This account in Matthew is another popular bible story with children. The disciples head across the Lake of Galilee and a storm comes on. During the storm, Jesus comes to them on the water and the disciples freak out thinking they see a ghost. Jesus confirms who he is and on Peter’s request, Jesus calls him to come to him on the water. After a little, Peter sinks but Jesus catches him and saves him. Jesus then critiques his lack of faith, climbs into the boat, the storm dies down and they worship him as the Son of God.
I want to focus on the first phrase in Matthew’s account; “Immediately [after the feeding of 5000] Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.” He made them get into the boat. The same Greek word “made” is used by Paul twice in Acts: once with regards to his treatment of Christians before he was converted, “I tried to force them to blaspheme,” (Acts 26v11), and with regards to his own situation under trial “I was forced to appeal to Caesar” (Acts 28v19). In other words, the disciples were left with very little choice about what they did! They received a direction from Jesus to get into the boat. And, this is all at a very strange time – why compel them to take the boat while he is still dismissing the crowd?
So they do it. But they ran into a storm and seemed to encounter a ghost: they must have questioned why on earth Jesus would have made them do this. “We are in all this mess, trouble, uncertainty, and we did not choose to get into it”. “It’s not fair!” “It’s all his fault!”, maybe others were “You didn’t hear him right!”.
It is into this alarm, fear and doubt that Jesus speaks words of encouragement. The sound of Jesus’ words breathes such faith in Peter that he is ready to get up and walk on the water! Unfortunately he allows his attention to be refocused on the storm and he begins to sink, but Jesus, in his grace reaches out and saves him. Then there is that almost comic sense of timing that it is only when Jesus climbs into the boat that the storm dies down.
Do I ever feel, “Why have you led me into this situation?” or “Why did you do that God?”? Other than the Passion week, it is rare for a story to be recorded in John as well as Matthew and Mark, but this is: it would seem it was well engrained in the disciples’ minds. When God reveals himself “in the darkest valley”, it is not easily forgotten!
– Take time to reflect on such moments of God appearing in your life.
– Is Jesus calling to you right now, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid”?
May we each be encouraged by the voice of Jesus and be filled with faith – especially in the midst of the storm,