Walking on Water
Are you an orderly person? Maybe you like everything to have a place. As believers in Jesus, the one place we have little control over is the messiness of faith. As we continue in our series, The Common Thread, we look at the story of Jesus and Peter as they walked on water. Most of us know the story. The disciples are on the boat and storm blows up on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus walks on water towards the boat but the disciples think He is a ghost. Jesus has to assure them of who He is to which Peter asks if he can come out to him. As Peter is walking on the water a wave comes up and he gets scared, takes his eyes off of Jesus, and starts sinking. Jesus catches him and says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).
Peter walked out on the water in faith and trusting in God. But he got wet and almost sunk! Chris will share how our faith is messy and how that is okay! We’ll also see how Peter and Abraham are similar in their walks of faith.
If you’ve missed the previous episodes of this series, you can find them in our Archives.
Steve Conover: Are you the type of person that tends to be highly organized and plans every part of your life? Perhaps you prefer jumping into the unknown and figuring it out as you go. The truth is we all like to be in control at some level. But when it comes to our faith, sometimes we can't know the way it will go.
This is the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. On this episode, we're continuing our series called The Common Thread.
Chris Katulka: Steve, stepping out in faith isn't always pretty. It's actually quite messy at times. But it's those messy moments where I believe God can do the most work in our lives. That's why we're looking at the faith of two important men, Abraham and the apostle Peter. Two men of faith who I believe would be the first to admit that stepping out in faith was, at times, chaotic, but definitely life changing.
Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat from Minnesota's Fifth District, has posted a series of anti-Semitic tweets accusing Israel supporters in Congress of being financially beholden to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Well, here's my take. Friends, in short, Representative Omar is saying the Jewish people control the government. Her words are really the most basic form of modern anti-Semitism, the hatred of Jewish people. What Representative Omar said about the Jewish people through social media is reprehensible, and yet her only punishment was a bunch of newspaper editorials written about her. The hatred of the Jewish people should not be the future of America. For Minnesota's Fifth District, is this really who you want representing you?
We're continuing our Common Thread series as we look at the common thread that binds the Bible together. That common thread, as we've been going through for the past few weeks is the promise that God made to Abraham, and how from this promise comes the hope of God's revelation to His creation as He chooses Abraham to be the father of many nations, but that through him would come descendants, the Jewish people, and the promise of the land of Israel, and the hope that through Abraham, all of the families of the earth would be blessed. We believe the promise to Abraham is really the string that just binds all of the Bible together.
Last week, we looked at one of the prophets of the Old Testament, Jonah, and how God called Jonah to go to a people he wasn't particularly fond of to let them know that God is giving them a chance to repent and to turn to Him. Really, it's a picture of God's grace. Jonah was to be a messenger of God's grace to a very wicked people. From the same location that Jonah fled from the Lord, the Lord also called Peter in the New Testament to go to another group of Gentiles that the Jewish people weren't too fond of to share about the hope and salvation that's found in Christ Jesus. It's the Romans.
Just like Jonah wasn't happy about going to the Ninevites, a group of Gentiles, to share of God's grace that He would actually relent from His judgment towards them, Peter was called to go to Cornelius, a Roman, a Gentile, to let him know of the salvation found in Jesus Christ. It all happened in the same location. This really all stems from the promise God made to Abraham, that He would bless all the families of the earth through this promise that God made.
If you didn't get a chance to listen to last week's radio program, I want to encourage you to go to foiradio.org. Right there on our home page, you'll see an archives area where you can go and listen to our past episodes. You can listen to the entire Common Thread series, and you can even go back and listen from the very beginning. So I want to encourage you to go to foiradio.org.
Now, over the past few weeks, we've looked at some of the mechanics of the promise that God made to Abraham. Remember how the promise was made to the Jewish people. It was a promise of descendants, and finally how God promised land for the Jewish people, and how God promised to Abraham that he would be a blessing and that He would bless all the families of the earth. But really, all of this started because of faith. It was a step of faith that Abraham had to take before God would even use him. Let me tell you, that step of faith, it wasn't pretty. When Abraham stepped out in faith, when he stepped out into the uncertainty of what God was calling Him to do, it wasn't organized. It wasn't arranged. It wasn't sorted into a set of bullet points, systematized into some management system.
Stepping out in faith for Abraham, without having all of his ducks in a row, and looking and trusting that God would be faithful to His promise, was such a vital part of what God was going to do through Abraham. God was looking ... This is so important, my friends. God was looking for a servant who would say "yes". It was all about that step of faith that started Abraham's journey with the Lord. When you look at Abraham's life, the 14 chapters or so from the book of Genesis, you see that Abraham's faith journey wasn't perfect at all.
Abraham doubted God's faithfulness when he got into the land. Abraham feared Abimelech when he came into the land, and he saw his wife Sarah, and he called Sarah his sister, because he was scared of what Abimelech would do to him. So he actually lied about who Sarah was, being his wife. Abraham was forced to make a difficult decision to offer up his son on an altar as a sacrifice. Praise God, an angel of the Lord intervened. God was testing Abraham's faith. But really the initial step to say yes to God, to follow Him into what seems almost impossible, was the impetus for how God would use Abraham. Abraham's faith journey through Genesis was not a perfect journey. It wasn't systematized. It wasn't organized.
Fast forward to the New Testament in the gospels. After Jesus fed the 5,000 in Matthew 14, Jesus has the disciples get into the boat to go to the other side of the sea. It says Jesus stuck around to disperse the crowds. Matthew 14:24-33 says this, "Meanwhile, the boat already far from land, was taking a beating from the waves because the wind was against it. As the night was ending, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the water, they were terrified and said, 'It's a ghost!', and cried out with fear. But immediately, Jesus spoke to them and He said this, 'Have courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.' Peter said to Him, 'Lord, if it is You, order me to come to You on the water.' So He said, 'Come'. Peter got out of the boat, and he walked on the water. He came toward Jesus, but when he saw the strong wind, he became afraid. Starting to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately, Jesus reached out His hand and caught him saying, 'You of little faith. Why did you doubt?' When they went up into the boat, the winds ceased. Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, Jesus, saying, 'Truly You are the Son of God.'"
Friends, let me paint the picture here. The Sea of Galilee sits about 700 feet below sea level. The location of the sea makes it subject to sudden and violent storms, as the wind comes over the eastern mountains and drops suddenly onto the sea. Storms are especially likely when the east wind blows this cool air over the warm air that covers the sea. That cold air which is heavier, drops as the warm air rises. Then suddenly, this change produces this ferocious storm that can come out in such a short amount of time as it did in Jesus's day. The storm that the disciples encountered wasn't a thunderstorm. It wasn't a hurricane or tornado. It was a wind storm.
Listen, I've been on the Sea of Galilee when it's quiet and placid and nice and calm. Then out of nowhere, this wind begins to pick up and move across the water. The waves begin to pick up as well and to rise. In fact, once I was teaching a group of students on the Sea of Galilee, and this Israeli captain on the boat shouts out while I'm teaching, "Man overboard!" It was an Israeli jet skier who was floating around for hours after a huge wave had knocked him off his jet ski.
Either way, the disciples had every right to be nervous. They had every right to fear for their lives. If anybody knew the sea, it was them. They knew the environment. They worked the Sea of Galilee their whole life. So their fear, friends, was real. Jesus calls out to them in the storm, like only the God who created all things could. He's walking on water. But I want to focus for a moment on Peter here.
Before Jesus calms the storm and disciples realize it's Him walking on the water, Peter does something radical. He says, "Lord, if it is You, order me to come to You on the water." Peter is saying, "Jesus, if that's really You walking on water out there, then I want to be there with You. Call me out to You." Instead of being this passive actor in the story like the rest of disciples, who are just sitting in the boat, Peter asks to actually participate in Jesus's mastery over the turbulent waters. He says, "Jesus, bring me out there." Of course, what Jesus say? "Come."
So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But then notice, all of a sudden, the wind and the storm and the waves, they begin to pick up. Peter loses his focus on Jesus and starts to sink. That's when Peter cries out, "Jesus, save me!" Jesus pulled him up and said, "You of little faith. Why did you doubt me?" Then Jesus calmed the storm. You know the way the story ends. Honestly, it's kind of a bit depressing. Jesus does calm the storm, the disciples do worship Him, which is amazing. But you're left with this nagging feeling inside like, "Come on, Peter!" Or did Peter fail?
After you read Jesus say, "You of little faith", I mean, I could see myself being in the same boat, no pun intended, as Peter, where I'm looking out, I'm taking that step of faith, but then I'm sinking because I see the world around me. You know what? When we come back, I want to bring a little light to the end of this story, and show how even our messy faith is still a faith God wants to use.
Steve Conover: We'd like to share with you a book that has been helpful to us here at the Friends of Israel in our own studies, Charting The Bible Chronologically. This hardbound, full-color piece by authors Ed Hindson and Thomas Ice, gives you a panoramic view of the events recorded in Scripture. With more than 40 charts of timelines and overviews of major empires, Bible characters, and events throughout history, we know you will enjoy it and reference it as much as we do, as you study God's Word, both privately and in a group.
To order your copy of Charting The Bible Chronologically, go to foiradio.org, or call our listener line at (888) 343-6940. That's foiradio.org, or call us at (888) 343-6940.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back, everyone. We are continuing our Common Thread series, a series that's all about how the Bible is bound together through a promise, a special promise, that God made to Abraham. Today, we're looking at how our faith journey often never turns out the way we would have ever planned it, and how sometimes stepping out in faith can be quite messy. It can be quite dirty, and maybe even get us wet.
Before God made a promise to Abraham back in Genesis 12, first remember, Abraham had to step out in faith. He had to go. If Abraham didn't go, then the benefits of God's promise would have never been realized. As you know, Abraham did step out in faith. Like I showed in the previous segment, it wasn't pretty. It was often full of moments of doubt, anxiety and fear. In other moments, it was actually full of maybe joy and freedom and faith. You could say Abraham and Peter both had similar moments of taking a step of faith. Peter stepped out in faith, and he was doing the impossible.
Sometimes when we step out in faith, it does seem like God is calling us into the impossible. But here, Peter, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, is walking on water. Then doubt, anxiety, fear, all of it begins to creep in and then all of a sudden, Peter's sinking. The story ends with, "You of little faith." You can almost get the sense that Peter kind of wasted Jesus's time. Peter, so close, but not close enough. You know, that kind of feeling, when you end the story.
But in reality, though, my friends, that's not what happened. Why? Because faith is messy. Faith is dirty. You get wet when you step out in faith. God didn't call Abraham or Peter or you to step out in faith and then ... He didn't promise then that everything's going to go to plan. He didn't promise Abraham that he'd sail into the Promised Land with no problems. But what He did promise is this, that He would protect and provide for him.
Jesus never said to Peter, "You won't sink." He said, "Come." Jesus never left. It was Peter who lost focus. But here's what I'm trying to say. God can take those messy faith moments of our life and use them for His good. I am absolutely confident God used Peter to be such an important instrument for the birth of the church in the book of Acts because he would step out in faith. He would be the one to step out in faith. Think about this, even though Jesus said to Peter, "You of little faith", do you think that that moment stopped Peter from telling others about what Jesus did for him on the Sea of Galilee? I mean, if I played basketball with my friends and I hit a three-pointer, I'm going to tell you this right now, I'm telling everybody what happened.
If you mean to tell me that Peter didn't leave that moment, where he walked on water for just a brief moment, and share that message with everyone he came in contact with, you're wrong. Peter did. I guarantee Peter went around and said, "You'll never believe it. We saw Jesus standing on the water. He was standing there. So I said, 'Jesus, can I come out to you?', and He said yes. So I walked out there and I was walking on water! Yeah, I sank after a few steps, but I walked on water! When my eyes were fixed on Jesus, I walked on water. I did the impossible! Yeah, I sank. Yeah, I got wet. But I walked on water!"
Friends, if you're looking for faith to be pretty, organized, orderly, or if you're expecting people in your church to have a journey of faith that's pretty and organized and orderly, your understanding of God is all wrong. God wants us to use those messy moments as opportunities to invite others into the grace of God that can only be realized through the One who fulfills the promise that God made to Abraham, Jesus the Messiah.
If you're waiting to get all your ducks in a row or have enough money in the bank to step out in faith, then you're just wasting your time. But wherever you are in your walk with the Lord, God is always calling us to come. Step out on the water, defy the impossible, so others can see and know that God makes the impossible possible.
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: Once every two months, I take my wife to the hospital for a check-up on her eye following her cornea transplant. The last time we were there, two Russian priests sat next to us. We began conversing, and our discussion quickly turned to the matter of faith. They were very sure of themselves and showed me the commentaries, which they were positive contained the root of faith. They reminded me of the many ultra Orthodox Jews I've spoken to over the years, trusting in the words of men rather than in God's word.
I showed them my small Bible and asked, "Which book is of greater value?" When we began to speak about Christ, the priests were sure they were in their own element. I told them, "We must believe in Jesus Christ. Not according to your commentaries, but according to The Bible." The new Russian immigrants in the waiting room also listened attentively to our conversation. Most of them agreed that true faith in God comes only according to The Bible. The priests said, "We do not believe what they say." I told them, "This is not the belief of Jews only. For the millions of genuine Christians, the most important book is the Bible." These people are walking in darkness because they've never found the true way to faith in Christ.
I was not surprised when one of the priests asked, "How did you, a Jew, come to believe in Christ?" I replied, "I can tell from your question how blind you are. You do not even know from which people Jesus came. You must read your bible, not your fictitious books." They asked where in the Bible it was written that Jesus was Jewish. I said, "Moses spoke of Jesus coming from the Jewish people." I then read Deuteronomy 18:15, 18. "The Lord your God will raise up for you," meaning the Jewish people, "a prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear. I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him."
After further conversation, one of the immigrants said, "How can a Jew be so faithful to another religion?" I responded, "I know you call yourselves good Jews because you follow the Rabbinical traditions, but read the Bible and see what the Lord truly wants from us. He wants us to obey His commandments. In God's word, we speak of the faith of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the words of our prophets. This book has been hidden from you in Russia for a long time. Even here in Israel, you are only told about the Old Testament. But if you would study that carefully, especially Isaiah 53, which is never read in the synagogues, you would see for yourselves, it speaks of Jesus Christ."
They were very surprised. "That is impossible!", one exclaimed. I replied, "It is true." I then read and explained Isaiah 53. This was a wonderful witnessing opportunity. As it is written in Isaiah 9:2, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of the death, upon them, a light has shined."
Steve Conover: Thanks for joining us today. Chris, I've been enjoying our series on The Common Thread, and we're about halfway through. What's next? Where are you headed next week?
Chris Katulka: I'm really excited about next week because I really feel like it's kind of a pinnacle moment in our series, because we're actually looking at the death of Christ next week. But not just His death, His resurrection. I believe the Abrahamic covenant plays a major role in the obedience Christ has to the Father. Knowing the faithfulness of God, He went to the cross. We really sense Jesus's humanity in the gospels, that this wasn't something that He just did willy nilly. This was something that He feared. You could sense His fear, but He had a faith in God. He walked right to the cross knowing that He had faith in what God was going to do in vindicating Him and resurrecting Him. So that's what we're looking at next week.
Steve Conover: Thank you, Chris. That's next week. Join us again for The Common Thread. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, co-written by Sarah Fern, Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. I've Steve Conover, Executive Producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry communicating biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
Charting the Bible Chronologically
This hardbound, full color piece by authors Ed Hindson and Thomas Ice gives you a panoramic view of the events recorded in Scripture. With more than 40 charts of timelines and overviews of major empires, Bible characters, and events throughout history —we know you will enjoy it and reference it as much as we do as you study God’s Word both privately and with a group.
Apples of Gold: Read the Bible
While Zvi was with his wife at the hospital two Russian priests sat next to them. As they conversed, the priests bragged about all of their commentaries they rely on. Zvi only had his small Scriptures. As they talked about Jesus and true faith, and as many Russian immigrants in the waiting room listened, Zvi boldly explained the Gospel. Listen how the priests responded.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.