by Rob Weingartner

I love the Gospel lesson which describes how Jesus, after the feeding of the 5,000, made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. Then, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. 

When evening came the boat was being battered by the waves, far from the land, fighting against the wind. Early in the morning Jesus came walking toward them on the sea. 

They were terrified and thought it was a ghost. But Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” This is the moment when Peter answers him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

Early in 1999, the BBC reported that the Israeli National Parks Authority had authorized a private contractor to build a submerged bridge in the Sea of Galilee in time for the Millennium in anticipation of the millions of pilgrims expected to make their way to the Holy Land. The project was comprised of a four meter wide, 100 meter long crescent-shaped floating bridge positioned just below the surface of the water, allowing tourists to simulate the miracle which the Gospels say Jesus performed – up to fifty persons at a time. No rails were planned to enhance the "walking on water" effect, but lifeguards and boats would be close by in case walkers slip off. 

I don’t think that this bridge was ever actually built, and that’s probably a good thing. We who follow Jesus do enough pretending and playing at discipleship.

Recently, I noticed something in this story about the disciples that I had previously missed. THE DISCIPLES ARE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE THEY DID WHAT JESUS TOLD THEM TO DO. It was Jesus who sent them out onto the lake.

Now, I don’t want to suggest that if we are not in trouble that we are not being faithful, but it does seem to me that if we are managing things just fine, if we are comfortable with our lives depending upon our own wisdom and our own strength, then perhaps we have not been listening closely to the Lord who beckons us to live lives that are radically grounded in his presence and provision. 

One can make a pretty good case from the Scriptures that obedience to Jesus will always place us in tension with the world, so let us not be too surprised at the wind and the waves.

The Roman Catholic missiologist Anthony Gittins points out that the mental picture of Peter’s brave, foolhardy, and faltering steps as he tried to walk on the water is a powerful image of the call to mission. There is something compelling about the call, but water is not the normal surface for human progress; in fact, it is clearly impossible to walk on.

Peter’s outrageous request: "Lord, if it is really you . . ." is followed by Jesus’ inviting, enabling word: "Come."

To where, into what, for what purpose does Jesus beckon you? How would he get you in trouble today?

Rob Weingartner
Executive Director

The Outreach Foundation