Pentecost 9 – St. Matthew 14:22-33
Looks can be very deceiving.
The eyes of the disciples told them that 5 loaves and 2 fish was barely enough food to feed a full grown adult; and yet they have just fed more than 5000 men, plus women and children with those loaves and fish, and still have leftovers, all thanks to Jesus.
Still wide eyed from this miracle, Jesus commands the disciples to get into the boat, and head for the other side.
Now having struggled all night with driving the boat across the sea, the disciples look and see a figure coming toward them on the water.
Another boat? A monster? A ghost?
No, their eyes have tricked them again; it is Jesus making His way toward them, walking on the water.
Then suddenly, Peter calls out and asks Jesus to allow him to walk on the water as well; and at Jesus command, he does.
To the disciples still in the boat, this is a sight to behold! Do their eyes again deceive them?
After all, they know what their eyes have told them about Peter; he is a mortal, and not designed to walk on water. Peter, while not likely obese, is heavy enough that gravity will not allow him to walk on water.
And yet, despite the evidence, despite what the disciples have seen in the past, Peter walks on water.
Quite the sight to behold indeed.
So how does he walk on water? And how does he stop walking on water and begin to sink?
The answer as it turns out, is in the eyes of Peter.
When Peter has his eyes on Jesus, Peter walks on water. As soon as he sees the waves and the turbulence of the water, Peter stops looking at Jesus and sinks.
Perhaps you have not tried to walk on water, but you have tried to walk through life.
What do your eyes tell you when your neighbor has better stuff than you do? They probably tell you to be jealous, that you work just as hard, if not harder, and should have more to show for it.
What do your eyes tell you when you see others not being punished for things you know to be wrong? They probably tell you that it must not be a big deal, and that you are free to do likewise.
What do your eyes tell you when they see another brother or sister weak and bogged down with many things? They probably tell you that now is the time to take advantage of them, and to take what is theirs.
What do your eyes tell you when you see others, either on the news or in the community, being persecuted for their faith? They may tell you that it is time to rethink your convictions, or at the very least, be very quiet about them.
What else do your eyes tell you?
Because you see the sins in your life, and they are just too tempting to turn away from. You see the ideas that you have convinced yourself are true, and you are not about to change your mind. You see the upper hand you hold over a brother or sister in Christ, and are not about to relinquish it. You see the safety and security you enjoy, and see no reason to sacrifice it for anything.
And pretty soon, where are your eyes?
Not on Jesus, instead they are focused on what you want; what you have achieved, what you desire for yourself.
Now where are you and your wandering eyes?
Peter sinks when he stops trusting in Jesus, and starts trusting in what he has known his entire life: that mortals do not walk on water.
Your eyes can be a very dangerous thing; eyes only see what the heart wants them to see. Eyes see the sin that surrounds them, and they enjoy it and the want to see more of it.
And so you follow Peter’s lead to the bottom of the sea, with all of the other people who lost focus of Jesus, and instead focused on their own thoughts and desires. And not just to the bottom of a sea, but into the pit of hell; for that is the ultimate destination for wandering eyes that do not focus on Jesus.
Because while it may work for a few steps out onto the water, eventually you end up where Peter does: flailing your arms, kicking and screaming, as you are pulled down by the reality that you cannot save yourself; you cannot get to Jesus on your own; your works and your merits are but dead weights, pulling you into the abyss of sin and death.
And so you cry out with Peter, Lord save me!
You do not cry out for your works to save you; you do not cry out for your trophies to save you; you do not cry out for your possessions to save you; you do not even cry out for those around you to save you, for they are sinking as well. Instead you cry out for Jesus to save you.
For in addition to everything else your eyes have seen, your eyes have also seen that the only one who can save you, is Jesus.
For as you are sinking down, Jesus stretches out His hands, marked with the nails of the cross, and pulls you out of the mess that you have dug yourself into.
What a sight to behold. A blood stained, nail marked hand, pulling you back up to the sure footing of salvation and eternal life in Christ.
And your eyes now look around and see the evidence of this everywhere you look. You see it in the cross, where the hands and feet of Jesus were nailed, and the side of Jesus pierced so that your sins might be forgiven.
Your eyes see the font, where by the power of water poured over the forehead, and the Words spoken, you were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.
Your eyes see the bread and the wine, the very body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins.
And your eyes will see the Lord of heaven and earth descend with angels and archangels to judge the living and the dead, and you will see the Lord of hosts enthroned in glory, welcoming you into His eternal kingdom.
For now though, the return of Peter to the boat results in the other disciples praising and worshiping Jesus. Later Peter will make the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
That is the result of eyes focused on Jesus, and the things that He has done for you: we are moved to praise and worship Him in psalms and hymns, and we are led to make the confession that Jesus is Lord.
That may not help you walk on water; but it will help you walk through life in this world. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and He will bring you to eternal life.