Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why did Peter get out of the boat?

I had a great conversation with a friend of mine this past week. I'm usually at work by 7:00am and my friend J is usually up around 5:30am each day. He says that I'm one of the only people he can count on being up early so we tend to have chats in the early morn.

This week we got going on belief, faith, and trust. Let me back up a minute and give a little back story. J is the catalyst for me being "back on track" as a Christian. I was pretty far off the wagon when I met J in '07. He was open and shared his faith easily with anyone around. J is also a great encourager and was beside me as I helped get a Bible study going at my previous job. J is currently following a calling by God to teach people and to write and publish a book about faith and trust.

In this calling, J has been out of work (as in not being paid wages or a salary) for well over a year. It's not all easy, of course. And that's why we had the conversation on belief, faith, and trust.

As the money gets tighter for J and his family, the questions from everyone have come. Many along the lines of "What if God doesn't provide?" or "Where has He been to let it go this far?" And there is much encouraging to "have a backup plan."

But is having a backup plan really trusting in God and His plan? Is there really a belief or faith that God will come through? I have to tell you, it's a hard topic to roll around in your head and heart. Especially when you are the head of a family, too. I've struggled with this myself as I've looked out on my career options/choices for the past couple of years.

The story in the Gospel where Peter climbs out of the boat in a raging storm to walk to Jesus became a centerpoint of conversation between J and I this week:
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
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.

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. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
(Matthew 14:22-31 NIV)

It brought us to the question "Why did Peter get out of the boat?" Was it intellectual knowledge or logical reasoning? I mean, Peter had been on boats most of his life as a fisherman. He knew what happened to people who climbed over the side of a boat, especially in a bad storm. I have to go with something other than logic. Was it blind faith? Maybe. That might explain why he started sinking when he took in the situation around him. That is, with a little faith but no grounding in trust, he was easily shaken.

If I look at Peter's story following this event, I see a man who goes back and forth in his faith and trust. Take a look at the night before the Crucifixion and we see Peter taking matters in his own hands using the sword to attack the soldiers coming for Jesus (John 18:10-11). We also see his triple denial of Christ (Mark 14:66-72).

But that wasn't the end for Peter,was it? No. Move ahead to the morning that Peter sees Jesus on the beach. He jumps out of the boat to go meet Him. We see Peter's redemption in John 21:15-19. I think it is at that point that Peter gets it and can move on to become the Peter we know about in Acts. His belief and faith have become grounded in trust and love through his experiences and the work of the Cross.

But I don't think Peter would have gotten there at all if he hadn't made a choice to get out of the boat the first time. My man J is out of the boat. Big time. I'm just peeking over the side in wonderment. J is starting to notice the financial winds and waves swirling around him.

Prayers for J are certainly appreciated.

(Note: I've had no training on theology, interpreting Scripture, etc. This is just my little brain working with what I got. Please feel free to give me comments on where you think I might have gone wrong on this.)


Andy McMahon said...

This is good stuff Bubba.

I am often amazed at how many different interpretations you can hear from one story in the Bible. it's pretty intense.

This is a great way of looking at it, and putting it into perspective. Thank you for adding just a little more Faith and Trust to my day.

Bubba said...

Andy, thanks for dropping by and commenting.

I think it's good for all of us to figure out how the Gospel relates to our lives today. I'm not usually very good at it myself.

But I think it comes with learning faith and trust. You know, getting the knowledge that's in our heads to be experiences in our hearts too.

Anonymous said...

I heard a sermon recently that sends this walk-on-water story in an opposite direction. It goes like this...

Jesus wanted the disciples to have faith enough to stay in the boat DESPITE the storm! Staying on the ship would have meant following Jesus' directives even if it's not convenient. Jesus told them to sail or row to the other side of the lake. Presumably, Jesus wouldn't tell his students to do something he knew would not be possible. Presumably, Jesus also knew the storm would come, or at least knew it was raging...but Jesus did not initiate the command for Peter to leave the boat until Peter asked. Had Peter not aske, Presumably, Jesus was not planning on altering his original instructions to sail to the other side. Jesus may have wanted see if his students had enough faith to STAY IN THE BOAT! by faith in God's word, vs asking Jesus for a change order and altering the original command.

Perhaps, the other disciples were actually the ones with the greater faith, by staying in the first will of Jesus/God... by staying on the boat, knowing Jesus would not let them die whild following his instructions.

Hummmm... I see it both ways.