I cannot walk on water, liquid water, that is. I do occasionally walk on the frozen variety, and slip on it, as the bruise on my back attests to. I can walk among the vapor state of water, was driving through it last night, very slowly. I cannot walk on water. Not by my own power. For the physics nerds I know, I suppose there might be some sort of device to attach to my feet to make it possible to walk on the surface of liquid water. Something like a ‘snowshoe’ for water or boats for my feet. After all, I am able to float on top of water when I swim, or when I am in a boat. I leave that to the physicists. Under my own power, I am not able to walk on water.
“And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.'” Matthew 14:25-27
Jesus, fully human and fully divine, walked on water. He had human feet which displaced water the same way mine do. Yet, He walked on the surface of the water. His divine nature interrupted the laws of physics so that He could walk on water. Mark would have us believe that Jesus was planning to pass by His disciples in the boat (Mark 6:48). He needed to get to the other side of the sea, more work to do, more hearts to convince, more souls to save. Always more souls to save. His disciples were “straining at the oars”, the wind against them. They were having trouble getting where they needed to go. But Jesus walked into the head wind, with ease, on the surface of the water.
The disciples did not call on the power of God to help them overcome their predicament. They did not marvel at their Teacher. They did not recall the great miracle He had done just hours before, feeding five thousand hungry people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Rather, they thought Him a ghost, something they did not understand, something they feared. Every one of them saw Jesus walking on the surface of the water, and not one of them recalled the miraculous scene they witnessed just hours before. No David in their midst to encourage faith instead of fear, to slay the wind with faithful courage and five smooth stones (1 Samuel 17:1-54).
Jesus calls out to them, tells them not to be afraid, that it is He, their Teacher, their Friend, who used the power of God to feed a multitude with a pittance of resources. Peter is not convinced. Or, isn’t he? “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” (Matthew 14:28) If it was not Jesus, Peter knew he would start sinking with his first step on the surface. If it was not Jesus, would a ghost command him to come? Finally, faith! I can see Satan grinding his teeth at this one. Peter, with the faith of a spiritual giant, proves faith true in one statement. Jesus tells him to “Come!” Peter steps out of the boat and walks on the surface of the water. The great crescendo! Peter does the physically impossible, just like the man who is fully divine.
“But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'” Matthew 14:30
The scratching of the vinyl against the needle. Peter starts thinking too much and loses touch with the divine. Satan gives it his best shot, roars the wind and Peter sinks. He takes his eyes off of the Teacher, the One empowering him to defy the laws of physics, and allows doubt to blow into his mind. ‘What if He really isn’t the Lord? What if my faith isn’t strong enough? What if I am supposed to be doing something to make this continue? What if He changes His mind? What if I’m not strong enough to continue this walk? What made me think I can walk on water?’
“Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31
You were almost there, Peter! Your doubt, your reliance on your own abilities, your fear, Satan’s windy distraction–you lost your focus, Peter, and you doubted. But, you had faith! None of your comrades in the boat did. They didn’t step onto the surface of the water like you did. They didn’t walk toward the Teacher like you did. They had no courage to prove belief true, but you did. The Teacher gives you a lifeline; your faith resurges as He grabs hold of you and walks you back to the boat. Satan loses his power over you and your mates, and the wind stops. The Teacher didn’t let you sink. He was never going to let you sink.
Do I believe He will never let me sink–sink into my own despair, sink into my doubt, sink into Satan’s distractions–when I step out in faith on the surface of the water? When He calls out to me to leave my boat in the midst of a storm and walk on water to Him, do I believe He will keep His eye on me? Do I believe He will lead me to where He wants me to go? Do I believe it is wiser to leave my faithless mates behind and follow only Him?
Common sense tells me it is impossible to walk on water. Faith tells me I must walk on the surface of the water to get to where Jesus wants me to be, at His side and safe in His embrace. If I stay in the boat of self-reliance, straining at the oars with the wind blowing against me, I will never get to the place of spiritual safety He intends for me. By my own strength, I am powerless against Satan’s wind.
When I am at a point in life when a spiritual storm is raging around me, threatening to take me under, only by walking toward the Teacher on the surface of the water do I find safety. A step of faith followed by another on uncertain surfaces, ever looking at His face and seeking His guidance, focused on His ability to rescue me if I falter, with the courage of a young shepherd facing a giant–this is how I should walk through the storms of life. But, I have to get out of the boat.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” Proverbs 3:5-7
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6
All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.