Sink or Swim

The miracle of Jesus walking on the water is recorded in three of the gospels (Matt. 14:22-36; Mk. 6:45-56; John 6:16-21). The event unfolds at the Sea of Galilee, which is 700 feet below the Mediterranean Sea and very susceptible to sudden and violent storms. After the feeding of the 5000, Jesus dismisses the crowd and sends his disciples on a boat trip while he remained on the mountaintop to pray. True disciples are SENT forth to do the work of the kingdom. The boat represents the adventure of life, for ships are made to sail the sea, not to remain in port. Although at times we can rest and sit for a while, we are made in the image of Christ to go forth and do the work of the kingdom.

While boating with Jesus, we will run into STORMS, for life is fraught with difficulties, disappointments, and challenges. We get “beaten by the waves” like the disciples of Jesus and become frightened with the rough seas of life. When the disciples first saw Jesus walking toward them they didn’t recognize him. They thought him to be a SPECTER. “It is a ghost!” they cried out (Matt. 14:26). Why did they fail to recognize him? They were not looking for him! It was the fourth watch of the night (anywhere from 3:00AM to 6:00AM)—they were tired from the lateness and weary from rowing against the waves. In the daily grind of things, it is easy to forget Christ who gives us strength to persevere. We tend to focus on the mundane and try to do things in our own power. But Jesus still comes to us in the storms of daily life, fulfilling the promise of Isaiah 43:2-3, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

The Lord may not come when we think He should, but his timing is always perfect, for he really never left us. He knows when we need Him most to appear and will intervene with his word, people, or Spirit at the most opportune time. Jesus had waited until the boat was far from land and the disciples were bereft of hope to rescue them and strengthen their faith. When we think all is lost, when we believe we are all alone, our faith becomes STRETCHED. When life becomes dismal, we are to remember that the Lord stretches our faith, but he will never string us out.

Jesus showed his disciples that the very thing they feared, the raging sea and the crashing waves, were not a hindrance for him. He would merely step across their fears and beckon them to come, for in him is safety in the midst of a world afire with conflict and possessed with fear. Often we dread the trying experiences of life such as illness, loss of loved ones, relationship fractures, and financial distress only to discover that these problems and afflictions bring Jesus closer to us. When we find ourselves involved in the harrowing experiences of life, we will sink or swim—sink in the sea of our fears or swim in the faith strengthened by Christ. Like Paul, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). But if our eyes remain fixated on self, we will sink into our own depression.

To swim with Christ, we must keep our eyes focused on him. As long as Peter did so he could walk to Christ on water. When he became distracted, he SANK, for he allowed his anxieties to take over by focusing on the fears that gripped him—the wind and the waves. But Peter had the resolve to cry out in his despair, “Lord, save me!” (Matt. 14:30) Jesus immediately took his hand and said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Doubt is what makes us sink; but faith is what causes us to walk through adversities, knowing that Jesus has us by the hand (Ps. 37:24).

And when Jesus entered the boat, the wind died down, indicating the power of Christ over the elements. The disciples recognized his divinity and responded with their confession of faith, “Truly you are the Son of God!” This is the first instance of the disciples worshipping Jesus. They would continue to grow in their faith, sinking at times, but eventually swimming with endurance and turning the world upside down with the gospel of Christ.