Sunday Sermon 1.16.21
What would compel a person to step out of a boat that is in a storm?
As a sailor, who enjoys sailing the coastline of Southern California, this question gripped me, “Why would anyone leave a boat in the middle of a storm?” Consider it, why?
The foundation story for this question is found in Matthew 14:22-34, where Peter, a new follower of Jesus, aboard a fishing boat (sail boat) was, along with his other disciple buddies caught in a fierce storm. Here are the conditions on the lake, when we pick up the story:
- it was dark at night
- they were far from land
- they were being pounded by high waves
- there were strong, opposing winds
The men on board this boat were not having a good time! In fact it was dire for them.
Again, from my own personal experience, were I aboard Lady Debra in these four conditions, I would be absolutely terrified! Which is why I was wondering why leave the boat? What could ever be so motivating that you would actually step INTO these conditions without the protection of the boat?
(I can honestly say that each of these four conditions are ones in which I would NEVER sail. I don’t sail at night and get concerned when the sun is setting and we are still out. I choose to sail, nearly always, with land in sight. High waves and strong winds are no-no’s for me. Absolutely not, no way, not me on my boat!)
The boys were in a very difficult situation that did not look good at all. The best thing coming was dawn.
As the story goes, “Just before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake”. Matthew 14:25 Or put another way, “walking on the waves.”
Now we have some good news appearing. Jesus is showing up in the midst of the storm, walking on top of its waves. A lot could be said about this, but let’s focus on the disciples, who responded with terror, thinking he was a ghost, and crying out in fear. Matthew 14:26 To them, Jesus showing up like this seemed to add to the terror of the moment. Oh no, a ghost too, we’re gonna die! We’re dead.
Jesus wasted no time, and spoke to them across the waves and in the wind and said,
“Be brave and don’t be afraid. I am here.”Matthew 14:27 TPT
These are reassuring words, for sure! We will come back to them.
Peter, upon hearing Jesus’ words responded with a statement, that on its face, to me seems odd. He said,
“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (and waves and winds, in the darkness a long way from shore)Matthew 14:28
Herein lies, our opening question. Why in the world would anyone leave a boat and step into the storm surrounding it? That’s crazy!
Well, I thought of 3 reasons why someone might do that –
- the ship is sinking – escaping it may save my life (remember Titanic?)
- suicide – taking a permanent solution to a temporary problem
- delusional – extreme conditions at sea causing me to see ghosts
Clearly, none of these apply to Peter and the gang. So why step out into those conditions? Why?
I can vividly imagine these conditions on the lake and the guys in the boat. I can vividly see the waves overwhelming the boat and the winds opposing their every attempt to right the boat. I can imagine the panic of darkness in this storm all the while knowing there is no land in sight or even near. This is real in my minds eye. This is horrific.
And yet Peter steps out of the relative safety of the boat and into the uncertainty of this dark storm. Why? What motivates him?
In one way, Peter’s statement back to Jesus is not unlike what many of us have said; Peter said, “if it’s you…”.
How many times have you said or heard said,
- God, if you’re real…
- God, if it’s really you…
- God, if you’re in this…
That part I get, I understand because I have done it, said it. How ’bout you?
But Peter’s “conditional statement” If it’s you… then tell me to come to you…” puzzles me.
In math, the conditional statement formula is, p ➡ q. P equals the hypothesis, q equals the conclusion and the arrow shows the logical connection.
To me, I fail to see the logical connection between the two. It is not logical to come to Jesus on the high waves in this storm, yet it for sure is a conditional statement. So, what’s the connection? Why did he leave the boat and step willfully into the dark storm?
When Jesus responded to Peter’s statement, he did so by simply saying to him, “Come, join me.” Matthew 14:29
Peter made the connection and stepped into the stormy waves, not the glassy lake. Peter stepped into the roaring winds, just as the new day was dawning. Peter left the little safety he had in the storm tossed vessel in blatant defiance of all things logical. Yet, for him it made totally, logical sense to step towards Jesus on the turbulent sea.
Remember what Jesus told the guys when they first saw him on the water?
“Take courage. I am here. Don’t be afraid.”Matthew 14:27 NIV
THAT statement is the key! THAT statement is Peter’s motivation! THAT statement was Peter’s reason for stepping into the storm and towards Jesus! THAT statement!
Peter was familiar with part of THAT statement. He’d heard about it for his whole Jewish life.
He’d heard how his ancestors had at one time called their God Elohim, (this is a title, not a name) until Exodus chapter 3, when God revealed to Moses His name as “I AM”. Exodus 3:14
He’d heard how I AM had delivered the Israelites from 400 years of slavery, sent plagues and judgment to Egypt, parted the Red Sea, delivered them from enemies, armies, threats, disease, judgment and so much more.
He’d heard that I AM was the source of all power and eternal in nature. How I AM was self-sufficient, self-sustaining. How I AM was and is and will be forever the same omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God of the universe.
He knew the name I AM. He’d heard it his whole life. He believed in I AM as the God of his ancestry.
NOW, Jesus, the one he had chosen to follow, was standing before him, declaring to him, “I AM. Don’t be afraid. Come to me.”
Peter now saw Jesus as the Almighty, omnipotent, self sufficient, name above all names, God who is in control of all things. THAT was his motivation for stepping out of the boat and into the storm. THAT was his solid ground he stepped onto when he left that boat.
How could he go wrong stepping towards I AM? There was no fear, no hesitation. When I AM says “Come to me” you step towards Him. Confident. Sure. Unflappable. Secure. Certain. Comfortable. Unshaken. Doubtless. Peaceful.
Even though “I AM” or the “tetragrammaton” appears over 6,000 times in the Bible this one, for Peter was his moment of truth. The dawning of a new day for Peter’s understanding of who he had committed his life to follow.
Although scribes through the ages could not say I AM out loud, nor fully spell it out, here was Peter walking towards the great I AM, fully able to express himself before Him and be accepted, cared for and destined for greatness
I AM brought proper perspective to Peter. Peter saw that, when he saw Jesus as the great I AM.
When you realize the great I AM is in control and calling you to come close to Him, you come close to Him, regardless of stormy circumstances, dark times, opposing winds or overwhelming waves. It makes perfect sense and is the only logical thing to do.
THAT would compel many to leave the boat and step into the storm.
So I say, “Props to Peter!” (Lord, help me.)
Go with God.