Aloha Friday Message – August 11, 2017 – Stepping out

1732AFC081117 – Stepping Out

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Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Today we will look at a famous story about Jesus and the Sea of Galilee. Here is the Key Verse for today:

Matthew 14:28 28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

This is from the Gospel for Sunday, August 13. The Old Testament reading is from 1 Kings, and describes Elijah in a cave on Mount Horeb. He is waiting there for God to give him a task to perform: 1 Kings 19:11-15 11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we have the account of Jesus walking across the water to a boat in which several of the Disciples were struggling as they tried to cross the water to another destination. There are three accounts of this event in the gospels.

Matthew 14:22-33 Early in the morning Jesus walks across the Sea of Galilee toward the Disciples. When they see him they are terrified because they think they see a ghost. Jesus tells them not to be afraid, “Look! It’s me!” Only in this Gospel do we have an account of Peter trying to walk out across the water to meet Jesus. In verse 29 we read, “So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.”

Mark 6:45-52 In this account, there is no mention of Peter trying to step out onto the water. Instead, Jesus calms the Disciples by stating “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” He steps into the boat, and immediately the winds stop. Their astonishment over the miracle of the Loaves and Fishes is intensified by this incomprehensible event.

John 6:16-21 In this account, the Apostle John states that the boat was about 3-4 miles from the shore, it was evening, and the wind was whipping up the Sea. They see Jesus walking toward them across the water and are terrified. As in the other gospels, Jesus comforts them by identifying himself. They are relieved to recognize him, and (using the New Living Translation (NLT)) in verse 21 – 21 Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!

Following this event, we have accounts of healings at the village of Genessaret. In the Gospel of Mark, this is the second account of Jesus calming the sea. In Mark 4:35-41 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

This probably took place on the Sea of Galilee. That’s the largest freshwater lake in Israel – about 33 miles around – and is about 21 miles long and 13 miles wide. It is also the lowest freshwater lake on earth in that it is in some places over 700 feet below sea level. It is also referred to in scripture as the Kinneret (see Numbers 34:11), the Lake of Genessaret (Luke 5:1), the Sea of Ginosar (in the Babylonian Talmud), Sea of Minya (Persian and Arabic name). In the Gospels it is called Sea of Galilee, Sea of Tiberias, and Lake Tiberias (See John 6:1 for example).

We don’t know for sure the point of departure nor do we know what the destination was; however, you can see that it would be quite a trip given the size of the water they were crossing. In addition, the crossing would be at least partially at night as it was already evening when they left. The passage contains an interesting comment – they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. This signifies that he made no additional preparation for the journey. He was already in the little boat, so they just hauled anchor and left the crowd behind – although a few other boats did follow along. Jesus may have been sitting or perhaps even reclining a bit on the cushion in the stern as he taught. When he decided to leave, he stayed where he was and asked the owners or users of the boat to take him to the “other side” – perhaps Capernaum. The trip started out well enough, but soon there was trouble in the weather. A storm interrupted their journey.

Because of the surrounding geography, the Sea of Galilee is especially susceptible to storms. There are large temperature and humidity differences between the sea’s coast and the surrounding mountains some of which are up to 2000 feet above sea level. The cool, drier air in the heights collides with the moist, warm air at the level of the lake and generates a convection pressure which can generate terrific wind and rain – squalls – in a very short time. Everything can be A-OK one moment, and then in a jiffy a small craft out on the lake can be violently tossed about with a good chance of capsizing. The winds are compressed as they come through the valleys between the hills and when they break out across the surface of the water they can be surprisingly disorienting and very dangerous in mere moments.  The kinds of boats in use at that time were between 20 to 30 feet long and around 8 feet wide. Such small craft would be really dangerous in bad weather.

Given the ferocity of the wind and waves, we may find it remarkable that Peter attempted to walk across the water to Jesus. Let’s dissect that verse a bit:

  • Peter looks out across the water and speaks to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you.” Jesus has just told them, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter’s shaky faith is struggling with this mystery of Jesus doing the impossible. He’s willing to step out of the boat to go to Jesus if only Jesus will tell him it is permitted.
  • Jesus simply replies, “Come.”
  • As mentioned above, Peter does exit the boat and actually begins to walk across the water. But then he panics and begins to sink in the waves.
  • Immediately Jesus reaches out for him and pulls him to safety.
  • Jesus expresses disappointment in the strength of faith displayed.
  • The second that Jesus and Peter step into the boat, the wind stops. The disciples worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

When we think about this story, it is important to remember that Jesus took time to rest and pray after a full day of teaching – and feeding 5,000 people! As he retires to reflect and revitalize, he sends the Disciples forward to the next part of their mission, a destination across the Sea of Galilee. They were expecting him to meet them at that destination. Instead, he comes to them – in a storm – and miraculously walking across the billowing waves. As soon as the see him they are terribly frightened – terrified – because of course this is something they have never seen or even imagined before. Even though the weather was stormy, Jesus answered Peter’s request to go to where Jesus was. Peter – for whatever reason – stepped out of the boat and actually walked toward his Lord and Master. When his fear overcame his faith, he faltered and fell – as do we all – and immediately called out IN FAITH for Jesus to save him. In every part of this account, we learn about the Power, the Proximity, and the Permanence of God’s Providence in Christ Jesus.

Why did Peter step out of the boat? Did he expect he would be a participant in a miracle? Was he hoping Jesus would give him approval and praise? Did he imagine that a fisherman that could walk on water could corner the market? Did he just want to show his love for Jesus? Did he know that if Jesus permitted him, he could not only imitate Jesus but be just like him? We won’t know until we can ask Peter face-to-face, but it is good to know these things:

  • Sometimes it’s important to take the risk of getting out of the boat.
  • Even in a storm, we can count on Jesus to be an ever-present help nearby.
  • No matter how powerful the storm is, God IS ALWAYS STRONGER – and often quieter – than the storm or the damages that follow it.
  • Satan tries to use our lack of faith to weaken our strength to withstand the storm, but a Prayer Warrior knows to tell him, “I am the storm.”
  • Going through a storm not only changes you, it also confounds your enemies.
  • Sometimes God’s answers are as quiet as a whisper or even sheer silence, yet even in that, we can recognize his will.

If God is everywhere, then God is in the storm with you:

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

Psalm 107:23-32, especially verse 28-30 – 28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; 29 he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.

Step out in faith, and let The Master handle the storm. Keep your eyes on Jesus and, though the storm rages and at times even prevails, you will be at Peace in the arms of Him who says to you, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Share-A-Prayer

  • NAS – Acute stage 4 liver failure caused by Hep-C infection after Harrington-rod surgery in the late 80’s. Palliative care while waiting for a transplant. This after a lifetime of serious chronic health issues. (But still an amazing Christian!)
  • IDC – Continuing with aggressive chemo for breast cancer. Experiencing some of the unpleasant side-effects already (about 10 weeks of therapy left), but hanging on to a positive outlook.
  • BC – Eager to get back to work as a Catholic Lay Missionary. Access is limited by gastrointestinal health issues and insufficient financing.
  • RB – Chronic illnesses; pending surgery recovery
  • RB – (NOT RELATED) Recovery from chronic domestic abuse
  • RV – Advanced metastatic cancer. Recently admitted to ICU for septicemia. Improving some, but friends and family are asking for a complete healing.

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

 

 

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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