Jean’s Gospel: Stay In the Boat!
“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?’” (Matt 14:28-31)
It’s amusing that the disciple whose name means “rock” thought he could walk on water. What was Peter thinking? That would have been quite an achievement, if only…. Peter ate some crow that evening.
But, someone might protest: “Jesus said ‘come’. Surely Jesus would not give Peter a command unless He also gave Peter the ability to keep it.” Should we pin failure on Peter’s lack of faith? Or, did Jesus command the impossible from Peter? But commanding the impossible is unjust; isn’t it? Surely God is not unjust!
There’s one other factor to consider. Only the right material can stay above water. It must be lighter than the water to stay on top. Peter wasn’t the right stuff to walk on water. He wanted to be the right stuff, or maybe he thought he already was the right stuff, so Peter asked for the command – to show commitment to Jesus and maybe show the other disciples who was the greatest among them. Jesus went along with Peter, and in the process taught Peter and all of us a couple valuable lessons.
We are not the right stuff.
We are like a feather with a giant rock inseparably glued to it. The rock is our sin. Our human nature is thoroughly corrupted by sin. If we attempt to come to God, we only sink under the weight of the rock of our sin. The Bible is chock-full of commandments. God’s commandments show us his holy character and perfect will for us. If we could carry out God’s commandments, we could bring ourselves to God. But, we can’t cross the water that separates us from God. We sink because of our sin. We are not the right stuff.
But there’s good news in this lesson. God’s commandments also show us something else; they show us our sin and need of a savior. When we realize that we can’t cross the water and give up trying, then we cry out for the One who can. “Lord, save me.” Once we realize we are not the right stuff, Jesus calls us blessed: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3) Jesus wants us to stay in the boat where it’s safe and leave the water-walking to Him. He will come to us. He will still the wind and calm the sea.
Jesus is the right stuff.
Jesus came to save sinners. He loves to save sinners. When we feel the weight of our sin pulling us down and under, Jesus reaches down into the water, takes hold of us, and pulls us up to Him. We can’t cross the water, but Jesus can…and does…for us. He is the right stuff. In this life, we hunger and thirst for righteousness, and Jesus calls us blessed. Why? Because Jesus is our righteousness. (1 Cor 1:30) So, we can stay safely in the boat.
The Blessed Exchange.
Jesus eternally saves sinners through a blessed exchange effected through the incarnation, cross and preaching. In this exchange, Jesus takes our sin so that it cannot accuse us and gives us forgiveness so that we have His righteousness to boast in, not our own. Also called the righteousness of faith (Rom 4:13), this righteousness is outside us. We do not possess our own righteousness before God. Jesus is our righteousness. Therefore, we must stay safely in the boat. “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19b)
How do we stay in the boat? We stay in the boat by remaining in Christ and His Word. Where is the boat? His Church is our boat. Jesus will pilot us across the water to dry land. Through storms and tempests, winds and rain, He will keep us safe. So, fellow travelers, let’s rejoice in our Captain and enjoy the boat ride together.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10a