Sometimes Jesus lets us sink before He pulls us back up to safety again. This post will conclude the series of lessons learned from two events at sea involving Jesus and the disciples (found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John). If you haven’t read the previous posts, you can find them here: Part 1 and Part 2.
The notes presented here are taken from Dr. Tony Evans’ sermon series “Believe” which explores the meanings behind these incidents rather well.
The story of Jesus coming to the disciples in the middle of the sea and walking on water can be found in three of the Gospels (Mark 6:45–52, John 6:16–21 and Matthew 14:22–33).
Let’s refresh our memory and reset the stage. The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand had just concluded. While Jesus would dismiss the crowd and go to pray, He instructed his disciples to cross the sea by themselves where He would meet them on the other side. The disciples did as they were told, but they ran into a nasty storm which blocked them from reaching the shoreline. In fact, the storm’s winds were so bad it kept the disciples stuck out there in the middle of the sea and in the darkness of night. Meanwhile Jesus watched them struggle from four miles away on the shoreline. Then, in the midst of their situation, He approached them, walking on top of the water.
Peter Walking on the Water
This is the same story told to us by Mark and John. However Matthew’s account provides some additional information that the others don’t give us. That is the story of Peter walking on the water…
Shortly before dawn 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.”
Now this is what you want to hear in a leader when everyone else is too scared to move. Peter saw Jesus not subsumed by the same problem he was facing, so he knew he could join Jesus ON TOP of his problem too.
“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!”
So here we observe that Peter is now walking on top of the water too. But how could he be defying the laws of physics? Because Peter was now in line with Jesus the problem was no longer defining him. This allowed him to walk on top of his problem, as opposed to sinking underneath it.
Now keep in mind, that the problem hasn’t disappeared, it is just no longer defining him…that is UNTIL Peter took notice again of the storm surrounding him.
You see, the storm was bad before Peter got out of the boat, but the reason it didn’t feel as bad as it was is in that moment is because Peter was listening to Jesus’ Word. He wasn’t looking at the storm. But once he started walking on the water, he began to pay a lot of attention to how bad his situation was because of the rolling of the waves. In other words, when Peter began to take his eyes off of Jesus and put his eyes on the circumstances, he began to sink.
Letting Us Sink
The interesting part, according to Dr. Evans is that Jesus LET him sink. Why does Jesus let His children sink? Because Jesus wants to drive in us the same principle that is found in Hebrews 12:1-3…
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
According to Dr. Evans, “The moment you look at your circumstances to determine how well off you are, your circumstances will drive you down if they’re negative circumstances, because they are going to suck you under.”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
It wasn’t until Peter cried out to Jesus to save him again that Jesus took hold and picked him up. In this moment, Peter regain his focus again and found that there was victory in the middle of a stormy situation.
We just need to keep our sights set on Jesus at all times.