“Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.”
For all the disciples – but especially Peter – this incident on the lake of Galilee one night would’ve brought on a powerful sense of déjà vu. For not that long ago they were all in a boat on this same lake when a storm hit them, “…waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”
The two incidents are remarkably similar. A boat. A lake. A sense of impending death by drowning, even in the presence of Jesus. But the outcomes are decidedly different. After the former incident when the storm had calmed down, Matthew noted, “The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” But after the latter incident when Peter was walking on the water, Matthew notes, “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.””
What we are witnessing in the difference between the two incidents is the spiritual growth of the disciples. Where before they asked questions about Jesus’ identity, now who He is and who they are in relationship to Him is clear. For the disciples, Jesus is no longer a man like them. He is no longer just a man with unique gifting or special knowledge. In fact, now they know that Jesus is much more than a man. Now they know He is God, and that they are God’s people. This much they can confess, because this much they know.
Our discipleship is a lifelong journey, not a four-year educational program that you can repeat if you fail. Nevertheless, like each subsequent year of an educational program, what we are gaining today is supposed to add to all we’ve experienced and come to know. We build on each past year and each past experience. There is no plateau or break in discipleship. There is only building toward Christlikeness, or sliding back toward worldliness.
Which direction we are going is highlighted by the way we respond to circumstance. For you cannot confess what you do not know, no matter how life threatening the situation is. But what you do know, you will confess. Perhaps at first, you confess it only under life-threatening circumstance. But later, as that aspect of discipleship becomes more and more a part of you – as you are built up in Christlikeness – you will confess it freely and without much prodding at all.
This is the journey the disciples were on. This is the journey we are all on.
Christ is praying for us in heaven; he always sees us, no matter the distance; and he controls the winds and the sea. The night may be long and filled with torment, but we will reach the kingdom of God through the grace of a divine rescue. God may wait until the fourth watch of the night, but Jesus always enters our boat and the winds cease.Dean B. Deppe
You cannot complete a long journey to the right destination by changing direction before they get there.