Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Christ Got Into the Boat

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." 28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." 29 "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."  Matthew 14:22-33

For the past two Sundays, my church's pastor has been preaching from Matthew 14 and the account of Christ and Peter walking on the water.

And while his sermons have explored lessons on how focusing on Christ can eliminate fear, and that we should worship Him for his wondrous acts on our behalf, some other elements of this famous event hit me this morning as I was pondering this same passage during my devotions.
  1. Jesus "made" the disciples get into the boat.  It's as if He wanted to get rid of them for a while, like parents telling their children to go play outside.  Why?
  2. Why?  So He could fellowship with His Father.  He went up on the mountain to talk with God, with Whom He shares a uniquely holy relationship as both God's Son, yet a fellow member of the Trinity.
  3. Christ stayed on the mountain with God for quite a while, likely enjoying their utterly profound interpersonal bonds; both paternal and spiritual.
  4. Meanwhile, what were His disciples doing?  They were out in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, likely chatting amongst themselves about any number of things, from the miracles they had just witnessed, to Christ's shunting them off into the boat so He could be alone, to the wind that was battering their craft with increasing strength.
The contrast is stunning, isn't it?  Christ, secluded on a mountaintop, in communion with the God of the universe, Who was also His real father.  On the other hand, there are His bumbling disciples, on a lake, in a boat, struggling to maintain course.

Christ Chooses To Be With Us Despite Ourselves

I don't know about you, but I'm not on the mountaintop with Christ and His Father.  I'm in the boat, anxious, along with His other disciples.  I'm trying to figure out from which direction the wind is coming, and fretting about being blown off-course.

Maybe you're up on the mountaintop with Christ, in a sublime fellowship with God that sets everything else around you into a confident perspective.  Enjoy it, because even Christ's time up there didn't last for long.

Eventually, Christ comes to His disciples in the boat, tossed about by the waves.  He walks on water, both literally, and perhaps even figuratively, since He'd just left the immediate presence of His Father, our God.  What a dose of reality that must have been for Jesus, having to leave the mountaintop - again, both literally and figuratively - and resume His association with such a rag-tag band of mortal followers.

No titans of industry, no heads of state, no engineering geniuses, no entertaining celebrities.  Christ's disciples were ordinary, politically disenfranchised, and of modest economic means.  It seems Peter was the only one to provide the entertainment, only whenever he did, it was entirely unintentional.

And probably only really funny to us, reading the Bible's accounts of his bumblings with the benefit of millennia of hindsight.

Speaking of entertainment, isn't it almost laughable for the disciples to initially wonder if the apparition they see on the water is a ghost?  Had the wind and choppy water made them that afraid?  They'd only been deprived of Christ's physical presence for perhaps a matter of hours, and after some pretty spectacular miracles, too.  It was so easy for them to forget that He had just fed thousands of people with five loaves and two fishes.  Why wouldn't he be able to walk on water?  The psalmists say that seas obey Him, right?  Yet short memories of Christ's power is so very typical of not just them, but us, too.

Isn't it?

Having Christ call out to reassure them, and having the mental picture of Peter - of course, it would be Peter - demand that Christ allow him to walk on water, too, can almost be anti-climactic.  So often, we mortals assume the climax of this story is Peter's walking on water.  But perhaps the climax actually is Christ getting in the boat with His followers.

Did He have to?  How much of His earthly ministry depended on the disciples?  None of it, right?  Christ could have accomplished His work on Earth in any number of ways that wouldn't have required what must have been an arduous, demanding, oftentimes thankless job of teaching - and re-teaching - an ad-hoc group of tax collectors and fishermen.  He'd just come from fellowshipping with His own father, and was likely forcefully reminded of what He was missing, working on Earth, instead of being with God in Heaven's glories.

Leaving Glory

Instead, He was climbing - literally and figuratively - back into that wooden boat, with that same group of forgetful, feeble, selfish, confused guys who mostly thought they were working for a new political kingdom for Israel.  It's like His incarnation all over again.

Christ got back in the boat with us.  But not to be "one of the guys."  He didn't get back in the boat to hone His street cred as a savior-type dude.  He got back in the boat, because as our Savior, He exudes love, and His disciples could do nothing else but immediately worship Him.

They didn't slap Him on the back and say, "boy, that was a cool trick!  How did You do that?"

They were transfixed in awe and wonder, and likely, a good deal of shame at their obvious lack of faith and incredibly short memories.

And they were also undoubtedly greatly relieved and happy that He was back with them.  Joyful, even.

Christ's love for them honored God, and modeled for both them then, and us today, one of the many reasons we have to worship Him.

He left God's glory and got in the boat with us.


  1. Outstanding reflections.
    Ron Williams, at the 8:00 service, used the term over and over, "and He put them in the boat and dismissed them." That term, and his whole sermon, stuck with me very forcefully because of the many afflictions my family is in right now. Christ has put us into the boat, sent the storm, and is glorifying Himself and growing us in the midst of it all. Powerful stuff!

    1. Thank you, Jayne - and I've been praying for your family!


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