Monday, May 21, 2012

Crushing Waves and Sinking Faith

The story of Jesus walking on water, and then Peter temporarily doing the same, is a great story recorded in each of the gospels. It reveals to us the deity of Christ, the nature of faith and doubt, and speaks to us when we are in our own storms. In case you forget the details, it will take you about 30 seconds to read it here or in the comments section.

The disciples were pretty fearful when they were caught in this tremendous storm. Some think it may have been a squall. Yikes. But Jesus, who had been back on land, comes out to the boat walking on water as if he’s God Incarnate, and everyone and everything calms down.

The fact that this event follows immediately after Jesus miraculously feeds the 5,000+ makes it easy, from a great distance, to wonder why the disciples didn’t have a little more faith. The story as recorded in the gospel of Mark even says, basically, “The disciples just didn’t get it.” Even Jesus marvels at their little faith.

Personally, when I put myself in the disciples’ place, there is no way I’m feeling anything but complete terror and abandonment in that storm.

Here’s why:

Because as I think about it, the crux of the story is the fact that Jesus is not physically present with them. All the miracles they’ve seen up to this point, including the feeding of the 5000+, took place when they were with him. But in this case, he wasn’t within eyeshot. They were on their own, or so it seemed. The miracle worker was up in the mountain praying, and it was just them and their oars against the ferocious power of crushing waves.

Apparently at this point in their discipleship, Jesus was calling them to trust that his presence in their lives was not limited to his physical presence. They needed to learn that he was “with them” even when it didn’t seem he was with them. Without the New Testament available yet (it would eventually be their job to write it!), without the resurrection, without the mystery of the Holy Spirit being revealed, no wonder they thought they were toast! Yes, toast mixes the metaphor: they thought they were abandoned, alone, doomed.

I definitely would have felt this way too.

The story moves on, and as it reaches its climax after Jesus’ death and resurrection, he says to the disciples before his ascension: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Now do we believe it?

After the resurrection… do we believe it? Based on what God has done in world history, and in our own history, do we believe it? Are we no better than the disciples? Are we worse?

The great news is that Jesus came to them as their ship and as their faith was sinking…

1 comment:

Ken said...

Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.