Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No Rebuke for Our Believing Fears

Just a quick observation to add to yesterday's post. In yet another gospel account of disciples in a boat, crossing the sea, and becoming fearful, we'll see again that Jesus reproved his disciples not for their honest fears, but rather for their disbelief in his word.

This time (in Matthew 14:22-32) his disciples are on their way back across the sea at the end of a long day of ministry with Jesus. He has healed the sick and fed over five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. He has remained to pray; as the disciples are making their way back to the other side in the boat, night falls and they are now struggling against a contrary wind, beaten by the waves. Suddenly they see what they take to be an apparition... it is their Lord, coming to them, walking on the water! They cry out in fear, "It is a ghost!" But what does our Lord say? Does he reprove them for this fear--"O you of little faith?"

No, not for this; rather, he calls out to them with his cheerful encouragement, "Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid!" There is no reproof. They are struggling; they need their Master. Peter, that importunate one, answers him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." The Lord says, "Come." We know what happened next; Peter obeyed well at first, but seeing the wind, he forgot Jesus' command to come, and began to sink. The Lord graciously answered his cry for help, took his hand, and then came the searching question: "O you of oligopistos, of little faith, why did you doubt?"

What I'm aiming at here is that, again, Jesus didn't rebuke the disciples for their weakness of fear. Peter only earned that reproof when he failed to believe that the Lord would do what he said; in his simple command to Peter, "Come!" were all the promises of heaven to enable Peter to come. Because he told Peter to come walk on the water, Peter certainly could, if he would only believe his Lord. As Augustine said, "O God, command what You will, and give what You command." Our faith is in the promises of this great God to enable us to do his will.

His will for us, the new covenant people born into a church in Acts 2, is revealed in the pages of the Bible. Our job now is to become familiar with this Bible so that we understand how to read it, how to rightly interpret it in all its different parts, how to love it so that it truly becomes a weapon in our hands, the sword of the Spirit, laying open what needs to be exposed, bringing grace and truth to bear on all that is false.

And our Lord will never rebuke us for our honest doubts and fears, so long as we are saying with the Psalmist, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4).

1 comment:

Laurie M. said...

"believing fears" - I like that. There IS a difference.