Matthew 14 is the familiar story of Jesus walking on the water. How do you remember the story? What do you remember most?
Melissa asked the 5th-6th graders at camp these same questions last week.
A few of their answers were “Peter didn’t trust and started to drown.”
“It doesn’t matter how rough the storm is, he’ll catch us.”
“Peter was supposed to trust Jesus.”
Most everyone, though, thought they remembered that Jesus told Peter to come to him on the water.
That’s not exactly the way it went.
What really happened was that it was about four o’clock in the morning. A big storm had come up and the disciples saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. They were scared and thought it was a ghost. He called out to them saying, “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.” (MSG) So Peter was the one who said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.” He did, and you know the story from there. Peter jumped out of the boat but then started to sink when he looked down and saw the waves. And what most of us remember from there is Jesus saying, “O, ye of little faith…”
That is what we feel like he said, anyway. Because that’s what we feel. What he really said (and did) was this:
“Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, ‘Master, save me!’
Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, ‘Faint-heart, what got into you?’
The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down.”
Jesus didn’t hesitate. When Peter panicked, Jesus immediately reached out his hand. He didn’t say, “Tell me you trust me and then I’ll save you.” He reached down, grabbed his hand, and called him something—“Faint-heart.”
In the Greek, the Scripture uses one word….not “O ye of little faith.” It’s similar to the Message version where Jesus calls him “Faint-heart.” It’s more of a nickname than a condemning statement.
Nicknames imply relationship. You’ve had them in your life. Maybe your grandmother called you one or your dad. They’re a term of endearment. And, often, they carry with them a message like “You little mess,” or “Stinker.” Those types of nicknames mean that the speaker not only loves us but sees through whatever we’re doing in that moment. He loves and sees us. Or, maybe sees and loves us, anyway. In the same way, Jesus sees us but doesn’t condemn us. “Faint-heart….” And then the two of them got in the boat together.
We’ve talked often this summer about how the greatest gift we can have is forgiveness. But forgiveness means more when it is from someone who sees and knows us. And, so, we talked about nicknames we might be given if Jesus were to give us one today. We based them off of Ephesians 4 and a list of verses we were talking about paddling and not paddling with in our boat-themed week together. We wanted to paddle with humility, patience, encouragement, steadiness, giving, being inclusive and tender-hearted. We did NOT want to paddle with bragging, unforgiving, disrespect, carelessness, sarcasm, selfishness, and judging/meanness. For each of the do not’s, we gave a nickname:
Disrespect—smarty or little sneak
Selfishness—all about me or mopey
Judging/Meanness—little judge or know-it-all
And, one by one, each camper talked about the nickname they thought that Jesus might give them today and what they want to paddle with instead.
What about you? As he reaches to you into the water and sees and knows you, what would he call you?
Forgiveness means more when we (and a group of courageous 5th and 6th graders) see that we are known AND loved by a God who continually and immediately reaches out to us. And then we get to climb into the boat together.