And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. (Matthew 14: 29).
Peter cuts quite a colourful character through the Gospels. Impetuous, a little brash, leaning sometimes towards arrogance but spontaneous and passionate, we can easily see ourselves in this gruff, down-to-earth fisherman-turned-apostle. We can identify with some of the rough edges, with opening our mouths sometimes to simply change feet, to leaping before we looked and to saying things without thinking.
It was Peter who whipped out his sword and lopped off an ear when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. It was Peter who swore devotion to the death and then denied Jesus three times out of fear. It was Peter who declared in one moment: ‘You are the Son of God’ and in the next protested the Messiah’s need to die.
Yet this is the man Christ used to found and drive the first church, in Jerusalem. Peter became the ‘apostle to the Jews’ and went to his own death on the cross, humbly requesting that he be crucified upside down as he was not worthy to die the same death as Christ. Peter was one of the three who saw Christ transfigured with Moses and Elijah on the Mount. After Pentecost, even just his shadow passing over a person could effect healing, and this unsophisticated, simple fisherman preached the first sermon in Jerusalem, so moved by the Spirit that his words brought thousands to repentance in one day.
In Peter, we we see just what God can do with and through a willing heart, and two things stand out clearly:
First, Peter walked. Jesus simply said ‘come’ and Peter obeyed. He didn’t procrastinate or examine his own worthiness or capability. He didn’t say, ‘Hang on a minute, Lord, while I disrobe and get this boots off, or find my swimming trunks, or until tomorrow when I’ve had time to practice.’ Peter walked.
Second, and most significant, was Peter’s crisis of faith and his coming to a place of brokenness. Jesus made a point of restoring Peter, letting him reaffirm his love three times and confirming his call to apostleship three times. That is significant, but more significant is that Peter had run out of self. He stood humble and contrite before his Lord, knowing that the ‘self in him’ could do nothing else but fail.
It is when we come to that place of brokenness before God, when we acknowledge our weaknesses, our pride, our stiff-necked persistence in seeking after self, that Jesus is able to work the transformation necessary. That is the place of ‘learning to walk on water. It’s the place where Jesus says ‘come’ and we step out in faith, our eyes fixed on him. Our personal walk on water is that thing that God demands of us that we cannot do ourselves. The learning of it is the doing of it. As we look to God and not the thing, we learn, step by step.
Thank you, Lord, that I do not have to rely on myself. Help me to come to that place of yieldedness, to keep my eyes on You, and to take the first step into Your purposes.