Immediately Jesus had fed the crowd, he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
We live in an age where little seems certain. We negotiate and haggle our way through life. We hear and understand the rules and accepted practices of everyday existence but, when those rules and practices become inconvenient, we do our very best to manipulate them into a shape which suits our purposes. This attitude to living alongside others breeds doubt and scepticism. For many generations people have said: Seeing is believing. Today we consider ourselves to be more ‘worldly wise’. We caution each other against such a simplistic attitude. Not only do we not believe what we see, but we approach everything in our lives in a similarly ‘faithless’ way.
This attitude to life is not new, or course. We see an example of it in today’s reading. Peter has been alongside Jesus throughout his adult ministry. Peter has seen Jesus work miracles and heal those deemed incurable, just as he has heard his new teaching of the way we might all come into a closer relationship with God. And yet, despite this intimate experience and knowledge, Peter asks Jesus for proof of his ability and willingness to save the disciples from the adverse winds that were battering their boat on the Sea of Galilee. As Jesus offered comfort, consolation and security, Peter said: Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. Despite everything Peter has seen, heard and experienced he opens negotiations with Jesus … So often, we fall into the same trap as Peter. We know that Jesus is calling out to us, we know the message he is trying to get across, and yet we only want a relationship with him that can be lived out on our own terms.
Jesus tells us that there are two overriding commandments by which we should live our lives. Both of those commandments demand a move from our self-serving attitude to one of generous and unstinting love. Jesus tells us that we must love God, and that we must love our neighbours. With such love comes faith: faith in God and all that he can and does do for us, and faith in one another. Our modern scepticism stands as a barrier between ourselves and God’s all-embracing love for us.
In today’s reading we are being urged to set aside our need for everyone, including God, to prove their worth to and for us. Instead we are being called to model the depth of faith that will show others the true worth of discipleship. We are being called, by Jesus, to take his outstretched hand and have faith that he will save us. We are being called to set aside our fear and uncertainty and join with those whose faith is stronger than our own in saying: Truly you are the Son of God.