Author: Rachel Kidd
Jesus Walks on 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.” “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?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” –Matthew 14:25-29
Many of us heard this bible story retold to us in Sunday School as kids, intended to encourage our budding faith in Christ. I don’t think it occurred to me then how miraculous, how frightening it would be to truly see someone walk on water in front of me.
When I was 16, I had the privilege of traveling to Israel on a school trip. That incredible experience connected me in a very tangible way to the Bible that I grew up reading, making it come alive.
My group took a bus to the Dead Sea, a greatly anticipated final stop on our educational tour. In our swimsuits and sandals, our tour guide made sure we understood that the salt concentration in the water would be unlike anything we’ve experienced before and would make our bodies buoyant.
As prepared as I thought I was, I cannot quite describe to you the shock I felt when I slipped into the oily, crystalized water. Like a ball of dough being dropped in hot oil, you don’t sink. Instead, the thick water immediately pushes you back up and cradles you on the surface.
I had never felt anything like it, floating on the Dead Sea. It defies logic, upends everything you thought you knew, the principles of the universe you previously believed were concrete and unchanging.
I can imagine that even though the disciples knew that Jesus performed miracles, seeing Him walk across the water would have been incredibly shocking. Defying the laws of gravity in front of their very eyes, upending everything they thought was true.
I probably would have screamed too, out of fear and disbelief. I can’t even imagine Jesus then asking me to walk out to Him, asking me to suspend my understanding of the world. I certainly would have been afraid, even knowing Jesus was right in front of me.
Peter the Rock
I think we are often judgmental of Peter, who’s failings are frequent throughout the Gospels. It can be easy to do, but we also should be mindful to remember Peter’s strengths and successes too.
Peter was the only man in the boat on the Sea of Galilee to step off and into the storm. And yet, we only remember the fact that he sank because he took his eyes off of Jesus.
Peter demonstrates incredible discernment, only walking on the water once he is sure that it is in fact Jesus, and that He has called him to do so.
When Peter does stumble, he calls out to Jesus for help; “Lord save me!” and Jesus does. He models responding to Jesus’ call and asking for help when we need it.
Peter is often the face of doubt, impulsivity, and misjudgement. But, he is also a great church leader, the one who Jesus called the rock. He becomes who Jesus called him, the Rock.
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Purpose
Like Peter and His other disciples, Jesus called ordinary people to His ministry. He used people who may have otherwise been discounted and ignored for His purposes, which often ran in opposition to the religious leaders of the time.
In Mark 7, Jesus is sitting down to a meal with the Pharises.1 Instead of cleansing themselves in the proper way as per tradition, Jesus and His disciples simply sit down to eat.
The Pharisees are appalled and rebuke Jesus, asking why He allows His followers to eat with unclean hands. Jesus takes this opportunity to teach, replying:
“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. –Mark 7:6-8
Jesus explains that it is the soul, the inner part of man, that makes us reflections of God the Creator. It is not our outer bodies, our external appearances, our cleanliness that makes us righteous in the eyes of God.
He then declares all food clean, again defying the Jewish tradition of eating Kosher.2
“Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) –Mark 7:18-19
Jesus says that nothing from the outside can defile a person, rather it is the inside that defiles them. It is not dirty hands, unclean foods, or unfit friends that we should be worried about. He instead places the blame on the internal and the spiritually dark.
“…sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” –Mark 7: 21-23
Jesus consistently and persistently flipped the rules and traditions of His time on their heads. He upturned natural laws like gravity even, calling Peter to walk on water and raising people from the dead.
He calls ordinary people, people that will likely be scared by these abrupt changes to their world, to have faith. He calls even people like Peter, sinking Peter, to be the rock of the church and fulfill extraordinary purposes.