Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 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. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." And 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 and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." — Mt 14:22-33
I talked to a friend yesterday about failure and rejection. It's awful; no one likes it (if you do, let's talk). Most people avoid it as intentionally as possible. I remember one of my first feelings of failure and rejection. I was in second grade, and we had just moved to The Woodlands. I was at public school for the first time in my life, and I felt like it was my responsibility to invite everyone to my dad's church. I was in PE class, doing circuits, and I asked the assistant PE teacher if she went to church. She quickly corrected me and said, "that's not something you ask people. If you see me there, you see me. If you don't, you don't." I was so discouraged and sad, I never wanted to invite anyone to church ever again. And to be honest, outside of random friends in college, this past year was the first time I have intentionally invited people to church since I was eight years old.
We tell college applicants apply to "safety" schools so that they'll have a backup plan in place. We hire people whose entire job is to analyze risk and keep threats to the bottom line as low as possible. Our government decided that there are companies "too big to fail." We are a society that doesn't that creates intentional safety nets for our failures, because we don't like it.
Jesus only says one word to Peter: "Come." There is enormous risk in that one word. His earlier commands to Peter have been at least a little longer: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." It's still unclear, but at least... it's a little more explanatory about what the future holds. There's a little more hope. "Come" insinuates leaving the safety of the boat, the safety of your life, but it doesn't guarantee what's ahead at all.
It's easy to see Peter's lack of faith in this story; it's what we looked at yesterday. Jesus has been cultivating faithfulness in Peter for a while. He challenged him to follow; He charged him to lower his nets; He demonstrated his power through signs and miracles. He's showing him over and over and over who He is: the Son of God. And He's also showing Peter how He is going to be faithful. Remember when I said follow, and you did? Remember when I told you to cast your nets, and you did? Remember when I invited you witness my miracles, and you did? All those were examples of my power, and my faithfulness to you. Now you be faithful to me and "Come".
Peter took a step most of us attempt to avoid our entire lives. He couldn't see what was ahead of him. He couldn't predict that he would be safe out on the water. But he wanted to know the power of Jesus a little more fully, as Jesus cultivated faithfulness in him. And he did falter, and his faith shook. But is also created an opportunity for Jesus to demonstrate that He is, truly, the Son of God.
Jesus is always working on a variety of levels when He's talking to the disciples, and part of me wonders if this is just another example of how different angles show us another facet of His character. On the one hand, he does call out Peter for his "little faith". But on the other hand, He demonstrates his prevailing faithfulness in the midst of our lack of it. His rescue of us even when it's our own doing is a testament to how He's constantly trying to build up our faith and trust in Him by being always faithful to us. He's so good, even when we don't believe it. And those times are some of the most crucial points of our lives, because we recognize that we don't deserve His faithfulness but are given it regardless.
He is calling us to "come" so that he can cultivate a faithfulness in us. He is calling us out onto the water, into the unknown, so that we are forced to rely solely on Him. That's such a scary place to be. There's so much potential for risk, rejection, and failure out there. But there's also the opportunity for Him to show up and make His presence known to us and demonstrate His faithfulness-- and in turn, grow our own. Answering that call is terrifying, but if you want to see God work, I'm telling you, I think it's what we have to do.
Dear God, I hear you say "come" right now in a lot of places in my life. In some, it's easier for me to step out and trust you to be faithful; in others, I'm still preferring the safety of the boat to the unknown of the waters. But I'm also missing out on the incredible opportunity to trust You and see You move, to let my be a witness to your faithfulness. I want to answer your call. I believe, Lord, help me in my unbelief. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Dig Deeper: Do you avoid risk and rejection and failure at all costs-- even the cost of your faith? What areas is He saying "come" to you? Are you listening?