Jeremiah 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
I’m sure you’ve all seen that bumper sticker that says, "Next time you think you’re perfect, try walking on water!" This has always sounded a little condescending to me, especially in light of today’s Gospel reading.
The scene is a dramatic one. There is a fierce storm upon the sea. The time is somewhere between 3 AM and 6 AM. The disciples already seem agitated, because when they saw Jesus, "they were terrified." They mistake him for a spirit or a phantom. But Jesus reassures them by saying, "It is I. Do not be afraid." Now Peter, who is known even to casual readers of the Gospels as far from perfect, says, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." And what does Jesus do? He answers with a single word: "Come." So Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk on water.
But of course, we know the ending of the story. Peter begins to sink and calls out, "Lord, save me!" Then Jesus says, "Oh you of little faith!" Now, I’ve always heard those words spoken with a booming voice of condemnation in my head. But, if we go back to the Greek, the word used here is "oligopistos." This is a combination of two Greek words that literally means "little-faith." It’s more of a chiding nickname than a condemnation. Who exactly is Jesus saying Peter lacks faith in?
Peter has given up everything to follow Jesus. He’s seen Jesus raise people from the dead, cure a variety of illnesses, and preach with great authority. He has shown great faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Surely, Peter’s lack of faith is not in Jesus, but in himself.
The sea in scripture often represents chaos or disruptive forces. That, with the addition of the storm that is raging, gives a picture of what Peter is being asked to calmly walk across. It is as if Jesus is saying to us, "Come. You can calmly walk across the chaos of your life without sinking. I am here to help you. You only need to have faith."
My prayer for today is that when I am confronted with the chaos (or even minor disruptions) of my life, I remember to have faith that Jesus is there to help me walk calmly.
Talib Huff is a volunteer and presenter at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California.