The Scripture passage that our pastor preached on this week was one many of us have heard since childhood: the story of Jesus walking on water and Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on water to meet Him (Matthew 14:22-33).
I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve read this story, heard this story, taught this story in Sunday school class or at Vacation Bible School. But our pastor shared a perspective on it that I’d never considered.
For background: This story happens early in the morning following the day when Jesus fed the multitudes with five loaves of bread and two fish (14:13-21). After Jesus dismissed the crowds, He went up onto the mountain to pray and the disciples got in their boats to spend the night fishing.
Rough weather came up during the night, but the disciples weren’t worried. After all, they had been fishermen all their lives and knew when rain was worth worrying about. What did bother them in the early morning hours was when they looked up and thought they saw a ghost on the water, walking toward them. Here’s what happens next (Matthew 14:27-33):
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Our pastor said she grew up thinking that Jesus was fussing at Peter when He asked, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” I’ll admit that’s what I’ve thought too – that Jesus was reprimanding Peter. After all, Peter had been following Jesus for a while now and should be seeing his faith grow, not shrink.
Here was the twist in her sermon. At some point along the way, a teenager shared a different way of looking at this with our pastor. The teen said she didn’t think Jesus was full-fledged “yelling” at Peter like her mom sometimes did. Instead, the teen said she wondered if the feeling behind Jesus’ words was more akin to her mom being exasperated and saying, “I know you know this. What were you thinking?”
I think that’s an interesting way to look at it. As our pastor said, what if Jesus wasn’t asking, “Peter, how can you have so little faith that you don’t believe?” What if, instead, Jesus was saying, “Peter, I know you already have a little faith. And that’s all you need to believe.”
Wow. That struck me as something to really mull over this week.
Jesus didn’t expect Peter to know everything or do everything on his own. Jesus wanted Peter to remember what he already knew and let that knowledge feed his faith. Then, having that faith would give Peter the courage to step out and follow Jesus with confidence.
Here’s the other thing to remember: Jesus didn’t expect Peter to have giant-like faith. He just needed to have enough faith to step forward and let God take it from there.
I don’t need to have giant-like faith either (though I’m sure God would be pleased if I did and some days I really feel like I need more). I just need a little – enough to trust God and step out of whatever boat I’m stuck in like Peter stepped out toward Jesus. That one step of faith might be what God wants to see before the next things He has for me fall into place.
As our pastor said, “Even if your faith is little, it is still enough for what God has planned for you.”
Because God is really good at taking the smallest things and turning them into something amazing for Him. Even if it’s such a small bit of faith that I almost forget I have it myself.