Matthew 14:22-33 |:| Petering of Faith
Calvary Baptist Church of Denver; August 10, 2014 @ 10:30a
The storm raging, thrashing against the sides of the boat, testing the skills of the fishermen among the 12. The unrelenting wind was not unfamiliar to the men who fished for a living before leaving their nets and following Jesus, but that was not true for everyone in that boat.
They had left Jesus the night before and around 4am they were still not safely on solid ground when the story we find in our Gospel text takes place. The storm was not letting up and I can only imagine getting tiresome of dealing with.
We might remember how well the disciples do with raging storms, in Matthew 8 when the storm arose and Jesus was sleeping – they freaked out, cried out for Jesus to save them.
The disciples were likely tired from the unrest of the waters and storm. As they looked out hoping to see the distance between the shore and the boat closing the haze of the storm blurs their vision & they strain to see a figure coming towards them.
I imagine a couple of the disciples see the figure and question if it was real, leaning to another disciple to see if in fact their eyes were playing tricks on them. And with each disciple confirming the witnessing of said figure that had begun to take shape and movement – somehow walking on the unforgiving waters. Unsure how this could be the only thought that strikes them is it must be a ghost.
Jewish thoughts on the chaos of waters were commonly understood as threatening powers, forces against them of opposing their ways of life. It’s understandable to see why they thought this unclear figure walking on troubled seas was a ghost in their minds.
It was the sight of this figure which settled fear within them. The storms threatening to take them under and now a ghost coming to torment them even further. They were able to manage their nerves, fears, uncertainty of the storm until the arrival of this additional threat. Now with their fears mounting, they wondered where their messiah was.
Questioning why he had forced them to go on without him. Likely thinking back to the time Jesus was asleep in the boat and hoping for him to be in such a state now, able to be woken up and fix everything. Very possibly they thought they might meet the great I am as the fears of their possible death began to fill their minds.
They see the ghost, the figure approaching and sure enough they hear divine words break through the loudness of the storm – Take Heart, it is I; do not be afraid. The voice of their teacher, friend, and messiah reaches them and their fears are stopped mid breath.
Their eyes straining to match the person walking towards them with the voice they had just heard – wanting to verify that it was in fact the one they had come to follow, the one who has saved them before.
Yet the storm continued, even though Jesus had announced that it was him. Jesus does not stop walking on the unresting sea, but continues to move towards them. It is then Peter, good ol’ Peter, speaks out telling Jesus to call him to walk on water if it was in fact him.
And so with Jesus’ words of “come”, Peter settles himself on the side of the boat and with the waves raging Peter begins to walk on water.
Peter’s steps were not easy. They were challenged with each movement of self and sea. The only thing moving him forward was the propelling fear of meeting Jesus on an unceasing storm.
Winds raged with gusto and Peter is reminded of just how far out of his comfort zone he had gone and with his doubts he lives up to the meaning of his name, Rock, and begins to sink in the water.
Unlike when he called out to Jesus to walk on water Peter does not question if it in fact him and this time as he begins to be swallowed by storm he cries out “Lord Save Me!”. Christ closes the remaining gap between them and grabs his hand, pulling him up. Looking at him he speaks in a rhetorical tone, “you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Saving Peter, Jesus does not send him on his way by himself but rather together they continue to walk on the raging seas back to the boat, back to the remaining 11 disciples. It is only once they are back on the boat that the storms finally cease.
The disciples have witnessed Peter leaving the boat, walking in faith, being consumed by doubt, and Christ being present of every moment and saving their friend and ultimately saving them from the storm.
That the deep breath the disciples had been holding is released as they proclaim the Lordship of Christ, worshiping him for the act only God has been known to do in Jewish teachings – defy the waters and show dominion over the chaos of the seas.
This text is thick with emotion, glossed over details, and for Matthew’s Jewish audience a recollection to the divine name “the great I am” – revealing the power of Jesus. 11 simple verses offering great meaning for our lives today.
When our life is being tossed back and forth from economic hardships, illness, dueling schedules, questions of life and purpose, moving further into a skill or calling, so on and so forth we can find ourselves identifying with the disciples in this text.
It is not uncommon that when we are in the storms of life to be shocked when Christ appears to us, frightening us because his presence reminds us that he never leaves us – but more often then not when we experience Christ’s presence when we are uncomfortable it is because we know God is calling us further into his presence – the way he allowed peter to come closer to his presence in that storm.
When we are out of our comfort zones, being tossed by the unpredictable waves of life and Christ’s presence appears in the stranger, in moving farthing into unchartered experiences, learning to live in reciprocity with those society places on the margins – it can be frightening.
It can surprise us much like Jesus shocked the disciples so much they thought it was a ghost.
When we are in the throws of life’s moments or seasons of unforgiving storms we can find ourselves identifying with the 11 disciples who had their fears calmed by experiencing Christ but are not able to venture further – out of tiredness, crippling fear, life circumstances.
At times all we can muster up is acknowledging the presence of God’s power and take heart, take courage, take faith in knowing that reality of God is there with us.
At other times the fear of Christ’s presence, which surprises us, will propel us ever deeper out of our comfort zones, like we see Peter experienced in this text. With the storms of our life still raging we are some how are able to move into the thrashes of life a bit more.
The faith of Christ, the faith of our community, and the miracle of being able to take another step out there, that faith – that collective faith – braces each of our steps.
Just as our faith meets us in the storm so too do our doubts. In the incomparable throws of life doubts waiver our steps and we forget about the faith which brought us farther from what we had know to be. Christ does not call us further into the storms of life and expect us to not have doubt, rather we see that it is with faith and doubt that Christ is ever present.
Our doubts accompany us as we grow in discipleship with God and community. In Peter’s doubts Christ was present and faith was returned – in our lives our doubts allow us to experience God in new ways and understand our faith in a new light.
From this story we are reminded that Christ is there when we are frightened in the raging tumult of life. At various times each of us will be called to have our Peter-ing of faith moments, where we like Peter did in this story take courage, take heart, have faith and walk further to where Christ is calling us.
In our moments, days, seasons of doubts Christ does not scold us for our wavering faith, rather we are reminded that all it takes is little faith to keep going in this Gospel work. In the book of Matthew we learn all we need to have is the faith the size of a mustard seed, the faith of a simple pail of loaves and fishes to do miraculous work of feeding more than 5000.
The faith to call out in fear and uncertainty, “if it is you Jesus, call me to join you”. You can hear Christ’s words in the raging of our own doubts stating – you of little faith, you who has the faith the size of a mustard seed or a multiplied lunch – you have the faith, why do you doubt?
For Matthew we are reminded that little faith can move mountains, feed those who are hungry, bring belief where there wasn’t any, realize the knowledge of how we will be able to take part of God’s transformative work is not required – all we need is a little faith to take the first step.
Calvary, much like the disciples in this story we can be frightened when we experience God in the waves of change. As a community we might not all have our Peter-ing of faith moments at the same time, so in times when you find yourself as one of the 11 disciples who remained in the boat take courage by those around you who are stepping out of the boat and walking on the unsteady seas.
When we collectively as a church step out of the boat – in a communal Peter-ing of faith moment – stepping further into the future Christ is calling us to, remember both our faith and doubts are welcomed.
Take heart in these unnerving times for Christ never leaves us, the seas may not calm when we want them to but Christ is ever present with us – trusting us to walk and ready to save us when we begin to sink.
In those sinking experiences remember Christ speaks truth to us – that we have the faith to move even further expanding what we understand our comfort zone to actually be. Some in our faith traditions have said when we experience the thrashes of life and experience Christ we enter those thin spaces where the infinite and finite seem inseparable.
In those thin spaces the Kingdom of God breaks through. Be reminded that in the clamoring of the storm Christ’s peace ultimately calms the focus so that we can move through doubt.
In this time and place in our lives there are storms in life ending, beginning, and remaining. Calvary, take heart, take courage, you have faith – for you are not alone.
Christ is here within this community offering support for each of us to take the next step into individual and communal faith in God. In the midst of our storms, in the thin spaces where we experience God liberation of needs happens in those Gospel lived moments.
Calvary Baptist Church, we of little faith, step out to where God is call us as a community & change the world, bringing the kingdom of God further here on earth as it is in heaven. When it is each of out times to Peter in Faith, may we take courage and make the first step.