Apr 7th, 2019
Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 20 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes or so we are going to talk about stepping out on the water.
Of course, for most people, the first thing that comes to mind is Peter stepping out on the water at the behest of Jesus in Matthew 14:22-33. We can gather more details about this event from Mark 6:45-56, and John 6:16-24. I’ve already included these extra details in what I’m about to read to you, so if you’re following along and I throw out some details not in Matthew 14 then you can find those in Mark 6 and/or John 6.
Matthew 14:22-33, with added details, reads, “Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, to Bethsaida/Capernaum (“...there were two Bethsaidas—one, "Bethsaida Julias," on the northeastern end of the lake; and the other near to Capernaum, called "Bethsaida of Galilee."" The two towns were so near that the latter Bethsaida might reasonably be regarded as the port of Capernaum.” ~Pulpit Commentary, Donald Spence Jones, 1880), while He dismissed the crowds. After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Well into the night, He was there alone. Meanwhile, the boat was already three or four miles from land, battered by the churning waves. Jesus saw them straining at the oars because the wind was against them. He came toward them walking on the sea very early in the morning and wanted to pass by them. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. "It's a ghost!" they said, and they cried out in fear. Immediately Jesus spoke to them. "Have courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." "Lord, if it's you," Peter answered Him, "command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. They were completely astounded, because they had not understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts were hardened. At once the boat was at the shore where they were heading. Then those in the boat worshiped him and said, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
If you know me well, then you know that my favorite Apostle/Disciple/Biblical personality is Peter. I think a lot about Peter and really see him as this amazing example of the transformative power of Christ that takes over all our lives when we come to salvation. I suspect that Matthew feels the same way and when he brings Peter up in his writing my “ears always perk up,” so to speak. I think Matthew invokes Peter in his retelling when he specifically wants to give the reader someone to relate to. I mean, who hasn’t lost their cool and maybe not sliced someone’s ear off, but really messed things up and needed Jesus to intervene on their behalf to “reattach that severed ear?”
Let’s break this particular event down:
The Disciples are ministering with Christ and this crazy miracle happens where very little bread and fish feed a huge crowd of people, but for the Disciples this is just another day at the office. Right? We read that their hearts had been hardened.
Jesus goes off to pray and the Disciples board a boat to head across the sea.
The wind kicks up and their paddling hard to stay on course and gain any distance towards their goal.
They see Jesus as He’s walking past their boat and call out to Him.
Jesus calls Peter out onto the water and things are going great until Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins to sink.
Jesus pulls Peter up and they get back in the boat together.
Immediately the boat is where they were going.
We can all relate to this story, yes? OK, maybe not all of us can relate with taking a rowboat several miles across a sea at night. But, in our Christian walk and service, day in and day out, while God is doing miraculous things around us we can relate to becoming complacent and seeing the things God’s doing as ordinary. We can relate to our hearts being hardened, and what was once a calling that excited and inspired us can become day to day grind. Ordinary. Just going through the motions.
Then what? We press on, right? We get in that boat and head the direction God gave us and start rowing. We look at each other and pretend everything’s OK when secretly in our hearts we’re asking, “Where’s Jesus? It’s been a while since I’ve felt His presence or gotten any direction from Him.” And you convince yourself that it’s just you and everyone else seems to have it all together. But we’re all in the same boat, doing our best to keep up pace, pretending everything is OK, and wondering why it seems like others have it figured out while you're a hot mess.
In that moment, the water churning, the wind blowing, the ship rockin, and everybody struggling to keep the boat on course Jesus comes to the rescue. Nope! What did we read earlier, “Jesus saw them straining at the oars because the wind was against them. He came toward them walking on the sea very early in the morning and wanted to pass by them.” Jesus fully intended to pass them by and let them struggle. It sounds kind of like Jesus was being a jerk, but that’s not what’s going on. As a father, sometimes I let my kids struggle. I don’t immediately come to the rescue when their trying to figure something out, or trying to do something that’s hard to accomplish. I wait until they call out, and not just that they call my name in frustration, but that they call out from a place of almost desperation: this place of deep need.
We’re in the dark, we’re struggling against the winds of life trying to keep the boat on course and we suddenly catch a glimpse of Jesus. The Disciples were frightened by His appearing out on the water. We do the same thing when we catch that glimpse and suddenly become very acutely aware that Jesus wasn’t actively involved in what we’ve been doing. We’ve been struggling to keep things on track and Jesus hasn’t been here in what we’ve been doing. So we cry out, “If that’s you Jesus, then tell me what to do. Gimme some direction here Lord.” The Disciples are tired and the calling has become work, they're beyond frustrated into desperate, they cry out for help or relief and Jesus reply is for Peter to step out of the only comfort and safety they have out onto the chopping waves.
When we talk about callings, far too often we envision positions in established ministry; Pastor, Elder, Missionary. While these callings are the most visible of the callings, they aren’t the only callings you are called to. We move in and out of seasons where we’re called to traditional established ministry or into the secular market as a light to the world. Whatever, or wherever your calling, when you’re burned out, when your heart is hardened, when it’s all become the humdrum grind, and you’re doing everything you can to keep focused, to keep smiling while inside you’re spiraling out of control. When it’s taking all you can to keep that boat on course as you’re paddling against the winds and the waves in the pitch of night, will you have the courage, the will, the conviction of faith to step out of that boat, to step out of the comfort and safety of that boat onto the water with your eyes focused on Jesus. Cause with your eyes on Jesus the wind is still blowing, the waves are still churning, and the danger still exists. But, the moment you take your eyes off Jesus those circumstances of reality hijack your faith and you begin sinking. But when you keep your eyes on Jesus you can invite Him back into the boat, back into your calling and watch your ministry step up into the next level.
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”