I wonder sometimes why the disciples ever set out to sea in Matthew 14. Looking at it from an outsider’s perspective, I would think there was some urgent need for these men to set sail. Some of them were very familiar with the ways of the water and experience should have told them that a stormy night might not be the best time for a journey. Be that as it may, they were instructed to go ahead without Christ. Did they tarry, trying to convince Him to come with them? If they had left when they were supposed to, would they have made it safely across? Did they leave at once because it had been asked of them by their Lord? Why did Christ send them knowing the condition of the sea? We don’t have these answers, but we have enough to apply the messages of the scenario to our lives as Disciples.
However wise or foolish their decision might have been they did in fact go out to sea, leaving the Savior behind. To me, that’s the scariest part of all. We can all make our way through some pretty tough situations if we take the Savior with us. Leaving Him behind could be disastrous. On the other hand, not trusting His counsel because we can not see the possibility in an impossible task could also cause our downfall. That’s why it’s so important to stay as close to the Spirit as we possibly can. We need the Lord’s direction in these weighty matters. We need faith and confirmation that the Lord is aware of us, even if he seems to be very far away.
That’s the next lesson of the story. The disciples struggled far into the night trying to reach the other shore, but they were not able to make it very far before a truly violent storm began to batter them. Though on the starting shore replenishing His spirit, Christ was still aware of their dire need. Whether or not they had made foolish or wise decisions, Jesus Christ was mindful of their every need. When the strain and stress pummeling them became too much, He took the most direct course there was to reach them. Forcing the angry elements to yield to their Master and Creator, He walked on the water.
This was not something that the disciples expected. It was outside of their normal thinking. In fact, they were scared by the sight. Not understanding that it was their Master coming to calm their fears, they let what they thought they saw affect what they felt. Six simple words coming from across the water set their minds on a different course.
“It is I, be not afraid” Matt 14:27
This is the part that I find amusing and sad at the same time, the world had such an influence on what the disciples thought and felt that they had believed something evil would be coming across the water toward them. Then on the other hand it was difficult for them to believe that the Savior could come in the same manner. Even after He called to them, they were not sure of His presence or power. I’m sure there are many instances of this happening to each of us every day. It seems silly to look on the disciples’ experiences from the outside, especially knowing the things they had already witnessed Jesus Christ doing, but put yourself in their shoes. The world, and Satan, would have us depend on only those things we can see, feel, touch, and understand. There are so many corrupted versions of Christ’s teachings and powers mixed in with the good that it becomes difficult to truly understand the Master and His ways. Getting caught up in the tangible takes the edge off of our ability to have faith in what appears to be intangible. Often the course He would have us follow feels more unreal and more terrifying than anything we have faced before. With so much heartache it is difficult to see something good coming toward us.
I often find myself feeling a little like Peter,
“Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water” Matt. 14:28
I sometimes feel like I need the Lord to be constantly reaffirming my beliefs, His love for me, and the path I should be on as His disciple. I sometimes try to tempt my Lord and Master by saying, “If this is really what I should be doing, where are the blessings? Make my path an easy one.”
Though it seems like something I should want it is not in my best interest, as a child of God, to obtain it. I can not learn and grow, I can not learn the strength and depth of Christ’s power, I can not become more like the Savior, if I’m not willing to walk where He places me. Still, Christ knew of the desires in Peter’s heart better than we ever could so He extended the invitation He repeats for us time and time again.
Now here’s the tricky part. Did Christ expect Peter to succeed in walking on the water? Maybe, maybe not. One thing I do know for sure is whether or not Peter was supposed to at that time it was not something entirely out of his reach. That’s the power of God’s majesty and priesthood that He shares with those worthy to receive it.
We all know what happens as Peter begins his trek to His Savior. We cheer for him as he steps out of the boat and takes that first trusting step toward his Master. We see ourselves in him as the winds and the waves of the continuing storm begin to tickle the edges of his mind. We watch him sink as he lets these known things overpower the more important belief in the Savior. Walking on water just didn’t seem like something any of us should be able to do. Peter might have even justified his doubt by saying, “Well, sure. He can do it. He’s Jesus Christ. That’s His job. Me, I’m not really anybody. I can never be as good and wonderful as He is. I should not be doing this. I am not worthy to do this.”
Does any of that sound familiar? I know I’ve used a few of those lines myself from time to time. Still, the fact remains that the Savior has extended a call to come unto Him. We’ve felt His love and goodness in our lives. We long to come, to feel that all the time, to share that love with everyone else. We step, then we sink. Why? Because the storms of the world will not cease or turn away just because we want to be disciples of Christ. In fact, they assault against us usually increases. At some point, the things we think we know and the weight of our daily lives begins to sink back in to our hearts and push out the eternal goals that begin to seem so very, very far away.
What makes you sink? For me it’s time, chocolate, shyness, pride, the list could be endless. Jesus Christ wants us to find the answer to the same question He asked Peter,
“Wherefore didst thou doubt?” Matthew 14:31
He has bid us come, the path is storming but achievable. What doubts and fears are big enough to keep us from the Savior? If we think about it that way, the stirrings in our heart would whisper, “nothing”. Our biggest challenge in this life is to fight for those feelings, for one more step on the water, before the world interferes once more. Or goal is to never stop asking ourselves where and why we doubt and finding ways to overcome those fears. Remember, Christ reached in and pulled Peter back up and to Him before issuing this four word sermon. When we find these weaknesses in ourselves, we can always reach up. The Savior is master of all, His love and atoning sacrifice can always pull us through the worst of times as long as we take the hand He offers.