Most of us know the story of Peter walking on the water toward Jesus. The disciples are in a boat being tossed by wind and waves. And then they see someone walking across the water toward them. They’re frightened until they realize its Jesus. He tells them to not be afraid. Then Peter says, “If it is you, Lord, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus says, “Come” and Peter gets out of the boat and starts heading towards Jesus.
But as he is walking, Peter begins to think about what he is doing and becomes afraid. He then starts to sink into the water, crying out to Jesus, who immediately reaches out his hand – taking a hold of him – lifting him back onto his feet. Then they continue back to the boat.
There are many lessons we can learn from this account, but I’d like to put it back in the perspective of the first century Christians and share what they would have heard in this story.
To the disciples and the early church, the sea was a symbol of the unpredictable disorder of the world – a world contrary to God’s original purpose and design. We see this imagery in Job and in the Psalms. It is especially noticeable in the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt where God opened up the Red Sea and later part of the Jordan River for people to pass through. It’s no wonder the disciples were so frightened.
In sharing this story, the gospel writers were identifying Jesus as having the power to deliver people, just as God did with ancient Israel. The Son of Man is portrayed as having control over chaos. When Jesus got back in the boat, the disciples acknowledged just that, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Not only did Jesus save Peter from drowning, he saved the disciples from the storm. He did what they could not do – he brought them peace in the midst of chaos.
Many will say the lesson of this story is to keep your eyes on Christ. And that’s not bad advice, but let’s be honest. None of us can do that perfectly. It is the ultimate comfort to know God keeps his eye on us. So when we get ourselves trapped in the unpredictable disorder of life, we can know that Jesus is with us. He has already saved us from the stormy seas, lifting us into his eternal kingdom, and it’s only though his faithfulness that we will continue to find true safety.
I’m Joseph Tkach, Speaking of LIFE.