Pastor Steve Babbitt, Light to the World Church, Cisnau Moldova, Sunday August 2, 2014, 11am
22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.
25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
Sometimes it helps to look at what is missing in a story. It helps to stop and think, why did it not happen differently? This way of reading the scriptures, looking for the "negative space" can teach us many things about God.
For example, we know that Jesus was born in a manger. It is helpful to ask, why was he not born in a castle? Why was he not born to an earthly king? When we consider this question, when we look at the negative space, it becomes clearer that God desires to be very close to all of humanity, even the lowest among us. It is clear that God was born in a manger because God does not respect men of great position and great title, but God loves all people, strong and weak, great and small. This is what we can learn by looking at what I call the "negative space" - To look at what is missing in the story.
Another example: Moses. Why would God choose a murderer, a fugitive, a man who did not believe he could speak well, the offspring of a slave girl, to rescue the children of Abraham from slavery in Egypt?
Let us look at the negative space here. What is missing? Why did God not choose a powerful king? Or why not a great speaker? Or, even better, why not a great general? Wouldn't any of those options make more sense? When we consider the "negative space", the missing options, we begin to understand that God prefers to work not through strong kings, amazing speakers, and powerful generals, but through the weakest of the weak.
This is wonderful news for those of us who are weak! And we learn it by looking at the negative space, the missing options.
Now we will look at the Three Missing Options in Today's Story, the Story of Peter Walking on Water:
The Calm Sea is Missing
Why did Jesus not quiet the sea first? Could it be that he is teaching Peter that faith is most real when it is practiced in a storm? If it were up to me, I would have made things a bit safer for Peter before letting him out on the water. I would have had him use safety net or at least a life preserver. Certainly I would have waited until the storm passed.
But Peter is not called to step out in faith when it is "safe" -- when would he ever go out? No, God calls us to walk with him in season and out of season, in the calm and in the storm, for richer, for poorer, for better or for worse.
"I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one." (John 17.15)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16.33)
Peter's Full Attention is Missing
How quickly we are distracted from the one thing that will keep us afloat! Are you living according to the roughness of the seas, or according to the one who is the total master of them?
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12.1-2)
Jesus' Impatience with Peter is Missing
We must ask: why was Jesus not angry with Peter? If I were Jesus, I would have been a little angry. Peter doubted at the very same time he was walking on water. Thank God I am not Jesus -- I may have let Peter sink! (Only a little bit, of course). But God's patience with Peter is wonderful. He does not allow Peter to sink. He does not allow Peter to bear the full consequences of His actions. Jesus rescues Peter when Peter deserves no rescue. Not only does he save Peter's life, but he restores his position.
Is not this the wonderful way of Jesus Christ? He shows mercy and grace when we do not deserve it. Even when we fail a thousand times, he still believes in us. He still carries us through. God's love for his children, even in failure, is truly amazing.
"He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber." (Psalm 121.3)
"The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth." (Psalm 145.18)
When we look at the negative space in this story, we find great truth. We discover faith that does not care how big the storm is. This kind of faith does not fear. We discover faith that does not take its eyes off of Jesus. This kind of faith does not sink. Most importantly, we discover that God’s love is greater than our failures. This kind of love can be found nowhere else but in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I do not know about you, but I would like to join Him! Let us walk on the waves with him. Bring on the storm - our eyes will be fixed on Jesus. Let us receive His grace and mercy new each day to carry us through the storm.
This story must have brought great comfort to its earliest hearers. The early Christians were very much like the small band of twelve disciples beset by a raging sea. Persecutions, insecurity, smallness, and exhaustion all made it very difficult to cling to the way of the cross in the early years of the church.
Yet this story is not just meant for early followers of Jesus. The same is true for us today -- and the message is also the same: Jesus is here, He is coming, and He is calling us to stroll with him out in the storm.