“And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And 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 and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped Him saying ,”Truly you are the Son of God.”
This passage has raised many questions for me over the last couple of weeks but there is one question I can’t shake. One that my heart begs an answer for and that I believe God is whispering to me.
What if Peter had believed in that moment that Jesus was able?
The word says that Peter became afraid when he saw the wind. I can only imagine the emotions and thoughts racing through his mind. Peter had surely had his fisherman’s share of uncertain nights amidst angry seas. This was his chosen trade so I don’t believe he was prone to fright every time the wind kicked up. However, his whole world had been rocked of late and he had certainly never looked at the wind while his feet were planted on water instead of on the rugged wooded planks that he was accustomed to. No, this was a new vantage point altogether and it is perhaps understandable for him to be questioning the reality of water that now behaved like road.
When I try to picture myself there with Jesus, I don’t see myself looking up at the wind. Instead, I think of looking into the deep dark of the unknown waters below. Peter had cast many a net into those inky depths hoping for a catch. I’m sure many times his efforts proved fruitful, but how many more times had the muscles in his back, neck and shoulders strained and his heart thundered only to pull the weight of what would prove to be a whole lot of empty disappointment? Should he dare to believe that those same uncertain waters that were never able to make promises before, were now able to hold the weight of all he was entrusting them to?
Maybe it had something to do with how the fisherman and the Godman first met. Luke 5 tells us that when the fishermen were washing their nets, Jesus got into Simon’s (Peter’s) boat and asked him to move it out a ways from the land. Simon complied and after they were on the water, Jesus began to teach the people. After His preaching, Jesus told Simon to “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon does the unexpected here by calling Jesus “Master” and trusting Him enough to obey His command.
Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of men who make their living by the fruit of the sea, I don’t picture them as the types to go along with anyone that comes along and tells them to go back out and try again after they had just worked all night and had nothing to show for it. I picture them as men ready to get home to the comfort of their wives and a warm meal.
Simon Peter however is full of surprises.
“And Simon answered, Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:5
This implies to me that he had clearly been impacted by Jesus’ message and found something worthy of following in this bold teacher. After they had done as they were instructed, they received such a great catch that their nets were breaking and eventually the boats would begin to sink from the weight of it.
“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Luke 5:8
“And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” Luke 5:11
Isn’t that a true picture of how we come to know Jesus and are willing to open our hearts to Him?
Do you remember that moment when your sin became clear to you as you saw it against the indescribable backdrop of His glory? But that is a blog post for another day. For now, let’s continue with Peter.
Peter recognized Jesus’ Lordship by way of a miracle that came out of a deeply unexpected place. Perhaps this is why it was the wind that scared him that night. He already knew that Jesus had dominion over what lay beneath the waters. But the wind? Who could control the wind?
He believed Jesus to be the Christ and could even manage to get his mind around the fact that Jesus could stand there on the water. Peter’s faith started to shake as He wondered if Jesus was powerful and trustworthy enough to enable him to remain upright on the shifting sea with the wind lashing against his face. Would these circumstances be too great? Would this reach the limit of what Jesus could do in his life?
This is where I wish this was one of those stories where the reader gets to choose from a few possible endings. What if Peter had chosen to believe that Jesus was able? Would they have walked away from the boat, laughing and talking as they went? Would the wind and sea have quieted simply by that humble act of trust? Would Jesus have answered questions that had long been burning in Peter’s heart? Would Peter be so overcome by the majesty and beauty of His Lord’s love that he would have wept with a mixture of joy and that familiar realization that he wasn’t fit to be in His presence?
We can only wonder.
I’m looking into my own deep waters now. I have seen more than I deserve of Jesus overflowing my ungrateful heart with His blessings, until the fibers of the net begin to unravel from the bounty of His love for me. I still walk in fear that my circumstances or the ones of those I love won’t turn out the way I want them to. In these moments, I feel it would be too brazen to hope for all my heart desires. It feels safer to believe that nets pulled up from the depth of unknown waters will be empty rather than facing the possible disappointment and heartache of hoping to find them full only to hold them empty.
Does this grieve my Lord’s heart?
Was Jesus saddened when Peter began to sink because of His lack of faith? The word doesn’t tell us. It simply says that Jesus immediately stretched out His hand to save him. Does it thrill the very heart of God when we believe in His loving heart toward us? When we know that even though the wind blows and that we don’t know what lies beneath, we trust that He has control over what looms impossible in our lives. When I fight Him because I don’t want to experience more hurt does His heart yearn for me to remember who He is? The one that has turned my dark and liquid sea into solid ground countless times. My Lord and King, who reaches out His hand time and time again to save His daughter of weak faith. I long for the day that as the wind threatens to blow my hopes away, I would be one that reaches for His hand. This time, not out of fear, but simply desiring His nearness as we walk on land and rolling waves together.
Peter went on to follow Jesus, through many more experiences. He would at times be obedient, he would often speak before thinking and need to be corrected, he would deny knowing the Lord he had promised to never leave. He endured the devastation of the crucifixion of His friend and Messiah and the glory of His resurrection.
The Bible tells us that after Jesus is raised to life Simon Peter and some of the other disciples were together by the Sea of Tiberias. Simon suddenly announces that he is going fishing ~
“Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.” John 21:3-8
I think it is beautiful and fitting that He didn’t walk to Peter on the water, but instead called out to the men “Children, do you have any fish?” For some reason this sentence is so dear to me after all they had been through. “Children” ~ a Fathers call to those precious to Him.
This time Peter’s net was not torn even though the catch of fish should have burst it with abundance. This time Peter didn’t wait for Jesus’ command to come or cautiously try the water, but instead threw himself into the sea to get to His Risen Lord who had captured his whole heart. This time there would be nothing that could stop him. No longer was Peter’s heart testing the Lordship and divinity of Christ. He now fully understood the truth of the one who stood before him.
Fully man yet fully God.
The one that endured the cross to bear the weight and wrath of God for Peter’s own sin and ours.
Peter now understood in his very core who this was who commanded wind and sea. He was the same one who had now conquered sin and death. He was the one that would now say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The resurrected King that would call Peter and the generations after him, to go and make disciples of all nations. The one that promised to be with us always, to the end of the age.
Our God who beckons, with a simple statement.
And I, like Peter am learning to follow Him over the steepest peaks, the lowest valleys and the harshest seas.
I am beginning to learn that He is always the solid foundation beneath my feet.
~ Deon LaFond