As a child, growing up in South Florida, I often tried to walk on water. I thought that if I could get a good running start, I could skip right along the top of the water, across to the other side of my swimming pool. Every time that I attempted this, gravity would win and I’d end up soaked, swimming around in the deep end. As a result of all this evidence, I soon accepted the reasonable conclusion that walking on water was impossible. Although, I now had the expectation of falling in, time and time again, over the years, I would still give it a try – just for fun.
One Sunday afternoon, this past December, I was able to experience what it might be like to walk on water. You see, this winter has been unusually mild for West Central Minnesota. In fact, until a few days ago, there was barely any snow. Normally when lakes freeze, they are quickly covered with snow which obscures the surface. This winter, the lakes froze before we received any snow, providing us with open fields of sleek, shiny glass. A group of friends and I went ice walking all over Crane Lake to take advantage of this remarkable opportunity to see through the clear, smooth surface into the mysterious world beneath. Like children, we had an amazing time exploring together, playing together, and simply soaking in the wonder of it all.
I’m curious about Peter’s experience walking on water. I wonder what it was like for him to step out of the boat and walk toward Jesus (Matt 14:29-31). Was it something that he had tried to do as a child? Was it a dream come true? When Jesus tells him to come, Peter doesn’t seem to have any hesitation. Like a child, he just gets right out of the boat and begins walking. It’s almost as if for a moment, he forgets that you’re not supposed to be able to do that. Then when he sees the wind, he remembers, becomes afraid and begins to sink, calling on Jesus to save him. Jesus reaches out, grabs him, and says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Whenever I have heard this story taught, the part where Jesus says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt” has often been represented as a stern rebuke – as if Jesus is upset with Peter for his lack of faith. Now, I’m not a theologian so I’m taking some liberties here, but I really don’t think that’s what Jesus meant. I don’t think He was shaming Peter for sinking. I think the question, “You of little faith, why did you doubt,” was simply that – a question. The purpose may have been to provoke Peter to think. . . “You were doing great, Peter. What happened?”
As one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter had been empowered with authority to move miraculously – to heal every illness, and cast out demons (Matt 10:1). In fact, earlier that very day, Peter had participated in a miracle of multiplication in feeding 5,000. When the disciples urged Jesus to send the crowd away, He said, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” The disciples brought Him five loaves of bread and two fish which Jesus blessed, broke, and handed back to His disciples for them to pass out to the people. As the disciples obeyed and gave the people something to eat, the miracle happened in their hands. Not only were 5,000 men (plus women and children) fed, but 12 baskets remained filled with left-overs (Matt 14:15-21).
Perhaps, Jesus’ question was meant to remind Peter that he was a child of God. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17). A child has no understanding of the impossible. In their minds, anything can happen, and everything is possible. There are absolutely no limits. Over time, this viewpoint changes as a child begins to grow up and learn the concepts of “no” and “can’t.” As a result, their great, big world becomes a little bit smaller.
With God, there is no such thing as the impossible. It’s the same for the children of God. As God’s children, we are empowered to do the very same things that Jesus did – and even greater things! John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” It’s time for us to become like little children again and believe that all things are possible. It’s time to start living by faith in the Spirit, trusting Him to guide us and to support every step (Gal 5:25). We can walk on water together – but that’s nothing compared to the wonders that God has prepared for us to do! (Eph 2:10)