Most of you know what a sports fan I am. One of the things that’s amazing about watching sports is how great athletes make what they do look so easy. You see a baseball player make a great catch, or a football player make incredible moves, or a basketball player make a seemingly impossible shot, and yet they seem to do it so effortlessly. They make these incredible plays, and they make it look like it’s the easiest thing in the world. They make it look like anybody could do it.
That is, they make it look that way unless you’ve actually tried to do it yourself. And then, you know that very few people could do it, because it’s not easy at all. It’s incredibly hard. It took years and years of practice, hour after hour, day after day, week after week. It took a lifetime of effort, really, to be able to do the things top athletes do. It’s only because they’ve put in all that effort that they can make it easy.
I bring this up because I think, sometimes, we don’t really have enough appreciation for the miracles of Jesus. I don’t think people did at the time, either. We’re always told that people were amazed when Jesus did a miracle, but then a little while later, often in the next paragraph, people are back to treating Jesus like he’s no big deal, making demands, telling him what to do, complaining about what he has done. It’s like whatever miracle Jesus did, it made no impact at all. Jesus just seemed to make doing miracles look so easy.
That’s not to say that it was easy for Jesus. That’s one of the many things we don’t know: just how hard doing miracles was on Jesus while he was on earth. We have one instance in the eighth chapter of Luke, where a woman touches Jesus’ clothes and is healed, and Jesus says “I know that power has gone out from me.” So clearly it was not nothing for Jesus when he did a miracle. It took something out of him. There are other times, too, where after healing people for a while, Jesus needed to go off by himself and rest and sort of recharge. So working miracles was clearly not as easy for Jesus as it might have sometimes looked like.
In fact, our Bible reading for today takes place right after Jesus had worked a miracle. He had just fed over five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. And you know, this is often referred to as “Jesus feeding the five thousand”, but what the Bible actually says is that he fed five thousand men, plus women and children. So it really could’ve been ten thousand people or even more that Jesus fed that day. With five loaves of bread and two fish.
After that, Jesus sends the disciples on ahead of him in a boat, headed for the other side of a lake, while he stayed behind to pray. Again, that sounds like Jesus needed to have kind of a restoration time after working a miracle. But then, after he’s done, Jesus goes out to where the disciples were, walking on the water to get to them.
Again, Jesus makes it look so easy. Was it easy? I don’t know. But Jesus made it look that way. In fact, Jesus made it look so easy that Peter says to him, hey, let me try that, too.
And Jesus says, sure, go ahead.
And Peter does it. And he can do it. And Peter is making it look easy, too. But then, he looks around and sees the waves, and feels the wind. Peter starts to think about what he’s actually doing. And he starts to sink. And, of course, Jesus reaches out and pulls Peter back up again and they get into the boat.
So what’s the point? Well, there are a couple of them. One is, quite simply, that we should not take the miracles of Jesus for granted. We’ve read and heard some of these Bible stories so often that we sometimes lose the impact of them.
But really think about some of the things Jesus did. There are people here who are dealing with chronic health issues. Others of us have loved ones who are. Think of what it would be like to have Jesus suddenly touch you and heal you. Think of what a miracle that would actually be.
Think about being in that crowd of five thousand men, plus women and children. Think about being hungry and being a long way from anywhere that you could get food. Think about what it would be like to see Jesus standing there with five loaves of bread and two fish and acting like he can feed that whole crowd with that little bit of food. And then think about seeing the disciples start handing out food, and finding out that Jesus actually is going to do it! He actually is going to feed that whole crowd with that little bit of food. It’d be incredible. It’d be a miracle.
And think about being in the boat in our Bible reading for today. Think about being in the boat with disciples. You’re rowing against the wind. It’s night time. You’re trying to make it to shore. And all of a sudden, you look up, and there’s what looks like a human being walking on top of the water coming toward you. And then you see Peter get out of the boat, and for a little while he’s walking on top of the water, too! What an incredible thing to see!
But here’s the other point. When Jesus worked miracles, he did not always work them by himself. There were times when he let other people share in the miraculous power he had. There were times when Jesus worked through other people.
When Jesus fed the five thousand-plus people, what did he do? Did he make the five loaves turn into five thousand loaves in front of everybody’s eyes and start handing them out to people? No. He took the five loaves and the two fish, he gave thanks to God, he gave the loaves and fish to the disciples, and he told them to get busy feeding the people. In other words, Jesus worked his miracle through them. Jesus allowed the disciples to use his power to do something no one would’ve thought they could do.
And in our story for today, when Peter asked Jesus to walk on water, did Jesus say no? Did Jesus say, “No way, only the son of God can do that?” No. Jesus said, sure, come on out. The water’s fine. Jesus allowed Peter to use his power to do something no one would’ve thought he could do.
So that’s the other point. While Jesus was on earth, he allowed his disciples to use Jesus’ power to do things no one would’ve thought they could do. And now, Jesus still allows his disciples--you and me--to use Jesus’ power to do things no one would’ve thought they could do. But there’s one condition. We have to trust in Jesus’ power. We need to have faith. We need to believe.
When Peter trusted Jesus, he was able to walk on water. But what happened? Peter started looking around. He started thinking, what in the world am I doing? I cannot be doing this. This is impossible! This cannot be happening! He stopped trusting Jesus. He started thinking of all the reasons he could not do this, rather than trusting in Jesus and believing that he could.
The Lord can still work miracles. The Lord does still work miracles. Sometimes, the Lord works miracles without human help, simply through the use of divine power. But a lot of times, the Lord allows his disciples--you and me--to use that divine power to do miraculous things.
But just like Peter, we need to trust in Jesus’ power. Because, by definition, a miraculous thing is something that most people don’t think is possible. And so, when we think of miraculous things, there will always be people who can come up with at least twenty-five reasons why what we’ve thought of won’t work. In fact, those people will say that what we’ve thought of is not possible. It simply cannot be done.
And if we believe that, then it becomes true. If we believe that something cannot be done, then it cannot be done, at least not by us. But if we believe, as Jesus said, that all things are possible with God, then maybe it can be done. If we open our hearts to God’s Holy Spirit, and if we trust in Jesus’ divine power, and if we ask the Lord to allow us to use that divine power, then who knows? Maybe it can be done.
After all, everyone knows you cannot feed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish. But the disciples used Jesus’ power and did it. In fact, they made it look easy. Everyone knows you cannot walk on water. But Peter used Jesus’ power and did it. In fact, he made it look easy. What other things that everyone knows you cannot do might be done, if we use Jesus’ power?
That’s our challenge. What’s your dream for this church? What could this church do, if we trusted in Jesus’ power? Yes, I know we’re a small church. Yes, I know we don’t have a lot of money. But that’s the point. We’re not talking about something we can do through our power. The disciples could not feed thousands of people with their own power. Peter could not walk on water through his own power. He could only do it with God’s power.
Think about this. Pray about this. Open your heart to God’s Holy Spirit. Pray for God to show you God’s will for this church. Pray for God to show you God’s will for your own life, too. If we’re doing God’s will, the Lord will allows us to use God’s divine power. And then, just like Peter, this church will be able to do the impossible. In fact, we may even make it look easy.