David Kolander

If He Could Walk on Water, Do You Think You Could, Too?

by David Kolander on August 13th, 2023
Matthew 14:22-33

Don’t you think the disciples must have been wondering what in the world was going on? Like we heard last Sunday, they had just seen Jesus feed way over five thousand people – those were just the men — with a couple of fish and some pieces of bread, and now it’s really early the very next morning before the sun was even up and they’re out on a lake with waves beating against their boat, and then in the distance they saw someone they thought just had to be a ghost, scaring them half to death — and then they saw him walking on the water, something which just had to blow them out of the water, because the one walking on the water that I’m talking about right now was not Jesus, which was amazing enough, but the one I’m talking about right now was the disciple Peter – one of the people in that boat of scared disciples whom Jesus had just assured, “Don’t be afraid. It is I” – the disciple Peter — the only person besides the Son of God himself whom the Bible says ever did something like this. But Peter, those disciples in the boat had to be saying. He’s just one of us. Peter? So often he’s just a big talker. Peter? Someday he might even deny he knows who Jesus of Nazareth even is. If he can walk on water, why can’t I? Brothers and sisters, If he could walk on water, do you think you could, too? Let’s spend some time walking with Jesus as he walks on the water and see that the answer to that question without question is, “Yes.”

Can you imagine asking what Peter asked?  “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” What was he thinking? Maybe Jesus can walk on the water, which he can do, because he’s the Son of God, but how could Peter possibly think he could do what God could do? But what did the Son of God say? “Come.” Peter prayed that he could come out of the boat and walk on water, and Jesus said come out of the boat and walk on water. And then Matthew tells us as an eyewitness of everything that happened because he was also in that boat, “Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” 

Do you see why we can say, “Yes, you could walk on water,” and when alone we can say, “Yes, you could walk on water,” when you think about this back and forth conversation in the middle of the lake? What was Peter reacting to when he stepped out of that boat? He was reacting to a specific promise and invitation from God. Jesus said, “Come. Come on, Peter. Come on, Peter. Get out of that boat and walk on water.” What would Peter have been saying to Jesus Christ his Lord if he had stayed in that boat? He would have been saying, “I don’t believe you, Jesus. That’s impossible, Jesus. I can’t get out of this boat and walk on water, because I am just a man, with a human body that the study of science and my own experience tells me will sink into the waves the moment the bottom of my feet touch the surface of the sea.” But Peter could take Jesus at his word, and Peter did take Jesus at his word, and at the word of Jesus, Peter the man walked on water just like Jesus Christ the Son of God. That’s why if Peter could walk on water, you could, too – by taking Jesus at his word.

So, if this afternoon we had another church picnic like we had a couple of weeks ago, and instead of going to Mitchell Park, we went to Lake Michigan, and as we stood on the shoreline, we squinted our eyes and saw Jesus walking toward us from beyond the breakwater, and as he came closer to us, we heard him say, “Hey, everybody, I want you to come closer to me to learn from me and to worship me, so get off your feet and walk on out here,” I have to imagine we would all be looking at each other to see if there was any one of us who was going to be crazy enough to try walking on out there. But I hope and pray that within a very short time we would have hundreds and hundreds of people from our church who had gathered at Lake Michigan for a church picnic walking on the water of Lake Michigan toward Jesus our Lord, making that a church picnic we would never be able to forget. 

But the thing truly never to forget is that such a thing can only happen when it is connected to something God has promised us in the Bible, and it will truly happen because, when we have that word from Jesus, it is something God has promised us. So, he hasn’t promised us in the Bible we’ll ever be able to walk on water, but he has promised us, as just one example among many, that on the Last Day, he will have us do much more than walk on a wavy lake, because he will have us make our way to the expanse of heaven, by saying, “Come. Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world,” And because of that invitation and that promise, we can be sure that he will bring us up out of our graves, though that is humanly impossible, and that he will give us new, glorious, perfect bodies just like his body, though that is humanly impossible, and he will have us journey not on water but through the sky, to meet the Lord in the air. We can trust that it will be so, because he has given us a promise that it will be so, so there is absolutely no doubt about it. Believing every promise Jesus gives us in the Bible is just like walking on water, because without God giving us the faith to believe it, it would be totally impossible to believe things like Jesus being born of the virgin Mary and his blood paying the price for my every sin against the holy God, because his blood was holy and his death totally innocent.

But if Peter could also doubt that Jesus’ promise was true, could we doubt his promises, too? We know very well the reality that this side of heaven nothing is ever perfectly and completely like we are walking on water in a life that is always perfectly and completely great. One of the many reasons why that is so is because our sinful human way of looking at things can only at some point, even as believers in Jesus, doubt that what God tells us is true or that God can really help us in some bad situation or maybe even that God loves us, when his love feels so far away or when we ourselves have walked so far away. 

Peter’s sinking into the sea when he saw the wind and becaming afraid is … us, right? Is it worth it to follow Jesus, when so many people — many of whom we may know and even love very deeply — don’t seem to care about Jesus? Is it worth it to keep our eyes on Jesus, when some of those so many people in the world don’t just seem not to care about Jesus, but want to do whatever they can to make fun of us or to mock our intelligence or even end up hating or hurting or doing something worse to us because we do care about Jesus? And that’s not to mention not just the thoughts and opinions of others and our surrounding culture, but even the thoughts and questions inside our own minds, by which the devil tries to constantly mess us up by saying, “If you keep worrying about this Jesus-stuff, you will end up with a life that is just like sinking into the sea, with no real meaning or purpose, because all this talk about Christ your Savior and Jesus your Lord is just some meaningless, purposeless talk out of the mouths of people, who believe fantasies like there was a Son of God who walked on water in the middle of a ministry that was supposed to be for the forgiveness of sins.” Is there anyone of us who can honestly say they have never had such doubts, even if but for a fleeting second? Of course not.

That’s why we praise God that he has also led us to honestly join Peter in saying as he went down in that water, “Lord, save me!” We may say it in connection with a sadness in life, a diagnosis in life, a heartache in life, a worry in life, a time when there may seem like no way to figure something out in life. We know that God has not promised that what he will say back to us in answer to our prayer what we are hoping for at that time, because God has not promised us that every sadness will turn into happiness or that every sickness will turn into healing or that every honest question will have an answer that makes sense to our human minds. But we also know that what he does promise us in response to our cries of “Lord, have mercy” is what the apostle Paul told us in our Second Lesson, when he said, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that … nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That Lord Jesus who, right after feeding thousands with a little food to show he was the Son of God, and before walking on water, went up on a mountainside, we are told, to pray – and to pray there all alone, because he was at the same time the Son of Man, a tired human being who became like one of us so he could also have the need to talk to his heavenly Father and receive his strength to carry on. That Lord Jesus who as the Son of Man and Son of God in one person accepted on the cross the punishment we deserved because of our doubts — and all our sins — and by that cross catapulted into the depths of the spiritual sea — far deeper than the Sea of Galilee — all those doubts and sins, so the devil can never use them to bother us again. That Lord Jesus, who in his compassion and power told Peter, a man so much like us, to do what no man or woman could otherwise do, and then saved him when he could not do it, after he had begun to do it. That Lord Jesus, who if he told us we could walk on water, we most certainly could walk on water. But he has given us – and he has promised us – and he will do for us – much, much more than that, as we go out there and walk on the dry ground of this earth until the day he opens up the sky and says, “Come!”  So, in his name, let’s go! Amen.

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