Walking on water

I have never walked on water.

You probably thought: “So what? No one I know has ever walked on water.”

Yet Jesus and Peter walked on water.  For Jesus, it was normal.  He lived a life of miracles.

My question to myself is: Why is it so unusual for miracles in our society?

There are a number of common answers, some offered by church people I have known.

One response I have heard is that we don’t need miracles in western society.  We have modern medicine and technology.  Yet even advanced medicine cannot cure many serious illnesses.

Another is that miracles are no longer necessary to advance the Christian faith since we have the Bible while people in Jesus’ day did not have the New Testament.  But does that rule out miracles?  Why do we still see miracles frequently in Asia, Africa and South America?

Another suggestion is that western Christians rely less on faith than people 2000 years ago.  That seems to me to be a stronger reason.

Even in Jesus’ day, faith was vital.  And many people did not believe.

We read in Mark 6:1-6 that in his hometown of Nazareth, people could not believe that Jesus was who he said he was.  The result was that he was only able to do a few healing miracles because of the lack of faith of the Nazarenes.

The story in Matthew 14 of Jesus walking on the water is instructive.  We see Peter in the heights of faith and the depths of doubt – very much like us today.

Andrew Murray, the great South African pastor and author in the 19th century, touched on the story of Jesus walking on water in his book The Deeper Christian Life.

He notes that the disciples were terrified when they saw Jesus walking toward them on the turbulent waters while they fought the high waves in their boat.  They thought he was a ghost.

But Peter called out to Jesus and said that if it was really him, “tell me to come to you, walking on the water”.   Jesus did and Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.

He was fine until he looked down at the waves and began to doubt.  He started sinking and called out to Jesus: “Save me, Lord!”  Jesus reached out to him, grabbed his hand and together they walked back to the boat and climbed in.

Murray’s conclusion from this is that faith grows as we are in the presence of Jesus.

And, he says, we must spend time seeking the Lord in everyday life and, like Peter, crying “Help!” when we find ourselves too weak to deal with temptations and troubles.  It is then when Jesus reaches out his hand and gives us the power to do the impossible.

In the end, miracles bring glory to Jesus – they point to him as they did in his day.  And more people become believers.


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