© June 21, 2018 | Schulter Etyang
I’m sure you are familiar with Peter’s story and how he walked on water. It’s a Bible story that is as old as your Harry Potter’s novels or your Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even if you are the irreligious type, you have certainly heard of this story. It’s a popular cultural expression for doing something that seems nearly impossible.
This particular sticking point that Jesus and Peter walked on water, however, has made many people to disprove the Christian faith. Who can walk on water, they ask. Such stories, they believe, are a figment of our imagination.
Traditionally, the spiritual lesson deduced from the story is that we need to stop looking at the challenges around us and keep our eyes on Jesus. When we do, we walk over our circumstances or challenges. On the surface reading of the story, this lesson makes sense, especially for Christians.
What if the story has a gospel twist to it? The gospel? I thought keeping my eyes on Jesus is the gospel. What if Jesus wanted us to see something else other than us keeping our eyes on Him? Let’s see the story through fresh eyes.
Who is Peter? Peter is a hot head disciple of Jesus. He has a slow mind and a quick tongue. A bad combo. He dares Jesus to dare him to walk on water. Jesus’ response, “Yes, come,” Bad call Peter, bad call. Don’t do it. But Peter walks over to the side of the boat and walks on the water toward Jesus. But when he sees the strong wind and the waves, he is terrified and begins to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he cries out. Jesus immediately reaches out and grabs him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt?”
What does Peter’s “dare,” reveal about us?
Eager beaver obedience
Zeal and obedience can reveal a lot about a person. Looking from the outside, it can look very spiritual. Spiritual in the sense that this person is willing to do anything for God. And being that human beings are seeing beings, we look at that and think wow, that person is in tune with God.
But on a gospel level, it is a different ball game. On a gospel level, it could reveal self-righteousness. We do things, mostly spiritual things so that we can look good, either to ourselves, to others or to God. I believe that is what happened to Peter. I wonder aloud, what if Jesus’ response, “Yes, come,” was an invitation to expose Peter’s self-righteousness guised as eager beaver obedience? Jesus knew Peter was a hot head He might have known Peter wanted to prove something to himself, to the other disciples, or even to Jesus himself.
And then the storms happened …
When the storms happened, Peter went straight to his default mode. He stopped walking towards Jesus and tried to save himself. He tried to swim, but he was sinking. The storms were too much for him. His default mode? Self-righteousness – trying to swim, trying to save himself. Until he realized the storms were too big for him and that his reliance on himself and his own resources wasn’t enough to save him.
I have to admit I do have a default mode. I do try to save myself so many times when storms hit. While my spirituality makes me look good, when the storms hit, I quickly try to save myself. But the result is the same – I sink deeper and deeper
I have concluded that God allows storms into our lives to expose our self-righteousness. Without storms, we would never know where our trust lies.
So, what’s your default mode? What is this one thing that you revert to when storms hit your life? Your escape buttons. Is it success, self-esteem, career, a good family name, business acumen, education, experience, age, race, youth, beauty, spirituality, account balance, slim, etc. Or is it failure, low self-esteem, lack of education, inexperience, old, ugly, irreligiosity, poverty, feelings of unworthiness, fat, etc.
Yet we see that even though Peter’s self-righteousness had been exposed, he still had the sense to call out for help. A rare feat for people who are self-assured. The Greek word for save is sozo, which means to deliver out of danger and into safety. Sozo is the root word for Soteria where we get our English word for saviour.
These two words, save me, are in the aorist imperative passive tense. It simply means that Jesus did the saving (aorist) and it was a must (imperative) that Jesus had to do it and Peter did nothing (passive) to save himself. He was saved.
Non-Christian, who do you think Christians are? Good people? Obedient people? Absolutely not. Christians are people that have accepted Jesus’ saving from God’s wrath against sin and they did nothing but receive the saving. That’s who Christians are. We were sinking people that cried out for help. We are saved, people. Saved from all sorts of mistakes of our own, all the time. That’s what makes a Christian.
Christians are people that have accepted Jesus’ saving from God’s wrath against sin and they did nothing but receive the saving.
In the gospel, Jesus says to us, “I am not so keen on your eager beaver obedience but rather on saving you.” This I believe is what Jesus wanted us to see. He wanted Peter to know that even with your own abilities (self-righteousness) you cannot do the impossible. It is only I (Jesus) that can do the impossible. This idea flips the focus on the story from Peter’s eager beaver obedience to Jesus the ultimate storm walker.
I would suggest that the next time Jesus says, “Yes come,” reconsider your response. Pause for a minute and hesitate. When he says, Yes, come,” consider saying, “No way Jesus, you come. I can’t do this.”
That’s what grace looks like