“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
This is one of the most familiar stories of the new testament and one I find easy to relate to. Peter is so human and makes all the mistakes that all of us make, he just seems to represent humanity in general, doesn’t he??
Storms, doubt and faith…. Why is it when there is little faith or there is doubt, the new testament miracles do not happen? We have Peter trying to walk on the water or rather sinking when doubt sets in, and we’ve read about Jesus Christ not being accepted in his own town and so he could do few miracles. And on the flip side, when faith is great and recognized, Jesus did not even need to be physically present for the miracle to manifest itself. Think of the curing of the Centurion’s daughter – “your faith has cured her”. So somewhere inside of us there is some relationship between our level of faith and the extent that Jesus Christ will work in our hearts and our lives. We need to explore this yin and yang of faith and miracle, of faith and action.
A few things stood out to me in this Gospel story that are interesting. While it is easy to focus on the lack of faith Peter had, as he was sinking, he did have faith that Jesus could save him, and he called to his lord to be saved and in fact he was. And another moment that points to one’s doubt started before they even got into the boat. What happened right before this scene? Jesus fed the 5,000 right in front of the disciple’s eyes – they saw the multiplication of the loaves and the 12 wicker baskets full. But when Jesus came to them walking on the water, the disciples still had doubt about who it was who coming to them. Let’s re-set the scene.
Jesus sent the disciples across the sea while he dismissed the crowds so he could then go to pray. He was in fact still mourning the death of John the Baptist. While they were out on the water, a terrible storm came upon them in the fourth watch of the night; it must have been terrifying. No GPS, no motor to get them to shore, just their wits and prayer. Despite some of them being experienced fishermen, they were still terrified. Just when it seems like they were doomed, Jesus comes to them and says, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” Notice what he is doing here, in his announcement of, “it is I” he is saying “I AM” as from the old testament. Jesus is telling them that he is in fact one with God.
The passage goes on, “After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
When we look at the first reading from Kings, we also see fear, storms… and faith restored. Elijah is fleeing for his life from Queen Jezebel because he has killed 400 of her “prophets” of the god Baal. He hides in the cave and is literally praying for his death because he is that terrified. There on Mount Horeb, he experiences great wind, an earthquake and fire, traditional signs of God in the old testament. But God is not in any of them this time. Not until he hears the “tiny whispering sound”, a theophany or a manifestation of God, does he recognize his Lord. When this happens, his faith returns to do God’s work.
Do we ever struggle with our faith? Do we ever have doubt? Of course we do. We forget that he is with us always or we think we can figure it out on our own. We are frightened by the waves, the storms that impact us. The wind, the earthquake and the fire of Elijah’s story are often front and center in our present day lives. At these times, do we…
- Ever look up to see Jesus walking towards us?
- Do we take the time to hear the tiny whispering sound?
- Do we hear him and understand when he says, “Take courage, it is I?”
This is a statement of the mystery that is the Trinity, the recalling of the God of the old testament and reminding us also that he is the Son, our savior. I feel like this is a scene right out of Hollywood, Jesus walking on the water. But he is not just walking to the disciples, he is walking to us every day. When he climbs in the boat, when he climbs in our boat, the winds die down, the seas calm, the danger recedes. To be saved, the disciples had to look up, Peter had to stretch out his hand, Elijah had to listen. Only then Jesus could get in the boat. Only then could the tiny whispering sound could be heard.
He comes to us…always. But we have to look for him at the mouth of the cave, in our stormy seas. We have to meet him. We all have a part in this story, and we need to trust fully in him to let him unfold it slowly, over time, and often in pieces for us.
That mystery we talked about earlier, of how when there is faith, miracles happen is also our part in the story; we have to have deep and trusting faith in Jesus in our lives…and we have to be accepting so that Jesus Christ CAN work in our lives. That’s how it happens together right? That’s the yin and the yang. I am always so impressed when I see people who have it right – they have such deep faith and thus such deep peace because they have let go and let God. That’s what I want! That is what we all want, to bask in his grace and be at peace. Sometimes we can feel it, sometimes we see it only when we look back on our day and recognize his presence in what transpired around us and through other people we met.
It is not always easy to see especially when we are in the middle of the storm, but it is a mosaic that is beautiful to behold if we just look up in the storm, listen at the mouth of the cave and let him take us by the hand.
Do we? Do we purposely meet him?
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Is he asking each of us this question too?