Matthew 14:31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
This story is certainly a “Sunday school staple,” told to every child in church, but with equal frequency it is dismissed as fable by skeptics of all stripes. When everything about Jesus’ life was intentional, we have to wonder just why Jesus did this. It is an immediate followup to His feeding a huge crowd – 5000 men plus women and children – with one boy’s lunch. In that He demonstrated His authority over the physical universe in the process of meeting human need. Here, the immediate need doesn’t seem as obvious. He evidently had something of the sort in mind when He sent his disciples away while he stayed on a mountainside to pray, (verse 23) but why do it? It was a further demonstration that He was the Lord, period, as the disciples themselves recognized. (verse 33) He knew that the events of the crucifixion would shake them to the core, and He wanted them to have a foundation that would stand up to that. His words to Peter here are actually gentle, urging him to have deeper faith. (The Japanese here says, “You are a person of shallow/thin faith. Why did you doubt?”) I think He was actually pleased that Peter had managed to take at least a few steps on the water. That’s doubtless more than I could do! The challenge to believers down through the ages is to trust that when God says to do something, nothing else matters, not even the “laws” of physics, as we understand them.
This story is depicted in three oil paintings that are on the walls of a hallway of this building. At the time we were building it, James Van Farrow and his wife Roxanne were living in the area, and not only attended our services but helped out with the construction of the building. Jim is an artist, and unknown to us, he was painting with us in mind when he went home. There is a small painting of the overall scene, obviously at night, with Jesus grasping Peter’s extended hands to pull him up out of the water. There are also two large paintings, one of Peter, sinking in a panic, reaching up his hands for help, and the other of Jesus, very calm and already grasping Peter’s hands. Jim said that he was inspired to do the paintings by what we were doing, because it seemed just as impossible as walking on water! I don’t know about that, but I do know that over the years the Lord has demonstrated His sovereignty to me in more ways than I could count. I know to the depths of my being that nothing is too difficult for Him, but I still waver at my part in His plans. Like Peter, I may have taken a few steps on the water, but I still panic at times! I need to keep growing, not only in believing but also in living out my faith, so that God’s purposes may indeed be accomplished in and through me on His schedule for His glory.
Father, thank You for this encouraging reminder. As usual, there’s a lot going on, and I tend to stress out at the conflicting demands. Thank You for all You’ve enabled us to do over the past two days. Thank You for Your plans for today. Thank You for Your plans for the coming week, with my photo show in the City Gallery. I pray that in everything I may be obedient and useful to You, drawing people to You for Your glory alone. Thank You. Praise God!