Life of Peter, by N.E. Rhodes Jr. — No. 4
REACHING THE SHORE WITH CHRIST
We have been discussing the fact that as long as Simon kept his eyes on Jesus he actually walked on the stormy waves of Galilee. He was almost to Jesus and then, right at the moment of utter victory, he saw the wind. The problem loomed up big before him. Through his mind must have run such thoughts as these: “This isn’t natural. It can’t happen. What on earth do I think I’m doing? These waves are too high. This wind is too fierce. I can’t do this.” He sank.
“Great God, What Are We to Do?”
Imagine the terrible fear and greater disappointment. Think what it must mean to be actually walking one minute in all the glory of God and the next minute to be up to your chin in an angry sea and going under. But it happens to us. Over and over it happens to us. Contrary winds drive us to despair till at last Jesus is the only hope we have left. Jesus comes. Strange hopes ignite our souls. We move on faith and wonderful things begin to happen about us. All the world looks different. The Lord seems very close and powerful. But we slip. A careless glance toward sin betrays us. Selfish thoughts charm us. Nagging little anxieties grab us. Suddenly the glory is gone. Cruel currents of the world’s angry sea are beating us. Waves of distress are washing over us. For a while there we actually thought we could. By grace we thought we might really rise and live on a higher plane. But it is all over. Life is cruel and threatening again and we are so weak and helpless. Great God, what are we to do?
Well, what did Simon do? He got his eyes back on Jesus; this time in desperation. “Lord save me.” It is about all a man can say in such a time. It is in that black moment, when all hope is fading, when our plight is most desperate, when it seems the next wild wave will finish us for good, that suddenly the Lord’s hand is there. The hand is there to pull us up into the air again and set us back in the boat; for it seems we are not ready, yet, to walk on water.
Let Jesus in Your Boat
Then his gently chiding voice comes to us. “Why did you doubt, oh ye of little faith?” Why indeed? Have we not known the Lord’s mercy? Have we not seen his hand in our lives? What problem is too big for him? What task is too difficult? Oh brethren, this is the question that torments me. Why do we doubt?
But let us look now at John 6:21. “Then they willingly received him into the ship; and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.” They had been struggling at the oars for hours against wind and wave and were getting nowhere. A light shone in the midst of their darkness as Jesus came walking toward them. At first they were afraid of him, but when they willingly received him into the boat they find themselves where they had wanted to be all along.
We rush boldly forth to do great things for the kingdom. We are going to convert the heathen, convince the gainsayer, reform society, and build the kingdom. Has not God willed it? But we forget our daily prayers. We leave Jesus behind at the mountain of prayer. A stiff wind blows against us. We meet obstacles. We are misunderstood. We are resisted. Society resists us with the inert unresponsiveness of a large heavy animal that refuses to get up. We lose our patience, and then our joy. Our faith is slipping. We are toiling at rowing but not getting anywhere. The raging conservative accuses the liberal and the strutting liberal sneers at the conservative. It is getting very dark. Then we see a light in the midst of our trouble.
Jesus comes to us. He comes to us across the raging sea of our prejudice and pride. But at first we are afraid of him. It all looks so unnatural. It is not the way we had supposed it would be done at all. We are afraid of demands He may make upon us. We are afraid he may ask us to give up some dearly loved prejudice; or expect us to do some difficult thing. We are afraid of what people, even some of the brethren will say, if we really follow Jesus all the way. We want a religion without sacrifice. We want something that will confirm us in our own opinions and give us an opportunity to shine. We have grown so used to being suspicious of everybody else that we find it difficult to trust Jesus himself.
We are afraid of him because we know that he is not just another man. He is supernatural. We are afraid of the supernatural. It is something we cannot control. In religion we feel that we shall be most comfortable with our own creation. We want something well defined and easily understood. We shrink from strange commands and from too bright a light. Jesus pleads with us not to fear. He wants in the boat with us. If we can be persuaded to let him into our water logged boat with us, we will discover ourselves at the land whither we are going. Once we let Jesus take over in our lives we find that we are where we have wanted to be all along.
With Christ We Reach the Shore
All this Simon had to learn before he could even begin to understand the doctrine. This we too must learn before we are in a position to really understand the teachings of Christ. The things that Jesus taught often sound paradoxical. They are certainly foreign to much of the accepted wisdom of the world. Before we can truly believe his teaching, we must come to believe utterly and unquestioningly in him. Simon has now reached the point where Jesus can begin to unfold to him some of the great truths he came to reveal.
Modern philosophy makes the mistake of trying to believe the teachings of Jesus without believing in Jesus himself. Unless we can accept Jesus as the Son of God we cannot even begin to understand his teaching, much less believe it. We can never arrive at the land whither we are going until we willingly let Jesus into the boat