Yesterday, Pastor Vincent preached on 'stepping out', drawing on the account of Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on water. (Matthew 14:22-33)
It so happens that I spoke on the same thing in my Impromptu speech (2nd Round) at the 2005 ISKL Forensics, the year I won the Silver in that event. The prompt was a quote (source identified by Pastor Vincent: John Ortberg) that went, "If you want to walk on water, you've got to get out of the boat."
In the account in the Gospels, Peter cries out into the storm, "Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water." And Jesus replies, "Come." Of course, there is a storm blowing, so it should be rendered, "COME!!!"
And what follows is probably one of the most dramatic episodes in the Gospels, throwing theologians and scientists alike into heated debate; the former about who really was the 'ye of little faith', Peter or the other disciples, and the latter about how on earth it could be possible to walk on water.
But what stands out most, to me, about this account is how it paints a portrait of Peter, the leader of the Twelve. Despite Peter's many apparent failures, Jesus still used him to lead the church.
Consider the account in John 21. This time the sea is calm, and the fishermen have caught nothing. Then Jesus calls out to them and tells them to try the other side of the boat. They do, and miraculously the fish fill the nets to breaking point. Instantly, John realises it is Jesus;
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."
Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast."
So yes, these are the disciples who turned their backs on Jesus (with the exception of John) after the last supper. And here they are, being invited to breakfast by the One they had betrayed. Crazy grace. Crazier still when you consider the parallel between this account and a similar one earlier in the Gospels.
No, not the account of Luke 5:1-11, in which another miraculous catch is recorded, followed by the decision of Peter and company to follow Jesus. In terms of event and plot, yes, Luke 5 bears striking resemblance to John 21. But that's not the issue here, I think. Somehow I get the impression that Jesus wasn't trying to make a point about fish. There was something else.
The parallel account seems to be Matthew 14:22-33. On the stormy sea, Jesus calls out to Peter and Peter climbs out of the boat and into the water. On the morning of the breakfast, Jesus doesn't call Peter; he wraps his garment around him and JUMPS out of the boat. Jumping out of the boat a second time and getting wet that he may see the Lord.
In the first episode, Peter is hesitant but nonetheless trusts his Lord. In the second episode, he is eager to meet the One... he betrayed. I wonder, what made Peter so eager to see Jesus that second time? Of course, there was no storm. But while the other disciples slowly steered the boat to shore, Peter was swimming like there was no tomorrow towards Jesus.
I wonder what Jesus felt, to see the boat in the distance and this disciple, this Peter, swimming towards Him.
Jesus knew that in Peter, He had found someone who dared get out of the boat, someone who would not be afraid to brave hell itself if only to get a glimpse of his Master. Would Jesus find someone like that in us?