The following article was originally written for The Inkwell, a blog sponsored by ACFW Colorado.Faith Lessons--In the Dust of the Rabbi. In it evangelical historian Ray Vander Laan takes a group of people through the holy land and teaches history and practical application. It's a great series.
Recently, we watched the group climb a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Ray tells the crowd that Jesus went here after the feeding of the five thousand. He had just told the disciples to get into a boat and go ahead of him to Bethsaida, which was across the lake. Ray asserts that they probably didn't want to go because of the squalls that took place in this part of the lake, dubbed "The Abyss." (This isn't in my Bible, but Ray, as a historian has other geographical resources.)
As they fatefully predicted, a huge squall came up and they strained against the oars. Ray tells the group that Jesus was no doubt sitting on the mountain and watching them the whole way. About the fourth hour, (probably around four o'clock in the morning,) Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. He nearly passes them by because he was intent on getting to Bethsaida, as he said he would. But did Jesus not see them out there struggling? Or was this a faith lesson for the disciples who didn't understand the miracle of the five loaves and two fish? (Mark 6:52)
They see him walking by on the water and fear it's a ghost. I mean, seriously. Who else would be walking on the water? No doubt, if I'd been in that boat, miles from the shore, I wouldn't have thought my rabbi would be chancing by. He tells them "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
Matthew 14:28 picks up the story. Peter calls out to him. "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water." And Jesus says, "Come." Poor impetuous Peter. Wanting to be just like his Lord, he jumps out of the boat, but fearing the wind--promptly sinks. Jesus shakes his head and says, "Why do you doubt?" as he fishes him out and escorts him back to the boat.
This is where Ray posed a question that had us discussing at great length later. "What did he doubt?" Jesus? Why would that be? Jesus is still only toes deep in the water. The conclusion was that he doubted himself.
Okay. Let's look at the big picture here. Jesus gives the disciples a directive. "Go to Bethsaida and I will meet you there." They all hop in the boat, grumbling. They'd just seen the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and still didn't quite get it. (Our class decided this was a faith lesson for them.) Just as they feared, they hit a storm, and what do they do? Panic! In the meantime, Jesus is watching them from the hill. Once they're good and scared, he heads out onto the lake. Then, during one of their most dramatic lessons, they doubt.
You know where I'm going, don't you?
In 2002, I received a clear directive from God. "Write, and I will partner with you." At various intervals along the way, I have felt the squalls of life threaten to capsize my dream. Where is Jesus? I cry out.
He's on the hill watching me. Seeing how I will do. Probably shaking his head as I panic when the words don't come, and when they do they sound amatuerish. He says, "Oh, Kathy," when I want to quit because an editor has torn at my precious story, slashing and ripping at the carefully placed concepts like fierce winds to a sail. Finally, at the fourth hour, He gets up, and walks toward our previously agreed upon destination. I want to be like my Lord. I try, yet I fail, and He asks me "Why do you doubt?" He hasn't changed. I don't doubt Him. I know He will partner with me. I know His will for me is to produce written witnesses. I know He is still standing there, waiting for me to "get it."
Why do I doubt myself?
If you're in a storm, take heart. Jesus is watching to see how you'll do. To see if you've grown in your faith. Every trial is a strengthening exercise. And once you "get it," you will be able to walk with Him hand in hand. Safely. Without getting wet.
I have my toe in the water. Anyone joining me?