There was this Japanese saying I was exposed to when I was a kid that stuck with me, “The glory is not in never falling but rising after each time that you fall.” I still like that because as an adult, I fall or fail still but in different ways.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Imagine the men in the boat seeing this supposed phantom in the water. They cry out of fear since they think that if the laws of nature are being broken, nothing could be good about that. Maybe they even think that Jesus had died in the short time that He had gone away for some alone time.
The Bible says “fear not” 365 times (not a coincidence for those of us that need to remind ourselves every day). But this is one of the few times that the Lord qualifies this with his incarnational presence. We need that. We need to remind ourselves that the mystery of the ages known as God has been made touchable on earth. That peace and goodwill to men is there because of God taking on flesh. He has put his skin in the game.
At first glance, I see the next part as putting God to the test; which we are not to do. Jesus was asked in Matthew 12 by the religious men of His day to give him a sign. He responded strongly and mysteriously: you wicked and adulterous generation (the sign they want would be the instant gratification of a Star Wars movie) and only the cross will be shown to them.
But the test is not from Simon Peter for God but asking for God to test him. Why else would he not say, “Tell me to jump up and down on the boat?” or “Tell me my brother’s name.” Peter knew enough about the thought and intention of Jesus was for his followers to take their faith out for a spin regularly. That is the staple of Jesus and one Peter wanted to do anyway. We know he had that gusto because at the Last Supper he leads the way in saying he would die for Jesus.
The next part is where at least many Protestants laugh at Peter’s expense to easily. Jesus says come, he has flaky thinking and is humbled to ask Jesus for a rescue. But in all my bible studies or sermons where this is touched on with comedy relief we forget that he had faith to begin with. Jesus could have said “You of little awesome belief.” Peter was not hurt but maybe encouraged. It is like a statement that he has some of the quality that is needed and is yet to be grown. It is an encouraging and teachable moment.
After that exchange the others proclaim Jesus is the Son of God. That is good but I do not envy them like I do Peter. It is easy to be an impressed spectator but another thing to fall before Jesus while going towards him. Lesson: risk falling in your faith. And if you must fall, fall towards Jesus. You may not become pope, but at least you will be at a better place to be teachable.