Walking on Water

"But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. " (Mat 14:24-32 )

Some commentators have said that this episode of walking on water is a mistranslation and that Jesus was really just walking alongside the water. I don't have any problem at all with it being literal and don't see anything in the context that indicates it was anything other than what is said. Jesus walked across the sea with no visible means of physical support. And, even more incredibly, Peter did, too.

Examples of doing something without any visible physical support are scattered throughout the Bible. When the Israelites were in the wilderness they were fed with manna and quail from heaven and water that sprung forth from a rock. Likewise, Jonathan attacked the enemies of Israel without an army to back him up. Elijah had to flee into the wilderness and rely solely on God for food and water, then go to the widow without food and rely on a daily miracle to provide bread. So, I don't consider it necessary to treat this as a purely metaphorical story. However, for most of us, the lesson from this story is not how to literally walk on water, but rather is to understand the spiritual principles involved and apply them to those situations we find ourselves in.

Most of us will never have a need to literally walk on water, but there will times when we do need to go forward without any visible means of physical support. It may be that we need (or be forced) to quit a job or career and take off without knowing how we will survive financially. We may be called to some work of ministry without knowing the place or time or means to accomplish that ministry. We may find ourselves isolated and cut off without any friends or family to lean on. Or, it may be that we need physical or emotional healing and must accomplish it without the aid of medicines. I think of all of these as "walking on water." In each case there is no visible means of physical support.

The first thing to notice is that Peter didn't step out of the boat until Jesus said it was OK. We never just jump up and go out to do something impossible because we think it would be something good to do. These are situations where we are called (or perhaps forced) into the situation. Usually, there is no need to go test the waters (so to speak) since there will be opportunities to walk on water whether we seek them or not.

Second, Peter didn't look around the boat to see who was coming with him. Jesus told Peter it was OK to get out of the boat. He didn't say anything about the other disciples and Peter didn't ask. Often the temptation will be to look at what others are doing or not doing and try to base our own actions on that. But, we just need to listen to Jesus, do what He says, and don't worry about whether anyone else is coming with us.

Third, when you step out of the boat, it has to be by pure faith. Peter didn't hesitate; he didn't grab a life vest or tie a rope around himself either. If you are going to get out of the boat when Jesus bids you come, just do it.

Last, and most important, you may find yourself sinking at some point. The way to avoid that, of course, is to not let doubt enter in. The temptation will be to think we have done something wrong and have to clean up our act. In this story, however, it was one thing alone that caused Peter to sink: DOUBT. You step out of the boat by pure faith and you have to keep going by pure faith, too. But, most of us don't have quite that level of faith and there may be a moment of doubt that causes you to start sinking. The solution at that point is to yell out for help from Jesus. If you lose faith, He is the only one that can restore the faith you need to get back up on top of things.


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