‘Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all’Where's the Faith? Thursday, August 18th, 2011
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
It was Helen Keller who said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all.” These words are true no matter who said them, but coming from Helen Keller, we’d better sit up and pay attention. Born blind, deaf and unable to speak, she somehow found a way out of the darkness and into the world around her. Millions have been inspired by her example.
Well, the life of faith is also a life of risk. Go back to the Bible and take a look at the men and women who did great things for God. Almost without exception, they were risk-takers who weren’t afraid to do what God was asking them.
Noah built an ark. Abraham left a life of comfort to go to the Promised Land. Moses led the people out of Egypt. Joshua marched around the walls of Jericho. David defeated Goliath.
In Matthew 14:22-33, Peter is a perfect example of taking a risk for God! Jesus is on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s late in the day and Jesus has just performed the great miracle of feeding 5,000 men with five loaves and two fish. Jesus had crossed the water to be alone. So now, he was ready for some quiet meditation.
So far, so good. As the disciples begin to sail across the lake, a powerful storm blows up.
The disciples are in the boat, struggling against the wind and the rain. 9 p.m., 10 p.m., 11 p.m., midnight, 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m., the storm would not let up. After many exhausting hours, the disciples were still stuck in the middle of the storm, in the middle of the lake, dirty, drenched, chilled to the bone, exhausted to the point that they began to wonder if they’d ever make it to shore alive.
Matthew continues the story: “During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.” According to Roman tradition, the “fourth watch” was between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. (Darkest part of the night) It was somewhere during that time that Jesus began walking on the water. When the disciples saw him, they were terrified.
We can understand their fear, can’t we? They’ve been rowing and rowing and rowing and getting nowhere. And they can’t seem to make it to shore. It’s like 4 or 4:30 in the morning. They’re dead tired. Every muscle aches. The wind howls around them. Rain pelts them from every angle. They’re cold and tired and waterlogged. Plus they’re grumpy and hungry and frustrated.
Suddenly, someone sees a figure walking across the water. I think I’d scream too! My first thought would not be, “Here comes Jesus. He’s decided to walk on the water in the middle of this storm.” I think I’d be shouting, “Don’t stop now! Keep rowing!”
But Jesus immediately said to them, “Take Courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “Tell me to come to you on the water.’” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
It’s not as if he just jumps out of the boat and starts walking. Matthew is very clear that Peter asks for permission first. Jesus didn’t force him either!
When Jesus said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,” he used an expression the disciples would immediately understand. The phrase “It is I” is the Greek version of God saying in Exodus 3:14 at the burning bush that God’s name is “I am.” Jesus isn’t saying, “Don’t worry. It’s me. I’m not a ghost.” It’s his way of saying, “I created the wind and the waves. Do you get who I am?” And, it’s Jesus himself who tells Peter to come to him on the water.
When Jesus says, “Come,” we’d better obey. When he says, “Walk,” we’d better walk. In Peter’s case, he was safer out on the water than in the boat. (Think about it!) At that moment, the smartest thing Peter could do was to get out of the boat.
Once Peter was fully on the water, he turns to walk toward Jesus. As he walks toward Jesus, Jesus walks toward him. Remember, the storm has never stopped. During all this commotion, the rain has been coming down in sheets. Behind him the little fishing boat bobs on the big waves. Everything goes fine until Peter notices the storm all around him. Matthew tells us that “when he saw the wind, he was afraid.”
For a brief moment, he forgets about Jesus and remembers who he is and where he is. He is Peter, a Galilean fisherman who belongs back in the boat. In that instant he looks down at his feet and sees nothing but water underneath. His mind comes to a quick conclusion: “I’m not supposed to be walking on water. This is impossible.” When he lost his concentration on Jesus – he began to sink.
As he goes down into the water, he prays one of the shortest prayers in the Bible: “Save me!” The Bible says that immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. His words to Peter are very important. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
“And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
Before we criticize Peter for having “little faith,” let’s remember that “little faith” is better than “no faith.”
“Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all.” Yes, it’s risky to walk on water. You might sink. But you’ll never know until you get out of the boat.
Rev. Dan Koeshall is the Senior Pastor at The Metropolitan Community Church (The Met) in San Diego, California, themetchurch.org.
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