What Will We Want Jesus to Want from Us?

Reading in Matthew 14 this morning, I was impressed afresh at the Apostle Peter’s audacity. I wonder if I, on the verge of 2016, will dare as he dared.

Peter and his fellow disciples are rowing for their lives in the midst of a terrible storm. Exhausted after battling the wind and waves all night, they suddenly see Jesus walking on the water toward them.

The disciples are, sensibly enough, terrified (v. 26). As any intelligent person knows, the only human-shaped object that can hover over water is a ghost, so they rationally conclude that that’s what they’re seeing. And a ghost-sighting is discomfiting indeed.

Jesus, however, calms them by identifying himself.

Immediately, Peter jumps to a conclusion toward which precisely no sensible person would incline: “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water” (v. 28).

Bible-readers know that then Jesus says, “Come,” and then Peter does, and then his faith falters, and then Jesus hauls him up, and finally Peter receives a mild dressing-down for his doubt.

Today, though, let’s pause over Peter’s audacious request. “If it truly is you, Lord [of me, and of all], then command me to ___.” Even if that means commanding me to put aside everything I know as a seasoned fisherman about what happens when human beings step out of boats in the middles of lakes, and cling instead to what I am learning about you.

Peter wasn’t stupid, let’s note. He doesn’t see Jesus doing something astounding and immediately clamber out of the boat figuring, “Well, if he can do it, surely I can.” Quite the contrary. Peter rationally infers that if Jesus commands him, he’ll be able to do the otherwise-impossible. So he asks Jesus to do so, and becomes the only other human being ever to know what it’s like to walk on water.

Another new year approaches. I may once again make some resolutions to take account of my life and reorient it accordingly. Maybe you will, too.

But this year, perhaps I should think about Peter. And his audacious faith.

Instead of merely passively wondering, “What will Jesus command me to do this year?” I could ask instead, “What do I want Jesus to command me to do this year?”

Yes, I should be careful what I wish for! But I should also be careful not to let an opportunity to do a bold new thing slip by because I didn’t ask, because I didn’t hope, because I didn’t believe.

This is the Jesus of super-power that, in the previous gospel story, fed 5000 with lots left over. This is the Jesus of super-power that, in the present story, is master of even the worst chaos (= stormy waters). “Give what you command…and command what you will,” says Augustine.

“Lord, if it’s you, command me to ___”…?

Have a bold new year, my friends!

2 Responses to “What Will We Want Jesus to Want from Us?”

  1. Tony

    Thanks for this, John. The phrase “do the otherwise-impossible” and the repetition of the word “rational” stand out. Very glad to have the reminder of what faith is and where faith should be placed as I am trying to live as a Christian.

    I regularly need this type of refocus to see that faithful action is not me doing something based on my own thinking and expecting God to make my vision work out simply because I identify myself as a disciple. Instead, it is a response I make to God’s command. The fact that God is the initiator and that I am allowed to participate is what makes the otherwise-impossible happen. Seeing success from this perspective, at least in my view, lets us point people to Jesus without it sounding like false piety.

    Interested in your (or other commenters) thoughts on how to discern the command God gives us to fill the blank in your second-to-last sentence (i. e. how to know whether it is God talking to us or us talking to ourselves).

    Thanks again.

  2. Jim

    I suspect being conformed to the mind of Christ allows one to be aware of opportunities to witness in faith and relationship as the way is illuminated…not to be confused as a commandment.

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