It was a long and challenging day, with the sick and outcast, the hungry and vulnerable, coming to Jesus to be healed, to be fed, to be recognized, accepted and loved.
I have had days like that; days when I am spent and tired and in need of a pause in my ministry of care. Jesus was weary – the disciples were weary. As evening drew near, Jesus sent his disciples off in their boat, to the other side of the lake; he dismissed the crowd so he could go up on the mountain to prayand join them later. Jesus sought out his place of solitude – the disciples theirs, in their boat, on the water. We are not told what happened that evening in the boat, nor on the mountain, but we can anticipate that both Jesus and his disciples cleared their heads, rested and gave some thought to what had happened that day.
I, too, need those break-away moments and spots where I can recollect and get a grip on what it is I am about and where I find my guidance and strength.
Jesus was most at home in his moments and places of solitude, where he could commune with his Father and find strength and meaning to continue in his ministry of healing; to remember that the words and actions of His healing ministry were of his Father.
I am like Jesus. I need solitude, away from the crowds and a place in nature, preferably on land, where I can reflect on my vocation and ministry of care, and where I find my meaning, my purpose and my strength to go on.
The disciples were most at home in their trusty craft – in the surroundings that were familiar to the fishermen among them. Their tradition, their daily task of fishing and mending nets on the shore was where they were most comfortable in life. There they felt safe.
Like the disciples, when I am in safe, familiar and comfortable circumstances, and not challenged, I am at home. – and fearless.
The lake was not strange territory to them. Even as the weather changed, and they were far from the land, with the wind against them, they were in familiar territory; they were safe – until fear overtook them.
It was not the wind or waves, nor being tossed about in their boat, that caused the fear to rise up in them. No – it was the sight of their Master walking toward them on the water, appearing as a ghost, that frightened them. Peter recognized it was the Lord, and fear left him when he heard Jesus speak: “Courage, do not be afraid, It is I.” But Peter, needed the assurance that he was in the safe-keeping of his master and responded to Jesus’ invitation: “Come!”. He responded by getting out of the boat.
I, too, have had those moments when I have been challenged to dare, to risk, and get out of the boat of my comfort, safety, and the familiar – to respond to Jesus’ invitation: “Come!” And I found strength in His Word.
When Peter challenged Jesus: “Lord, if it is really You, command me to come to You on the water.” , was he questioning: “Am I in the presence of the One who can do all things in and through me?”
Perhaps fear had left Peter, but did he trust in the Lord’s presence and power? When doubt overcame him, Peter began to sink – and fear returned.
I recently read a book by John Ortbert: “If You Want to Walk on Water, You have to Get Out of the Boat.”
The author’s premise was that the invitation to follow Christ was an invitation to dare, to risk and step out of the boat of our comfort zone, to leave what is familiar, comfortable, safe, and face the challenges of ministry in His name. I have found that when I trust and respond to my vocational call to walk with Jesus, on land or water, there are risks. But when I do dare to get out of the boat, I discover the unique calling of God and can respond with trust. It is then that I can more readily respond to the invitation of Jesus to “Come”, and experience the power of God accomplishing in and through me what I would not be able to do on my own. And with Jesus there to take my hand, lift me up and out of my fear, I can answer his call to a greater faith, to a more powerful ministry of service, and a new way of trusting God’s presence in my life.
I don’t have the desire to walk on water, but I do desire to follow Jesus, and in order to accomplish that, I must first get out of the boat – then keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, so I won’t sink in the process.