rough, seasoned seamen were reduced to screaming, as men with their heart in their throat. A person of faith is struck numb by this. What is my All-Loving Jesus doing? What is the Good to be found in this Divine Provocation?
Mercifully, Jesus immediately replies, “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.” What follows is the most befuddling response imaginable. Peter answers, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.” Now, a clueless person, with a half thimble of sense, would have known that was not a reasonable thing to say! If it was Jesus, this was hardly the time to try out untested water-walking skills. If it was not Jesus, then attempting to walk on raging water would only prove his demise.
Why would Peter say such a crazy thing? Neither logic, nor emotion can offer a plausible explanation. The key, perhaps, lies a few days into the future, in Peter’s defining moment -when Jesus asked his disciples about their belief in him. Peter alone responded saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus then told Peter, “…it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”(Matt 16:17) It was not human intelligence at work, but the workings of the Holy Spirit which moved Peter to utter these Words. Peter had just proven himself to be a conduit of the Holy Spirit. So momentous was this defining moment –this revealing of Peter’s character - that Jesus linked it to Peter’s destiny as head and foundation of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
Such then, might be the method to the madness –the Holy Spirit has led Peter to walk on water as an awakening to his destiny. In attempting to walk of water, Peter, both, found his utter dependence on Jesus, which alone would equip him to lead the Church; and, inked into history his unquestioning abandonment to the obedience of Christ. To those yet to find meekness in faith, Peter is remembered as the one who failed to walk on water. To those who have walked faith’s demanding path, he is remembered as the Faithful Rock who climbed out of the boat.
In allowing the storm to take his eyes off of Jesus, Peter began to sink into the chaos that was trying to swallow him. Jesus heard his desperate cry for help, and Peter found the Saving Hand of God. His sinking was the beginning of his Baptism into a Life in Christ. Because of his relationship with Jesus, Peter was not scared to death -he was scared to Life. Terror may have scrambled his soul, but his Faith allowed the Holy Spirit to remake him into Something New. As the word “Scared” can be scrambled, then reassembled into “Sacred”; so too, “Peter-the-Failure” was scrambled by Fear, then transformed through Faith, into the “Rock That Would Not Sink”.Lord, your glorious plan for Peter the rock was unimaginable to Peter the burly fisherman. What is your Plan for me? Do not allow my fears, inadequacies, or the storms in my life, to hinder my destiny in you. I will follow you wherever you lead, with your Saving Hand upholding me. Father, as I spend this hour with you, may your Holy Spirit infill me with the Faith and Grace to walk in the footsteps of my Saving Lord.