Jesus gives us the best to do our best!
Matthew 14: 22-33
I have mixed feelings about about the boat in a storm and Peter water walking when there are so many boats sinking and people are drowning. It is a gospel story of great hope and encouragement if told in the right context, but are we prepared with the answers to questions of doubt and anger that it also raises?
We can imagine our Church as a boat and the place of safety we are being challenged to leave behind for a mission impossible in a terrible storm. We can see Jesus walking through the storm and calling us to leave where we are to confront the challenge. When we begin to sink under the pressure of the impossible challenge he will reach out and save us before calming the storm. Don’t be afraid, Jesus is walking toward us so be strong and even if our faith fails us we will survive!
That’s good, but there is a question that has been asked by thousands of refugees over the years and I hope you have the answer because they want to know “where Jesus was when their boats were sinking and their children dying?” The sinking boat drama with people drowning was one I encountered when I worked with Vietnamese Boat People from 1978. They were hoping to sail to freedom across the North China Sea and it has continued to happen across the Mediterranean Sea and on the English Channel with people wanting to escape from oppressive leaders. Between 1975 and 1995 it is estimated that 800,000 people left the shores of Vietnam by boat and at least 6,000 lost their lives.
I used to ask myself the question, “where was Jesus when their boats were caught in the storm?”, but I do find my reassurance that Jesus does not send us ahead of him in a makeshift boat that is not fit for the task ahead. When Jesus sends us on ahead of him he knows our boat is the best so that we can achieve the impossible best. He also keeps his eye on us so that if we run into difficulty he can come to us in a hurry. We can leave our safe place to achieve the impossible AND return to it as Jesus calms the storms.
It’s the devil of exploitation that tempts people with boats that are not fit for purpose, but Jesus sends you and the Church on a journey in a boat that can overcome any storm. So it is a gospel story of great encouragement, and I know why I preach as I do, but do I still need to step out of my boat to help the many who are sinking and drowning? They were seeking freedom in unsafe boats — like this child I worked with in 1978 — and I hope we can consider how we can step out from where we are to meet Christ in them in their storms! I wonder what this boy is doing now as a 40 plus year old man?
It’s exciting to be in a boat that has been sent ahead to do the work of Jesus and, if we do as he says, we can help those who are in distress in the great storms.