The disciples were being tested and challenged in their faith…Jesus was no longer at their side instructing them, and they were now being forced to depend on what they had learned . Even though Jesus had told them to,” stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift My Father promised.” (Acts 1:4) Simon Peter reverted back to what he knew and felt confident and comfortable in…fishing. We always need to be careful when we go back to things of the past. And we need to be ever questioning our motives for it. Is it out of laziness, or insecurity, or consolation that we revert back to past things? One of my very favorite quotes from Oswald Chambers in his Devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest is, “Beware of paying attention or going back to what you once were, when God wants you to be something that you have never been.”
Jesus had just told the Disciples that where He was going, they could not follow at that time. But impulsive Peter didn’t want to wait. Waiting on the Lord can be maddening at times. We think we know what to do…and so impatiently we attempt to steer the ship in that direction…only to do more harm than good. When God says, “Not now,” we need to be able to rest in it, knowing that His timing is perfect. And while we wait…we should strive to find delight in the delay and praise in the postponement…for it’s a chance to learn firsthand what patience and perseverance are all about.
In these scriptures we see the story of Jesus walking on the water and the disciples initial reaction. The disciples had been rowing for hours…fighting the rising winds and rough water. They were exhausted. With heads down, they were battling to just keep moving forward. So when Jesus approached the boat, fatigue and stress blinded them to be able to even recognize Jesus…irrationally, they imagined that it was a ghost rising from the waves. The same thing will happen to us when we fight the storms of life alone. Heads down, we power through, battling to keep moving ahead, but becoming more and more drained. It’s then that the combination of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion often leads to unfounded fears that overtake us. It’s also at that time, we suddenly come to the end of ourselves and finally cry out, “Lord, I can’t do this!”
Baptism…just as during the time of John the Baptist, is a public action, for an internal, personal decision for Christ. It symbolizes the spiritual cleansing through the forgiveness of sins to those who repent and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Baptism is part of the Great Commission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” As a new Christian, you don’t have to be perfect before you can be baptized…you don’t have to have it “all together” and cleaned up prior either. Baptism is a public “Just as I am” coming to Jesus moment.
This story actually started earlier as Jesus and the Disciples were traveling. An argument had ensued among the Disciples of just who was the greatest. So now Jesus was calling them out on it and extinguishing any ego that was still lingering by having a little boy stand among them as an example of how He wanted them to behave. Not as proud, honor-seeking men, but as meek, gentle, giving children.
Jesus saw promise in him…his fellow disciples saw honesty, and entrusted him with the group’s money. So what really happened to Judas? He was the only non-Galilean among the twelve, so did that make him feel outside the group, not really belonging, not part of the inner circle? Or did he feel frustration and disappointment that Jesus wasn’t taking over the Roman Empire by force as the disciples had envisioned? What prompted Judas to abruptly change from an ardent follower to the most infamous betrayer in history? It’s difficult to say, but we all possess that same willful sin nature Judas did, and all of us could make that same treacherous choice.