This Sunday’s sermon, by Bryan Wilkerson at Grace Chapel in Lexington, Mass, was part of a series on ways we get stuck, stalled. Every now and then I head down to Grace, where Jud and I worshipped and served for many years. Bryan can preach. Like Patrick, at Christ Church where we now attend, Bryan unearths treasures hidden in the familiar, like today’s story from Matthew 14.
As a child, I remember Mrs. Miller’s flannel graph board coming alive with paper waves, a boat full of disciples and Jesus off in the distance standing atop a paper wave.
Then Peter leaps out of the boat and walks a couple steps on top of the waves, heading towards Jesus until he gets scared and falls under the water, crying, “Help!” Jesus helps and next thing you know, they’ve both landed in the boat.
The feeling I was left with, as a kid, and after most sermons I’ve heard on this subject was that Peter needed to keep his eyes on Jesus,(not a bad idea) instead of looking at the big waves. In other words, Peter didn’t have quite enough faith and needed to do faith better. No one shouted,”Way to go, Peter!”
Two of the treasures Bryan dug up for any who listened today:
(1) JESUS IS PRAYING AND WATCHING us while we struggle to row our boats. Easy to stall when the wind’s coming at you, like it was for Peter and the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. They’d been rowing against the wind, trying to cross to the other side. Jesus was off praying, not in the boat with the disciples. Bryan asked ,what the disciples must’ve wondered, and I have more than once,”Where’s Jesus?” (when you really need Him?!)
Then Bryan brought up Mark 6:48 to partially answer that question, “Jesus saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves.” Sometimes it seems like Jesus stalls, especially when it comes to rescuing. Where is Jesus? Praying and watching…..us. Sometimes that’s all I need to know.
(2) ONLY PETER AND JESUS WALKED ON THE WATER. At just the right time, Jesus showed up but in an unexpected way, walking on the water. Exhausted from the wind and rowing, the men in the boat screamed, thinking they’d seen a ghost. Jesus said,”I am here. Don’t be afraid.” Then Peter, yelled, “If it’s really YOU, tell me to come.” and Jesus said, “Come.” Peter like one of the many fish he’d caught, slipped over the side of the boat and started walking on the water towards Jesus.
I don’t know how many steps he took before sinking into the waves, while screaming,”Save me, Lord!” And Jesus did. I picture Jesus hugging a soggy Peter and laughing while shaking his loving head and saying,, “You don’t have much faith, Peter. Why did you doubt me?”
Imagine Jesus with an arm around Peter, standing together ON the water, talking about faith and doubt. Peter and Jesus hanging out on the water, not Peter coughing, sputtering, clinging to Jesus’ feet to keep from going under. Then Bryan said, “Once they were all back in the boat, the Bible says they all worshipped Jesus. ALL worshipped but only Peter walked on water.”
All this to say, I’m thankful for Sunday School and church, for stories of faith and doubt. I appreciate pastors who work and pray hard over the messages they bring to all of us who come hungry, stalled over something or some one. I’m grateful that Jesus will be praying and watching you and me in whatever boat we find ourselves in this coming week. And I hope, you and I’ll have enough faith to slip out of our boats and walk towards Jesus, even if it’s just a couple of steps.
It’s not so much about walking on water as it is about faithwalking with Jesus.
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