“On Sunday 13th January 2019, at our communion service, this was the introduction given by one of our members. I believe this to be a significant word to us as a church and as individuals at the start of this year. If we were all to take the import of this message on board, this could be a highly significant year for us as a church, and therefore for the people of Largs who don’t yet know Jesus.
Many of us know the saying, “If you want to walk on water, you need to get out of the boat.” This, of course, refers to Simon Peter’s famous water-walking incident. But this is both rare – I know of no other incidents, current or historic – and it ignores his other, later sudden exit from a boat as recorded by John in his gospel:
“4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. 6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.”
John 21:4-8 (NIV)
There is nothing necessarily miraculous in this passage. No stupendous water-walking by Jesus and Simon Peter. No astounding end of a terrible storm. No miraculous arrival instantly in port. Just a bunch of guys out fishing and a friend who could see the fish in the dawn’s early light.
But, did you see what Simon Peter did? – he put on his jacket and jumped into the sea. The boat was still 100 yards from the land. Nobody else did this; the rest just slowly hauled the net behind the boat and got out when it was safe to do so. Peter ignored the dangers and the lucrative catch and risked his life to get to where Jesus was at.
How dangerous was this? Was the water deep or shallow? Possibly deeper or others would have jumped out into the shallows; but nobody else did this. How would he know as dawn was just breaking? We could rationalise away, but there is no escaping the fact that Simon Peter put his jacket on and jumped into the sea while it was still 100 yards from the land.
At the start of a new year we each face new challenges. The question for all of us is what are we each willing to risk in order to meet these challenges? Are we going to spend 12 months safely in the boat, or are we willing to jump madly into the water to get to where Jesus is at? When we reach Hogmanay 2019 will we look back, yawn, stretch and see a calm sea and a prosperous voyage, or will we remember with a huge smile the shock of hitting the water, getting a nose full of it, struggling to get the head back up, and thrashing in an approximate front crawl to get to where the action is at with Jesus.
If you decide to take Jesus’ challenge to you this year, I can promise you two things as you face the life crisis caused by diving into the water fully clothed. First, Jesus is on the shore, watching you closely; don’t worry, Jesus can still walk on water if you get into difficulties. Second, recall what happened afterwards: how Jesus and Simon Peter talked privately after breakfast; I can promise some rare moments of intimacy with the Lord if you are willing to do scary things for Him.