This week Gill and I went to see the film ‘Dunkirk’. It is a moving story about ordinary people in ordinary little boats doing something extraordinary – something so extraordinary that the rescue of a third of a million soldiers under bombardment on the beach, surrounded by advancing German armies, became known as ‘the miracle of Dunkirk’.
However the film missed out a vital part of the miracle of Dunkirk, which was call for a National Day of Prayer issued by King George VI on 23 May 1940, which aroused a huge response across the country. The call to prayer was followed by sudden changes in the weather and inexplicable decisions by German High Command, both of which directly contributed to the saving of so many lives. [The story is told on J John’s blog, at http://www.canonjjohn.com/blog/2017/07/194/national-day-of-prayer-during-dunkirk-1940 ]
When God is at work ordinary people in ordinary little boats can achieve extraordinary things. In today’s Gospel reading Peter gets a lesson in extreme discipleship, and becomes the only man in history to walk on water.
Is your Christian life a bit humdrum?
Maybe we are not stepping out of the boat very much these days, or risking very much for God. ‘According to the Bible, human extremity is the frequent meeting place with God’ – Dale Bruner
Let’s take a lesson in extreme discipleship, and learn how to walk on water
It’s been a long hard day, teaching and healing the sick, and feeding 5,000 people. At the end of the day, Jesus makes them get in the boat to go back across the lake, while he stays behind to pray – v23.
During the night the disciples are out on the lake when a violent storm blew up, ‘tormenting’ the boat. Sea of Galilee prone to sudden violent storms…
Being obedient to Jesus doesn’t mean we won’t face storms…
At three in the morning they are still nowhere near land, and suddenly they see a ghost – v25-6
Only it isn’t a ghost, it’s Jesus. Jesus is intending to pass them by, revealing his presence, just as God hid Moses in the cleft of a rock so that he could see him pass by.
Perhaps they should have recognised him, but how good are we at recognising the presence of Jesus when things are going badly for us?
Jesus says, ‘Take courage! It is I.’ And Peter does take courage!!
‘Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.’
This is a heroic moment for Peter – in the midst of fear he responds with faith
In the boat there are 12 disciples, but 11 of them are determined to stay there – they are the ‘boat potatoes’
Peter has learnt that vital lesson in discipleship, which is the title of a wonderful book about this story written by John Ortberg: ‘If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.’
But notice what Peter says, ‘Lord, if it is you, tell me…’
Water-walking faith is not about foolishness, it’s about obedience – obeying the call of Jesus even when we’re scared. John Wimber once described faith as a 4 letter word spelt RISK
‘Lord if it is you..’
Discerning God’s call is vital, otherwise we are likely to drown!
But there comes a point where Peter has to get out of the boat.
Put yourself in his sandals for a moment – if you were going to have your first lesson in walking on water I guess you’d choose a nice sunny afternoon with a calm sea – not in the middle of a violent storm, at 3 in the morning
Put yourself in Peter’s sandals
Jesus is inviting you to go on the adventure of your life, but at the same time you are scared to death.
Which will you choose?
The boat is safe, secure and comfortable, and if you get out of it there is a good chance you might sink.
But if you don’t’ get out there is a guaranteed certainty that you will never walk on water
I guess there is something inside each of us that says there must be more to life than sitting in the boat.
We sense God calling us to take a risk for him, but we want to cling to the boat
What is your boat?
Is it your possessions? If tithing seems like walking on water, then possessions are your boat.
Is it popularity? If you are afraid to take a tough decision you know is right, then popularity is your boat
The boat seems safe and secure, but there is something important about the boat – it isn’t where Jesus is! Jesus is out in the storm, and if we want to be with him, we have to get out of the boat
Peter gets out of the boat, and for one brief period he has the exhilaration of being the only human in history to walk on water.
Imagine how thrilled Jesus must have been at that moment – like master, like disciple
But then it happens. ‘He saw the wind’
Peter stops looking at Jesus and starts looking at the storm around him. And he begins to sink.
Have you ever done that? I know I have!
Jesus doesn’t mind when we fail.
He immediately reaches out to rescue Peter
And anyway there were 11 much bigger failures back in the boat..
Does the fear of failure hold you back from responding to God’s call?
Jesus loves it when we are willing to step out in faith, even if we begin to sink. The biggest failure of all is not to try.
V31 Jesus whispers to Peter before they got back in the boat, so as not to embarrass him.
Peter’s courageous attempt strengthens the faith of all the 11, for those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
Is God calling you to be a pew potato, or a water walker?
But remember, if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat!