Sometimes it's scary obeying Jesus.
The incident is recorded in Matthew 14—in the darkest part of the night, the Lord came walking across the wind-tossed sea to the disciples, and Peter is allowed, nay, encouraged, to leave the boat and walk to Him, managing to take a few tentative steps over the sea before his fears got the best of him. Turns out to have been the story of the rest of Peter's life, in a manner of speaking.
Leaving his comfort zone to come to Jesus, stepping out of the metaphorical boat and onto the watery surface where no visible means of support presented themselves, thus risking everything, is what Peter did—or was called on to do—again and again for the rest of his life.
1. Peter, will you confess Jesus?
"Well, normally I would—but today it's scary!"
He was warming himself at the fire in the courtyard while, not far away, the Lord was on trial. Three times Peter has the opportunity to confess Jesus. The problem is that was the scariest thing to do. He would have been hanging himself out there for all to see, he would have made a target of himself, and it would have been uncomfortable. Luke tells us what happened at the end:
Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are saying." Immediately, while he was yet speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." And Peter went outside and wept bitterly"(Luke 22:60-62).
2. Peter, will you stay near the cross?
"But that's dangerous."
"Then they arrested Him, and led Him away, and brought Him into the high priest's house. Peter followed at a distance" (Luke 22:54).
When the Lord was crucified on Golgotha, the Apostle John stood by, and we're told a group of women remained near the cross (John 19:25). Peter is nowhere to be seen.
Perhaps he was still in the boat.
3. Peter, will you be a witness of the resurrection?
"I'd like to. Just as soon as I'm sure."
John 20 informs us that Peter and John were on their way to the tomb that first Lord's Day morning, and when Mary Magdalene told them someone had moved the body, they ran to see. John arrived first, peeked in and then hesitated. But Peter rushed in, looked around. He took note of the headcloth lying to one side, rolled up, and the linen strips the Lord had been wrapped in all still encircled as the beloved friends had made them for Him during burial, but with one exception: The body has disappeared from the cocoon.
John "saw and believed" (John 20:8b). We're not told Peter's reaction. This Gospel is, after all, John's story. And, oddly, while the upper-room appearances of the risen Lord are given in Mark 16:14-18, Luke 24:33-49 and John 20:19-29, not one word is mentioned about Peter, the most loquacious of the twelve, the one who spoke when no one else knew what to say (Mark 9:5-6).
Perhaps Peter had been humbled by his failings over the past few hours, and God was doing a new work in him. It's what our Lord called "when you have repented" or "turned again" (Luke 22:32, MEV, ASV).
To see how he witnessed of the resurrection thereafter, read his sermons in Acts and the two epistles bearing his name. In particular, do not miss I Peter 1:3 and 2:21-25.
4. Peter, will you preach to Jerusalem and go public in this gospel message?
"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit ... But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said to them, 'Men of Judea and all you who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to my words'" (Acts 2:4,14, MEV).
Don't miss this. Peter was the preacher, but he was backed up by all the disciples. And we will not fault him for this. He was spreading his new wings for the first time. This was scary. And yet, the power of God was surging within them all, and this had to be done.
Fear was no longer an option.
Peter had finally learned to walk on water.
5. Peter, will you boldly take a stand before the religious authorities for Jesus?
"Lead me to them. I'm ready."
After healing the cripple at the gate called Beautiful, a crowd gathered, and Peter preached his second sermon (Acts 3). As a result, he and John were arrested (Acts 4:3). At their trial of a sort, they were asked "By what power or by what name" (Acts 4:7) they had done such a miracle. The ringing declaration came through—and we have quoted Peter ever since—that "there is no salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
And when they were instructed to leave Jesus out of their preaching, Peter and John were unequivocal: "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot help but declare what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19b-20).
The rest of Acts 4 tells what happened next.
Peter was walking and skipping on the water.
6. Peter, will you be willing to suffer for Jesus?
"Whatever it takes."
"We must obey God rather than men," Peter and the apostles told the authorities (Acts 5:29).
"Then they departed from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:41).
Peter is now dancing on the water.
Would Peter open his heart to the Gentiles also? That's Acts 10.
And in time, would Peter die for Jesus? The earliest records say that Peter was crucified for his faith in Jesus, but counting himself unworthy to be treated as Jesus had been, insisted that he be executed upside down.
Would you be willing to step out of your comfort zone and walk to Jesus if He bid you come?
To stand before your coworkers and testify of your faith in Jesus?
To give that talk before your peers and explain the new thing God has done in your life?
To openly confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, even if your family disowned you, cut you out of their lives and cursed you?
To leave the comfort of familiar things and move to another culture to live this new life for Jesus Christ?
To teach that class? Make that substantial gift? Go public in your opposition to corruption and in support of all that is right?
It's scary. It might even be dangerous.
But you could end up walking on the water.
And think what fun that will be.
After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where he's working on three books and trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way.
This article originally appeared at joemckeever.com.
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