Gospel reading: Matthew 14:22-36
When Peter walks on water, but that’s not the moment of faith.
This is a very well recounted story of faith. It’s probably one of the images of the apostles that is most well worn and remembered. It has everything, Peter doing something miraculous because of Jesus, then doubting and sinking in the process. As Christians, we can relate to this ‘but what if’ scenario that complicates this amazing story. We can also all wonder ‘what if he had made it to Jesus?’ The problem is, as is most often the case, that the miracle gets in the way of the lesson.
The disciples are afraid, being tossed about on the sea (they seem to have this happen to them often, even though they are fishermen, which is another tale of how doing the right thing will often cause you to encounter storms) and see a ghost on the waves. These don’t seem to be overly superstitious men, they are all practical professionals. Not skeptics, to be sure, but this isn’t the kind of thing they would have assumed lightly, and even less likely than before having joined Jesus’ ministry and having their eyes opened to the spiritual battle happening around them. But they have seen strange things, and they have started to learn that they are facing the full force of the spiritual battle invisible to most. Peter has enough faith to step out on the water and join Jesus, even if for a short moment. His faith causes a miracle, so you might be asking, ‘how does the miracle get in the way of the lesson.’
It’s how Peter responds to Jesus declaration of who he is that is the moment of faith. Peter calls out to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Notice here that Peter is praying for a call. How often do we pray like this? Do we ever? Do we ever see something that needs to be done, become inspired to do something about it, and then pray for that calling in our lives? Peter already knew he was going to get out of the boat and walk on water when he asked this. He also knew he needed Jesus to speak it.