Day Twenty: Friday, July 3rd, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 14:22-36
Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:
“Failure is an option”
Peter fails! Peter saw Jesus walking on the water during a turbulent storm and Peter wanted to be out on the waves with Jesus. Peter heard Jesus say to the frightened disciples, “Take heart! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Bold and adventurous as always, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water. And then he didn’t. Then Peter saw the wind. Then Peter became afraid. Then Peter began to sink. Then Peter failed. His failure brought forth a strong reaction from Jesus. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?
Here in just a few verses we find that Peter fails. This might be the first time Peter fails, but it will not be the last. The other disciples will also fail. Matthew highlights the failure of the disciples.
- Peter rebukes Jesus for talking about the death that awaits Jesus in Jerusalem.
- The disciples rebuke those who brought children to Jesus.
- The disciples argue over who gets to sit on the right and left of Jesus in the kingdom.
- The disciples argue over who is greatest.
- Peter denies Jesus three times.
- All the disciples scatter.
- And then there is Judas.
Knowing that disciples fail, let’s give Peter some credit as we read our passage today. Peter tried and failed. But Peter did not fail to try. He got out of the boat. Yes, he took his eyes off Jesus. Yes, he began to sink. Yes, he failed. Nevertheless, Peter did not fail to try.
And Jesus did not give Peter the heave ho when he did fail. By the time this dramatic episode comes to a conclusion, Jesus and the disciples are all safely back in the boat. They are all safely back in the boat. Peter is back in the boat. Peter is still part of the twelve. Failure is an option for those of us who follow Jesus. And true to who we hope and expect Jesus to be, our failure does not mean the end of our relationship with Jesus. Peter fails, but Peter remains a disciple. As our story concludes Peter is in the boat and the disciples are off with Jesus to their next adventure, hopefully with a deeper faith and a growing trust. The story does not end on the note of failure. The story ends with those in the boat confessing their growing faith. “Truly you are the Son of God,” they say to Jesus.
If failure is an option, if it is not only par for the course to fail as a disciple, but perhaps even a necessary part of our growth as disciples, might we move from taking a critical view of Peter to seeing Peter as a bold example of what our faith can be? Peter got out of the boat. A while back there was a book circulating in Christian circles with a wonderful title. “You can’t walk on water if you don’t get out of the boat.” Peter got out of the boat.
How might God be calling us to get out of the boat? These recent days of the Coronavirus and protests proclaiming Black Lives Matter highlight the obvious…like the turbulent seas the disciples encountered, we also live in turbulent times. It will take all the faith we have to get out of the boat. When we get out it will be tempting to see the power of the wind and lose heart, to see the power of the wind and lose faith. But there is a moment in today’s story that ought to encourage and inspire us. For a few moments Peter does not look at the wind. For a few moments Peter looks at Jesus. We get the impression that if he would have kept his eyes focused on Jesus…well, you never know what might happen until you actually get out of the boat and keep your eyes focused right on Jesus. That day Peter took a few halting steps on the water. Dear Lord, give us the courage to get out of the boat. Dear Lord, give us the faith to keep our eyes focused on you. And if we fail…and when we fail…thank you for never giving up on us. Help us remember that although Peter tried and failed, he did not fail to try. And for that bold example we give thanks.
Take Heart, It Is I; Do Not Be Afraid (v. 27). Jesus says ego eimi (Greek), which can mean simply ‘it is I’; but more is being suggested here. For Matthew’s audience, this Greek phrase is packed with significance. These are the words that the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) uses to translate the Hebrew name of God revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Jesus is using the divine name to announce his presence. I am is here, trampling victoriously over the waves. In these brief but charged words and in the awesome vision that unfolds before the disciples, Jesus is identifying himself with God, the liberator and redeemer of Israel, who is at the same time the creator of the world and the victor over chaos. His words, instilling courage and banishing fear, assure the disciples that this awesome vision in the midst of the storm is intended as good news…Given its utterance at important moments throughout Scripture…’Do not be afraid’ is a keynote of the gospel itself. The unveiling of God’s majesty is not intended to terrorize or diminish, but to save, uphold, and establish the creature.” (Iwan Russell-Jones, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 3, p. 334, 336).