In most Bibles, this passage seems to be headed “Jesus walks on the water”
That in itself is quite a show-stopper.
If you think about it though, for Jesus to walk on water wasn’t such a stretch for the disciples to believe – they had already seen Him turn water into wine, perform countless healing miracles and cast out demons. Surely the headline news here is that Peter walks on the water! An ordinary man, who hears the command of God and acts on it. Then disaster strikes as Peter looks at the waves around him, and begins to sink.
Often we read this passage and we focus on the fact that Peter sank. We miss the fact that Peter tried. We miss the fact that before he started to sink, Peter had in fact walked on water. He wasn’t the only disciple in that boat – but He was the only one that actually had the faith to try – and he did it! He walked on the water.
Jesus says to Peter,
“You of little faith, why did you doubt ?”
We read that as a rebuke – but actually Jesus said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains and achieve great things:
“Truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you”. (Matt 17:20)
So perhaps Jesus was saying that Peter had all the faith he needed, (“you of little faith”) – and asking him why he doubted that it could happen at all – rather than asking why he sank? If Jesus says that we can do something – either in the scriptures, through our prayer time, or even a prophetic word from another believer – then why would we doubt Him?
The second part of our reading today is Matthew 15:1-9
It’s those pesky Pharisees again! They have tried and failed to get Jesus on a point of law. Now they are going after the disciples on a point of tradition. (Note that they can’t even get them with a direct breach of religious rules – so they move the goal posts to tradition instead!)
Jesus turns their argument on its head and throws it straight back at them:
“Why do you allow the traditions of men to overrule the command of God?”
As I read these two accounts together, there is a common thread that jumps out at me. Peter could have listened to traditional, established wisdom: “You are only a man. You can’t walk on water you will drown”. Instead, he chose to obey the command of His God, who said simply,
As Christians, we will often be in situations where traditions and culture will conflict with what God says. It is easy to be swayed by “sensible advice” or “common sense”. In the end though, we have a choice. We can honour our own culture and take the easy path, as the Pharisees did – or we can follow the call of God, who says “Come” – and see His power at work to help us walk on our own, personal water.
I don’t know about you, but I want to always have the courage to “walk on the water”, whenever and wherever Jesus calls me.
Lord, help us to listen for your voice, and be ready to step out with our mustard-seed-sized faith when we hear you call us.