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. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn 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.”
34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.Matthew 14:22-36 (NIV)
Have you ever climbed a tall ladder or hiked up a steep cliff? When I have done either of these types of activities, I am usually fine until something occurs which causes me to think about the risks I am taking. If the ladder shakes too much or something causes me to look down and off the side, panic and dread can easily set into my mind. The only way I can avoid this is by remaining focused on my ascent. Maybe you have had similar experiences.
Peter can definitely relate to these feelings. Jesus had just fed the crowd. He sends the people home and the disciples out on a boat. He goes by himself up a hillside to pray and probably deal with the news of John’s death. When the sun begins to rise, he walks on the water to join the disciples in the boat. Fear overcomes those in the boat at the sight of Jesus walking on the water. They assume it is a ghost since people cannot walk on water. Jesus tries to calm them but Peter puts out a challenge to prove it is Jesus. Jesus accepts the challenge and tells Peter to join him on the water. The journey for Peter begins well until he loses focus and panics. Jesus saves him but is disappointed. Peter began to sink because he took his focus off of Jesus and let his fear of the risk overwhelm him.
Peter’s struggle is easily our own. Many of us have heard and accepted Jesus’s invitation to come. Our start appears to go well at first. Then something causes us to lose focus and the reality of the risk of following Jesus ends our progress. We begin to let our fears and worries overcome us.
Jesus reminds us to maintain our focus on him. He stands ready to reach out his hand to keep us afloat when we think the risk is overwhelming. Jesus calls on us to have faith that he can and will keep us safe. The risk is worth the effort.