Stay in the Boat!

By Joel A. Hess

Many people, even those who are remotely familiar with Christianity, know the popular story of Peter walking on the water. Oh sure, Jesus was more successful at this miraculous task, but we are far more excited about Peter’s experiment, right?

Matthew tells us that one evening Jesus told the disciples to get in the boat and take it to the other side while he remained to dismiss the crowds who had gathered earlier in order to be healed by Him. In the middle of the night, the disciples were struggling with the wind and the waves that so often abruptly arise on the sea of Galilee. Not afraid, Jesus decided to take a different mode of transportation across the rough waters: his feet.

When the disciples saw this figure walking calmly nearby, they were afraid and thought it was a ghost. Would you have a better explanation for something so bizarre? This possibility frightened them more than the storm! Knowing their terror, Jesus gave them the often-used gospel words, “Do not be afraid! It is I.” This should have ended it. They have Jesus. They have his words. Relax.

Oh no, not Peter. He wants more certainty than Jesus words. So, he tests Him saying, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replied, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

At first glance, since we are all like Peter, we assume that this is a wonderful discipleship training seminar. I have heard many a preacher proclaim, “You gotta get out of the boat if you want to be a Christian!” They don’t chastise Peter for getting out of the boat. Instead, they conclude that his failure was that he didn’t have enough faith to keep walking on the water. Surely that’s what Jesus means when He says, “Oh you of little faith” right?

From there we project ourselves as the center of the story and apply it to our own circumstances. Maybe you have heard some already. “You got to step out of your comfort zone to serve Jesus.” or “You need to put more money in the offering if you really believe” or “you got to believe more strongly if you want to be successful in life.” They go on and on.

Yet, what did Jesus do after He saved Peter from his attempt to get out of the boat? He put him back in the boat! He told him to go in the boat earlier that day! He told him not to be afraid when he was in the boat. Stay in the boat! Trust Jesus words when he says don’t be afraid!

This story of Peter walking on water isn’t about Peter, and it isn’t about you. It’s about Jesus! Let Him walk on the water! More than that, let Him die on the cross and rise again! He does it for you! You don’t need to pay the price for your sins. You don’t need to do some miraculous acrobatics to prove you are a disciple.

He has freely saved you from the what lies beneath the boat: death and damnation. He did it alone for you so that you can rest in the boat, rest from your sins, rest from your fears, rest from your past, and rest from your journey. Don’t be afraid. You will survive this journey no matter how stormy it may be because Jesus has put you in His boat. More than that, you will reach those glorious shores and be reunited with all those who Christ has saved in the resurrection of all flesh!

Don’t be afraid. It is Jesus! Stay in the boat!