So as I prayed with our Gospel this weekend, what stood out to me was something I’d never really thought about before, so I’d like to share it with you all so you can contemplate it as well.
The Scripture gives us this detail: “The boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves.”
A few miles offshore…
Think of what this implies.
Jesus… had to walk on water… for SEVERAL MILES before he finally arrived at the disciple’s boat.
In fact, whenever he started walking towards the boat, he didn’t manage to arrive until the fourth watch of the night. That is between 3 and 6am in the morning.
So Jesus might have been walking on water… for hours on end.
Sometimes we might imagine Jesus just teleported to the side of the boat. And maybe he did. The Bible doesn’t tell us that part explicitly. All it says is “He came toward them walking on the sea.”
So….what if there’s a deeper truth embedded here?
What if the Scripture is trying to communicate how far the Lord is willing to walk on water just to come and save us?
Maybe at times, we think: “You know, I’m just too far off shore. I’m too messed up. Too lost. Too old. Too insignificant. Too inadequate. Too sinful… Jesus won’t bother coming this far out onto the waters to come and get me.”
If anything like that has ever crossed your mind, then I want to say it loud enough for everyone to hear: That is a GIGANTIC lie!
The truth is that Jesus will brave the wind and the waves and He will walk for miles and miles and miles just to meet you out there on the water.
Imagine this scene for just a minute:
Jesus… out there alone on the sea…climbing up tall, mountainous waves and sliding down the troughs for miles on end. All the while, he can see the tiny little boat ahead of him out there in the distance. He can see his friends struggling, ‘for the wind was against them.’
That phrase can literally be translated as “harassed” or “tortured” — the disciples were being physically “beaten” by the severe weather! The Bible personifies the wind and the waves until they almost sound like evil spirits attacking the disciples.
And yet, even as all that is happening, Christ is quietly and imperceptibly hiking towards them on the water. Lightning crosses the sky… but the Lord was not in the lightning. Waves like walls rise up and crash down… but the Lord was not in the waves. The wind howls… but the Lord was not in the wind.
The Lord was that one, lone man… quietly braving the raging sea.
Meanwhile, the disciples didn’t have a clue Jesus was already well on his way to come help them. For all they knew, they were alone and in deep, deep trouble…
The last time this sort of thing happened, at least Jesus was in the boat with them, even if he somehow managed to fall asleep during the horrendous storm. That time, they had been able to wake him up just in time, crying out: “Lord, can’t you see we are perishing?!?!” At least then Jesus was right there to rebuke the wind and keep them safe.
It was the middle of the night. They had already been rowing for 10…maybe 12 hours. Darkness was all around them. The storm wasn’t letting up. And, Jesus was presumably still far away, up on that mountain PRAYING! What use was that now? How was THAT going to help them?
And yet, even as all these fears and lies invaded their hearts, Jesus was still busy strolling upon the sea…confidently approaching them the entire time — Demonstrating for hours on end that it IS POSSIBLE to walk on water! That the storm had NO POWER over him. He himself created those waters in the very beginning. He is Lord of all the cosmos, and has authority to walk upon them, to trample them over in power!
Jesus will walk on water however far he needs to in order to save us.
In fact, he travelled all the way from Heaven to Earth! In order to rescue us, in order to create a bridge across the chasm that existed between us and God, in order to save us from all our sins — the Eternal Son of God became human.
That’s way more astonishing than walking on water.
We were lost at sea… We were many…many…many miles from shore. We were hopelessly tortured and harassed by the waves of sin and death. But the Word stepped down from Heaven… He became flesh, and he approached us saying:
“Take courage, it is I! Do not be afraid!”
Another translation might be: “Take heart — I AM.”
Jesus is the Great I AM in the flesh. And he approaches us. He takes the first step. He makes the first move.
What’s our response gonna be?
To answer that, let’s look at how Saint Peter responds.
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
What is Peter saying here? He’s basically saying this: “Lord, if it really is you out there and not a ghost or some figment of my own imagination — if YOU ARE REALLY GOD — then empower me do what you are doing. Enable me to be more like you! To live like you live!”
Think about it: If Jesus has that kind of authority over chaos and destruction, over the wind and the waves… then what about us? What about those who have been baptized into His life, death, AND resurrection?
The fact is: We are being welcomed into that same power, that same lifestyle, that same capacity by grace to WALK ON WATER…
On our own power, we can’t do that. On our own power, we can’t conquer our own sins and vices. On our own power, we can’t love God or our family or our friends the way they actually deserve to be loved! On our own power… apart from Jesus… we can do NOTHING. Zero. Zip. Nada.
But Jesus wants to empower us.
Notice that in the Gospel passage, Peter does NOT beg Jesus to come to him — to get into his boat. Rather, he begs Jesus to invite him out to where He is!
Again, Peter’s intuition is right on target!
I’m reminded here of something Dan Dematte wrote in his book ‘Dream Bigger’ which I think is really convicting: “Many think they are following Jesus, when in reality, they live their lives in such a way that they are asking Jesus to follow them.”
We can waste so much time insisting that Jesus just quiet the storm, get rid of all our problems… and then expect him to get into our boat and go where we want to go. But really… instead of doing that, we need to become more like Peter and say: “If it’s really you, Jesus, I want to be where you are. I want to do what You want to do. Call me… Draw me to yourself. I will come, even if it means doing something that seems impossible to me.”
Jesus has an impossible, supernatural plan for your life. He is asking each of us to walk on water.
So don’t be afraid take that step.
You’ve been entrusted with a share in Christ’s own authority to walk upon the waters without fear. Have faith. Take the plunge.
First, discern: “Lord, is that really you?” And then if you hear His Voice say ‘Come!’ ….GO FOR IT.
Step out of the boat… and go to seminary. Step out of the boat and ask that girl out to coffee. Step out of the boat and get that gym membership! Apply for that job! Call that friend you’ve lost touch with! Take the risk and go to RCIA! Sign up for that new ministry! Start praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Dust off that rosary!
The fact is, you will NEVER have a perfectly calm, still, storm-less moment in your life… so there’s no use delaying a decision if you know what the Lord is actually calling you to do right now.
So many people will say stuff like this: “Yeah, I know the Lord wants me to do such-and-such, but now’s not the right time. Things are just too stressful. I’m too busy. Life is too crazy. I need to hold off until the external circumstances are more peaceful. I need to wait for things to calm down a bit, then I’ll do what God has been asking me to do…”
What if the storms never let up?
What if things never do calm down?
…What if you’re actually meant to step out of the boat IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STORM, trusting not in your own abilities to manage and control the situation, but rather placing your total trust in the Lord?
So what if you start to sink?
Even if that happens — you still DON’T NEED TO BE AFRAID.
Peter sank. Peter failed.
The risk of failure is not a good enough reason not to follow the Lord’s call. Because Jesus is with you and He will pull you back up IMMEDIATELY if you do start to sink.
After pulling Peter back up, Jesus then asked him: “Why did you doubt?” As if to say: “Peter, can’t you see what I’m doing? I’m walking on water. In fact, I’ve been doing it for hours! I walked all this way out here to be with you! I hiked for miles and miles already!!! Am I any less human than you? I’m fully God… yes, but I’m also fully man! You can do what I’m doing through the power of the Holy Spirit! You did for a few steps already! You could have gone on being supernatural! You could have kept going! Why did you doubt?”
Here’s the truth: We are just beginning to learn how to walk on water.
We are just beginning to learn how to hear that still small voice of God. The calling of the Lord who says: “Come.”
Jesus has been walking on water for over 2,000 years.
The Church has been walking on water with Him for that entire time. Millions of saints have already successfully walked on water.
So why not you?