Daily Devotion 17 June 2021

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.

Matthew 14:25-33 – ‘Peter Walks on Water’

25 And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ 28 Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29 He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

This is a wonderful story, which we actually read in the summer, rather than in the days after Easter, but it has much to teach us about faith and new life. The incident reminds us, no doubt, of others – where Jesus calms the storm, or perhaps when the Psalmist describes Yahweh walking on the water (77:19) or in the Book of Job (9:8). We also know, I’m sure, that the sea was a source of fear for the Israelites – it was the home of fearful monsters like Leviathan; the seas destroyed sinful humanity in the flood; Jonah’s experience was not one to be repeated. And it comes as no surprise, therefore, that Revelation 21 offers a vision of a perfect future where the author adds (with some relief) that in the new world ‘there was no more sea’.

Matthew intends us to see the significance of these watery incidents as moments of transition and liberation – so Peter’s experience in Galilee is a microcosm, in a way, of the crossing of the Red Sea or the River Jordan by the Israelite people. It’s interesting that only Matthew has this account of Peter’s attempt to emulate his Lord. So what do we make of this? Is Peter’s attempt to walk on water a sign of faith, or a sign of a lack of it?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic analysis in his The Cost of Discipleship helps us here. He writes: “Peter had to leave the ship and risk his life on the sea, in order to learn both his own weakness and the almighty power of his Lord. If Peter had not taken the risk, he would never have learned the meaning of faith…” 1. So the message is not ‘if he had enough faith, he could have walked on water’ (only God can do that), any more than the lesson for us is, ‘if we had enough faith we could solve all our problems in spectacular ways’. Rather, it’s about daring to believe, in the face of all the evidence, that God is with us in the boat; that Christ is truly present with the community of faith as it makes its way, battered by storm and waves. In other words, faith is not about being certain all the time, but about being able to cry out to Jesus in time of need! I hope that this encourages us to takes some risks in our Church life, and maybe try some things we’ve never done before. Because you never know, we might find ourselves walking on water…

Prayer:

Gracious God, forgive our lack of faith and our slowness to believe in your promises.
Help us to trust in your strength, not our own, and to realise that ultimately, it’s your faith in us, rather than ours in you, that matters – and always, always, hold on to the hand of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Reflection & Prayer © 2021 Barrie Tabraham.
1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, © 2015 The Cost of Discipleship London: SCM Press.
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