“‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘Tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said.” (Matthew 14:28-29)
You’ve got to admit, walking on water is a pretty neat trick. Only two people in history are reported to have done it and one of them was the Son of God. Peter, Jesus’ disciple, was the only other one, and that was touch and go. You’d think something like walking on water would require a lot of faith. A miracle like that isn’t something we’d expect to see pulled off these days. More of a ‘biblical epic’ story.
There are stories in the Bible about miracles; the Red Sea parting, the walls of Jericho falling down, Jesus feeding thousands with a few loaves of bread and a few fishes, Jesus and Peter walking on water.
Some of us, of course, don’t really believe the miracles in the Bible happened. They’re just stories; written to teach a moral lesson, or they’re symbolic of God’s power or Jesus’ ministry, or they’re hyperbole – acts of nature that, over the telling, grew into bonafide miracles.
Even if we do believe the miracles in the Bible really happened, we don’t believe they could happen to us, right here and now. Believing the Bible story about Jesus and Peter walking on water is one thing, taking a stroll on lake Michigan is another.
The problem I have with relegating miracles to ‘biblical epic’ status is that it builds a double standard in our belief system – ‘I believe it was possible then, but I don’t believe it’s possible now.’ By the way, I don’t like the term ‘belief system’ for the same reason. Either you believe something or you don’t; why have a ‘belief system’ unless you’re having problems believing your belief?
So where do you stand on this walking on water thing? Depending on your ‘belief system’ you’ve got a couple of choices.
It didn’t really happen; it’s just a Bible story.
Miracles don’t occur – they’re not a part of reality. Reality is governed by the laws of nature. The laws of nature say that man can’t walk on water unless it’s frozen. Bible stories are nice, but this is the real world.
If you’re in this group I’ve got some advice that will save you a lot of time and effort. Quit reading this letter, quit worrying about any of this stuff. Don’t waste another minute going to church, reading the Bible, praying or thinking about God. Don’t waste any time or effort trying to live up to any moral standard. Lie, cheat and steal if you think you can get away with it. Live for today, for yourself, for your own pleasure. Your life will be over too soon and after that … you said it yourself … it’s all just Bible stories. The laws of nature say that when you quit breathing you’ll rot and then turn to dust. If you don’t believe walking on water is a reality, then there’s no sense in believing anything else the Bible says.
It happened, but only because Jesus was there. Walking on water is the stuff of Bible times; things like that don’t happen today.
You’ve got a point; miracles surrounded Jesus. The wind and the waves obeyed him. And if Jesus hadn’t come out walking on the water that night, and if he didn’t say to Peter, “Come.” Peter would have never gotten out of the boat. Jesus being there was key to Peter walking on water. But Jesus left this earth 2,000 years ago; that was it for the miraculous stuff. Stories like Jesus and Peter walking on the water are in the Bible to build our faith, kind of get our ‘belief system’ jump started. Stuff like that doesn’t happen any more. Today we’ve got those great stories and our ‘faith’ to see us through.
Of course, saying that miracles aren’t for today does make Jesus a liar. “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will even do greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)
Either you believe him or you don’t. If walking on water was possible then, it’s possible now.
Peter was an apostle, a special guy – the Clark Kent of Christianity.Jesus called him the ‘rock’. A guy like Peter, with Jesus beside him, could walk on water. Stuff like that is impossible for an ordinary Joe (Josephine) like me.
Are we talking about the same Peter? Peter was no spiritual superman. Jesus rebuked Peter more than he praised him. Peter encouraged Jesus to run away from the cross, he bragged about sticking by Jesus no matter what the cost and within twenty-four hours denied he even knew him … three times. Peter was embarrassed over his relationship with Gentile believers when his Jewish friends were around.
Peter was no pillar of faith … at least not naturally. Peter acted without thinking and it got him into trouble plenty. That’s how he got out of the boat in the first place that night.He jumped without thinking through his circumstances. If he’d reasoned things out he would have said, “Lord, if it’s really you, walk over here and we’ll pull you into the boat.” Peter took stock of his situation after he jumped out of the boat; that got him in trouble too.
Peter was an ordinary guy. He said and did things without thinking them through. He shot from the hip. But when the Master said “Come”; he went. It led to a very different Peter than we read about in the Gospels. At the end of his life, Peter the “rock” writes to a newborn church:
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:5-8)
Sounds like a guy who learned from experience.
You may not consider yourself a spiritual superstar or a pillar of faith. You may have said or done some dumb things. The same mouth that says, “I’ll follow you forever Jesus” denies even knowing him when the world says, “Aren’t you one of his followers?”
I don’t think Jesus chose Peter to be the ‘rock’ on which he built his church because Peter was a superstar. It may have been just the opposite. He may have chosen Peter because he had a tendency to screw things up on a regular basis – somebody you and I could relate to easily.
But Peter knew how to walk on water. All he had to do was get out of the boat when the Master said “Come.” All the circumstances surrounding him – the waves, the wind, the fact that it was 3:00 AM and he was miles from shore – that told him walking on water was impossible, were irrelevant when the Master said, “Come.” They were just circumstances, and circumstances can change in a moment, at the voice of the One who has power over the wind and waves.
There is, as I’m sure you know, another thought on Matt.16:18. “This Rock” could be the thought that Peter expressed and this is that “The Rock” is “… the Christ, the Son of the living God.” and that Jesus Christ is the Rock of our salvation.
Just a thought;
You’ve done another excellent job with this week’s challenge. The structure of this not only conveys deep theological truth but the writing style should be able to capture all hearts, regardless of backgrounds and levels of spiritual growth. My job appears to be – looking and listening for the Master. If He bids me “come” then walking on the water He is standing upon shouldn’t be in the picture. I must confess, that this is far easier to declare then to practice.
Thanks for the extra work you’ve put into this newsletter.
Now come on, just because I realize that it is impossible that Jesus walked on water doesn’t mean that I should ‘lie, cheat and steal’ as you say. So I suppose you think that everyone who doesn’t believe in the bible lies, cheats and steals? Give it a rest.
No of course I don’t think everyone who doesn’t believe in the Bible (more accurately the God of the Bible) lies, cheats and steals – but why shouldn’t they? What moral context should a person who doesn’t believe in a righteous God have? Do you love your neighbor because the evolutionary continuum requires it? Is morality a learned survival trait? I don’t think so. Without a moral God there’s no reason for men to practice morality.