Daily Reading for August 10 • The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
“In the fourth watch of the night he came to them walking on the sea.” That is to say, Jesus has been on the way to his disciples for a long time already, long before they notice it. “But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’” That is just how it is: Even if we get a glimpse of something, we do not for a moment notice that he is the one who is coming. We have just expected him in an altogether different way. . . . Jesus has seen his disciples for a long while already, but they do not see him. That is to say, they see that something is happening, but they do not perceive that Jesus is coming to them in it. . . .
“So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.” For one brief moment Peter is the mighty hero of faith. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink . . .” In one moment a fantastic experience of faith is bestowed on him, and in the next moment comes its complete breakdown. He sees nothing but the storm. We too know what that is like—situations in which we really experience God and in which, immediately afterward, doubt returns and everything again seems dead. . . .
“Jesus immediately reached out his hand.” He does not keep him in suspense. At this point, there is no moral lesson, and Jesus applies none of the disciplinary actions that we are so eager to apply in just such cases. Jesus takes our efforts seriously, even if everything goes wrong. . . . That is the first thing that Jesus wants to say to us today. There are tensions in the life of the church. We should learn to be completely open to new ways and, for a change, even to dare the almost impossible. At the same time, we must know in the deepest sense that this is never simply “practicable,” that we therefore can only pray and hope that he will bless our venture, our starting out, our work. . . . Nothing is wrong with Peter’s seeing wind and waves. It is rather a matter of our seeing Jesus throughout all these realities; not seeing the waves at one time on the left and then again Jesus on the right, but rather seeing him there behind all that threatens.
From “In the Storm with Jesus” by Eduard Schweizer, quoted in Best Sermons 7 edited by James W. Cox (Harper & Row, 1994).