22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28″Lord, if it’s you,” Peterreplied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
This familiar story, which most of you have heard many times, is not to be toyed with or passed over lightly. This story has been preserved and passed down for centuries just FOR YOU today. This morning you are not just a curious bystander, a casual observer or a detached reader of this story. This morning YOU are in the boat with the disciples, feeling the wind against your face and the splashing of the waves against your skin. Jesus is approaching YOU on the stormy waters and YOU will have the opportunity to either join Peter as he takes that bold step of faith off the ledge of the boat or whether you’ll remain a mere passenger in the boat.
This situation you now find yourself in this story presents you with at least seven considerations as you prepare for Confirmation Sunday.
1. The Boat as an image for the Church. The boat is a powerful picture of Christ’s followers all gathered together in one place, passing through the stormy waters of life and protected by the powerful presence of the God who has control over all the storms of life.
2. Most of us are “put into the boat” (v. 22) by our parents as children. Most of you didn’t originally choose to be in this boat, to be part of this church. You are here today with us whether you wanted to be or not. That will soon change. Soon you will make your own choice.
3. Just because you’re in the boat doesn’t mean you know Jesus (vv. 26-27). Notice that the disciples don’t recognize Jesus when he passes by them. Do you think the church has ever missed Jesus as he passes by because he didn’t look like we expected (“It’s a ghost!” they said.)? Do we know Jesus well enough to recognize him and his presence among us today?
4. There’s a world of difference between (a) being in the boat (i.e., going to church) and (b) stepping out in faith and depending on Jesus (vv. 28-29). Confirmation Sunday places you out on the ledge of the boat and, like Peter, you must decide if you really trust Jesus enough to take the next bold step of faith. Will you choose to experience the miraculous by stepping out onto the waters? Do you want to live a life of radical, risky obedience? Or do you want to live safely and comfortably — just kicking back and enjoying the warm, dry, comfortable “boat ride” with your friends? Are you going to be a disciple or boat dweller?
5. Real, authentic Christianity is “Sink or swim” (vv. 30-31). You can fake your faith quite easily inside the boat (“playing church” on Sundays). Yet, once you step out onto the risky waters of total dependance on God you will need to put into practice all of the “swimming strokes” (Bible knowledge & spiritual disciplines) you have learned in Confirmation class. You must really trust the “life-preserving” God who calls you out of the boat. If not, the world that is in opposition to Christ will sink you. When you finally step off the ledge, it is sink or swim!
6. Even faithful disciples doubt but Jesus saves (vv. 30-31)! Good news: If you DO choose to get out of the boat and follow Jesus, you will still have doubts and start to sink from time to time, but Jesus will always pull you back up. Even Jesus’ most passionate and courageous disciple still had doubts and fear. Stepping off the ledge requires FAITH, not certainty or fearlessness.
7. Truly making Jesus your Lord will lead to authentic worship (vv. 32-33). We will not experience the power of God in our lives until we come to the end of ourselves. We will not walk on water until we leave the safety of our own boats. Do you really want to experience God’s miraculous provision? Then jump out of the safety of the boat and take a risk for God! When God shows up in power and you glimpse His presence and protection, rescuing you from your own storm, you will be moved to authentic worship and praise! (“Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”)
Let me close with a contemporary “pirated version” of one of Jesus’ most demanding yet transforming discipleship challenges. Jesus famously said, “If anyone wants to come with me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross every day, and follow me” (Luke 9:16). In more pirate lingo, in keeping with our boat scene with you standing nervously on the ledge of the boat staring Jesus in the face, he says to you: “If you want to really own your faith, and be a real follower and not just a fair-weather “boat passenger” then you must walk this plank voluntarily, step off the edge and trust that I’ll keep you afloat.”
Confirmation Sunday is here. I encourage each of you to step out onto the ledge, look Jesus in the eyes and walk the plank!