Monday, August 11, 2008

should Peter have got out of the boat?

Yesterday's gospel text was the story of Peter getting out of the boat and walking towards Jesus on the water.

We had a lively discussion on this text at our eucharist. I put forward the suggestion that in actual fact Peter's getting out of the boat could be seen as an act of unbelief rather than the great act of faith it so often is seen as.


Well, the disciples are all in the boat and the storm is raging all around them. Jesus walks towards them and says "It is I. Do not be afraid" (his favourite command). Peter then says "IF IT IS YOU command me to come to you". In other words, Peter couldn't take Jesus at his word and believe it was Christ.

In the end Jesus rebukes him for having "little faith". Was this in relation to his sinking or in relation to him not believing it was Jesus in the first place and needing extra proof??

What are the implications of this?

In our discussion I said that the disciples who stayed in the boat were, in an important sense, just as faithful as Peter who got out of the boat. We live in a Christian celebrity culture where the daring exploits of a few 'superstar' Christians grab all the headlines. We are used to seeing certain people elevated to a superior status - the books, the tours, the conference platforms etc. etc. And these people are, for the most part, good people and we should listen to them and thank God for them.

But meanwhile the rest of us are still in the boat wondering whether we should have got out and walked on the water too and perhaps feeling a little bad that we didn't. But staying in the boat can often be just as faithful a way to live as getting out and walking on the water.

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