The reading from Matthew 14:22-33, Jesus Walks on the Water, has much to teach us. Just before this text, Jesus had fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. The disciples had seen this miracle and knew better than anyone what Jesus had done. The food multiplied while they gave it to the people. It didn’t run out. All ate and were satisfied.
Then Jesus puts them in the boat and sends them back to the other side. Can you imagine the conversation? The wonder and amazement in their voices as they talked about what Jesus had done? They knew He was the Son of God by what He had done. They knew only God Himself had such power. Only God could show such love. The glory of that miracle thrilled them.
But they still had room to grow in faith. Miracles and blessings strengthen faith. But nothing can build faith like suffering. And soon they would suffer. For the gusts began to blow. They waves began to rise. They had to fight against the wind and water, clawing their way across the Sea of Galilee. It was exhausting. It was dark. It was wet and cold. It was also scary. For they looked up and saw Jesus walking across the water toward them. Memories of the many fishing boats that had sunk in the Sea came back to them. Was that figure on the waves one who had drowned and died? Was it going to harm them? These big, strong men cried out in fear. The confidence they had after the feeding of the 5,000 was gone. All they knew was fear.
“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Jesus calls to them. His voice comforts them. His words have the power to calm the fear in their hearts. So much so that Peter is brave again. The water around the boat surged and roiled. He knew that no one could survive in it for long. Unless… Unless Jesus in His power gave the command. So Peter calls to Him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus responds with the command, “Come.”
Earlier in the day, Jesus said, “Give.” His command was clear. Take this food and give it. And by His command, there was food to give, more than enough. So now Jesus says, “Come.” And if He said it, He will make it so. Peter steps out of the boat and stands on the raging waves. They support him. He walks. As long as he remembers Jesus’ command, Peter is safe. But he forgets the command and power of Christ.
He sees the fury of the water, and thinks of death by drowning. He forgets Christ who is standing on the waves near him, the One who gives him life. He knows only fear.
“Lord, save me!” His prayer is short and urgent. (So similar to what we pray in Church… “Lord, have mercy!”) Jesus hears and acts. He reaches out His hand, grasps Peter, and pulls him to safety. He pulls Peter to Himself, the safest place of all. Would Jesus have let Peter drown when Jesus Himself had commanded Peter to come? Would Christ fail Peter? Never. You know it. I know it. Peter knew it. But he was still afraid. His fear was stronger than his faith.
Now Christ shows Himself stronger than the wind and waves. He shows Himself as even stronger than Peter’s fear. Jesus saves Peter in the midst of his terror of drowning. The memory of Jesus strong hand closing around his wrist and pulling him up would stay with him. Jesus’ victory in the face of Peter’s fear and suffering strengthened his faith beyond measure.
When we are afraid, it is hard to believe. When we have struggles, when money is tight, when we are worried, it is hard to believe. So this text is written for you. To remind you that Christ is your Savior. This text reminds you that Christ is not far away. In baptism, Christ has pulled you from the flood. He sets you on a firm foundation, and He loves you.
The Christ who commanded, “Give” and “Come” is the same one who calls us in the Gospel and feeds us at the Supper. The Christ who had compassion on the hungry crowd and lovingly heard Peter’s prayer is the same One who has compassion on us all and hears our prayers. The very hand that pulled Peter from the would-be watery grave, is the same hand that was nailed to the cross for us, so that He could pull us all from a very real grave on the day of resurrection.
So, dear friends, we face the challenges before us, we work together in a healthy way to deal with them, we share the word of Christ with those in need. But our strength is not in us; it is in Christ. It is not time to be afraid, it is time to trust Him and love each other. And since that is too much for us, it is time for us to cry together, “Lord, save us!” He already has saved us. He always will.
And, miracle of miracles, instead of fear, Christ will plant faith. And instead of anger, He will give us peace. The peace of Christ, that passes all understanding… Lord Jesus, give us Your peace! Amen.