Setting: Middle Eastern Desert, Afternoon, 1989
Indiana Jones looks across the chasm to see the doorway cut out of the sheer rock face on the other side—knowing that behind that door lies the object that he seeks, the reason for his journey: the Holy Grail.
But looking at the sheer drop below him, he falters for a moment: “It’s not possible. Nobody can jump this,” he says.
Taking a moment to look back at the ages-old guidebook in his hand, he suddenly has a moment of realization: “It’s a leap of faith.”
His father, from the cavern behind, urges him on: “You must believe, boy. You must believe.”
Though his trepidation is still present, Indy sets aside fear and reason and takes a step out into nothing but air…
….and is caught by the rock bridge beneath his feet. One that is invisible to the eye and otherwise unknown, except by those who dare to tread there. Indy’s elation is apparent as he walks—first slowly, then with greater confidence—to the other side.
Setting: Sea of Galilee, Night, Time of Jesus
Twelve men are rowing across a lake. Twelve men that have left everything—their families, their occupations, their futures (in the eyes of society)—to become disciples to a rabbi who called them out.
Now, at this time, the discipleship of these particular men was a radical thing on multiple counts. First, they were not who the society of the day would have typically viewed as disciples. Why? Well, the education for a Jewish boy in Jesus’ time came in three parts. At age 4-5, students would enter into Bet Sefer and began their study of the Scriptures. At the age of 12, most boys would then stay home to learn the family trade, while the best students would continue their study (while also learning a trade) in Bet Midrash (secondary school). Very, very few of the most outstanding Bet Midrash students then sought permission to disciple a well-known rabbi of their choosing.
Jesus called Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew, as they were casting nets into the lake—same with James and John. This meant that these boys were already a part of the family trade—they had been through Bet Sefer and maybe Bet Midrash, but they had not been called beyond that into the discipleship of a rabbi. They were, instead, learning the business of their fathers. But, in that instant when Jesus called, it says James and John “immediately left the boat and their father and followed him (Matthew 4:22).” This discipleship was such an honor, they left everything and went without hesitation.
Secondly, Jesus had called them. Usually, the disciples would ask the rabbi if they could follow him, not the other way around. Jesus had selected the disciples first, instead of the disciples selecting Him.
So, back to the boat—we now know its passengers are twelve men (Jesus’ disciples) who were not society’s choice, but they were Jesus’ chosen. Each had taken a huge leap of faith—leaving behind their livelihoods, families, and futures (by society’s definition)—to follow Jesus.
As they row towards the opposite shore, the wind starts to pick up and the waves start to get rough until they’re in the middle of a full-blown storm. The Sea of Galilee is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide, so they’re also far from shore and stability. Their boat is being battered amidst the waves, and the worry amongst the group starts to grow.
When they first see Jesus walking on the water towards them, this worry has escalated to fear. They cry out, “It’s a ghost!”
But Jesus keeps walking towards them, and calmly says, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”
Now, it’s interesting to note that at this time the disciples seemed to have already forgotten who Jesus is. This isn’t just about the fact that they’ve mistaken Him for a ghost; rather the much more significant fact that they’ve forgotten that He’s the one who works miracles against all odds. He calms the wind and waves. They had just seen Him feed the 5000, and yet their confidence in His capabilities seems to have already given way in light of their current situation.
Also note that Jesus does not immediately calm the storm, but starts out by reminding them who He is. He’s teaching them to trust before He tells the waves to cease.
Peter still has doubts. “Lord if it’s you,” he calls. “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come.” Jesus says.
Peter steps out of the boat and—as long as Peter keeps his eyes on Jesus—he’s able to walk forward confidently. He can walk on water with his eyes on Jesus—defying logic or circumstances around him. Like Indiana Jones, he takes a leap of faith.
But Peter starts to sink when he becomes so focused on where he is that he loses sight of who is in control. Peter realizes that the situation around him seems impossible, and allows it to literally pull him down. He experiences a crisis of faith that resulted from a misplaced focus and ends up dragging him under. His situation seems impossible, given the wind and waves rushing around him.
He cries out, “Lord, save me!” and as soon as he does, Jesus is there and pulls him back up to safety.
“You of little faith,” Jesus asks, “why did you doubt?”
Why do we doubt? Why do we take our gaze off of Jesus when the waters get rough?
I’m not talking “rough” as in a bad day (that, too!), but “rough” as in when things feel hopeless, and we feel helpless to control the forces, circumstances, and situations that have beat us down or backed us into a corner.
Like the disciples, we’ve seen God work miraculously in our lives before; yet, we often become so consumed by our current situation that it threatens to drown us. Like the Israelites in the David and Goliath story, we tremble because we face an adversary we feel we cannot beat and lose sight of whose we are. (Thanks Dan Sadlier, for the analogy today!)
Take your eyes off of the waves, and focus on His face. We are loved by the one for whom nothing is impossible—not even the storms we face that are entirely beyond our control. He is called the Savior for a reason.
The best part? He has already been building a bridge for you (see the Indiana Jones analogy) and charting your next step amidst the waves to bring you closer to Him. He’s been planning your steps since before you were born (Psalm 139:13), and has been working all things together (Romans 8:28) for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). Stepping out in faith is stepping out on solid ground—you may not be sure where the next step will lead you, but you can be sure He does.
“You called me out upon the waters,
The great Unknown, where feet may fail.
And there I find You in the mystery.
In oceans deep, my faith will stand.
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves.
When oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embrace,
For I am Yours, and You are mine.”
Oceans, Hillsong United