There were certain behaviors that were scared out of me by my mother’s stories about her friend Christine, who did whatever it was that I was about to do, and was either seriously injured or died. Christine must have been part cat, for she had at least nine lives. I learned to not stick my hand or head out the car window. Christine had lost both at one time or another. Another thing that was driven home was to not rock the boat, and absolutely never get out of it in the middle of the lake.
Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, must not have learned that lesson. In the gospel of Matthew, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, in the middle of a storm that was battering the boat that carried Peter and the other disciples, Jesus appeared, walking on the water. The disciples were not nearly as terrified by the storm as they were by Jesus’ appearance, assuming he was a ghost. Jesus assured them, saying “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” And then Peter does what must surely be the dumbest thing ever. He throws out a challenge, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward Jesus. But he noticed the wind (duh), got frightened and began to sink. “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
I can hear my mother saying, “My friend Christine tried to walk on water, thinking that if she trusted Jesus enough she could walk on it. Even the Coast Guard couldn’t save her.” What was Peter thinking?
This season of COVID, racial and economic and political crises, has me rethinking lots of things. This text is one of the things I have had a change of mind about. I’ve always heard that story as a bold test of faith, rather than a foolish test of Jesus. And I’ve heard Jesus’ voice as my mother’s scolding voice, “What were you thinking? You’ll be the death of me yet!”
We are in this boat together, in the midst of a terrible storm. Getting out of the boat is foolhardy. There is a story here about community, about being together, that reminds me of Jesus promise that whenever two or more gather in my name, there I am with them. Jesus comes in the midst of the storm, and as the text tells us, “When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.”
Let’s ride this one out together ~ Anne