So Peter realizes it’s Jesus, whispers “Thank God!” to himself and screams out to Jesus in the midst of those crashing waves, losing his balance in the boat, spray filling his nostrils. Pfffttt as he spits out the water he just swallowed, squinting his eyes. ”Jesus, make it stop!”
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Stained glass pictured above is one of the five windows above Christ Church’s altar.
The difference between being terrified or walking on water is one thing: Will you ask Jesus to command you? The difference between being battered by the waves of life, and terrified by your circumstances, or walking on water is whether or not you will ask Jesus to command you.
This last week has been a terrifying, heartbreaking week. Saber-rattling between the U.S. and North Korea. The racism and violence in Charlottesville. Many of oon parish members who are suffering. And the horrible tragedy here in our commnity of a young mother of seven killed in a car accident this weekend. Sometimes the waves of life batter us. Sometimes the circumstances in our world can be terrifying.
In today’s Gospel we hear what may be a familiar story. The Apostle Peter walks on water. Now as far as I know, no one in human history has evern walked on water…except Peter…and Jesus. I’ve never stepped off the Williams Bay Municipal Pier and walked onto Lake Geneva. So this was a BIG DEAL. What was going on here? The Gospel of Mattew tells us it was evening, and Jesus sent the disciples across the lake ahead of him…
“…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 toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, 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 toward Jesus.” [Matthew 14:24 – 29]
The disciples are seasoned fishermen. Think “Deadlist Catch.” And the wind is against them. Their being battered by the waves. Muscles straining. Riding high into the air only to lose their balance as the boast crashes down. Choking on the water that just hit them. And then doing it again. And again. And again. Battered. Have you ever felt battered like this by life? I have. You’re straining and struggling, getting bounced all over. No control. Beat down. Battered. The disciples were battered by waves. Because the wind was against them. We get battered by life. Because our circumstances are against us.
And they are terrified. Why? They see what they think is a ghost. It’s not. It’s Jesus. Walking across the lake. Sometimes the things that terrify us aren’t what we think they are.
Wait a minute…Peter didn’t say that?
No. He didn’t. Peter did not look at Jesus and say, “Make it stop.” What did Peter say to Jesus as waves are crashing around him, and he’s trying to keep his balance in the storm-tossed boats, white caps swelling around him, spray filling his mouth and nose with water?
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Peter does not say, “Make it stop!” A.k.a. make the thing that’s battering me stop. A.k.a. change my circumstances. Peter says, “Command me…” “Command me to come to you…” “Command me to walk on water…” On churning waves. Command me Jesus.
And Jesus says one word to Peter: “Come.” And Peter steps out of the boat. With one word from Jesus, Peter becomes the second person in the history of the world to walk on water.
He doesn’t say, “Make it stop Jesus!” He says, “Command me.” And that is the difference between being battered and terrified, or walking on water.
If this week is any indication, the world is a terrifying place. The circumstances of life can batter us. But we need to follow Peter’s example. It’s so easy to merely say, “God, make it stop.” But Jesus invites us to more. You and I can say to Jesus when we’re battered and terrified, “Lord, command me…” And then wait to hear His word to us. Just as His word to Peter was “Come”, if we surrender and invite Him to command us, He will have a word for us too. That word might be: “Rest” or “Forgive” or “Repent” or “Give” or “Pray” or “Apologize” or “Share” or “Trust” or “Sing” or “Love.” But when we focus on Jesus, and not our circumstances…when we surrender and ask Him to command us, He will speak that word. The word we need. The word that can make us walk on water.
Think about this. What if Peter merely said, “Make it stop!” and that’s all that happened? Sure. No more wind and waves. No more bad circumstances. But Peter would have never… walked…on water. Think about what’s battering you in life, or terrifying you in this world. You could ask God to merely make it stop, sure. But the next time those circumstances arose you’d be in the exact same place again. Battered and terrified again. But when we ask Jesus to command us He changes us, not merely our circumstances.
Are you battered? Are you terrified? Look to Jesus. The one who says to His followers, “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.” Like Peter, surrender to Him. Pray. Say to Jesus, “Lord, if it is You command me…and I will come to You.”
Take heart. Let Jesus command your life. And walk on water.
Preached by Fr. Joel Allen Prather at Christ Church Delavan on Sunday August 13, 2017.
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