COLLAPSE AND RECOVERY
Peter got down from the boat and walked on the water to come to Jesus. But, when he saw the wind, he was afraid; and, when he began to sink below the water, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and grasped him. “O man of little faith!” he said. “Why did you begin to have doubts?” And when they got into the boat, the wind sank. And those in the boat knelt in reverence before him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
There is no passage in the New Testament in which Peter’s character is more fully revealed than this. It tells us three things about him.
(i) Peter was given to acting upon impulse and without thinking of what he was doing. It was his mistake that again and again he acted without fully facing the situation and without counting the cost. He was to do exactly the same when he affirmed undying and unshakable loyalty to Jesus (Matt. 26:33-35), and then denied his Lord’s name. And yet there are worse sins than that, because Peter’s whole trouble was that he was ruled by his heart; and, however he might sometimes fail, his heart was always in the right place and the instinct of his heart was always love.
(ii) Because Peter acted on impulse, he often failed and came to grief. It was always Jesus’ insistence that a man should look at a situation in all its bleak grimness before he acted (Lk.9:57-58; Matt. 16:24-25). Jesus was completely honest with men; he always bade them see how difficult it was to follow him before they set out upon the Christian way. A great deal of Christian failure is due to acting upon an emotional moment without counting the cost.
(iii) But Peter never finally failed, for always in the moment of his failure he clutched at Christ. The wonderful thing about him is that every time he fell, he rose again; and that it must have been true that even his failures brought him closer and closer to Jesus Christ. As has been well said, a saint is not a man who never fails; a saint is a man who gets up and goes on again every time he falls. Peter’s failures only made him love Jesus Christ the more.
These verses finish with another great and permanent truth. When Jesus got into the boat, the wind sank. The great truth is that, wherever Jesus Christ is, the wildest storm becomes a calm. Olive Wyon, in her book Consider Him, quotes a thing from the letters of St. Francis of Sales. St. Francis had noticed a custom of the country districts in which he lived. He had often noticed a farm servant going across a farmyard to draw water at the well; he also noticed that, before she lifted the brimming pail, the girl always put a piece of wood into it. One day he went out to the girl and asked her, “Why do you do that?” She looked surprised and answered, as if it were a matter of course, “Why? to keep the water from spilling …
to keep it steady!” Writing to a friend later on, the bishop told this story and added: “So when your heart is distressed and agitated, put the Cross into its centre to keep it steady!” In every time of storm and stress, the presence of Jesus and the love which flows from the Cross bring peace and serenity and calm.
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