“…the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.
But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come ahead.”
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”
Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”
The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”
If you’ve been in church for any period of time or grew up going to Sunday school, you’ve heard this story before. I know I’ve used this story over and over again to teach about faith. My lesson plan usually goes a little like this: while Peter was looking at Jesus he was full of faith and was able to walk on the water, but when he got distracted he began to sink. This is why we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, he stops us from sinking.
While that’s a good lesson, I realized something different about this story today. Peter was the only one who got out of the boat. There were 11 other disciples who were in the boat, who were too afraid to come out onto the water.
I’m not Peter.
When reading a story I always try to identify the character that I feel I’m most like. It’s nice when I identify with the hero or the main character, but it’s rarely the case for me. In this story, I obviously know I’m not Jesus, so it’s nice to think of myself as Peter, the courageous one who is willing to step out in faith when no one else will. I like to think of myself as the one who will stick with Jesus no matter what because, after all, Jesus is my homie or B.F.F.L. or whatever vernacular you prefer.
But this morning I realized that I’m not Peter. I’m Andrew or John or James, any of the other ones who stayed securely planted in that boat. I probably would’ve been the farthest one back, having to peek over heads to see a little of the action out on the water. I like comfort, security, what’s known, and I’m not one to quickly jump out into the unknown. I rarely volunteer for things, usually I wait to be called upon and then I’ll (sometimes begrudgingly) perform whatever task is asked and I am rarely the first one to speak up.
I’m not Peter and, most of the time, I don’t want to be him, which I think is okay depending on what’s motivating that desire. I’ve discovered that I don’t want to be like Peter out of fear of failure. I still, after all these years of walking with the Lord, want to be perfect. I don’t want to make a mistake, I don’t want to fail, so I don’t even try. Year by year I’m getting better. Now, when Jesus calls me out of the metaphorical boat, I’ll go eventually, it just takes me a little while to mount up the courage to leave my comfort, but I rarely volunteer for anything.
There was only 1 Peter in the Bible, 1 guy who was courageous enough to volunteer to walk out onto the water. The ratio probably holds true today: for every 1 person willing to walk on the water with God, there are 11 who love God with all their heart but are being held back for some reason.
What’s holding you back? Is it fear? Shame? Insecurity? The lure of comfort and stability? Not trusting God? Disbelief in who he is? I feel like I battle with all of these to one degree or another. This isn’t something that’s fixed overnight or in an instant, but takes work and building the solid foundation of the relationship. Little by little, day by day, I believe we can become more like Peter in this area.
My first step is to not run to the back of the boat when I see Jesus coming, but to lean in with expectation of what he has for me. What’s yours?