But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Believers, myself included, rather enjoy putting the knock on Peter. He was much like us all — impulsive, prone to speaking without thinking first, by turns inspired by the Holy Spirit and prompted by the devil — yet for all of this, he is one of the apostles Jesus chose to get the church up and running.
This morning’s verse caught my attention for the following reasons: (1) Peter was walking on water by the time he got frightened, (2) Peter was not frightened until he took his eyes off of Jesus, (3) despite being frightened, Peter knew that he should call on Jesus to be saved.
First, Peter was walking on water. Only two people can say that: Jesus and Peter. None of the other disciples were on the water with those two. None of the others even dared venture out. While I am wont to knock Peter for getting scared, he was in the midst of the miraculous when it happened. I know that there have been times in my own life when God was doing amazing things and I got frightened. In fact, it is most often during those times when God is doing something miraculous that I find myself scared. And that is, I suspect, normal and natural. The miraculous is, by definition, outside the natural. It is supernatural. And the natural mind shies away from the supernatural. That Peter was scared while walking on water is completely understandable — I am often scared of what God is doing and with far less reason. That Peter walked on water at all is miraculous. If God is doing something supernatural in my life, am I afraid?
Second, Peter did not get frightened until he took his eyes off of Jesus. For Jesus, walking on water was perfectly normal. Jesus is supernatural. The supernatural is natural to Him. This tells me that Peter saw Jesus walking on water as if it was no thing; like this happened every day. Jesus’ comfort with the situation; His blasé attitude about it all put Peter at his ease and allowed him to walk for as long as he did on the waves. It was when Peter looked around and saw that he was doing something completely supernatural that he freaked. So, too, is it with God doing the supernatural in my own life. It is not until I look around at the circumstances that I realize that God is doing anything out of the ordinary. When my eyes are fixed on God, I do not see Him exerting Himself or seeming like anything unusual is going on. It is not until I look at circumstance that I notice that what is happening is supernatural. If God is doing something supernatural in my life, am I looking at Him or at my circumstances?
Third, Peter knew Who to call when he lost it. Despite sinking into a stormy sea, Peter knew to call to Jesus for help. He knew that Jesus could save him. It might be noted that this was purely practical: Jesus was closest to him and the other disciples too far away to be of any practical assistance. Perhaps, but the text does not tell me that. The text tells me that Peter called to Jesus for help. That is all. Too often, I find myself flipping out and losing sight of the fact that God is immediately present to help me. All I need to do is ask. Peter, to his credit, did not forget. He called out to Jesus to save him. When I lose sight of God (and, I am sad to admit, I will) and begin to be overwhelmed by the circumstances in which I find myself, will I call out to God to save me or will I just drown?
Peter, for all his faults and shortcomings, did what no one had ever done before (and none has done since, as far as I know). He did, yes, takes his eyes off of Christ in the midst of miraculous, but he knew to call out to Jesus when he was sinking. Can the same be said of me? Can it be said of me that God called me to do what no one had done before and I stepped out and at least made the attempt? that I only sank because I was out on the waves with God doing the impossible? that I called out to God when I sank and was immediately saved? Sure, I will be chastised for my lack of faith; for taking my eyes off of Him, but what good teacher does not correct elementary mistakes? If I am to sink, let it be while doing the impossible with God. If I am to sink, let me call out to God for salvation from the wind and waves. If I am to sink, let me first have stepped out and attempted the impossible.