Debunking the miracle of walking on water requires a very creative mind. Water walking is just utterly impossible. But one skeptic has a solution. He suggests that the boat was leaking oil and Yahshua simply walked out on the oil slick!
Dedicated to Charles Mark Cody Jonah 2:1-9;
Psalm 130; Matthew 14:22-33
Psalm 130; Matthew 14:22-33
Matthew 14: 22. And at once he
made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he
sent the crowds away. 23. After sending the crowds away he went up into the
hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24. while the
boat, by now some furlongs from land, was hard pressed by rough waves, for there
was a head-wind. 25. In the fourth watch of the night he came towards them,
walking on the sea, 26. and when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they
were terrified. "It is a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. 27. But at
once Yahshua called out to them, saying, "Courage! It's me! Don't be afraid." 28.
It was Peter who answered. "Lord," he said, "if it is you, tell me to come to
you across the water." 29. Yahshua said, "Come." Then Peter got out of the boat
and started walking towards Yahshua across the water, 30. but then noticing the
wind, he took fright and began to sink. "Lord," he cried, "save me!" 31.
put out his hand at once and held him. "You have so little faith," he said, "why
did you doubt?" 32. And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. 33. The men
in the boat bowed down before him and said, "Truly, you are the Son of
22. And at once he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he sent the crowds away. 23. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24. while the boat, by now some furlongs from land, was hard pressed by rough waves, for there was a head-wind. 25. In the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the sea, 26. and when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. "It is a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. 27. But at once Yahshua called out to them, saying, "Courage! It's me! Don't be afraid." 28. It was Peter who answered. "Lord," he said, "if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water." 29. Yahshua said, "Come." Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Yahshua across the water, 30. but then noticing the wind, he took fright and began to sink. "Lord," he cried, "save me!" 31. Yahshua put out his hand at once and held him. "You have so little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" 32. And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. 33. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, "Truly, you are the Son of Elohim."
I had a very unusual experience when I was a teenager. Several of us friends heard that there was a hooligan prowling in a particularly dark neighborhood where one of the boys lived. This person appeared only in the evening to terrify children. The assaults continued on for some time without anyone catching the perpetrator. One fellow who lived in that neighborhood double dog dared the rest of us to help him track down this pervert and capture him. How foolish we were to take the dare! We camped out on the edge of a swamp where the prowler had been seen. It was a reckless and dangerous decision. Of course, our parents knew nothing of our plan to be heroes.
It wasn’t long before a shadowy figure peered out of the thick vegetation. We all saw “it” clearly by the illumination of our flashlights from a distance of about ten feet. What we saw wasn’t what we expected. The ‘thing’ was only about three feet tall and was shrouded in what appeared to be a black cloak. There was no detail to it; it was like a standing shadow -- like a tiny man in black. It darted out of the vegetation and hopped behind an apple tree, poking its head out every few seconds to keep watch on us. We kept our lights trained on it. Our bravest gang members moved toward it, keeping it pinned behind the tree with thrown apples. When we got within six feet of the tree, the thing darted right by us and disappeared into the swamp.
A few boys were exhilarated, but three boys went home crying, terrified. I stayed behind, hoping to help solve the mystery. We got into our sleeping bags and covered our heads. Not long after there was a commotion and the sound of footsteps moving through. I peeked my head out of the bag to find this little black shadow person standing right there, bent over me, looking at me with glowing slits for eyes. Filled with panic and wondering what I had gotten myself into, I swung a short piece of pipe out from my sleeping bag and made solid contact with the thing as I cried for help. The other boys responded immediately and we all watched the thing hobble back into the swamp. We didn’t see it again. Twice was plenty. On a dare, we put ourselves in a dangerous position but were fortunate to have encountered only a strange enigma rather than a dangerous criminal.
It’s a Ghost!
So, to a degree, I can relate to a what the disciples saw that grim, dark, stormy night on the Sea of Galilee -- a black-shrouded demon levitating above the mist and foam of the waves, hovering closer and closer, threatening, menacing, horrifying. The boys in the boat are terrified –“It’s a ghost,” they cry in dread desperation. There’s no place to run and hide except beneath the deadly waves of the sea. When Yahshua realizes that his boys see him as a monster, he identifies himself with a loud cry through the howling wind – “Take courage; don’t be afraid! It is I.” How could they not be afraid, considering the dismal setting and the specter of the ghost-man before them? How many water-walkers had they seen in their young lives? Such ability to tread water was here-to-fore unknown.
Miracles that suspend the course of nature are unbelievable. For the most part, the miracles of Yahshua may be explained away as natural occurrences or coincidences. It’s been said that when he healed sick people, he was practicing the placebo effect, using hypnotic suggestion or tapping into people’s natural ability to heal themselves, which he called ‘faith.’ Some see the feeding of the five thousand with a few loaves and fish as the perfectly natural result of human charity; when the young boy showed his generosity in sharing his loaves and fishes, the others in the crowd were so touched that they too brought out the food they’d hidden, creating enough to feed everyone. Even when on the sea, the stilling of the storm might have been but a timely coincidence – Yahshua commands it to stop and it just stops, right on schedule. You or I might happen upon the same timing if we tried it.
But debunking the miracle of walking on water requires a very creative mind. Water walking is just utterly impossible. But one skeptic has a solution. He suggests that the boat was leaking oil and Yahshua simply walked out on the oil slick!
I for one believe that if Yahshua is who he claims to be, the Son of Man from Heaven, and if he has the power to lay down his life and take it up again, then modifying a few laws of terrestrial physics isn’t beyond his power. If there are reputable witnesses to the miraculous works of Yahshua, and it appears that there are many, and since his deeds are well documented, then I have no reason not to believe that he could work miracles. Personally, there could be no greater miracle, no matter how profound it might seem to be, even if a mountain were moved into the sea, than the miracle that he’s performed in my own life and among those whom I love in church and family. Personal miracles experienced in the past as a result of our asking for his favor are the signs that draw us into greater trust for the future. Nothing is impossible with Elohim / Elohim through his faithful Son. I believe in miracles for I believe in Elohim.
The Impetuous Peter
The impetuous Peter believes in miracles, too. He challenges Yahshua’ admonition to be at peace. “If it’s you, Master, dare me to hop out!” Now the name Peter means “stone.” When a stone is cast into the sea, does it float? No. Old Stony would sink straight to the bottom and drown if he should venture out into that mess. He probably expects Yahshua to say, “Stay put!” But he misjudges the Master. Yahshua never fails to accept a challenge, no matter how difficult. “Come on out then!” he replies. Now Peter has to put up – he makes the hop over the gunwale and, keeping his eyes on Yahshua, begins to duplicate the miracle of water walking.
Like a child showing off, he cries to his buddies: “Here I am! Look at me now!” But the Scripture says a strong gale came up and about knocked him over. He took his eyes off Yahshua for just a moment to get his bearing, and when he did, he suddenly realized the foolishness of his commitment – that above him were thunderings and lightenings and beneath him were deadly, ice cold waves and sea monsters to feast on his carcass. The moment his vision strayed from the Master, circumstances and speculations, dangers and deadly fears, engulf him. He begins to sink. As the freeze envelopes his body, the fear of death starts to overcome him and several notions flashed into his mind.
First, through the panic comes the voice of reason, chastising him for being such a brazen fool to have stepped out of the boat in the first place. “You idiot. Your impulsiveness has cost you your life.” Following fast upon that, the devil of doubt shouts even more loudly than the awful noise of the storm, “Miracles no longer happen, you dope. You’re mine now!”
In desperation and going down fast, he thinks of his spiritual father, Jonah, who cried from the belly of the fish:
You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounds me; all your waves and billows pass over me. The waters close in; the deep engulfs me; weeds wrap around my head. Selah!" (Jonah 2:1-9)
Finally, in what he fancies to be his final moment, his life flashes before his eyes, but no peace can he find in the images. He’s a goner and he knows it.
New Conclusions and Old Confessions
What conclusion may we draw from this story? I’ve often heard that we should step out of the boat; that is, we should be willing to take a serious risk in order to move our lives closer to the life of the Lord. Have you heard this moral? Or that we ought to be more than willing – enthusiastic even – about moving from the natural realm to the spiritual realm, even to the miraculous. That’s a good message. Step into the water.
There’s never anything wrong with stepping out in faith; in fact, we should definitely move forward in our trust of Yahshua every day. We should definitely put at risk our unElohimly beliefs and baseless doubts in favor of taking that step upward in confidence. However, if we are bound to step out in faith, then the faith must not be blind. Blind faith is not faith at all, but pride and folly. Let me suggest a different moral for our story that might be a little more in keeping with the context of the passage.
Let me confess my sins. I’ve made some mistakes in my life. Haven’t you? We’re free to make all kinds of mistakes. We’re free, free, free! In my impulsiveness, at times I’ve challenged the Master, gotten ahead of his plan or strayed from it entirely thinking I was doing the right thing. Sometimes I didn’t even consider his way, only my way. Sometimes I lied to myself, pretending that I was doing the Lord’s will when, really, I knew it was my will all along. Sometimes I have said that the Lord told me to do something that he really didn’t – I just used him as a scapegoat. Like Peter, I have, in some manner, blindly challenged Yahshua with my own freedom to do as I please – “Yahshua, I dare you to dare me to hop out of the boat!” What else would Yahshua reply but “Come on, then”? Are we not free to do something stupid?
There have been times in my recklessness that my eyes have been off of Him and on the situations and circumstances whirling around me; times I’ve stepped out of the boat without looking or even thinking of where I was going. Sometimes my carelessness lost me friends, relationships or church members; a few times exercising blind faith nearly cost me my life or the life of someone I loved. Freedom to do what I choose coupled with blind faith is a marriage of disaster!
I make my confession because I’m not the only one in this room who has, in stubbornness, done the wrong thing or the stupid thing or the reckless thing willfully or thoughtlessly – like hopping out of a boat at night in the middle of a storm. Is such a badge of courage or an act of tempting Elohim? Undoubtedly, some of the days of our lives have been spent in the “belly of the fish” because of our own designs and impulsive doings. Like Jonah, we have made our own desires our Elohims, testing the Almighty, and ending up in some horrible pit of depression or anxiety or phobia or compromising situation, “weeds wrapped around our heads.” Have you ever done something stupid that landed you in a place you didn’t want to be? Did Yahshua reprimand you when you double-dog dared him? No. He probably said, “Just go right ahead and try!” And then down the slippery slope you slid.
It was in this very kind of watery depth in which Peter came to his senses. Or should I say, in which his fear could no longer be contained. Keeping faith in his own ability would put him in over his head. Other men and women might have sunk right on down, not knowing what powerful name to call on before it was too late. Yet fortunately, Peter is still a child in the eyes of the Master and he trusts the Master even more than he trusts himself. With all the breath left to him, he gurgles the one name that could save, “Yah shua! Yahshua!” (which means, “L-rd [Yah] save!”)! In the nick of time, Peter again looks to Yahshua only, and Yahshua in turn is suddenly there to reach out his strong right arm to save. “Oh, such small faith! You were sinking like a stone. That’s the very reason I named you ‘Peter.’ Why did you doubt me? Why?”
When they get back into the boat there is absolutely no question of what happened. Indeed, there was not one skeptic there, puzzling out how Yahshua accomplished his latest miracle. Not one debunker in the crowd. They worshipped him and they knew that this miracle could in no way be faked or duplicated. “For sure,” they cried in unison, “you are the son of Yahweh!” But Peter was even more convinced than the rest because it was he who was rescued from his folly. It was his hand that was in the grasp of the Master of Physics. It was his soaking face that the Master explored in those moments of rescue. His pride drowned that day but his faith in Yahshua was preserved.
Calling Upon the Name
Let me suggest that, since this occurrence, thousands who have found themselves entangled in impossible or deadly situations have realized their folly and called upon the name of Yahshua, finding salvation and rescue in the very nick of time. I confessed that I’d been blind to his will many times in the past, exercising my free agency right into the clutches of danger, depression or oppression, yet he has saved me each and every time I came to the end of my rope and took hold of his. Since love lifted me, I’m pleased to hear testimony of those who dare to share their own stories of both folly and rescue. It’s an exciting way of building our faith in and knowledge of the ways in which Yahshua works -- hearing the powerful stories of those whom he has salvaged. Truly, he is the “Son of Yahweh,” and he walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am his own. You and me! We are so blessed in our lives to have met the Master, to know him, to be able to utter his name in worship and fear, and to be known by him and have our names written in his book of life.
I said we are blessed to know him. It might not have been so. Peter would have eventually hopped out of the boat whether he knew Yahshua or not. We might never have known him or known to call upon him in our hour of need. We could have been like those who, finding themselves in deadly jeopardy, shout the name “Yahshua” as a curse or as a harried prayer to one never known in person. We could have been like the heathen – completely left to our own devises or puppeteered through life by dark, unclean forces. But we have known him, have supped with him and befriended him, and he has protected us even when we leaped without looking. We are a fortunate people. We are members of his body and servants in his household. He is the miracle-worker and he cares for us.
But I can’t speak for all. Perhaps you know his name best because you use it as a curse. Perhaps you don’t know him at all and can’t claim your line in his book of life. Maybe you’re not sure you can count on him when you finally go down – and it’s 100% certain that you will go down. Well, today’s the day to change that. Remember, the boat belonged to Peter, and it was into Peter’s boat that the Master was invited. Why don’t you invite him into your boat today while it’s still your time of visitation? No one knows for certain what tomorrow will bring except that our freedom to be blind will surely take us where we don’t want to go. We must enlist the help of the one who knows the end from the beginning. Call on him now and he will certainly come and take your hand in his strong right arm. Invite him to your boat, especially if your boat is sinking. I double dog dare you!