I think the disciples were more afraid of seeing someone walking on the sea than they were of the storm they were in!
Can you imagine it, on a boat in the dead and dark of night being bounced around in the middle of a turbulent sea, then suddenly someone appears to be walking towards them – on the water?
No wonder they were terrified – until they realised it was Jesus.
My Testimony of God Coming to Me at a Challenging Time
There was a time when I was caught in the eye of a storm and had an amazing experience as I felt the presence of God with me.
Not because I am anyone special, of course, but more likely because God knows what a needy person I am and was in for a very daunting experience, which taught me a crucial lesson about the ongoing development of faith.
It was in Benidorm, of all places. There was a certain elderly person, in my family who loved going there, and in their later years, I often travelled with them to help on the journey.
On one of those occasions, they were suddenly taken ill, so I called a doctor to our hotel and, to cut a long story short was told we needed to go straight to the hospital.
Oh no, I thought this was my worst nightmare come true – but it got worse.
As I prepared for the journey to the hospital, to my horror I discovered my purse, containing all my cash and cards, had been stolen.
I will spare you the finer details but let me say we got to the hospital and the health situation was stabilised, but I was desperately afraid of how this would eventually play out.
Then, I sensed an urgent desire to pray, which really surprised me as it was not something I was doing much of in those days!
But I responded by finding a secluded corridor of the hospital where I could pray in private. There was a row of black plastic chairs there, but before I had even properly settled myself onto the seat of one, something like a lightning bolt seemed to travel through my entire body.
I was completely stunned, then in total amazement – I felt in the core of my soul that God was somehow reaching out to me – he was letting me know he was there with us.
The lightning bolt experience gave me the strength I needed and was an important turning point in my faith.
The experience did not allow me to be unafraid, but certainly less afraid. Also, to sense the security of God’s presence continually with us.
I felt he guided and protected us while we did our best to get to the point where we could finally journey back to the safety of home.
There is More to the Story Though – an Epilogue!
I was not a church member then, but eventually went to a Sunday service at my local church to try and understand what happened in Benidorm.
I felt that I would like to partake when the Holy Communion was served.
And as I accepted the wafer from the priest, a sunbeam suddenly shone through the stained-glass window behind him. To my astonishment, it fell upon me with the same electrifying effect I experienced sitting on a black plastic chair in the windowless corridor of a hospital in Benidorm – some three months earlier.
It was just as unexpected and amazing as the first time, and I felt it clarified that God’s presence had been with us in Spain, during some of the darkest days of our lives.
This was a gigantic step forward in my personal journey of faith.
So the Message is How our Faith Develops
It is something that gently develops over the span of our lives, each day we can learn something new.
The disciples had been through a rapid learning process with Jesus, and although I am sure they wanted to believe he was the long-awaited Messiah they were still not entirely convinced.
But Jesus’ walking on water was an important turning point for them because in doing so he openly revealed his divinity to them
They would have been well versed in the Old Testament Psalms, which offer praise to God and assures us of his faithfulness in times of trouble.
Then they watched in amazement as Jesus demonstrated full control over the waters, winds and waves, and calmed their fear as was written in Psalm 65.
So, as also written in that Psalm, they bowed their heads in awe and wonder before him for the very first time.
What Does This Mean for us Today?
Jesus walked on water to demonstrate his divinity to the disciples and to us. To let us know that he is all-powerful and always with us.
Especially in those times when the water is up to our necks and we think we are about to go under, then when we call on him he will either calm the storm or calm us – or ideally both.
And as we experience the trials of life, our faith will be refined as we draw closer to God, and we become wiser as we absorb strength from him.
Looking back on what we know today of events in the New Testament, the disciple’s faith was, probably like ours, a bit up and down at times.
And even though they gave up everything to follow him, their jobs and their families, and despite seeing many miracles, even Jesus walking on water, they were not entirely convinced he was the Messiah until a much later date.
This often makes me wonder if the disciple’s faith fluctuated in the early days, so how much more difficult must it be for us today, who did not witness Jesus’ ministry first-hand, to be sure?
But, I have come to understand faith to be something like the various stages of a caterpillar unfolding and developing into a beautiful butterfly.
So too through our faith in Jesus, we can be set free and transformed.
Because, as faith built up over time for the disciples, with twists and turns, so it grows in leaps and bounds in various ways individual to each of us today, too.
Peter demonstrated this, when he attempted, in faith, to walk on water, but then his faith waivered and he started sinking and so called for Jesus to rescue him.
We are no different to the disciples we want to believe and do but we often falter and perhaps don’t live up to the faith in one way or another.
But God knows that we, like the disciples, are not perfect, and through our faith, he always supports and forgives us when we stumble, and so our faith develops.
Shortly we will continue our service by saying the Nicene Creed together.
Many good and faithful people have gone before us in the church and regularly declared their faith in Jesus through this Creed.
Why not savour the meaning of each and every word as we declare our faith in the time-honoured and beautiful statements?
Why not thank Jesus for being in our lives, supporting and guiding us in good and bad times, as we celebrate holy communion later?
My prayer for us this morning is that our faith will be like the disciples; forever being revealed to us, forever shared with others, and forever persevering during the trials and tribulations of life.
In the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.