By Francis Frangipane
A Storm, a Ghost or Jesus?
Get used to the idea that Jesus is seeking to perfect your faith (Heb.12:2). Sooner or later, the real Jesus will require you to look straight in the eye of the impossible and believe God for His power.
Consider when the Lord sent His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee. Later that night, Jesus comes to them walking on water (see Matt. 14:22-33). Contrary winds are causing the sea to churn with turbulent swells. Of course, Jesus could have waited for a calm day to walk on water. Or He simply could have arrived at the other side of the sea supernaturally. No, the Lord comes to the disciples with something in mind: a lesson on faith.
Please note that this is a violent storm. Jesus offers no preliminary instruction, no "Basic Water-Walking 101." He doesn't let them practice on puddles or wait until winter so they could walk on frozen water first. He waits for a storm to teach how to walk on water, which is by all accounts harder to do on rolling waves than on a placid sea. Then, on top of that, He does not come in daylight; He comes at night. So Jesus comes to the disciples in the middle of the sea, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the night to teach them how to walk on water. If you are taking notes, write this down: Jesus doesn't make lessons in faith easy! But this is the real Jesus with His real disciples, who were both physically tired and more than a little fearful.
Scripture says that the sight of a figure walking on the water, coming out of the blowing wind and spray in the darkness of the night, turns the disciples' fear into terror. They cry out, "It is a ghost!"
As Jesus approaches the boat, He calls out, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."
When Jesus says in the midst of your storm, "It is I," it is a call to faith. When He says, "Take courage," it is a call to action. For true faith is a verb, not a noun. Again, if you are taking notes, write this down: true faith will always, at some point, require courage.
Peter says, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."
This is wonderful, really. Here is an insight not only into the real Jesus but also into Peter's relationship with Christ. Ever since Peter has known Jesus, the Lord has required the disciples to do impossible things: heal the sick, feed multitudes with a lunch pail of food, raise the dead. Over and over Peter has seen Jesus work miracles; and then, over and over, Jesus has empowered Peter to do what he just saw Jesus do.
That night on the stormy sea, Peter has this amazing discernment, and this too is something you should underscore. He realizes that if it's really the Jesus he knows, in a moment He will tell him to do the impossible. And true to form, Jesus calls to Peter: "Come!"
Now Peter is not about to walk on the water, not really. When he steps out, Peter is walking on the word of the Lord: Come. Peter knows that the power to accomplish the impossible resides in obedience to Christ's word. It is this supernatural reality upon which he steps.
You see, faith is all about trusting the integrity of Jesus Christ's command. Do you think Peter feels power when he steps on the water? I don't think he feels anything besides the storm. No goose bumps. No "glory chills." Just obedience to the Lord’s word. With the spray in his face, Peter sits on the topside rail of the rocking boat, then swings his legs over the churning water. Peering through the wind and rain, he looks at Jesus. Then he slips down and stands upright on the rolling sea!
Splash! One step. Splash! Then another and another until Peter walks right up to Jesus. This is no little walk. Admittedly, anyone can walk on water for the first step. It is the second step and beyond that is difficult. Peter walks until the waves grab his attention; he takes his eyes off Jesus, and then he begins to sink. Jesus saves him, of course, and when they get into the boat the wind stops.
Maybe we would expect the Lord to say, "Peter, you did it!" Maybe Peter was expecting praise for his short water-walking career, but no, Jesus lovingly rebukes him, saying, "Why did you doubt?"
Christ sees the beginning of something great within Peter, and He does not want it contaminated by religious pride or self-pity. Most of us want a medal every time we do something for God, but He is not about to let Peter or us build a monument to our accomplishments, especially when we are just beginning. If this miracle of Peter's were done by some of us here in America, in two weeks we would have tours, T-shirts and commemorative celebrations of the day we walked on water. But Jesus will allow none of that for His disciples. He sees greatness emerging in Peter, and He will not press His disciples toward anything other than conformity to His character.
Remember: God's goal is that we become Christlike. Therefore, the real Jesus is going to call us to do the impossible. Walking with God means that we will be called to do what we have never done before. You will see Jesus ahead of you, probably in some kind of storm, but it will be the beginning of a miracle that will change you and touch the world around you.
Lord, forgive me for seeking a safe life instead of a supernatural life. I want more of You. Call me out of the boat of my familiar, predictable world. Master, for the sake of reaching the lost, increase my faith until I am standing with You on the water of divine potential. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Adapted from Francis Frangipane's book, This Day We Fight, available at www.arrowbookstore.com.