So here’s the question: Do you believe a human being can walk on water or not? If you fall into the “Not” category, then you fit right in with a boatload of Jesus’ disciples who had been having a tough go of it rowing across the Sea of Galilee on a particularly blustery night filled with wind and waves. Just before dawn they saw someone coming toward them on the water. Being good red-blooded first century Jewish males they did what would come naturally to any thinking human being —they screamed! I am sure it was a manly scream, but it was a scream nevertheless. Come to think of it, if I had been a part of their little group, I would have found myself screaming alongside them.
In the midst of all the yelling came the voice of Jesus, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Can you imagine the grinding of the gears in their brains as they tried to process what they were experiencing? But Simon Peter has little time for too much thought and blurts out, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus says simply, “Come”, whereupon Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water toward Jesus. But the wind and the waves and his own doubts overcome the moment and he begins to sink. He cries out, “Lord, save me”. Jesus immediately reaches out his hand and takes hold of him saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
I love this story, not simply because of the mental images it provokes, but also because Peter is such a good example of a faith that struggles to believe the impossible. A faith very much like mine and maybe yours. While Peter’s steps ultimately failed him, the significance of the story is that he risked the impossible while the other disciples watched from the boat. Do we think for a moment that Jesus chastised Peter for allowing the distractions to overcome his faith? Isn’t he clearly excited that Peter dared believe the impossible — dared to believe that, if God willed it, he could overcome the laws of physics and walk on water? I don’t know why Jesus decided to walk on water that night, but I do know that he used it as a training session in stepping out in faith. There is a lesson here for all of us who call ourselves Christians.
Three decades after Peter got his ankles wet, Saint Paul wrote in a letter to the believing community in Philippi, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Several years ago, University of Florida quarterback, Tim Tebow, made this passage from Philippians a fashionable message on the public stage by displaying it on the black grease beneath his eyes during his games.
Believing the impossible should never be confused with the power of positive thinking. Human beings are remarkable in their abilities to do amazing things by virtue of their natural talents and skills. Tim Tebow won a lot of ball games because he is a great athlete and an excellent motivator. That, however is not what he meant to imply by wearing Paul’s statement. What Mr. Tebow and all followers of Jesus mean is that we dare to believe that our God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving.
For those with eyes to see, there are miracles happening around us and to us every day. Next time you take a breath, thank God for the privilege. Next time he asks to use you for what seems to be an impossible challenge — get out of the boat. You may not have faith to move mountains yet, but he will use what you have to accomplish his purposes.
As you experience the Lord in action your faith will grow so that the day will come when you will believe in the greatest miracle of all: You have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus’ death on the cross for your sin and his resurrection from the dead. You are destined to reign with him in glory for ever and ever. We Christians of faith do, indeed, believe the impossible. Alleluia!
The Rev. Mike Hesse is senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin.