22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
I used to have a real rocket scientist in one of the congregations I served. He held patents in his name on hardware that blasted things into space. He was a very capable fellow. He was part of a team that built the tubes which were filled with fuel and which make up most of a rocket. He insisted that they were “just string and glue.” They were much more than that. He was also the chair of our board of trustees at church. We always joked that when something broke in the parsonage or at church we should be able to fix it. After all, it was not rocket science, and, even if it was, we had that covered!
My friend was constrained, despite all his knowledge, by the rules which the universe presented to him. He acknowledged that God had written those rules and he had to abide by them. The materials with which he constructed his rocket bodies could only take so much stress. An object needed to achieve a certain speed to break free of Earth’s gravity. If it did not reach that speed, it would inexorably fall back to earth. He was able to do amazing things, but always and only within those rules.
The disciples in the boat that night struggled against these same invariable forces of nature. Being fishermen, they knew the power of wind and waves. They had probably known men who had drown in this lake. They had comforted grieving widows and contributed to support their orphaned children. It is what men who make a living on the water do. This night, however, they encountered one who did not need to obey those rules. He could bend those rules, they realized, because he had written them. He walked out to them on the water. He even called Peter from the boat to walk with him. Peter did, though fear caused him to take his eyes off Jesus and he needed rescuing. Look again at what the disciples do when Peter and Jesus get back into the boat. For pious, even zealous Jewish men this is significant. They worship Jesus. They know that they may only worship One – the One who created the world, parted the Red Sea, put David on his throne, and sent the prophets. Jesus is that One. The world has largely rejected God because they often imagine the god whom they reject to be less than the forces which govern this universe. We reject such a god as well. Rather, we worship this God, this One who wrote the rules and sustains the cosmos.