Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sin, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
As I began to prepare for this morning’s sermon, I struggled with how I would present this familiar story in a way that was fresh and new. After spending more time on this problem that I should have, I realized that it wasn’t necessary to do so because at the core of this scene between Jesus and his disciples is an issue that we all deal with – trust.
Trust is a huge issue with me. Now there are certain things that we all trust in without a second thought. I trust that when I flip the light switch, the lights are going to come on. I trust that when I turn on the spigot, water will come out. But when it comes to people, trust isn’t something I tend to give away easily. It takes time for people to earn my trust. And once I lose trust in someone, it is very hard for me to get it back.
Trust is one of those words that we tend to throw around a lot. How many times have we heard those famous words, “Trust me?” Or how about “Trust God?” For some of us, that’s hard to do because this is what the world has taught us about trust.
Just like Charlie Brown, we have had the football yanked out from under us and we land flat on our back. And sometimes it happens over and over, making it almost impossible to trust anyone or anything again. But today we are going to take a look at what Peter’s willingness to get out of the boat teaches us about trust.
Let’s get ourselves in perspective with today’s Scripture. Last week, Rev. Michael talked about the feeding of the 5,000 – which is an issue on trust itself. Jesus told the disciples that 5 loaves and 2 fish would feed everyone. You have to wonder if the disciples just looked at Jesus and thought, “Yeah, right!”
Just before this miracle, Jesus had been told of the execution of John the Baptist. All Jesus wanted to do was to go off by himself to mourn the death of his cousin and pray. Instead, he ended up throwing a dinner party.
Today’s text picks up after the crowds had been fed. Jesus “made the disciples get into the boat” (v. 22) perhaps indicating they were unwilling to leave Jesus. After all, this was the first time Jesus had sent them out without him. But they trusted Jesus, so they obeyed.
Jesus prayed into the early morning hours – probably somewhere around 3 am. [As an aside, when was the last time you spent hours in prayer? But that’s another sermon for another time.] By the time he’s finished, a storm has blown in and the boat has drifted away from the shore. The winds and waves are so strong that the disciples cannot get the boat back to shore. So Jesus walks out to them and the disciples think they are seeing a ghost. Even after Jesus reassures them that it is indeed him, Peter still doesn’t trust. “If it’s really you, Jesus, command me to come to you.” And that’s exactly what Jesus does.
It would be interesting if we had access to the disciples’ inner monologue. I wonder if Peter – after Jesus called him out of the boat – said, “Dang it! He called my bluff!” or maybe “Me and my big mouth!” Regardless of what he was thinking, he gets out of the boat.
If we look closely at the Scripture, we discover that Peter’s problems begin when he takes his attention off of Christ. He notices the waves and wind and starts to sink. Then, like so many of us do when we get into trouble, he cries, “Lord, save me!” Jesus responds by asking, “Why did you doubt?” In other words, “why didn’t you trust me?”
Could Christ ask us the same thing? “Why don’t you trust me?” Perhaps we even think that we do. But if we really examine our hearts, do we? If Christ called you out of the boat, would you go?
There are several things that can happen when we follow Christ out of the boat – or not. Remember, Peter left but 11 others stayed in the boat. Christ calls us but we don’t go because we don’t trust. Instead we ask, “You want me to do what?! Are you crazy?!” We stay in our deck chair; watching the waves go by and in doing so, miss the opportunity for a miracle because we don’t trust that God has our back.
If you are sitting in the boat this morning, what is God calling you to get out of the boat for and why don’t you trust him enough to do it? What possible miracles are you missing?
Next, we trust God enough to get out of the boat but then we take our focus off of him and we start to sink. We cry out, “My God, what have I done?!” We start looking at the waves crashing around us, the wind knocking us off balance and we panic because we’ve lost trust in the fact that Christ has our back. Then we sink.
We need to trust God enough to know that he is not going to call us to a task and then leave us to our own devices. He equips those whom he calls. When we realize that God is for us and assume the power of his authority, we have the incredible possibility and opportunity to be part of a miracle.
The third thing that can happen is we trust God and get out of the boat. But then we start listening to the others back in the boat. I’ve already reminded you that 11 men stayed in the boat. That’s where it’s comfortable and safe.
When a person jumps out of a boat, the boat rocks. People don’t like to have the boat rocked. Remember that song from the musical “Guys and Dolls?” The people all said sit down. Sit down, you’re rocking the boat. Sung by one of the gamblers, he recounts what people are telling him to do because of his behavior. In other words, your behavior is rocking my boat, so stop it!
Our “shipmates” can do the same thing. They do and say things to encourage us to not leave the safety of the boat and therefore, not rock it. Things like, “You can try that idea but it will never work.” “There’s no way that you can do that.” “It’s a good idea but it will cost too much money.” We start listening to them and then lost our trust in God because, once again, our focus is off Christ.