Monday, January 23, 2006

Reflection: Sinking or Walking?

A reflection on the Gospel passage where Peter desires to walk on the water with Jesus

Cynthia Fernandes shares an enriching insight.

The other day, I was reading a passage that I would have probably read a thousand times. It is the story of Jesus walking on the water and Peter joining him for a short while. (Matthew 14:22-33) As I read it this time, a new insight popped into my head. I have used that passage numerous times while preaching, but never really thought about what struck me this day.

If you are familiar with the story, you know that Peter had a faith issue as he started to walk on the water. Then, the crucial verse puts it this way:

But while Peter was walking on the water, he saw the wind and the waves. Peter became afraid and began sinking down into the water. Peter shouted, "Lord, save me!"
Guess what occurred to me? Had I written that scene, I would have probably phrased it differently -- something like, "As the winds and rain blew mightily around him, Peter's faith failed him and as he suddenly splashed down into the water he screamed, 'Lord, save me!'"

Now you may not have noticed the subtle difference, but in the biblical version, Peter appears to have BEGUN sinking into the water slowly -- not with a sudden splash! As I read that, a thought occurred to me, "Isn't that just the way Satan works on us today! He doesn't cause us to question our faith all at once or tempt us to suddenly become totally lost in sin. It happens gradually as we take our eyes off Jesus, bit by bit." We have something entering our lives that opens the door for sin, and gradually, it takes us over completely. Just like Peter, we begin to sink, an inch at a time.

In one of the first few stories recorded in the Bible, Cain is warned by God about this problem. He said to him: "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:7 RSV)

Sin did consume Cain; he didn't call out to God for help or heed God's warning. However, Peter cried out to the Lord for salvation. That shows that we have an important choice which determines our outcome in such circumstances. Just like with Peter, Jesus invites us to come to him, but do we have faith enough to take the walk across the stormy seas and be with him? An easy task? By no means! But it is not impossible either, for the Lord is with us, calling us, and reaching out for us. As Jesus said, "This is something that people cannot do themselves. It must come from God. God can do all things." (Mark 10:27 ERV)

There is an old hymn that puts it this way:

I was sinking deep in sin,
Far from the peaceful shore.
Very deeply stained within,
Sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me
Now safe am I.
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me. ("Love Lifted Me" by James Rowe)

How are you doing your 'walking on the water' toward Jesus? Bet you can't do it by yourself! You need the Master of the universe to lift you up. He did it for Peter, he'll do it for you. Call on him!

Posted by Cynthia Fernandes

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