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.” 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.”
Often when we read this passage, or at least my experience has been, there is a focus on Peter’s lack of faith leading to his sinking in the water. It often seems the moral of the story is that “if we have faith, we succeed, and if we don’t have enough faith, we fail”. I am not so sure that is the primary point of this passage. And we know that it is not the case that we are in control of all that happens in our world simply based on how much faith we have. The theology that results that idea can be tragic. For instance, if I don’t have enough faith, I cannot heal my own cancer? If a child dies, was it because I didn’t have enough faith? Clearly the Lord is not saying this.
I am struck by the faith that Peter displays… in the asking… “Lord, if it’s you… tell me to come to you on the water”. Imagine you are in a boat on a dark, cold, windy night. Even if you saw your friend walking on water, or you thought you did, would it occur to you to ask your friend to inspire and equip YOU to walk on water to meet him in the middle of a lake? Probably not… you would not imagine it possible. Maybe my friend can do all sorts of things, acrobatics, magic tricks, not me. But, Peter knows the Lord. He has seen enough to know that Peter can do things he could not before when he is in the presence of Christ who equips him. This is evidenced by the public ministry of the disciples… The disciples participate in sharing the Lord’s gifts with others, not simply as bystanders but as servants to the Lord’s ministry… participants in ministry. It is reasonable in Peter’s mind that the Lord may be walking on water even if there is no one else He could imagine to be capable of such a feat. It is a step beyond to ask him “Lord equip me to walk on water too….”
One way that Peter recognizes Christ is the fact that the Lord can not only do great things but also has equipping power. In his presence, when he is asked, when Peter humbles Himself to ask, Peter is equipped do things in cooperation with the Lord that he cannot do on his own or may not even think to ask. In asking for help to walk on water, Peter IS displaying faith in the identity of Christ as the only one who equips Peter to go beyond Himself. It is also the case that equipping power is way that we recognize the Lord. No human power equips us, inspires us from within, calls us, sends us, and empowers us. The Lord does not only do mighty works and put on a show. He also equips us as we enter into a willing, open, trusting, two-way relationship with him.
This is not the same as the Lord orchestrating our circumstances to please us so long as we pray hard enough. It is equipping of us to do what is within his our purview, our will cooperating with the Lord’s, to go beyond ourselves. We still live in a world with others and with circumstances. Much of those things are not in our purview. However, we can always ask to be equipped, to be inspired, to be invited, to participated in that which we can do. This requires openness, humility, trust, faith, and willingness.
When Peter begins to sink, he has stopped believing in himself and the Lord’s equipping power. He has stopped focusing on who the Lord is and has started turning inward toward his own fear and limitations. This is where we sink. We turn away from the Lord and inward toward ourselves and our limitations. It is the difference between focusing on Him who equips us and focusing on ourselves.
In what areas of your life can you turn outward to the Lord and ask for his help today. Help to equip you in all things within your purview? In what areas can you be focused on him today… less focused on yourself and your limitations, more focused on Him and Christ in you… so that you can meet the Lord out on the water of your own life and calling?