LENT THRU THE EYES OF PETER…THAT SINKING FEELING!
March 8, 2015…3rd Sunday in Lent
The Preacher’s Cheesiest Humor Book, 1974 Edition features a whole section of bad Jesus walking on water jokes. No doubt you’ve heard this one:
Jesus, Moses and Peter are in a boat sailing across the ocean. Suddenly, the boat stops and they see a small island ahead. Jesus looks around then gets out of the boat and walks across the water toward the island.
Moses stands up, looks around, then carefully steps out of the boat and walks after Jesus. Peter looks puzzled. He stands up, and steps out of the boat only to fall into the water. Soaked and confused, he gets back in the boat.
All the while Jesus and Moses are watching from shore. Jesus laughs and whispers to Moses, “Do you think we should tell him where the rocks are?”
Actually I did come across one cute little LOL chuckle in the cheesy humor book:
A mother took her little Trevor to church. While in church the little boy said, “Mommy, I have to pee.” The mother replied, “Trevor, it’s not appropriate to say the word ‘pee’ in church. So, from now on whenever you have to ‘pee’ just tell me that you have to ‘whisper.'”
The following Sunday it was Trevor’s weekend to be with his father. They went to church and during the service he said to his father, “Daddy, I have to whisper.” The father looked at him quizzically, “Okay, Trevor, whisper in my ear.”
During these Sundays in this holy season we are experiencing Lent thru the eyes of Peter. We are riding the roller-coaster journey of discipleship Peter embarks upon in his relationship with Jesus Christ. Let’s check out a fascinating account we find in Matthew’s gospel:
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
In this adventure Peter has much to teach us about the basics of a meaningful faith.
Yes, faith involves….
Ponder this question for a moment: “What is my boat?”
Jesus and his disciples have just completed the miraculous task of feeding 5,000 along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. It’s been a long day. Jesus tells them to get in the boat and head over to the other side of the lake. He’s going up on the hill to pray, to spend time with God.
However, as dusk turns to dark, Jesus looks out from his vantage point and sees the disciples struggling about a half mile from shore. A strong east wind called a “sharkeyeh” has blown in, kicking up whitecaps, making it impossible for them to make much headway rowing.
They are exhausted—straining, soaked to the bone, fighting back with the oars as their tiny craft is buffeted. Suddenly, one of them screams in fear. Peering through the darkness they see a figure walking on the water toward them.
Fishermen and sailors say that if you see a ghost on the seas it means you are doomed. It is supposedly an imminent sign of drowning. They recoil in terror!
But then, as the figure draws closer, they discover it is not an apparition. It is the Almighty. It can’t be, but it is! Jesus is walking across the water! And he shouts to them across the din of howling wind and choppy waves these assuring words, “Take heart, it is I; Do not be afraid!”
Now, what happens next is either an act of sheer courage or utter stupidity, depending on your point of view. We all know it’s Peter’s nature to be a bit impulsive. He’s the kind of fellow who leaps before he looks.
While the other disciples are still speechless from seeing their Lord navigating across the top of the churning water, Peter has the audacity to cry out, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water!” And Jesus shouts back, “Come on!”
And Peter steps out of the boat! Can’t you just hear the other disciples thinking, “You idiot! Your name, Peter, Petros, means “rock” and you’re gonna sink like one!”
But Peter has enough trust to overcome fear with faith. He steps out of the boat!
Yes, faith is primarily a verb, not a noun. It requires us to get up, move forward, to step out.
I ask you again, “What’s your boat?” What is the comfort zone that you are afraid to step out of? What is holding you back from moving forward in faith toward Christ, getting your feet wet?
We often hold tightly to our security—be it our reputation, our possessions, our lifestyle, whatever. We do not ever hear the voice of Christ in our lives because we are hunkered down. We only want to acquire bigger and better boats. But no boat is unsinkable.
Could you ever see yourself stepping out into uncharted waters—swallowing your fear– trusting Jesus enough to get out of your boat and attempt something of great magnitude?
Faith is more than stepping out, though. It is also…
Next question to consider, “Where’s my focus?”
Strange as it may seem, Peter putting his feet in the water may not be as crazy as it sounds—at least from his perspective.
From Peter’s religious tradition, a disciple is not just a student who seeks to know what the rabbi knows. A disciple is someone who does what the rabbi does. When Jesus calls Peter and the others to be disciples, he calls them to do what he does.
Jesus sends them on missions. They preach the good news, they heal the sick, they restore the blind, they do the work that Jesus does. They have witnessed and done great things in Jesus’ name.
And so, when Jesus says to Peter, “Come on!” Peter doesn’t blink. With laser-like focus on Jesus’ face, Peter steps out of the boat and reaches out to Jesus. Why not? A disciple does what the Rabbi does! With great faith Peter is actually walking on the water!
On a hot evening in July, 2006, Tom Boyle, Jr. was leaving a Tuscon, AZ grocery store when he witnessed a bicyclist get struck by a 1989 Camaro in a nearby intersection and dragged for some 30 feet. The teenager’s legs were pinned underneath the vehicle and he was screaming in agony.
Boyle, who at 30 years of age and 6’4’’, 300 lbs was not exactly a weakling, ran to the scene of the accident. He saw he was this kid’s only help, as the driver of the car seemed dazed. Boyle muttered a prayer to himself, and somehow summoned the strength to lift a 3,000 lb automobile while someone helped pull the kid out to safety. He had severe leg injuries but would live.
All told, Boyle held that car up for nearly 45 seconds. He had once dead-lifted 350 lbs., but never 3,000 lbs. An hour later, after composing himself, Boyle collapsed in pain. He had fractured 8 teeth from gritting them so hard and tore his bicep tendons while holding the Camaro off the ground. Needless to say, the young man was eternally grateful to his rescuer!
Sometimes we can accomplish amazing, incomprehensible, miraculous things when our eyes are focused on Christ. Peter looks to Jesus, reaches out and walks on water.
But then, Peter suddenly realizes where he is rather than whom he is with. He looks down and around, and he gets that sinking feeling. He’s going down.
Do you feel your life is a constant, swirling, stressful mess being sucked down the drain? Where’s your focus? Do you keep your eyes on Jesus? By that I mean, do you converse inwardly with him throughout each day, reaching out and asking for guidance, for strength, for patience, for hope?
Faith is all about stepping out, reaching out, and sometimes….
One final question to contemplate: “How’s my pride?”
“Lord, save me!” is Peter’s plea. And Jesus immediately takes hold of his hand and helps him back to the boat.
Peter’s cry is not so much about safety but rather his identity.
Now, when I fall off kayaks and into the water, I panic. I’m no Michael Phelps. I’m not even Charlie the Tuna. I can’t swim well.
But Peter is a strong swimmer. You don’t spend your life as a fisherman without knowing how to keep yourself afloat in deep water.
So why does he cry out?
I think he’s fearful of losing his identity as a disciple. We’ve already surmised that Peter has a bit of low self-esteem due to his flunking out of religious school. He’s led a pretty rough life. And yet, Jesus has called him to be a follower in spite of his flaws.
And just when Peter is beginning to emerge as a leader in this band of disciples, he flunks yet another test. What starts out as a great demonstration of faith has turned into an embarrassing debacle of failure. He swallows his pride and cries out to Jesus hoping that Jesus will not kick him off the team.
And our Lord’s response is one of grace. He reaches out and lifts Peter from the water. And with a grin Jesus talks a bit of smack- “O you of little faith, why did you doubt!”
How’s your pride?
Are you the type of person who holds on to pride with a death-grip even when you’re sinking beneath the waves?
Are you the type of person who would never dare to admit you need the Lord?
Are you the type of person who believes faith is only for weak people?
Peter is not too proud to cry out to Jesus. He doesn’t want to ever lose his identity as a disciple of Jesus. And through his crying out he finds assurance that he cannot ultimately fail, for his Lord is with him.
And that is blessed assurance all of us need.
Yes, Peter teaches us that the basics of a meaningful faith involve stepping out, reaching out and crying out. Faith is indeed a verb, requiring hands-on action, not distant admiration. When Jesus tells you to get out of the boat, you get out of the boat! You remain focused on Jesus, and if need be, you swallow your pride and cry out to Jesus.
On June 30, 1859, Charles Blondin became the first man in history to walk on a tightrope across Niagara Falls. Over 25,000 people gathered to watch him walk 1,100 feet suspended on a tiny rope 160 feet above the raging waters.
Blondin worked without a net or safety harness of any kind. The slightest slip would prove fatal. When he safely reached the Canadian side of the Falls, the crowd burst into a mighty roar!
In the days that followed he walked across the Falls many times. Once he walked across on stilts. Another time he took a chair and a small stove, sat down midway, and fixed himself an omelet. Once he carried his manager across riding piggyback.
Then there came the occasion when he asked the cheering spectators if they thought he could push a man across in a wheelbarrow. The crowded shouted, “You surely can!”
Spying a gentleman in the front row, he asked him personally, “Sir, do you think I could safely carry you across the Falls in this wheelbarrow?” “Yes, of course!”
“Then get in!” said George Blondin.
The man refused, prefacing his denial with a barrage of expletives!
It was one thing to believe George Blondin could push someone across in a wheelbarrow. It was quite another thing for that person to be you!
Faith is a bit like getting in the wheelbarrow.
Faith is a lot like getting out of the boat and getting with Jesus.
It’s entrusting all we are to all Christ is.
In the end, the greater miracle is not walking on water but having the courage to try.
Peter did it.
Perhaps we can, also!