I’m looking at the book of Matthew, chapter 14 and I’m going to pick the story up immediately after Jesus had fed the 5000. This is immediately after his disciples had experienced first-hand the miracle of Jesus taking 5 loafs of bread and 2 fish and stretching it to provide for at least 5000 people.
Starting at Matthew 14:22, it says, “Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.
So here’s Jesus just graciously bidding people ado, a smile on his face, wiping his hands from a fulfilling day of work, and setting out to find some peace and quiet.
Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.
Then about three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them.
It’s probably safe to assume Jesus already knew what was going on. He was already moving in their direction amidst the storm. To this point, there’s no indication in the text that the disciples had been calling out for him, but here he comes, and he’s boldly confidently walking on water. Another miracle.
When the disciples saw him, they were terrified.
They weren’t jumping up and down, yelling “Yay! The miracle workers here to save us.”
No. It says “In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
Again, this is probably only about 6 hours after they had witnessed the miracle of him feeding 5000 people and yet, they were right back to living in fear. Sound familiar?
But Jesus spoke to them at once, almost like a father would speak to a child, “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. It’s me. I’m here!”
But their doubt and fear persisted. It was Peter, with his crazy bold self, who called out to him, “Really? Is it really you, Lord? Cause if it is, tell me to come to you. Let me walk out on the water to you.”
And of course Jesus said “Yeah, man. Come on!”
So Peter went over the side of the boat, stepped out, and walked on the water toward Jesus.
Cool right?! Jesus is God, so it’s one thing when he walks on water but here’s Peter, a mere human you, like you and me, walking on water. But then of course, in mere human style, he looked around, he felt the strong winds blowing against him, the turblence of the waves splashing up on him, and even though Jesus was right there with him, it says, in his terror, he began to sink and he shouted “Save me!!”
Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. I imagine him, with a slight grin on his face and shaking his head. He said “You have so little faith. Why do you doubt me?”
This is the story of my life right now. I’m experiencing God answering my prayers in amazing ways, I sense his presence, I thank him, I tell people about his glory and goodness in my life, and the next day, I’m fearful again – I’m yelling at my kids, who want new soccer balls and dance shoes when I don’t know how I’m gonna pay the bills next month. I’m fearful of my future and concerned for my life. One moment, I’m standing out in the ocean with Jesus, amazed and so enthralled by him, but then I look around, get scared and start to sink in to an emotional ocean of cold, wet, violent waves. I yell “help me” and he patiently, faithfully picks me up again. This happens over and over these days.
As crazy as it sounds, I kinda love living this way. (Well, not the part where I’m yelling at my kids, obviously. Not when I’m acting/reacting in a state of disbelief).
But I do love being at the ocean. A vacation isn’t a vacation to me unless there’s vast bodies of water nearby. Last year, we took my kids to Marco Island, Florida. It was our first family trip, the first time we were all on a plane together, and the girl’s first time, that they could remember, at the ocean. We actually didn’t tell the girls that we were going until 3 hours before we left. We woke them up in the middle of the night, 3 am, and told them they had an hour to pack their bags before we had to leave for the airport. It was awesome. It was a really great trip.
But as the trip was winding down, I found myself just wanting to sit on the shore and take in the ocean. I started to become sad because I had to leave it. Not your normal “Aw darn, vacations over” sad. I was depressed. I really didn’t want to go home. I mean, I was in tears a few times in that water, because I felt I had nothing good to go home to. The heaviness and misery of home was too much.
As corny as it sounds, I sat on the beach and listened to the popular song “Oceans” by Hillsong, and in listening to that, I knew I was being called out into some scary, uncertain times. But I also knew God was saying “I’ll be there with you.”
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, I was in church singing Oceans during worship. I was standing, with a smile on my face, singing with joy “You called me out onto the water… and there I found you in the mystery”. I was so happy because yeah! I’m experiencing this – I’m finding God in this ocean that I’m in, and his presence is abundant. Jesus is in the oceans. No wonder I love the ocean so much!!
But then, we got the part of the song where we sing “Take me deeper”, take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger, and I stopped. I stopped singing and thought to myself, “what am I saying? I don’t want to go deeper. No, God, I’m deep enough. I’m good.” Which is crazy because I’m learning that is he’s only inviting us into deeper encounters with him, deeper into his presence, and closer to him, and yet I hesitate. I’m so torn. I want to be closer to him. Yes, yes I do. My heart longs for it. But I’m scared again to go deeper. I scared of the cost, about what I might lose, and how it might hurt.
So my prayer for today is that we would, as the song says, keep our eyes above the waves. Not looking down into the waters we could drown in, but looking up to where Jesus stands, miraculously on the water. That by his love, he would continue to make us brave, to give us the courage to meet him in the ocean. I pray he would continue to reveal himself and his love for us so clearly, so tangibly, that everyday, we will sink a little less. And then with that, we can start to imitate him and call others out into the water, into a place where they need to be brave, and allow them to meet Jesus there too.
I didn’t mention this song, but it is my anthem right now: