Peter is an amazing character in the Bible. He is a man full of clueless boldness and self-conscious insecurities. A man whose filter is pretty much damaged causing him to not only state the obvious, but to speak before he’s thought. A man who will speak up for God one moment, then take his eyes off of him at the worst possible moments. That’s what I love about Peter. I completely identify with Peter in so many ways. Today we’re going to look at two moments of Peter. Both were triumphs and admissions of truth, but one, well, one showed him how wet behind the ears he was when it came to faith.
In Matthew 14, there were two significant events that preceded the events we’re going to focus on, those two events were the beheading of John the Baptist, and the feeding of the four thousand. They are significant in that the first one was about Jesus’s cousin and forerunner, the man who baptized Jesus as well as had been the majority of the disciples mentor prior to Jesus being put death, well, put to death is an understatement. The man was beheaded at the whim of a tyrant’s wife. When John’s disciples came and told Jesus, this inadvertently (kind of/sort of/probably not) led to another miracle. Jesus had to get a way, probably to mourn his cousin, but probably also to just pray about the next step. He and his disciples get into a boat and sailed to “a solitary place”. As usual, people followed him and once Jesus landed, he was surrounded by people who wanted to listen and be inspired, wanted healing, wanted….something…anything. So, Jesus taught, healed, delivered, and pretty much ministered to people. He gave even though it was one of the most difficult days for HIM. All four gospels show that as evening approached the disciples realized that the people needed to eat, so, long story short, a lunch basket was found and next thing you know about 5 thousand people are fed. HUGE miracle!!! 1 basket of food resulted in 12 baskets full of left overs. This is where we get to Peters triumphal failure. I call it a triumphal failure because he does something that’s incredible and if he had kept his eyes on CHRIST, man, who knows, but instead he becomes a lesson in faith. Let’s take a closer look:
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,”they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.
Before we take a look at Peter, let’s take a closer look at Jesus for a minute. Jesus sent his disciples ahead of HIM probably to do prep work for the next ministry, or maybe it was because HE knew they needed time to process what just happened, as well as prepare them for the next lesson. Regardless, Jesus stayed behind and dismissed the crowds, and then HE got alone with GOD. Jesus needed to process the events of the day HIMSELF, HE needed to spend some time with GOD on HIS own. We often take for granted CHRIST’s humanity. We don’t think that all of this ministry HE’s doing really affects HIM, or any of the “life” moments (i.e. the death of his cousin) really affect HIM, but Jesus had to get alone and talk to HIS FATHER and just take a breath. HE had spent the better part of the day talking to people, teaching them, healing them, and HE probably just needed to step off of that treadmill of busyness that we often get into. So, it says that shortly before dawn Jesus went to them…..on the lake…..without a boat. In John 6, it says the disciples were about 3-3 1/2 miles into the lake and they were struggling due to the wind and waves. They look up and see Jesus WALKING towards them. That would freak anybody out, and it certainly freaked them out. But what does Jesus say “Take courage, Don’t be afraid”. Here’s where we get to Peter’s big moment.
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,”he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Now, Matthew is the only one to record Peter’s story. The other gospels tell of Jesus walking on water, but only Matthew recounts Peters portion. Why? I have no earthly idea, that’s something I’ll have to ask the ultimate editor (GOD) when I get to heaven. Regardless, here where we see Peter in stunning triumph and absolute failure all within the matter of moments. Peter being, well, himself sees Jesus and says “HEY, IF ITS YOU TELL ME TO COME TO YOU…ON THE WATER” Hey, hey Captain Obvious who else would it be. You’ve seen him turn water into wine, feed multitudes of people, heal people, raise the dead, and calm storms….who else would it be. Jesus invites him and Peter gets out of the boat and starts walking towards Jesus. HUGE step of faith, literally. Peter made a decision, moved on it, moved towards Christ and did the impossible, until he noticed the external stuff…the crappy weather, the waves, the stuff around him. He wasn’t in the boat anymore and he realized he should be afraid because this stuff could hurt him or even kill him, and that’s when he sinks. The big lesson here is that when we step out in faith, we need to keep a laser like focus on the eyes and the reality of CHRIST. By doing that, we’re able to disregard the crap around us that threatens to drag us down. However, we’re human, we fail. And like Peter we find ourselves floundering and sinking and we cry out for HELP!!! What happens? “IMMEDIATELY” Jesus helps us, reaches out to us and pulls us back into the boat and with a gentle scolding asks us about our lack of faith. He doesn’t require an answer, but it’s a question designed to make us think and consider our actions, so that hopefully, the next time we find ourselves in a situation similar, we can see that GOD was there, and instead of looking away and needing saving, we can continue on and walk with GOD back to the boat. You (or maybe it’s just me) often wonder what would have happened if Peter had never looked around or away from Christ. I’m sure Peter played the “would’ve, should’ve, could’ve”game quite often after that moment. It would have been an amazing story of triumph over the external storms, instead we have something just as good if not better. An example of CHRIST immediately extending his hand into our storm and saving us from the crap we’ve let distract us and overwhelm us. If you notice, the wind and waves were still there, they still had to row and navigate their way to the other side, the difference is that Jesus was in the boat with them, so the storm and the waves didn’t matter…AT ALL. That’s what we (I) need to remember. Christ is in the boat with me, HE’s with me in the storm…..the wind, waves, fear of drowning under the “life” moments doesn’t matter because my saviour is in the boat with me.
Now we come to to Peter’s next big moment. It’s Peter’s big “light bulb” moment. The moment every mentor just does a big fist pump and “YES” moment, when the person we’ve been pouring into and mentoring has a huge realization….and then the next moment they do or say something that just makes us look at them in absolute disbelief and have to say to them:” Just shut up, stop talking, your privileges have been revoked”. But that’s for the next time