Discipleship is More About Drowning

Many people love the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water, Matthew 14. We are impressed by Peter’s desire to leave the boat and join Jesus’s aquatic acrobatics. You might have even heard before that we should be more like Peter in stepping out of the boat in faith. Maybe this story makes you feel a little inadequate as a disciple. Do you really believe? Are you too comfortable in your “boat”?

But when you read the episode carefully, Peter’s faith wasn’t demonstrated when he stepped out on on the water, it was formed when he went under! Think about it. Who came up with the idea for Peter to walk on water? Peter.  Jesus doesn’t tell us to walk on water. He tells us more boring things – love your neighbor, make disciples, baptize, teach His Word, share His holy meal. Sometimes these are more difficult things than walking on water!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his masterpiece, “Life Together,” calls out pastors who follow their dream vision of Christian community more than the community right in front of them. Their personal vision of some glorious and perfect community, no matter how well intentioned, is not God’s vision or centered on His actual commands. Peter had a dream vision, like the other disciples, of glory and power. He sort of mixed his sincere faith in Jesus to accomplish his own idea of discipleship. Pastors and churches do this all of the time. Lord have mercy on myself, as well. Usually this vision is one of glory, might, even an ideal church, and we follow our own commands and words instead of Christ’s simple and clear direction. We end up training people to walk on water instead of crying out, “Lord, save me.”

When the disciples were frightened by Jesus’ approaching them on the waves, Jesus said, “It is I, don’t be afraid.” That should have been enough. Jesus’ words are always enough. 

But it wasn’t enough for Peter. He wanted more proof and maybe wanted his own glory as well. We are attracted to that sort of religion and spirituality; glorious triumphs, great acts of faith, superhero powers. If you really believe you can do amazing things. As Peter pursued his own glory, he soon found out he couldn’t handle it. What a weak disciple! He began to drown in the darkness and the waves. Without even thinking and out of total singular desperation he cried out, “Lord save me.” Sure enough, Jesus immediately reached out his hand, picked him up, and put him back in the boat. 

Under the water Peter learned to trust Jesus far more than he did above it.You don’t need to be a superhero Christian. Jesus has that covered. Life teaches us that. When we fall down in sin and guilt with no good excuse, Jesus forgives. When all our hard work and planning fail us, Jesus provides. When we have no other savior, let alone ourselves, Jesus saves. That’s how it started when He first found you drowning in this world and that’s how it will end when He raises you out of your grave!

When were you helpless and realized your only help was God? When did you learn to trust Jesus?