I was listening to Audio Adrenaline’s “Walk on Water” yesterday in the car and had a thought. Actually, several, all related to the story of Jesus inviting Peter out onto the water. Here’s the version of the story in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 14:22-33):
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Thought #1: Compare this passage to Hebrews 12:2… it seems to me that the author is referring back to Peter’s experience.
Thought #2: Okay, this is a bit more complex, but stay with me. What is the sea to an Israelite? And a boat on the sea? It would certainly call to mind the ark floating on the waters of judgment. And the rough seas would remind an Israelite of the gentile nations (see Psalm 68:22, Isaiah 23:11, Isaiah 60:5 among others). Here we have Peter getting out of the ark (the only safe place on an angry sea) and walking on the waters of judgment. Or, at the level of nations, leaving the safety of the promised land for the chaos of the gentile nations.
Jesus was instructing Peter on what was coming and on how to survive. Everything was about to become topsy-turvy. The church would be dispersed throughout the world, and in so doing would paradoxically be used to gather in the elect. The angry waves of the sea would be crashing all around. How would Peter and the early church (and us) survive? By fixing his eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.