Matthew 14:22-33 - Jesus Walks on the Water
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
This time of the year and the scripture today got me thinking about the ocean. I love the ocean. I can stare at it and listen to the waves for hours, even days. And if I could swing it, I would spend weeks and weeks by the ocean. Do you remember how it is to be at the edge of the water? I can. I love those moments when you screw up your courage to get into the water. You know it is going to be a cold shock to your system. But the water and movement are going to be such a delight. So you hover there, with what? Fear? Trembling? Anticipation? Excitement? Maybe a little bit of dread? Do remember those moments when you either dive or jump or you inch by inch wade in? Some of you may be waders and some of you might be jumpers. But those moments are moments of truth. They are crucial pinpoints in time, when we go forward, plunge, dunk, and wade. Or we don’t. We may decide to stay on the shore. Sit in the beach chair. Or play it safe and passive.
Today’s scripture is about just such a moment. Of course it seems that anything with Jesus is heightened and deepened. So instead of wading into the water, Peter is walking on water to meet Jesus. And all of this is heightened by awe and fear as they recognize in Jesus, divine power. But that moment, that instant as Peter stood on the edge of the boat might be a little like our childish experience on the edge of the ocean.
You all recall what happens when as children we took the plunge? We were thrilled and chilled and buoyant. I recall how delightful the ocean was. Once I got in the water the perspective was completely changed. I could be a fish or a porpoise. The world was much different and it looked more like this. Once you are totally in the water the limits of the old world are changed. This is true of Peter too as he walked mysteriously buoyed up. This can be true of us too. We can live and work and walk in a new and fearless perspective. How great would it be to let go of all our land bound dreary fears and concerns and worries. How great is it to have those times when we are living in deep trust with a God who wants to take our hand. Where by the very power of God’s love and gaze we are buoyed up.
But then Peter looked down and let fear rule him and he sunk till Jesus grabbed him. This reminds me too of what happens so often as we struggle in our spiritual life. When we let fear rule us and we sink. I have another moment from childhood at the beach that seems to speak to this moment. So I’ll ask you to remember the time that you suddenly became afraid of the water or all the things that could be in water. Do you remember? For me it might have been 1975 when Spielberg’s Jaws came out. But I think it was a little earlier, when something skimmed past me in the water and I was 13 or so and suddenly conscious in adolescence about how dangerous the world could seem. Or maybe it was because that was the summer after my dad died. We all learn to view the world and the ocean as dangerous and by extension all of life as dangerous and so we don’t plunge in. This was Peter’s issue and this is our issue. But if we are going to do something dynamic and real with our church and our faith and our lives, we need to make this plunge.
We need a resurrected life, a deep trust and a God point of view. One thing that got me thinking about this is something called the “blue ocean strategy.” According to W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, authors of Blue Ocean Strategy, the business world is divided into red oceans and blue oceans. In red oceans, companies try to outperform their rivals through head-to-head competition. They fight like sharks for the same limited profits, and their cutthroat competition turns the ocean a bloody red. In blue oceans, on the other hand, companies expand beyond existing boundaries, or they take their business into whole new areas. Competition becomes irrelevant because the rules of the game are still in the process of being created. Long-term success comes not from fighting competitors, but from creating “blue oceans”— untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.
This is true in business, but it is also true in faith, in our individual faith and our church as a whole. We need to be blue ocean Christians and a blue ocean church. Could we jump into life and worship and maybe create whole new form of outreach? This church, this community and this world are ripe for growth. The problem is that we are stuck in red ocean thinking. —If we think that we’re in competition with other churches in our area, that worship only occurs at 11:00 on a Sunday, or that there are just not enough people out there who need the good news of Jesus Christ, then we are stuck in a red ocean mindset.
Jesus has a blue ocean strategy. Not in terms of business plans, but in terms of stepping into wholly uncharted waters. He turns away from the best practices of the scribes and the Pharisees, and takes his ministry in an entirely new direction. Jesus is anti-establishment, unconventional, and counterintuitive, outside the box. In the red ocean of first-century Palestine, the rule was, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But Jesus creates a blue ocean of “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). Red ocean: Blessed are the strong. Blue ocean: Blessed are the meek. Red ocean: Blessed are the rich. Blue ocean: Blessed are the poor. Red ocean: Blessed are the warmongers. Blue ocean: Blessed are the peacemakers. Red ocean: Blessed are the satisfied. Blue ocean: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst. In the red ocean of scribes and Pharisees, godly people did not pollute themselves by eating and drinking with certain people. But in the blue ocean of Jesus, it’s a mark of honor to be called “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (11:19). In the red ocean of religious regulations, you were forbidden to pluck heads of grain on the Sabbath. But in the blue ocean that Jesus enters, famished disciples are free to forage, because “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (12:1-8). In the red ocean 5,000 hungry people cannot be satisfied with five loaves and two fish. But in the blue ocean that Jesus creates, all of them eat and are filled. (14:13-21).
We have examples of a blue ocean faith right in our midst. One of our members Rich Gigilotti came to the session of Calvin with a passion and an idea that expands what church usually does. The idea is to engage in a new kind of mission, an after school program called Encompass Point. This program turns a red ocean experience into a blue ocean grace. Unsupervised Teens are the most at risk in one particular time frame, the after school releases them and before parents are home from work. This is the time when most drug or alcohol use is consumed. This is the time when teen crime happens. This afterschool gap is a dangerous time. So Rich has created a program for Calvin to help in a concrete way and a relational way. What if we turned this dangerous time into a time or fun, and learning and friendship and safety? We have Kathy Efau and Kim Boyd home from the trip to Ghana, a mind blowing and world-expanding trip. How can a trip abroad do anything for the growth of the church here? Well if you want to see the truth of Jesus statement, “Blessed are the meek and the poor.” Then go see the meek and poor and witness the tremendous and dynamic power of their faith. And then bring that desire of God’s power right back here. These are women who have seen and experienced blue ocean Christianity. These are two examples of what happens when you hear Jesus call to you and you jump out of the boat and to jump right into the blue ocean.
Let’s look at our scripture once again from a Blue Ocean viewpoint. Jesus steps out onto a deep blue sea after a wild and windy night. I know many of you are laboring away in some small boat in a large stormy world. You are working hard. The wind and waves are against you. When morning comes, you slump over your oars, discouraged, exhausted and seasick. Suddenly Jesus appears, walking on the water. You’re shocked, surprised, stunned ... even terrified. Is it a hallucination? A ghost? A god? Certainly nothing human can walk on water. But then Jesus says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid” (14:27). Jesus invites you to step into this blue ocean with him, and so you carefully put a foot out. You begin to make your way across the waves, but the wind suddenly whips up and startles you, and you begin to sink. Jesus reaches out, catches you, and chides you gently, “You of little faith, why did you doubt? (14:31). To succeed with a blue ocean strategy, you have to trust the power of God. If you are called you can be held and supported, encouraged and blessed.
The Ocean is out there. If we dare to make such a move, we’ll discover that Jesus is way out ahead of us. He’s anxious to release us from outmoded rules and fears. He’s hoping to connect us with people who may never hear his story unless it comes to them through our words and our deeds. All this begins with our response to his invitation, “Come.” All this comes to life as we tap into God’s power, and trust Jesus to lead us across the deep blue sea. Then we’ll be a church that walks on water.