During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
"Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
My pastor used this passage as an illustration tonight, but my brain (living in the thinky space of how we can live righteously within our culture) took a left turn, realizing that this is an absolutely perfect metaphor:
Put yourself in Peter's place: night, in the safe place of his boat with his buddies, and suddenly this figure walking on the waves. It's not a ghost, it's Jesus--but maybe Peter doesn't quite believe that, or else he has a moment of wild trust. "If it's you, tell me to come to you on the water."
And Jesus calls his bluff, says, "Come."
And Peter? Does so. He climbs out of the boat onto the waves of water and starts walking. He's been a fisherman all his life--imagine how mind-bending this must be! He knows how deep the water is here, what should happen to him if he falls in and there's no one to pull him out. This isn't invented danger, this dark water; it's real.
So, naturally, when he realizes what he's doing (OMG!), he freaks out; and with that loss of trust, he sinks like a stone. "Lord, save me!"
My pastor added his own gloss, here: in the text Jesus says, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" But my pastor added, "Did you honestly think I'd let you drown?"
I told you this would be a metaphor, so here goes: the water is the world, both good and the source of our livelihoods (as Peter was a fisherman), but also dangerous, dark, a hungry pit if one isn't careful. Christ comes to us walking on this water--not sitting in a safe boat, hiding from it, riding it out, but walking on it, master of it.
I want this, so when Christ responds to my enthusiasm by saying, "Okay, come on then," I jump out of my little safe boat that I've built all my life, the sheltered harbor of certainty and security. I walk towards Him, and find that I am walking rather than sinking. And I look around, and all the well-learned fear comes back into me, and suddenly all the support goes from under my feet, and I scream for Him to help me....
And He does. He catches my hand and pulls me up, so we're standing together on the water. "Why did you doubt?" He asks. "Did you honestly think I'd let you drown?"
I didn't, because he would never, but the water is so cold and so deep and so dark, I'm afraid anyway. It takes courage to do something like step out on the water in obedience, but it takes something else as well, something I hope to grow in every day of my life, until I can walk beside Christ on any dark water ("dark places no others will enter") and know that He's able to keep me from sinking.
May it be, Lord.