Doing the Impossible

<blockquote><I>Matt. 14:28,29.---' And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee upon the waters. And He said, Come. And Peter went down from the boat, and walked upon the waters, to come to Jesus.'<P></blockquote></I>

The thing that holds our eye and grips our heart in this amazing story is the figure of Jesus riding the storm. This power-story fascinates us, because it so manifestly is an exhibition of power, explain it how we will. Also the element of sheer risk gives it added color and piquancy, the utter abandonment of Jesus to a high way of living, and His complete regardlessness of the beaten paths of safety. But above and beyond all such considerations is the feeling it awakens in our minds that our Lord here is challenging us to rise with Him to another and higher type of life than the one we normally live. Tertullian long ago said of Jesus: "He became what we are, in order that we might become what He is." The feeling persists in our minds that this picture is not simply a unique and solitary display of exceptional power, but is really an acted parable of the type of thing a Christ-filled life should be.<P>

That this is not a fanciful interpretation is clear from the reaction which the vision of Jesus awakened in Peter's mind. 'Bid me to come to thee upon the waters.' This request was not motivated by his affection so much as by his spirit of adventure. He wanted to live his life on the same basis as Jesus. Who amongst us would not wish the same? And the life of Jesus, calm, strong, and adequate, as for one moment we glimpse it here battling successfully with the crude and colossal forces of Nature, as elsewhere with the forces of society, becomes for us the norm to which all adventurous hearts aspire. But how are we to get on to this power-level of life?<P>

The first step in this overcoming life is consciously to direct our wills towards Christ. John Bunyan in a memorable phrase characterizes faith "as a leap from the ladder blindfold into eternity." Yet there is something defective in this definition, for the eyes of faith are not really bandaged. There are always present two elements in a genuine faith---seeing and following, perception and loyalty, intuition and courage. Peter's faith, as it exhibited itself here, was not a blindfold leap into the dark. He had the intuition that Christ was out there beyond him, on the waste of the heaving waters, waiting to welcome him. He was sure he had heard His voice, was certain he had seen His form. Even although that form was new and unfamiliar, it was that vision that called forth his faith. He not only saw, he resolutely followed where he saw. It is at this point that most people become a lack of firmness and hang back.<P>

"It is an enterprise," says Clement, "it is an enterprise of noble daring to take our way to God," Look what it meant in Peter's case. His initial act of faith was, to use a phrase of Kierkegaard's, "a desperate sortie." Peter was an experienced fisherman, and he knew the terror of the sea. It was, indeed, an enterprise of noble daring to step out of the comparative safety of his boat, and walk in the darkest part of the night into a boiling sea, and into the teeth of a tempestuous gale.<P>

We must follow what we think right quite recklessly, and leave the issue to God. How many of us have the courage to face up to the demands of a faith like this? Are we prepared to give up our fancied securities, and commit ourselves to a risky and uncertain course of life? Are we prepared to leave the familiar and face the unknown with Christ? Are we willing to step off the material basis of life, the basis of prudence, expediency, and human calculation, and step out on to the spiritual basis of life, relying on no arm of flesh for support but on Christ alone.<P>

The second point is to realize that this daring and adventurous type of life is precisely the life to which Christ calls us. 'Bid me to come to thee upon the waters,' said Peter, and Christ said, 'Come!' The commentators on the whole are less than just to Peter in their interpretation of his motives for acting as he did. They are disposed to look on this request of Peter's as a gratuitous display of swagger and presumption, and they interpret Christ's invitation as designed to teach a foolishly reckless disciple a salutary lesson on the folly of overweening ambition. But surely such an interpretation is quite alien to the method of Jesus. When Jesus says, 'Come!' He means us to come. He put all His heart behind that invitation to Peter, and nothing disappointed Him more that Peter's failure to come all the way.<P>

Jesus loved the man who was prepared to play big stakes for His sake. He would have subscribed to the sentiment of R. L. Stevenson, "Life is an affair of Calvary, a thing to be dashingly used and cheerfully hazarded." Like the Psalmist He would have said: 'I hate a man who is half and half.' He loved adventurous and even reckless natures that spilled the red wine of life in prodigal love and selfless devotion at His feet.<P>

We should draw attention to our Lord's fondness for the word 'all'---'giving all,' 'forsaking all', 'sacrificing all.' 'loving with all the heart, mind, and strength.' His great men and women are those who flung everything into the scales on His side---the widow who flung all she had into the treasury, the pearl merchant who sold all that he had, Peter who forsook all his friends and his security for the privilege of going to Christ on the water. This spirit of utter abandonment of self and goods to causes and spiritual values supremely worth while appealed to Jesus, because it was akin to His own nature. His was a giving life, and when He gave, He gave with both hands freely. He kept nothing back, not even His life. 'This is my body,' He said, 'and it is broken for you, my blood and it is shed for you.'<P>

The third point to notice is the astonishing success of the venture of faith. We must not allow Peter's temporary failure to cloud for us our appreciation of his achievement. So long as he lived his life on a supernatural basis he was gloriously equal to all the forces arrayed against him. He only failed when he slipped off that basis on to the natural level. No degree of self-confidence will ever give us power to do the humanly impossible. Peter with all his self-confidence could not walk on the water. He could swim through the water, and on another occasion he actually did take this method of reaching his Master, but he could not walk on the water, with all the self-confidence in the world. Well, here he is doing the impossible thing, and he is doing it, not because he believes in himself, but because he believes in Christ.<P>

Faith is the faculty by which we tap the resources of God, and the limits of faith are set, not by our personal exertions, but by our capacity to appropriate the power of God. If we believe in Christ enough, we should do the impossible too. That is the measure of the task that we, as Christians, are set in the world to do. We are here to do impossible things, to attempt impossible tasks, to bring to pass impossible results. 'All things are possible to him that believeth.'<P>

One word of appeal to those whose lives are not lived on a faith-basis. Let us see that we do not put the challenge of this incident lightly aside, as if it were something that did not concern us. On the contrary, it is a matter of grave concern, because our response to this challenge determines our way of living. Life is not a matter of choice, it is a restless necessity. Whether believers or not, we must face its imperious demands. Of necessity we must make the same voyage over the same waters. The journey is not a matter of choice, it is only the way that we travel that is.<P>

We are living in troubled and unique times. The night around us is black like a raven's wing. Even the boat to which we cling offers no sure security. At any moment a great sea wave, some sudden cataclysm, may destroy it and overwhelm us. All our material securities, the things that stand between us and the ultimate disaster, are of the flimsiest kind. The only real question that faces us is how we are to fare through that inky darkness and across that risky way? The Christian policy is to capture the secret of riding the waves with Christ. It is to dispense entirely with the use of the boat, and in the illuminating phrase of Walt Whitman: "To make friends of the winds and the weather." This victory over circumstances, this conquest of the world and all its forces, this independence of all security except the security of God are given only to those who, like Peter, venture all for Christ and count the world well lost for His sake.<P>

In Christ. timothy.<P> maranatha<P>

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