As we head into 2015 I have been much inspired by a quote I came across a few days ago.
Never mind your infirmities. You have nothing to do with them. Your business is to trust, and to go forward. If you wait till the sea becomes land, you will never walk on it. (Edward Payson, 1783-1827)
I was gripped by the last statement, but perplexed by the second. What do you mean, I have nothing to do with my infirmities? I have many infirmities—weaknesses both of body and soul. Then light dawned. “Himself took our infirmities, and carried our sicknesses” (Mt. 8:17). He has borne them; they are His now, not mine. Even while they are yet with me. In fact I myself am not my own. As one bought with a Price, I am His. So my troubles and griefs and burdens are His as well. They are His business. My business is to trust and go forward. Walking on the sea. If I wait till the sea is land (some day there will be no more sea, Rev. 21:1) I will have missed the golden opportunity to walk in the pathway of my Lord’s victory over it all—the pathway of faith.
After I read this quote I turned again to the passage about Peter walking on the water. Jesus had compelled his disciples to get into a boat and go over to the other side while He sent away the multitudes He had just fed. He then went up into a mountain to pray (Mk. 6:46).
And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on the land. And He saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them (Mk. 6:47).
He certainly has good eyesight to see them at that distance, considering that He was “in a mountain apart,” and they out on the sea in the growing darkness. Let us be encouraged by this to know that in the Mountain He is now in He has that same good eyesight, and sees us in the midst of our troubles, and is making intercession for us, as He did for His disciples in the storm.
And about the fourth watch of the night He cometh to them walking upon the sea… (Mk. 6:48).
It would appear that they had set out just before 6 p.m. For, “when even was come,” they were already out to sea, and the first watch, the evening watch, was from six till nine p.m. The second watch was from nine p.m. till midnight, the third watch from midnight to 3 a.m. So these guys have been toiling in rowing all night—from evening till the fourth watch of the night—3 a.m. to 6 a.m. That is when they see… they don’t know what they see, it’s still very dark, with the waves dashing against the boat threatening to break it to pieces and send them to the bottom at any moment, and the swells rising and falling, their boat now high on a crest, now deep in a trough, and…. what was that? Did you see what I just saw? I thought I saw… no, it’s gone again, my eyes must be playing tricks on me, I really have to get some sleep. No, there it is again! Closer now! It’s… a ghost! They cry out, grown men paralyzed with fear. Jesus immediately calls out, “Be of good courage! It is I! Be not afraid.”
Peter responds, that familiar and irresistible leap in his heart, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.”
Jesus says to him, “Come” (Mt. 14:29).
At this, Peter gets out of the boat. He is not going to wait till the sea becomes land. He simply cannot pass up the opportunity to walk this impossible walk that Jesus Himself walks, whatever the risk. And “he walked on the water to go to Jesus.” I remember our old friend George Warnock saying that he had seen many paintings of Jesus walking on the water, but never one of Peter walking on the water. They always show him sinking. But Peter—how astonishing is this—walked on the water.
To come to Jesus. That’s how the Greek here is better translated—come, which is how Young’s Literal Translation has it. “To come to Jesus.” So the whole scenario has not Peter, but Jesus at the centre.
That’s the secret of walking on the sea. Coming to Him at His bidding. Believing that we can do anything He bids us do.
And so, dear Lord, here we are in the fourth watch of the night, and in the turmoil of the storm and the darkness we aren’t seeing You very clearly just yet, just glimpses of You obscured by the dark of the night and the swells of the sea. But if that’s really You walking on the sea in this dark hour to come to us, bid us come unto You on the water!
I think that in the context of this story, the sea signifies the whole world of the first Adam under the reign of sin and death, which in our day is rising up in a cataclysmic and violent and terrifying storm. It is going to take walking on water—an impossible walk—to come to Jesus in this hour. Nevertheless, this is by the Lord’s design. In this very hour He bids those who hear His Voice to come unto Him walking above that whole realm, walking in the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which enables those who walk in the Spirit to walk free of the law of sin and death. Yes, even while sin and death are on the rampage. We don’t want to wait till the sea becomes land. We want to walk on the sea. We want to come to Jesus “on the water.” All the provision we need is hearing Him say, “Come,” and responding in faith.
So let us incline our ear to hear His Voice, and keep our eyes off the boisterous waves of the storm, and let us trust, and go forward!