READ: Matthew 14:22-23
Who doesn’t love a good Peter story?
If I’m telling the truth, I secretly love that Peter sometimes fails. There. I said it.
The weakness in my flesh is constantly sending out a self-conscious radar hoping to detect the ping of another flailing companion.
The passage today tells of the familiar walking-on-water scene with Jesus and Peter.
The characters in this story have had a really long day. Since we’re focusing on Peter, we could call this narrative: Peter and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
We arrive in the middle of an expanse of water with a boat full of emotionally spent, physically drained, mentally wiped out guys. Their day seems to have started with news of a fellow truth-bearer being beheaded and, from their point of view, just took on more drama as the clock ticked. They likely figured they were about to wrap up this day when they stepped into the boat in the evening. But now it’s between 3am and 6am. The Sea of Galilee is known for violent storms to burst onto the scene out of nowhere. And, so this happens to these fellas. Of course. I mean, why not. What else could go wrong.
Even the seasoned fishermen, familiar with this circumstance, react in fear. Jesus comes walking on the water toward them. Our courageous Peter has a reaction that stirs a hearty booyah! out of even the meekest of souls. But, then, as we all know (and secretly enjoy if you’ve ever experienced failure on the heels of publicly flexing), after he steps out of the boat and walks on the stormy sea, he starts to sink into those torrential waves.
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” says Jesus to Peter
That’s the word we’re going to hone in on now.
This word is translated distázō in the Greek and is from dís meaning “two, double” and stasis meaning “stance, standing.” The Strong’s Concordance and Bible Dictionaries give us a picture of going two ways, shifting between positions, choosing a double-stance and, hence, vacillating or wavering. It is being uncertain at a crossroad when refusing to choose one way over the other. We’re walking in this distázō when “wanting to have our cake and eat it too” and when halting between two opinions, views or beliefs.
“Peter‘s trust in the power of Christ gave way to his dread of the wind and waves. ” A.T. Robertson.
Synonyms which accompany distázō:
Pulled two ways
Divided in two
R.T. France explains that doubt is literally to be divided in two and the opposite is to be single-minded.
This form of the word doubt is only used here and only one other place in the New Testament where Matthew 28:16-17 explains, “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.”
“A person may be truly believing, who nevertheless is sometimes doubting.” William Burkitt.
Jesus had to draw believing, yet double-standing, Peter back in. He might have asked, “Why did you think twice?”
A divided mind as opposed to a single mind.
There was a certain, non-Jewish, girl who walked the faith journey long before Peter. Her name was Ruth. A most meaningful verse, personally, in the entire Bible is a description of Ruth’s resolve.
When she (the mother-in-law, Naomi) saw that she (heathen Ruth) was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. Ruth 1:18
In a nutshell, Hebrew, bitter mother-in-law had lost her biological family and was headed home from the heathen land where her sons, who had married idolatrous women, died, along with their dad. Naomi has two daughters-in-law left. She tells them to go back to their biological families while she sulks her way back to God’s land. One takes her up on the offer. But the other determines to stay with her.
In all of the imagined beauty of this moment, we can be assured Ruth has been storm tossed and the rough waters wouldn’t soon turn to a calm sea of ease by making this choice. Ruth was about to forsake her home land to journey into the unknown alone with a mother-in-law who’d changed her name from pleasantness to bitter.
For sure, sign me up for that trip. Never. Not many would even choose happy mother-in-law over momma. But, most certainly, as a grieving widow, even a most noble daughter-in-law would hardly pick to follow Debbie Downer into a distant land with strange people practicing a foreign religion.
Nevertheless, Ruth seems to surrender to the tug to follow Naomi, who follows God. It wasn’t a public flex like our buoyant Peter.
In a private, tender moment on a dusty street, a yielded woman gently tightens the jaw of a steadfast mind, bravely steps out of the safe boat into a rocky future, and says, I’m in.
The heathen, storm-tossed, but single-minded, woman becomes the great-grandma of the famous King David. When we put the dots together, we realize Ruth’s decision to draw near to God with a steadfast soul ushers her right in to the lineage of our Messiah.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. Psalm 145:18
By the way, Peter recovers. Read the Book of Acts to see how he dried himself off and used his boldness to blaze a trail for Christ followers. Being called out was a beautiful benefit.
Yet, in these two stories, we’re able to get the snapshot of a day in the lives of two courageous followers who were called out yet had two different, initial responses.
Divided-minded versus single-minded.
Jesus calls us all out. Out of the boat. Out of doubt. Into nearness. Into worship.
Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:33
PRAYER: Lord, thank you for calling us out. Calling us out of our safe boat. And calling us out when courageously throw a leg over the side to step out onto the water but carrying a divided devotion with us. Teach us the joy of drawing near to You with whole-hearted, single-minded worship.