Dare to Leave the Boat
Text: Matthew 14:22-33
Maybe we have heard a lot of stories about a shipwreck. Or who could ever forget the movie “Titanic” that captured the hearts of many. Whether in movie or in reality, the incident of a ship having troubles in rough seas is not new to us.
One real story of shipwreck is that which happened in April 2014. This captured the international media’s attention. It’s an incident that all Koreans empathized with: the Sewol ferry accident in the southwestern part of Korea! Sewol ferry carried 476 people; 250 of it were all high school students who were supposed to have their field trip in Jeju Island. It became controversial because the Korean government didn’t give many details on the reason why the boat sank. The response to the tragedy was being questioned because it took 4 hours for the boat to really sink and yet the government was not able to rescue all of the students. The whole incident was televised and people have witnessed how the boat sank slowly. Some of the students were even calling their parents for help. According to the stories of the survivors, the students were told to stay inside their cabins when the boat began sinking.
Many people commented that if only the students were told to get out from the boat, they could have been saved. Stepping out from the boat is necessary as far as life is concerned.
In our story today, I want to assume that the same thing happened to Peter. Not much detail is being narrated in our story, but probably Peter thought that if he would stay in the boat while the strong winds and waves battered their boat, stepping out from the boat could be a way to save his life.
In my imagination, I want to understand Peter. I want to understand why among the 12 disciples, it was only Peter who decided to step out from the boat.
What does it means to leave the boat?
- Leaving the boat is a matter of saving life, a life for Christ
I love Peter because he reminds me of myself or maybe some of us today. He is quick to act, often without thinking.
But let’s not be too hard on Peter. Whatever we may say about Peter, he chose to live a life with Christ. He stepped out, he took a risk trusting Jesus. He is about to sink, he didn’t swim back to the boat. He didn’t even curse the wind for blowing or the water for not holding him up. Most importantly we didn’t see Peter cursing Jesus for calling him out of the boat. Instead he cries out to Jesus. Lord, save me! Living a like for Christ is a matter of decision. Decision that will initiate effort to move forward towards Jesus.
When we think we are living a life by just living it according to our own means, then we might be like the other disciples. Peter didn’t think the way we think. Maybe Peter thought that if he vis going to die then, he wants to die not in the boat during the stormy weather, but he wants to die with Jesus. And if he is going to live, he wants to live with Christ!
- Leaving the boat means leaving your comfort zone and learn!
When it comes to Peter walking on the water, I have often heard preachers condemn him for his lack of faith. True, Jesus does call Peter a man of little faith, but what about the other 11? None of them got out of the boat. If Peter had little faith, then they, the 11 had none.
Moments that take us outside of our comfort zone have the potential to be frightening moments that are exclamation points on the adventures of our lives. As he step out from his comfort zone then he begins to realize that he is not able to follow Jesus even for just a few steps.
I was also wondering why the other 11 did not follow Peter, maybe they have something that they could not leave, it could be their belongings, some stuff that are important to them. Those things made them stay in the boat, or may be the boat itself is important to them.
Today, we use the boat as a means of transportation, to take us somewhere else. But in the story, it was not as we expected. The boat that we expect to take them somewhere was trapped… it couldn’t move. Yet the disciples chose to stay and its only Peter who move forward. Maybe Peter was in a hurry to come to Jesus and he could not afford just to look at Jesus. He knew he must do something. And from that realization he learned that staying in the comfort zone would not be enough! He learned to understand that moving forward requires initiative. Outside the boat can be the place where we will grow, calling us to learn.
- Leaving the boat means fully relying on God alone . That is TRUST
To be sure, Peter’s decision to jump overboard was pretty foolish, particularly in the midst of a storm. It’s the very definition of “throwing you to the dangerzone” This time I want to explore the mind of Peter. I was a little curious maybe Peter was so confident that whatever will happen to him, Jesus is there to save him.
In times like storms, most of us would stay in the boat, too. And in this way, the boat becomes a metaphor for how we try to keep ourselves safe, comfortable, and sheltered, particularly when things are rough. We have our own boat that we thought could take us somewhere and would keep us safe. It could be our work, our property, our wisdom, profession and many others that we may think will satisfy us. But all of these will not keep us safe forever. It is our own choice how long we can hold on to our own boats.
But what if staying could be more dangerous or it is no longer healthy and safe for us to hold on to and stay? What if stepping out and leaving whatever is behind can save you?
Getting out of the boat is a leap of faith. Fortunately, we aren’t just stepping oout into nowhere, nor are we being completely thrown in the deep end without help. Jesus is there, calling to us and encouraging us to step out. And if we get scared and start to sink, Jesus is there to hold us up so that the waters will not overwhelm us. And all of this is possible with just a little bit of faith. The little faith that is the size of a mustard seed and can still move mountains (see Matthew 17:20). The little faith that gets Peter, and us, out of the boat.
The existential philosopher, Soren Kierkegarrd, called the decision to follow Jesus a leap of faith, like jumping off the cliff. One could not play it safe and follow Christ, rather we must be willing to risk it all.
In our time today, we live in a world where acquiring material things is the main focus. And sometimes these thinking will lead us to be dependent and attached to it. But in our story, Peter showed us that those things that hinder us from coming and holding on to Jesus is nothing compared to the kind of assurance that we could find in Jesus alone.
In the end, who looks better? Peter who tried and sank or the other 11 who didn’t even try? The 11 played it safe. Only Peter took the risk. Let us all dare to leave our boats like Peter and be blessed with the presence of Jesus, whom we can always hold on to. Amen.
(Sermon delivered during the University Christian Life Emphasis Month religious convocation for faculty and staff held July 9, 2018, Silliman University Church.)