Proclaiming the gospel requires getting out of the boat
We are familiar with the story of Jesus walking on water during a dark, stormy night and granting Peter’s bold request to join him.
Bible teachers point to Peter’s lack of focusing on Christ as the cause of him sinking underneath the waves.
Even though this lesson is true, believers may miss another important lesson from this story.
At least Peter got out of the boat!
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “Tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33)
I can appreciate the other eleven disciples who were huddled inside the boat. They were too scared to step out in faith. And I admit that I would have been right there with them. When Peter struggled beneath the waves, I probably would have been the one to chuckle after Jesus rescued him. I would have shaken my head and told Peter, “You should have kept your eyes on Jesus!”
It’s too easy to be a critic, especially for those who appear brash and bold. We tend to distance ourselves from those who seem adventurous and fearless. This is especially true for those who seem to have the gift of evangelism and readily share their faith with others. We shrug our shoulders and defend ourselves by saying, “I can never do that. That’s just not me.”
Evangelists may appear as bold heroes who seem to walk on water every day to rescue lost souls.
What people don’t see is how often evangelists sink beneath the waves of doubt and fear. Every day, they need Jesus to rescue them.
Evangelism is scary for everyone. It means getting out of our comfort zones and out into the world.
It means getting out of the boat when the waters of a sinful world appear dark and stormy — trusting Jesus will keep our head above water. He is the one who rescues us from our fears. He is the one who allows us to “walk on water” through the power of His Word.
I have pondered why Jesus was walking on the water in the first place. What was his point? Perhaps he wanted to show his disciples who was really in charge. For only by his authority, can storms be silenced.
It was by his authority, Jesus told Peter to “come”.
It was by his authority, Jesus told the disciples, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Christ’s authority goes hand-in-hand with his call for all believers to be his disciples and share the good news of salvation with the world.
When it comes to evangelism, Jesus tells all believers to “come” before he commissions us to “go”.
Jesus knows full well what the world is like.
He understands that persecution, division, betrayal, and hurt await those who pick up the cross and follow him – especially for those who share the powerful message of the gospel.
For all of these reasons, Jesus tells believers to “come” and He will give you rest.
He says, “Come” and he will take away your burdens.
He says, “Come” and see that he is good and his mercy endures forever.
“Come”, he says. “It is I. Do not be afraid.”
When we “come” to Jesus – he tells us to “go” into the world. With that commission, he provides an important assurance.
“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)
“Go!” Get out of the boat. Make disciples. Baptize. Teach.
You will be going under the banner of Christ and his reputation.
You will be going under the authority of Christ through his Word.
You will be going under the commission of being Christ’s ambassador to carry out one important, impossible, even miraculous task.
To go and share the message of Good News.
Evangelism means stop looking at the stormy waves and shrinking in terror.
Evangelism means start looking at Christ and go “walk on water” to share the good news with a person He has placed in your life.
Evangelism means stop looking in the mirror and doubt for which Jesus will chide us by saying “Oh you of little faith. Why do you doubt?”
Evangelism means looking at Jesus like the centurion (Matthew 8:5) who acknowledged Christ’s authority and was commended for his great faith.
Evangelism requires getting out of the boat.
When Jesus gives us a command to “Come” or a commission to “Go” – the command is never alone. Obedience doesn’t rest on a person’s strength or ability. His hand is with us, because this is what He promised. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Not only through Christ we can “walk on water”, but he is more than willing to pluck us from the depths when we have looked in the mirror instead of the cross.
Trust Christ! Go under his authority. Have faith! For he is with you!