I love St. Peter.
I admire and deeply relate to his extreme responses to Christ’s teachings.
I know he gets a lot of negative attention in the Gospels, but it’s speculated that this is mostly due to his own influence of the Evangelists (Matthew and John were his friends and Mark was his disciple).
Most homilists pick on him, and are quick to point out where St Peter failed (like today when he doubts)… and it kind of lights a fire in my belly… probably because I relate to him so strongly. Peter had some big failings…but didn’t he fail because he was actually trying?
Take today’s gospel for instance. Jesus really needed some alone time after learning about the death of John the Baptist and then feeding 5000 people. He made the disciples get in their boat and leave him. He went up a mountain to pray. Lo’ and behold- a storm arises in the middle of the night.
Matthew tells us that their boat was being tossed by the waves. The wind was blowing against them. Both the boat and their sense of calm were being rocked. Clearly, this was not a little drizzle.
What I think is somewhat comical is that Jesus decides to walk across the sea while it’s storming. I mean, he did agree to meet up with the apostles on the other side. He doesn’t have another boat. He’s God, he has control over the sea. He can walk on the water, he won’t drown. But my imagination can only come up with comical imagery when trying to make sense of the circumstances. Scripture tells us the waves were rolling… so, what exactly did Jesus walking on water, in the middle of the night, during a giant squall look like?
Was he kind of “rolling with the tide?” Or did the waves on which he walked settle? I wish Matthew had gone into a little more detail with this! The only clue we get into what it looked like is that the apostles assumed the figure was a ghost. In all the ghostly appearances I’ve read about, ghosts move very smoothly, almost “floating.” Is that how Jesus moved on the water?
One thing is for certain– no one had ever seen anything like this before. It was totally abnormal, which is exactly why the apostles are freaking out.
Hearing them voice their fears, Jesus calls out to them to try and calm them: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter (and only Peter) responds, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” Jesus tells him to come, and Peter steps out of the boat.
Um…HOLD ON A SECOND….
All this ghostly figure says in response to Peter is, “come” and Peter gets out of the boat?! Couldn’t a ghost have given him that same command?
I think the real reason that Peter gets out of the boat is because this sheep knows the voice of his Shepherd; and when his Shepherd calls him, Peter follows.
He steps out of the boat.
…in a storm…
…while the surf is rushing about and the wind is blowing cylindrically.
This is one of those moments where Peter’s bravery and faith in Jesus just fuels the fire in my soul.
Peter. Walked. On. Water.
…while it was dark and the waves were crashing all because his Shepherd called him, and he believed in Jesus’ power and might.
Peter, a regular, sinful, human person walked on water. The only other person who has ever done this is God!
WHY DON’T WE MAKE A BIGGER DEAL OUT OF THIS?!
Oh right… because of this…
While Peter was the only one of the apostles who actually “took courage” and got out of the boat, he loses his focus. Instead of marveling because he is walking on water, he remembers that people can’t usually walk on water…
The wind picks up and Peter takes his eyes off the Lord. Instead he fixates on the waves… and realizes he’s being tossed about… and all of the sudden he’s no longer on top of the water… he’s slowly sinking.
Oh Peter… me too. I do this all the time as well. This story is the perfect illustration of my own response to God. I am the kind of person who truly believes God can do anything… I’ll get out of the boat and walk on an ocean during a hurricane if I hear God call me to do it— even though all other reason and logic tells me not too. I glide along, focused on the one who called me, amazed at my success… and then the wind picks up. The storm gets worse, and my focus shifts. Like Peter, I fixate on the squall and slowly I start to descend. I let myself continue to sink… trying to swim and stay afloat by myself since I am a very capable person… until it gets so bad that I can’t breath and then I cry out, “Lord– I’m drowning!” and he immediatly says, “so grab my hand!”
Why did I doubt?
Able to breath once more, my focus realigns to where it should have been all along, and once again, I am walking on water with my God. He’d been reaching out to me all along, I was just too “capable.” For some reason I wanted to swim across the sea by myself when I could have been walking across it with him. I imagine Peter felt the same after his near drowning.
Peter may have done some stupid things during the three years of Jesus’ public ministry (denying Jesus, cutting off a dude’s ear, forbidding Jesus to die, etc.)… but he also continually showed more courage than the other 11 apostles combined. He shows up. He gets out of the boat. and when he fails… he calls out to the one who can help.
Then he walks on water again.
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine