Getting out of the boat…(Matthew 14-16)

November 25, 2010

Deary me, it’s a confusing life being a disciple. It’s a pretty awesome life too, but awesome in the original sense; you spend a lot of time dumb struck by the man who stands in your midst. Matthew 14-16 contains plenty of awesome episodes; feeding five thousand, walking on water and healing the sick in chapter 14 alone. These chapters also contain a good few misunderstandings on the part of the disciples. Which is fair, really. It’s all a bit much to get my head around and I’m just reading it.

So, for example, Jesus tells the disciples to feed the five thousand men (besides women and children) that have been following him and they say they only have 5 loaves and 2 fish. But somehow Jesus feeds all to their fill with food to spare… Then not long after they are with 4000 men (besides women and children) and the same thing happens again and they say “we only have 7 loaves a few small fish” but again Jesus works a culinary miracle. So after a repeat performance the disciples get the whole “he will provide” thing, right? Wrong! When Jesus warns them of the yeast of the pharisees after their boat trip they think he must be talking about the fact that they’ve forgotten to bring bread. Doh! Jesus is like “Dudes! How have you not got whole metaphor, parable deal yet? It’s kind of my thing.” or as he more eloquently puts it:

 ‘You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? 9Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? (16:8b-11a)

It’s eas for me to read this and think “Yeah disciples! what are you like? It’s all pretty obvious what’s going on.” But encounters with God are never that clear cut, never that simple. When told as stories we can understand, but when experience them ourselves we’re often scared or confused.

The story of walking on water is precious precisely because it ecapsulates so much this eratic experience. The first reaction of the disciples to Jesus’ approach is fear. They think he’s a ghost! But quickly they receive comfort with the words “Take heart; is I; do not be afraid.” Easy for you to say pal, your not a mere mortal watching a man approach over the sea on foot!

But Peter is emboldened by the presence of the man he will soon declare to be the messiah (16:13-20) and says that if Jesus only asks him he too will walk on water. And he does. For a moment. But what a moment. Sometimes we focus too much on the “you of little faith” ending of the story, when Peter gets distracted by the winds and stops believing.  But there’s also the point when he gets out of the boat. When he takes the step to meet his teacher, his friend, his messiah, on the water despite all logic to the contrary. And for a moment he is just like this man, this Son of God. Standing on the surface of a sea. He is triumphant. He is free of the laws that would usually bind him. That’s pretty awesome too…

So following Jesus isn’t about getting it right all the time. If it was then Peter certainly wouldn’t be his right hand man (oh wait, Jesus is God’s right hand man…now I’m confused again!) But the good news is that if we take a risk, if we can for a moment make the impossible move towards God, even if we fall His hand is there to catch us.

So where will you get out of the boat? Do you have a dream you’d’ like to believe? Do you have an idea you’re inspired to try? Is there a person you want to connect with? Perhaps the move towards God it taking a risk in your prayer life, perhaps it’s in your work  life, perhaps it’s in your relatinships. But we could all do with getting out of the boat, couldn’t we?


p.s. I just found our there’s a really famous book about this, but no worry, I have no delusions of orignality!


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