There’s a strange story in the Bible that is a favourite of mine. It concerns Jesus walking on the water and then Peter’s attempt to join him there (see Matthew 14:22-33)*.
At first reading, this story is not immediately relevant to us in our daily lives. The ability to walk on the water may be a miraculous curiosity, perhaps serving to highlight our own lack of faith, but that isn’t telling us anything new. We already know that faith can be hard to come by.
To understand this story we need first to understand that the Scriptures are primarily about who God is and who we are called to be in response to God. Through stories and events, songs and proverbs, letters and parables, God is seeking to teach us about God and about ourselves.
So what might the walking on the water reveal to us? Think of the boat. Think of the security it brings and the sense of being safe from the deep that it instils. Then recognise that in this story Jesus is not in the boat. He is present, he is coming towards us, but he is not sitting with us in our place of safety. Instead, he is standing away from us, challenging our assumptions about where he is and about where we should be.
The fact is, on our life’s journey we are often called to abandon our sources of security, to take the trek across the unknown, towards the one who alone can sustain us. That’s the way it works.
* 22 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.”
This article is part of Faith Journey, a newsletter from the National Centre for Evangelisation.