Fresh off of history’s most triumphal luncheon (Matthew 14:16-21: five thousand dined on two loaves and three fishes; chefs are still arguing the logistics) the disciples, at Christ’s command, took off in a boat for the other side of the lake around sundown. (vs.23)
By 3 am they were still heaving through an agonizing storm which came up shortly after their launch, leaving them exhausted and bewildered. I’m struck by the basic elements of the story: obedience shoved them into a situation they couldn’t possibly handle, and they now faced a calamity they hadn’t created. They’d obeyed Him when He said ‘Take off.” Now they’d almost certainly die as a result.
Just when it had all been going so well.
Then Jesus appeared, which is predictable, considering His way of showing up when all seems lost. What was unprecedented, though, was His method – He was walking on water. It was an opportunity to gape stupidly at Him or, as Peter did, ask to hang out with Him for awhile. On the water. In the storm.
Absurd, sure. But not nearly as stupid as staying in the boat where death was imminent. So whether out of panic or wonder, Peter said “If it’s You, bid me come.” Jesus bid, Peter stepped over, and the Water Walk began.
Only the Imperfect Need Apply
People often equate walking on water with perfection, which is true if the Walker is Him. For the rest of us, though, it’s a stroll taken not out of perfection, but desperation. Then, out of the desperation, comes daring, a daring to believe He’ll sustain us in the most seemingly impossible circumstances, not by removing them, but by empowering us to do the impossibly absurd right in the midst of them.
So said holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom who, during a talk in the 1970’s I heard and could never forget, noted that when she and her sister were imprisoned in a German concentration camp she felt the presence of God as she’d never sensed it before, nor since, despite the most unspeakable environment. A storm raged; Jesus bid; she stepped over.
In smaller ways we’re following her steps and, more importantly, His. This is, for many of us, a season of uncertainty, fueled by a still shaky economy, unprecedented government upheaval,, and an accelerating decline of values. Stressed, even exhausted, we’re noting the boat we’re in is no match for our particular lake, and we logically wonder how we’ll get through.
Which is exactly why, in the midst of one of the most stressful life season’s I’ve ever known, I’m thinking afresh of eight hugely energizing words: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 14:8)
No calm, saintly Water Walk for me. I’ve been raging, stressed, and worn down with an overwhelming schedule, crashing into bed late nights and dragging my carcass out of it early for yet one more round. I’m not always handling it well. Sometimes I’m just handling it, and that’ll have to do.
Yet even as I say that He appears and I remember His sameness – the same ability to know how far His followers can stretch, the same coaching evident when He bids us do the impossible, and the same gentle shepherding when he knows we’re maxed out. He knows His own, puts them through their paces for their own strength, and proves yet again that yes, we can do all things through Him. Through the Water Walk that becomes more than a saying. It’s an experience, and a treasured memory.
May we have the occasional wild experience with Him, then, and glean from it the good fruit He intends.