Courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid!…Come!…What little faith you have! Why did you doubt?
Here’s the whole story:
Then Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people away. After sending the people away, he went up a hill by himself to pray. When evening came, Jesus was there alone; and by this time the boat was far out in the lake, tossed about by the waves, because the wind was blowing against it. Between three and six o’clock in the morning Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water. When they saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and screamed with fear.
Jesus spoke to them at once. “Courage!” he said. “It is I. Don’t be afraid!” Then Peter spoke up. “Lord, if it is really you, order me to come out on the water to you.” “Come!” answered Jesus. So Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water to Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid and started to sink down in the water. “Save me, Lord!” he cried.
At once Jesus reached out and grabbed hold of him and said, “What little faith you have! Why did you doubt?” They both got into the boat, and the wind died down. Then the disciples in the boat worshiped Jesus. “Truly you are the Son of God!” they exclaimed. (Matthew 14:22-32).
Yesterday Jesus showed his disciples that they could feed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fishes if they would only have faith that there would be enough. In this scripture which immediately follows, Jesus issued another spiritual challenge to his disciples. He demonstrated the power of faith by walking on the water, during a storm no less, and then inviting his disciples to do the same. Peter started walking on the water, but then he got scared and started to sink. After Jesus rescued Peter, he chastised him. The disciples then reach the conclusion that Jesus is not an ordinary guy, a “Son of Man” (See Day 74). They decide that he is a “Son of God,” someone with extraordinary powers.
But is this a fair conclusion? Right there it says that Peter started walking on the water too. Peter sort or reminds me of a child taking his first steps. He takes a few steps, falls, and Jesus picks him up. Jesus does not say, “You fool, Peter! You can’t walk on the water like I can! You aren’t a Son of God like me!” No. He says, “Why did you doubt?” He emphatically states that Peter could have walked on water just like him if only he could have kept his focus. He believes that Peter should have been able to do it.
I think the ending is kind of sad. Instead of being empowered, the disciples separate themselves from Jesus and put him on a pedestal. Instead of accepting Jesus’ challenge to build up their faith, they give up. Instead of marveling that Peter took a couple of steps before he sank, they ignore Peter’s efforts and start worshiping Jesus. I wish it would have ended with Peter saying he wanted to try again. I wish all of them would have wanted their turn at trying. I wish they would have gotten excited about the possibilities, instead of quitting before they even got started.
Jesus wanted his disciples to know that they have untapped potential to influence the natural environment. He wanted them to know how much more they could do if they tapped into the power of God and the power of their own minds through faith and discipline.
I remember going to a lecture and exhibition by Jewish psychic Uri Geller around 1979. In case you have never heard of him, here are some excerpts from his biography on http://site.uri-geller.com/
Uri first became aware of his unusual powers when he was five. One day, during a meal, his spoon curled up in his hand and broke, although he had applied no physical pressure to it. His parents were somewhat shocked and Uri did not mention the incident to anyone else at that time. He developed these powers in school by demonstrating them to pupils.
In 1969 he began to demonstrate his powers of telepathy and psychokinesis to small audiences. By the end of 1971, he was a household name throughout Israel, thanks to his numerous stage appearances. He was given a huge boost by the then Prime Minister, Golda Meir when asked on a national radio programme what she predicted for the future of Israel, she replied, “Don’t ask me – ask Uri Geller!”
Uri has been studied by the world’s leading scientists, including a few who worked with Albert Einstein. The world’s most prestigious scientific magazine, Nature, published a paper on Uri’s work at the Stanford Research Institute in the U.S.A – a unique endorsement, and an irrefutable proof that his skills are genuine. His work with the FBI and the CIA has ranged from using Mind Power to erase KGB computer files and track serial killers, to attending nuclear disarmament negotiations to bombard and influence the Russian chief negotiator with positive thought waves so that the Soviet delegation would sign the Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty. Uri also addressed a group of US Senators and National Security Executives at the high-security room in the Capitol Building in Washington. For decades this aspect of his career was too confidential and controversial to discuss.
Uri Geller became well known for numerous unexplained phenomena. They are:
- Telepathy (Extrasensory perception – the ability to receive someone’s thought pattern and transmit images in a similar manner.)
- Dowsing – Finding the location of precious metals, minerals and oil.
- Bending, breaking and softening metal and other solids with the power of the mind, e.g. spoons, keys etc, more rarely plastic and glass.
- Fixing broken watches and appliances, and using collective power, influencing the Big Ben to stop.
- Moving compasses with the power of thought
- Erasing computer tapes and disks.
- Sprouting, causing tiny seeds (mainly red radish) to grow a few centimeters in a matter of seconds.
One of his main demonstrations of mind-power was spoon bending. He would gently rub a spoon between two fingers and it would just melt. On the tickets to the event we were invited to bring our own spoons. During the event he didn’t just bend people’s spoons. He encouraged everyone to try to bend their own spoons. His message was like that of Jesus – we can do much more than can imagine. God has given us mental abilities that we have not yet begun to use because we have not been taught to do so. He said that this was the reason that he sought publicity and put on his little “magic” shows. Uri is a very religious man. He said that God wanted him to get the word out that we are much more powerful than conventional wisdom is willing to acknowledge. He said that in the future we will learn to use our mind power to do many things that will greatly benefit humanity.
In a way I think Jesus was trying to tell us the same thing. God created us to do more than we are doing. God wants us to use all of the skills and abilities that he has given us to make our world a better place, including some that we have not yet fully utilized. Like Peter trying to walk on the water, we need to step out and start taking those baby steps. Jesus wants us to walk on water right into the unknown and let God lead us into the sometimes frightening reality of our full potential. So from now on I am going to remember this as the story where Peter walked on water.
On a metaphorical level this story is great. I love the comparison to the other storm story on Day 70. In that other story the disciples cried out to Jesus to help them. In that example Jesus told the disciples that they could have calmed the storm themselves without his help if they had a little more faith. But I think what God really wants us to do with storms is what Jesus does in this story. He walks right out into the storm. Head held high, walking straight into the wind. Doing the impossible. Fearless. Fierce. Powered by pure faith. He wants us to be able to do that in all of the storms that come our way, all of the storms in our lives. God doesn’t always get rid of the storm, but he equips and enables us to do unbelievable, fantastic, impossible things in the very midst of it.
So no, my spoon did not bend that night at the Uri Geller lecture and neither did my friend’s. In fact I just now tried again as I was writing this to see if it would work, and it did not. However I should add that when I got home from that Uri Geller demonstration I did get a “dead” mechanical watch to work using his instructions. And it didn’t just run for a little while, it kept going. It was repaired. And there were a lot of spoons that were bent by people in the audience that night. I guess I’m low on that kind of mind power, so don’t expect me to be walking on water anytime soon. I believe in it alright – I believe I would sink like a rock just like Peter. (Hahaha I just remembered that the name “Peter” means “rock”. Maybe one of the other disciples with a more promising name would have been able to do it).
Of course all of this is dismissed by conventional Christianity as “new age” nonsense. Christendom works better if we are all powerless. Christendom doesn’t approve of ordinary people performing miracles. Only special people. Only saints.
To walk on water is to walk by faith and God wants all of us to do that every minute of every day, even in life’s storms. So I guess I’ll try to stay open to the possibility and if I ever really get an urge maybe I will give it a try. In the shallow end of the pool. Just until I get the hang of it.
What does this scripture say to you?
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