Our passage today is the account of Jesus walking on the water. So, our practical application is…? Well, in this case, even though we were told we would be, we are not quite yet (in all ways) in the world as Jesus was (1 John 4:17). Although, there may be hope. I did hear of a young zealot enrolled in a school of the supernatural who has been practicing. I don’t know if this was for extra credit or if it was just part of a challenging curriculum.
As we know, our passage goes on to describe the disciple’s and especially Peter’s response to Jesus as he approached their boat, which “was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.” However, rather than focusing on this type of the miraculous, which we have little-to-no influence over, I would like to talk about what preceded the drama at sea, which we do have control over.
Then He directed the disciples to get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent away the crowds. And after He had dismissed the multitudes, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. When it was evening, He was still there alone. Matthew 14:22-23
It is Jesus’ intentionality I would like to explore. But I hesitate. Dare we even allude to discipline as a part of our walk with Jesus? Will we not defile grace the moment we exercise intentionality? I know of another devout man whose intentionality consists of intentionally doing nothing except what pleases him. God in His sovereignty is so thoroughly ruling, what is in his heart must have been decreed. Wow! I believe both of these responses to Jesus’ call are missing the boat. Let’s dare to explore the heart of God in Christ as he walked on earth.
After he miraculously fed the 5,000, Jesus had an appointment. But things needed to be done first. The preliminaries involved separating himself from the people. First, the disciples: “He directed the disciples to get into the boat and go.” Next, the crowds: “He sent the crowds away.” The same Jesus who said, “suffer not the little children,” was now deliberately shooing people away. Talk about intentional! His motives become clear though:
After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.
Popular preaching has had Jesus dragging his exhausted ministry-depleted self up the mountain so he could get his batteries recharged (by praying) so he could get back to the business of saving the world ASAP. I don’t think so. I don’t see missions-minded Jesus reasoning, “I must pray. Souls are cascading into Hell until my batteries are recharged.” No. I see a love-driven soul simply responding to his heart’s longings to be with his Father, alone. Recall (before, in the beginning), Jesus spent considerable time alone with the Father and probably still thinks of that intimate arrangement as normal. You could call this a trysting place: a place where two people enjoy the intimacy of their relationship in some reserved place; a place where a rendezvous has been intentionally planned and is jointly anticipated. Upon reaching the summit, I envision Jesus taking a big deep breath and simply saying, “Oh how I love you Father!” I am sure that Father replied, “I love you too Son. You are the absolute joy of my heart.”
Here in the middle of mysteries-a-plenty, between men fearful of miracle-less lives and those fearful of initiatives that might trample upon grace, I envision the fundamental act of our intentionality playing out similarly to the scene where Jesus is alone on the mountain with his Father. Being with the One you love is the essence, as best I can tell, of having a personal relationship with someone. Being alone with God is not some kind of deeper Christian life; its an expression of a normal relationship with God. Without this dynamic in play, I’m not sure what we have as Christians. Traditions? Creeds? Convictions?
Our union with God is no less miraculous than walking on water. The things below the feet of fallen man are just as threatening as those lurking beneath Jesus and Peter. Jesus has rescued us every bit as much as he rescued Peter. And he continues to do so as we reach up to him. Hearing Jesus call to us and responding is well represented by our intentionality in establishing our trysting places with the Lord – places where we meet with Him privately, discovering and stewarding the intimacy which is reserved for us.
Many have acknowledged the merits of this idea. Few follow through so that it becomes a lifestyle—an engrained habit, an anticipated joy. I do not see a great deal of hope for our world without men, women, and children pioneering and inhabiting this place of personal intimacy with God. Without it, all we have is a sterile, lifeless parody of relationship, one I fear that has left western culture with an uninspired view of Christianity.
I am not without hope though. No man comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). Isn’t Father still drawing men to himself? Perhaps this is Father’s next move on the earth. Perhaps a new wave of intimacy is about to be discovered where love displaces obligation as our heart-motive.
To be sure, at this time, our boat is a long distance from the land, battered by the waves with very contrary winds. However, I know something about Father. Without fail, he rescues those who cry out to him. I also know that he is present, standing ready to meet with anyone who will get rid of the noise around them. Without fail, those who do eventually make the discovery that he has been there all along.
I believe the fundamental prayer (or conversation) of authentic Christianity sounds like this: “Oh how I love you Father!” And Father replies, “I love you too, child. You are the chief joy of my heart.” I could see a day when the onlookers (and by the way, we are being watched) say, “You certainly are God’s children!” If an old man is permitted to dream his dreams, this shall be mine.
Father, help us to discern the weather. Help us to understand our times. Give us courage to step out of our routines, which so often discount your presence. Even though it is frightening to step out onto the unfamiliar, let us find that in you we are buoyant, that we can indeed walk with you who have overcome this world in all its wickedness as well as its busyness. Help us to discover that for us, who are in Christ and have Christ in us, we can be deliberate, knowing that you are able to rescue us whenever our dependencies become misplaced. Draw all men unto you and on, to that place where we privately and regularly celebrate our miraculous union. Let this be Father. I love you, too.
P.S. The reason I distributed so many Blue Books is that they are one of Father’s best invitations to Relationship With God 101. The Blue Book introduces you to the hearts of others who have been drawn out of the boat to walk with Jesus in greater intimacy. I have found it provides a loose approach (not a formula) to fashion this time to suit both us and the Lord who draws us.