Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ 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, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
I recently started a new job, running a government programme that had had a critical rating from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority. The team have achieved a huge amount, and have deep expertise, but their confidence was severely knocked, and they are now feeling tired, overwhelmed and unloved. Reading this passage struck a chord for me – Peter is achieving the impossible, but suddenly questions himself, and that act of questioning is enough to make him fail. If you’ve ever fallen off your bike then this may particularly resonate for you – one moment you’re happily speeding along, balancing on a narrow metal frame as you travel along the highway, and the next you’re making rather more intimate contact with the tarmac than you hoped…
Although we can explain the physics of cycling, and why it is possible to remain safely upright, I suspect for many of us, it remains one of those miracles of modern life, and we need a dose of confidence to launch ourselves forth. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that there’s a parallel with a life of faith – we cannot possibly know what is to come, or whether we are right when we wrestle with the Bible and try and discern the way forward, but we need to maintain the confidence to keep trying.
So far, so easy to identify with Peter (again). But let’s also look at Jesus’ part in this story – he gives the initial call to action, but he’s also there to stretch out his hand when Peter’s confidence falters. For me, this is one of the reasons why our church communities are a key part of a life of faith, why we cannot simply treat faith as an individual journey, and why worshipping together in person is so powerful – we can reach out that hand to each other to steady ourselves when we have a wobble.
Lord, You know our confidence can fail us We can feel we are imposters Failing to run the race before us.
We give thanks for those who stretch their hand out to us Who help us keep things in perspective Who remind us why we’re even trying.
May we too hold out our hands Hold the Christ-light for our neighbour And speak the peace they long to hear.
(Adapted from Brother, sister let me serve you – Richard Gillard)