By Tom Wacaster
Over the course of a few short years the twelve men whom Jesus had chosen began to grow and mature into the material that God could, and would use to proclaim the gospel to a lost humanity. The more time they spent with Jesus, the stronger grew their faith. Their courage often amazes us; their weaknesses puzzle us. Consider the background of the request Peter made as expressed in the five words of the title of this article. The twelve had witnessed one of the most astonishing miracles of our Lord. From a few fish and handful of loaves, the Lord fed thousands; 5,000 men to be exact, not counting the women and children. Any estimation of the total number of people fed would be mere speculation. 10,000? 15,000? The number staggers the imagination. The reaction of the multitude was not unexpected. Living under the thumb of the tyrannical rule of the Roman rulers, Israel longed for freedom. Perhaps the time had come for a King to arise in Israel, cast off the restraints of that oppressive government, and restore the Davidic kingdom of old. Could this be the man of the hour? The miracle of the loaves and fishes triggered that inner desire for an earthly king and they acted on their impulses. So strong were their intentions that Jesus had to compel His disciples to immediately leave and head for the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The short journey across the sea would normally take only a few hours at most. But on this occasion an unexpected storm would arise, slow their progress, and threaten their very lives.
Out of the darkness of the night, and in the midst of the blinding storm, there appears an image, walking toward them. They were in the midst of the sea, and there comes an image walking on the water. What unfolds tickles our imagination, increases our faith, and encourages us in our times of despair when the storms of life crash in upon us. When Peter realizes that the figure walking on the water is the Lord, he crises out, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water” (Matt. 14:28). “Bid me to come unto thee!” Five simple words; yet words that express the sentiments of the heart of a man who found himself in the midst of a threatening storm. This is not an invitation from God to man, but the request of a man to his God. I’m not denying the divine invitation that heaven extends to me. Jesus could have easily said, “Peter, come unto me,” and the results would likely have been exactly the same. But what we see is Peter beseeching the Lord, “Bid me come unto thee.” Three important thoughts beg consideration.
Consider the word “bid”! This is a request for a privilege. Common sense tells us, “Men cannot walk on water!” Some have tried it, but all have failed. A recent news item reported that Jonathan Mthethwa was killed by three crocodiles as he attempted to walk on water as a demonstration of his faith. Witnesses say the clergyman prayed the whole week, but something went terribly wrong when he placed his feet into the water. Peter, in great humility, recognized that should Jesus grant his desire, he would be privileged to join the Lord on the water. Every child of God has the distinct privilege of praying to the Father for untold blessings. Humility of heart will help us realize that our prayers are a request for great privileges granted by the Father.
Next, Peter also recognized the personage whom he addressed. “Lord, if it be thou!” I do not think Peter questioned the deity of Jesus. To be honest, I do not know the intent of Peter’s words. But this I do know: Peter realized that Jesus, and only Jesus, could grant such a request that he was about to make. Men usually recognize the respect owed to those of importance. Peter did not demand. He was not arrogant or haughty. He was humbled in the presence of greatness. What about us? “Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God” (1 Pet. 5:6). Only when men recognize the greatness of the Personage of the One Who can still the storm will they be in a position to receive the blessings available to them.
Finally there must be a realization of the depth of one’s problem before he will ever ‘walk on the water’ of faith’s possibilities. A quick search on the internet of everyone who ever walked on water will reveal only two names: Jesus, and Peter. The sacred record was not recorded to instruct us to seek the ability to literally walk on water. It is, rather, a lesson on the possibility of faith in overcoming the obstacles that confront us in life and how to find refuge in the storms of life.
I’ll close this little article with the wonderful words of Mozi Lister in a song made famous by Bill Gaither:
In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place.
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.
Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies
When the long night has ended and the storms come no more
Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore
In that land where the tempest, never comes, Lord, may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by