“For I say there is no other thing that is worse than the sea is for breaking a man, even though he may a very strong one.”― Homer
Odysseus has survived the Trojan war. Ten years of battles and ten years since he last saw his family. Just when the reader believes the most dangerous parts of life are behind Odysseus, he begins his journey home. They sail home becomes more treacherous than battling the Trojans. He was nearly lured into a ship wreck by the beautiful song of the sirens. Poseidon sends a storm to punish him for blinding his son the cyclopes. They safely navigate the whirlpool of Charybdis, but in doing so run into the sea monster Scylla. it would seem that the sea is trying to kill him more so than the Trojans.
American’s are bombarded with Carnival and Disney cruises. But on the backside of those commercials, Discovery runs the promotions for Deadliest Catch. Now there is a show that shows the sea as trying to kill everyone involved. It’s cold and wet and stormy. It’s dangerous. Peter has a similar experience on the sea.
In Matthew 14, the disciples and Jesus (and a lot of other people) have been in the countryside. They have seen the greatness of Jesus in the 5 loaves and 2 fish; feeding the crowd of five-thousand. They were surprised by this, but not in awe. He sends the disciples across the Lake of Gennesaret/Sea of Galilee. To the crowd; he sends them home. Jesus head up the mountainside to pray (Matthew 14.22-23).
There are two types of storms this life brings. The first is physical. The boat is a “considerable distance from the land” and there wasn’t a whole lot his disciples could do about it because “the wind” was against it. Storms can arise quickly, especially with the geography of Palestine. It’s like a bad version of Gilligan’s Island. A simple trip across the sea, has turned into a battle for survival. This physical storm is evoking a crisis. Scripture makes it clear that one battle that we must fight as we traverse this earth, its the physical one. Bodies break down, thistles grow, pain and suffering abound. We have to watch loved ones die and struggle. There is definitely a physical battle.
The second battle is the spiritual one. In the mean time, Jesus has walked out to them. After a few words between the disciples and Jesus, Peter speaks up: “Tell me to come to you on the water.” To which Jesus reply’s: “come!” Peter steps out of the boat. The water holds him…for a moment. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Peter was doing well and then a spiritual storm arises. He looked around, lost sight of Jesus, saw the power of the storm; and he began to sink. Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” was Jesus question. Doubt had crept in and a storm arose. Spiritual storms can arise just as fast as physical ones. People deal with spiritual storms in different ways, but they only get resolved at the feet of Jesus, whether or not they’re in the water.
Jesus is the answer to the storm. When the disciples first had to deal with the store and the confusion of seeing Jesus, it was the sound of his voice that calms them. They are “terrified” and “gripped” with fear. But Jesus calmed their fears: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (27) The greek renders the middle clause, “It is I”, as “I am!” In the midst of this storm, “I am!” is present with them. The importance cant be overstated. The One who parted the waters, enacted the plagues, and walked with His people, is present. “I am!” is with them. This is the same book, Matthew that begins with “Emmanuel, God with us.” And ends with: “Behold, I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Here in the midst of the storm, Jesus is standing next to us. When Peter begins to sink, Jesus reaches out his hand and catches him. (31) “Immediately” it says that Jesus saved him from the storm. “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down…”(32) The physical storm is taken care of. Jesus has calmed another one. “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (33) Now the spiritual storm is resolved.
Look back on the storm and worship. The importance of this story lies in the perspective. In the midst of everything happening, the focus is on the storm or the reactions. The focus is on the interactions between the guys and what was going on as the boat is rocking against the waves. But verse 33 shows that the focus the whole time needed to be Jesus. It was only when Peter began looking at the storm around him that he began to sink. But in retrospect, the disciples and Peter are able to look back on their experience and worship. Some of David’s finest Psalms came when looking back on serious trials. The greatest speeches in the Bible, with the most passionate language of worship, come at the end of lives, as they look back on years of storms.
The storms that come in life are there to reveal where our focus and where our trust is found. Peter found out a lot about himself on the sea, just like he found out a lot about Jesus. In Hemmingway’s book, The Old Man and the Sea, the sea provided a place where the old man was once again asked to learn some things. Peter is learning on the Sea of Galilee. He’s learning the why? of worship.