"Why did you doubt?"
Scripture: “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:29-33
One of my friends and I were talking about my new house, and how I haven't had many people over to see it yet. Since we're renovating the house, it feels unfinished, messy, and out of control. When I do have people over, I feel like I have to explain everything. That fluorescent light that looks like it belongs in a school, that's going to be replaced soon. The neon wall with Spiderman painted on it, we're going to paint over that soon. Oh, and all those boxes are going to finally get unpacked once we finish redoing the ceilings.
My friend was encouraging me to host, even though it feels like our house is a mess. When I told her about how unfinished, messy, and out of control it was I basically said, "I don't want people to see that." Her reply was simply, "why not?"
Sometimes seeing other people's mess is encouraging, because we know we aren't the only ones who have one.
When we only let people be around our best, most "perfect" selves, it can actually be intimidating.
In this passage, Peter makes the incredible, faith-filled choice to walk on water toward Jesus. It's an incredible story, a crazy miracle, and fun to use this passage to encourage one another to take risks that involve faith by saying to metaphorically "walk on water" as Peter literally did.
When Peter chose to walk on water with Jesus, he was empowered by God to do something against the natural order of the world. When he noticed the rushing water beneath his feet, the risk of drowning, he suddenly lost faith. Jesus immediately reached out, caught his hand, and asked, "why did you doubt?"
There is so much in this passage, but what I notice the most is how Jesus used one person's doubt, to provide faith and belief for many.
In the message translation Matthew 14:32-33 reads, "The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, 'This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!'"
Taking a risk, believing for something God has promised you through faith, can be scary. It's nerve-racking to get out of the boat, to trust God, and to rely on Him so fully that if you didn't, you would drown. Peter did this, for a bit. But something changed, and when he was afraid, for a moment, he didn't believe that Jesus was going to protect, care, and provide for him.
Jesus reached out his hand, grabbed Peter, and asked, "why did you doubt?"
I don't think Jesus was shaming Peter for his fear or doubt, I think his question was one of compassion, almost like an invitation toward greater belief. I read it more like this: "Why did you doubt? I can take care of you. I'm in control. I always have been, I always will be."
In Peter's moment of doubt, Jesus had the opportunity to reveal Himself to Peter. He saved Him, and people were watching. Those watching responded in worship with faith and certainty that Jesus is the Son of God.
There are a lot of things that might have stopped me from getting out of the boat if I were Peter, but one I face often in my day to day life is being well aware that other people are watching. Sometimes that terrifies me.
What if I take the risk, what if I make the leap of faith, what if I think I'm hearing God but I'm not? Even worse, what if I step out of the boat, and I don't even fully believe in the promise yet?
Peter didn't. And honestly, that's a relief to me. Jesus wasn't angry with Peter's doubt. He addressed it, and He affirmed once again that He is the Son of God, all-powerful, always in control, loving and kind. This didn't just impact Peter.
It impacted everyone watching.
It's tempting to want to hide our fear, our doubt, our uncertainty, or our questions. I don't think God expects us to live a life without fear or doubt. I think He's prepared to reach out His hand and catch us, and to affirm who He is.
Other people might see us fall, but they will also see us get caught, and our story can show them who God is. Falling is exciting when other people watching respond by looking to Jesus saying, "Truly you are the Son of God.”
-What circumstances most consistently cause you to doubt the power or sovereignty of God?
-What differences do you see between doubt and faith in your life and in the lives of others?
-Have you ever considered that facing your own doubt and unbelief could bring a positive impact? Why or why not?
Is there someone in your life who is in a season of doubt or uncertainty in their faith? Consider reaching out and answering their questions with grace, gentleness, and mercy.
Jesus thank you for inviting us to walk on water with you. Thank you for being sovereign and in control of all things and all circumstances. Help us to take the faithful steps you are inviting us into this week, even if there is a bit of doubt or fear there. We pray that those watching would see your involvement in our lives, and your willingness to reach out to us immediately. Amen.