"Lord, save me"
22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, ???It is a ghost!??? And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ???Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.?????
28Peter answered him, ???Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.??? 29He said, ???Come.??? So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ???Lord, save me!??? 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ???You of little faith, why did you doubt???? 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ???Truly you are the Son of God.?????
Our scripture this morning may or may not be familiar to you. Many of us have heard the story of Jesus walking on the water; of Peter exercising faith and coming out onto the water with Jesus. Some of us may marvel at Jesus' power to defy gravity and act in an almost superhero-like fashion. But the real marvel here is what these actions meant to the ones who were in the boat that early morning on the water. This isn't just a story about walking on water. It's a story about who Jesus is.??
For the first time in the Gospel of Matthew, the disciples are sent off without Jesus. They've been with Him almost every step of the way here. But this time, He sends them off, across the sea, and chooses to stay and pray for a while on the mountain. The real significance of Jesus' not being with them is brought to light in the fact that their boat is being battered by the terrible winds. Now, this could be a coincidence, until you look behind the text. Here's what I mean: the closest word we have in our language for the word Matthew uses to describe the situation ??? the wind rocking the boat ??? is the word for "tormented." Now, this is an odd choice of words unless there is something meant by it. Here's what I'm driving at: the boat scene is meant to be interpreted in a way that shows that the disciples' boat was being tormented by the wind and waves, almost as if it was personal and not consequential in nature. The wind truly was against them, at odds with the boat.??
This is important because in the Biblical mind, the mind of the original audience, "bodies of water" were seen as an uncontrollable forces of chaos and trouble. In the Old Testament, people often saw rivers, lakes, and oceans as symbols of chaos and places without any order. If you look back in Genesis 1, we see that God's Spirit hovered over the waters of chaos. As we read, God brings order to a world tormented by disorder. God's control over the water is a sign of His creational power to ancient audiences, placing Him above any other god-like figures at that time. This is important because other ancient cultures had creation stories, too. For God to be One who brings order out of chaos, He is God above gods. With this in mind, both the ancient and the Biblical mind has reason to trust God.??
Now, if we look back at the story for a moment and understand that the disciples would understand all this automatically, we see some really important things. Without Jesus, the disciples and their boat (which may represent the Church) are in peril and chaos. Without the presence of God on the waters in Genesis, life has no order or structure. The disciples may have the vessel, the Church, but if it is void of God, of His Spirit, then it is an empty vessel with little to no power; tossed by the wind and waves of chaos. But our hope lies within Jesus' presence. Jesus comes to the disciples, WALKING ON THE WATER, just as God hovered over the waters in Genesis. Jesus shows by walking on water that He is the Creator and Author, the one who not so much has super-powers, but is all powerful. Jesus walks upon chaos, He treads over disorder, showing the world that He is not prevented by the forces that try and extend their rule over us. Jesus is Lord and this is seen in the creational act of walking on the water.??
Now, as for Peter. This situation is obviously worth talking about. Peter ??? still not convinced that this is J
esus and not some ghost ??? asks to be instructed out on the water. "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." Peter's words are interesting. What is Peter revealing through this event? What Peter is essentially asking for is to have the same power; to walk upon the sea as the Creator does…if it is, in fact, Jesus who is walking on the water and not someone or something else. Peter is right in asking God to command him to do so; he understands that the Lord gives the power to do this. He's sees Jesus with creational eyes, trusting the God of Genesis. Notice he doesn't get out of the boat on a whim or leap of faith either. Peter knows that if he is actually going to walk on water that it is going to happen because of who Jesus is and not because of who Peter is. Peter may understand more about who Jesus is than we tend to give him credit for in scripture.
We can take something very important way from this event; something that I'm not sure many of us have really thought about in regards to this text. God's intention is for us to exercise His power in this world, doing as the Master would do, through His power and NOT our own. Peter does what Christ does; he actually walks out onto the sea and is held up by the power of God. But something happens; something does goes wrong. Peter is fine when his eyes are firmly fixed on the One who gives the power. It is when he looks away toward the wind that he fails and he sinks. Peter's power alone isn't enough to keep him above the water and his fear gets the best of him. And as he sinks, he cries out "Lord, save me!" He calls upon the name of the only one who can save him; the one who walks upon the sea. And so Jesus restores order in Peter's chaos. That is what a Creator does.??
Now, Jesus saves us in many ways. Sometimes its our initial salvation, as we are wiped clean of our sins through Jesus' sacrifice for us. Other times it is through the work of the Spirit, as we are saved from ourselves and made more and more into the image of Jesus through our life as disciples. Our relationship with God has many moments of salvation, each having different but wonderful effects upon our lives. What is most encouraging is Jesus' actions after Peter cries out. It says "Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him…", showing us that Jesus does not wait to save. His love for us is not slow but immediate. God's salvation for us is immediate when we ask him.??
This morning, some of us may be in the boat, tortured by the wind and waves. Others of us may be scared that there are ghosts on the water of our lives. A few of us may desire to walk on water only to have our fear of outside forces cause us to sink. In any case, our response today should be "Lord, save me." It is only through the Lord's reaching and pulling you out that you will over come your torment, your haunted past, your fear of the world. Through His work on the cross, Jesus Christ has preemptively reached down into the waters, awaiting our hand to hold. Do that today; cry out to God and have His hand of salvation rescue you. Amen.??
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