So there were Peter and the Twelve on a boat. Everything was against them: the wind was howling, the waves were tossing them about—literally, in the greek, their boat was being tortured. And worse, the darkness of night was beginning to fall on them. I can think of only one thing worse than being in a boat in such conditions—and that is to be overboard from the boat in such conditions.
I think this is the first thing we must consider about today’s Gospel. When it comes down to it, the problem for many of us (myself included) is not the whole walking on the water part—but the whole getting out of the boat part. It is easier, so it seems, to be in a boat being tossed around than to be out of the boat being tossed around.
And so I give Peter credit. He gets a bad wrap in today’s Gospel—we are quick to echo Jesus’ words how Peter had little faith-- but, when we think about it, Peter had enough faith to get out of the boat. I want that kind of faith: I want that strong of a faith that throws caution to the wind and takes the risk to get out of my comfort zone—a faith risky enough to go after Jesus when “going after Jesus” means doing even that which terrifies me. I want a faith humble enough too-- a humble faith that is willing to swallow my pride and turn to my Savior and cry out “Save Me!” when I’m failing miserably. Yes, even though Peter seems to have made a fool of himself, he had a greater faith than me.
At which point, I must ask: was Peter a fool for his a leap of faith? Would we be stupid for jumping over the side with him?
You’ve probably heard of the phrase, “a leap of faith.” In our culture, a leap of faith is a stepping out into an unknown—society thinks of it as a blind leap, a kind of hopefulness that, when it comes down to it, is reckless and unreasonable. Is this what Jesus asks us to do? No. Jesus does not ask Peter—nor any of us, for that matter—to take blind leaps. Instead, Jesus gives us reasons to believe, reasons to leap—like a parent who is in the deep end of the pool, trying to get his little son to dive in. The son has every reason to trust. He won’t die. He won’t drown. His father is there to care for him.
So too, Jesus beckons us to leap and he gives us reasons to trust him—first of which is that he himself is walking on the water and calling us out to him. “Come out of the boat… be not afraid… it is I… I am going to take care of you… you won’t drown!” Second, how many miracles has Peter seen Jesus do to prove himself? Peter has seen Jesus raise the dead, heal the sick, and—lest we forget—that very same evening, Jesus had multiplied the loaves and fishes. Isn’t Jesus trustworthy? Haven't we seen so many miracles in our lives? Hasn't Jesus proven Himself to you before? Won’t he reach out his hand to you if you fall?
What have you to lose, except your pride?
It is here that I realize how foolish I have been when I have stayed in my boat. I think my comfortable boat will save me from the waves of death. But it won’t. (And really, my little boat isn’t all that comfortable anyway.) I am still tossed about by the waves of the world—by its violence, by its corruption, by its desperation. I need something to bring me above these waves of change. I need something to help me to walk over the waters of death. I need something that saves me from the tempest of meaninglessness and isolation and hopelessness. Boats that are sinking aren’t very comfortable....
Take a moment and look at who approaches! Jesus walks on the water; walking to us in our little boats. He beckons us to come. Do not be afraid.
And I will admit: with all of the tumult of the world crashing its waves around me, I can barely hear Jesus. His voice seems like just a whisper. But He’s yelling through the air, urging me not to be afraid, willing me to place my entire trust in him-- after all, He sometimes have to yell in order to be heard over the din of the waves. Sure, all I hear is a whisper. But that is where God is. He isn’t in the wind that’s against me. He isn’t in the waves or in the earthquake or the fire—He is in the whisper.
It is a whisper that speaks to my heart. I know I must throw myself overboard. I must take the risk of love, the leap of faith. I must give myself entirely to Him.
Can I do that now? Can I place myself and all that I am and all that I need help with in his care? I know what I shall do: when I come to communion today, I shall imagine that I am walking on water to Jesus. I will walk to Him in faith. I will get out of my boat. I will give him homage. I will let him help me. For He is my God! He is my savior! Of what should I be afraid?