I recently asked a friend, who is an electrician, what it takes to become a licensed electrician. He said that before you get an actual license, you go through a period of time working as an apprentice. They put you in some class room time, as well as out in the field for some hands-on training with a journeyman electrician. This goes on for three to five years, then you are allowed to take a test to become a licensed, practicing electrician.
As he described this journey I thought to myself that this is not so different from those of us who have chosen to go into the pastoral ministry. We enter into the seminary and along the way they put you into some congregations to get some hands-on experience. Your third year they send you out into a parish to work for a full year under the tutelage of a practicing pastor. All of this is in hopes of giving you good, helpful hands-on experience as a pastor of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, when he called his disciples to be his apprentices, he gave them his vision. If you will follow me, you will soon be catching people. However, Jesus did not take Peter and the other disciples to a classroom but instead on the road. There he gave them hands-on experience, teaching, training, and preparing them to reach other people for the kingdom of God.
The lesson in todays text takes place out in the middle of a lake. Jesus has just finished feeding five thousand people with three loaves and two fishes. He had the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him while he went up into the hills to pray. Suddenly a storm came up, and the disciples battled with that storm for several hours.
At about three oclock, when I am sure they are very tired out and wondering if they have been deserted and what was to become of them, Jesus showed up. But they didnt expect Jesus, so they thought it was a ghost! The last place they expected to run into Jesus was out in the middle of that storm in that lake.
From the midst of that storm he called out to them, Take heart, it is I. Dont be afraid. Now when Jesus says, It is I, in the story, those words in the Greek literally mean, I am. So the verse should actually read, Take heart, I am. Dont be afraid. We see that identification used by God when he told Moses, Tell the people there in slavery in Egypt that I am has sent you, Moses, to free them and bring them back to the Promise Land. I am is a term for God. So when Jesus says, Take heart, I am. he is saying to them, You are in the presence of God himself. He is the one who created this sea. It was simply a puddle in the palms of Gods hands.
Now Peter obviously picked up on this reality because he is the one who spoke up and said to Jesus, Lord, which is another name for God, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.
And then Jesus commanded him, Come. So Peter got out of that boat and began to walk on the water towards Jesus. But suddenly a great wind came up, and Peter became very frightened as he turned toward the giant wave in his way. He began to sink. But as he went down for the second or third time, he kept his wits about him enough to say, Lord, save me! And before he knew it, there were these strong hands pulling him up out of the water, and he was looking in the face of Jesus, who said to him, O man of little faith, why did you doubt? It was as if to say to Peter, Peter, I want you to trust me.
Then the Lord takes Peter back to the boat and as they are getting into the boat, the winds ceased. The other disciples got on their knees and worshiped Jesus saying, You truly are the Son of God.
What classroom lessons were learned out on the lake that day by Peter to prepare him to later on be an effective fisherman for the kingdom of God?
The first lesson, which is good news/bad news, is important for every one of us to learn. The bad news is, Expect storms in your life. Even when you are being obedient to the calling of the Lord, when you are striving to b e faithful, sometimes storms will come up. They are simply a part of life. We as Christians are not exempt from them. Sometimes, when people are going through a hardship, they will ask me if God is trying to punish them? And my response is, No, absolutely not. You are experiencing a storm which is just a part of life.
The good news is, Jesus knows what is going on in your life. He is the one who is coming towards you in that storm. He is not unaware of the storm that you are facing. As he came to those disciples in an unexpected way, in an unexpected place, at an unexpected time, so also we can count on him to know he will come to us in the middle of our storm.
Max Lucado, a favorite author of mine, tells the story of a young woman who died in the city. At the funeral the officiating priest shared a story about the woman. They had been friends for some time as she lived in New York City, and they kept in touch with each other over the e-mail. Late one night, he received a message indicative of Gods presence in this womans life. She had missed her station on the subway. By the time she realized her mistake, she didnt know what to do. She prayed for safety and some sign of Gods presence. It was not a good hour for an attractive woman to be passing through a rough neighborhood alone. As she rode the subway, the doors opened and a homeless, disheveled man stepped on board and plopped down next to her. God, are you near? she prayed. The answer came in a song. The man pulled out a harmonica and played Be Thou My Vision. It was her mothers favorite hymn and enough to convince her that Christ was there in the midst of it all.
We need to remember to look for him. He may come to us in the kind word of a friend where we experience the face and presence of Christ, or in a card in the mail that just happens to be very timely. Perhaps it may be a phone call from someone, or a strong sense in the middle of your prayer time that you are not alone and you can almost sense the touch of God upon you. You are not alone as you face the bad news of a storm in your life. The good news is you have a Savior who comes to you.
The second lesson that Peter and the other disciples learned is a takeoff of an old adage: Nothing ventured; nothing gained. If you want to walk on water, youve got to get out of the boat! Peter sensed that Jesus wanted him out on the water with him to experience the adventure of water walking. So he got out of the boat and had an experience like no other as he began to walk towards Jesus. We see extreme discipleship being experienced by Peter. It helped to prepare him for years later when he is called into what looks like some fairly impossible stormy situations.
Everyone of us, I suppose, at some time or another has sensed Jesus calling us to get out of our boat. Instead of playing it safe, He calls us to join him out on the water doing something for the kingdom of God. When you think about it, if Jesus can take an ill-equipped person like Peter, do the great things he did with him that day, to help Peter to later become an effective leader in the Christian church, why do we have trouble believing he can do something with us when he calls us into an adventure of some sort?
Last year my brother-in-law, out of the blue, asked me to go on a medical mission trip to Peru. At first I was hesitant. I dont know Spanish, and I know nothing about medicine. I did not want to be a burden to the party doctors going down of doctors. I was also worried about what would become of my family if something happened to me down there. I could not see what good I could possibly do on a trip like that. So I put it off. However, things kept coming in my direction, just like Jesus was waving me out to join him. One day, after prayerfully thinking about this, I cast my caution to the wind and decided it was time to get out of the boat. So I called up my brother-in-law and told him I would go with him.
I have never had such an exhilarating, life-changing discipleship experience as I had in those two weeks with the people in Peru. We shared the Gospel through translators. God used us to serve people and lead them to Jesus Christ. I am still learning that, when Jesus calls us out of the boat, we can trust him. And hes got a great adventure in store for us.
How about you? Maybe Jesus is not going you off to Peru, but instead to someone who lives around your area or works next to you who has no relationship with Christ and needs to experience Christs love through you. Maybe, just maybe if that thought has crossed your mind, it could be Jesus calling you, saying, Come on out, the water is just fine. Have I got an adventure for you!
Please note, when Peter got slapped in the face by the wind and waves a little bit, he remembered who to call for in the midst of his sinking feeling. He called out to the Lord Lord, save me he found that the Lord is faithful. Those strong hands of Jesus were ready to pull him up out of the water and put him back into the boat for another day to be called out to walk with Jesus.
Those same strong hands, waiting to grab you, have nail holes in them. For that Savior loves you and he allowed himself to be nailed to a cross for your sins. He is the leader whom you truly can trust. He went all the way to the cross for you.