We’ve been discussing the concept of identity with the student ministry in my church. For middle and high schoolers it’s an important topic given all the social pressures kids experience these days. But as I was thinking about this series yesterday, I thought about identity and how it’s important to know who you are no matter what age you are. We all face external pressures that cause us to question- and even to compromise- our identities. And so I thought today would be a good day to talk about that.
So before we step into today’s storm, what is identity? One of my students defined it as ‘what makes you You, and not someone else’. My bestie, Google, defines it as ’the fact of being who or what a person or thing is’ or ’a close similarity or affinity’, where affinity is defined as ’a similarity of characteristics suggesting a relationship’ or ’relationship, especially by marriage as opposed to blood ties’. My students will tell you I’m a walking dictionary, but I promise the actual definitions of words are always relevant to the topic at hand lol
Now to our storm for today: Peter on Water.
Let’s do the TBE synopsis:
According to Mark 6:45-49, which is sort of the shorter version of this storm story, Jesus had just fed the multitudes (another ‘storm’ we’ll cover), and afterwards told the disciples to go ahead and get in the boat while he got rid of the crowd. The disciples, glad to not have to be the ones to tell people “you ain’t gotta go home, but you gotta get the hell up out of here”, obliged and headed off to Bethaisda in their boat.
Jesus on the other hand, after dismissing the crowds, climbed a mountain to pray. Mark tells us what happened next:
Late at night, the boat was far out at sea; Jesus was still by himself on land. He could see his men struggling with the oars, the wind having come up against them. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. He intended to go right by them. (Mark 6:47,48)
Sigh. Here we go again. Jesus from his position on the mountaintop could see his disciples struggling against the wind and the storm in the middle of the night, but didn’t even bother to just calm the winds? Nope. Jesus waited till 4am to make a move- and even then, he was about to walk right by them.
Trust that I was just as bewildered as you are about this.
I’m sure the disciples, like many of us, were wondering “where the heck is Jesus in this storm? He could calm these winds if he was here- and he definitely knew it was coming- so where is he now?”. And, probably unlike the disciples, we DO know he can see us and our struggling. And yet, he stays put. And we struggle-seemingly alone.
Reading on, the Bible says that when he did make a move and was doing this walk across the water, the disciples caught sight of him and were totally freaked out.
No shit right? lol
But Jesus calms them and reintroduces himself to them- Like they don’t already know this man is the Messiah and can do things beyond human understanding!
Mark’s account ends with Jesus calming the storm and saving the day. So now we turn over to Matthew, and see that a little more happened between Jesus walking out on the water and him calming the storm.
Matthew tells us that after Jesus tells them it’s just him and not some ghost, this happens:
Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come ahead.”
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”
Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”
I think this passage is really illustrative of us as Christians. I think we forget a lot of times who we are- who God says we are- or maybe we don’t even know who we are as Christians. You see, Peter and the other disciples knew Jesus. They knew what they’d been called to. But I believe in that moment, in that storm, they forgot who they were. They forgot their identity. They forgot their affinity to Christ.
It’s my belief that Jesus didn’t just chill on the mountaintop because He wanted to go in and save the day at the right time. The Bible says he was actually about to walk past them when he DID go out on the water. I’m sure he was on his way to Bethaisda himself! It wasn’t his intention to have to save the day. He, mistakenly, thought his disciples knew who they were in the storm and the power his Father had given them to make it cease/weather it. Of course, in their defense, Jesus hadn’t drummed in the power of prayer yet, but c’mon; Jesus knew who they were, and so knew that the storm was no match for them.
And I think Peter had some inkling of who he was in affinity to Christ. I think that’s why he asked Jesus to call him out onto the water. He knew he could do it because of who had called him. He knew if Jesus said he could, then he could. He knew Jesus’ word to be true. He knew a relationship with Christ meant a likeness to Christ, which in turn meant access to the same power he had. I mean, he actually seemed so very sure of his ability to walk on water once Jesus called him, because he didn’t just climb out of the boat- he jumped.
And then he walked on water.
But like all of us, Peter wavered in his awareness of his identity. Like all of us, he took his eyes off Jesus, and his reflection in Jesus’ eyes- who God saw him to be- and focused on the storm around him and began to sink. Peter, for a second, allowed the storm raging around him to cause him to lose sight of who he was and the power God had given him to walk through the storm.
We are all just like Peter. We know who we are in Sunday service and we chime in our ‘amen’s and ‘hallelujah’s when our pastor reaffirms it, but our identity as Christians isn’t measured by fair weather. It is measured in the storms. And suddenly in the storm, our identity in God no longer seems like the concrete fact it was in sermon.
But can I just take a moment to remind you of where your identity is found, and who God says you are?
God says you are his child (John 1:12, Galatians 3:26)
God says you are justified (Romans 3:24)
He says you are a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
He says you are made in his image (Genesis 1:27)
He says you are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
He says you are beautiful (Song of Solomon 4:7)
He says you are royalty (1 Peter 2:9)
He says you are radiant (Matthew 5:14)
You are victorious (Romans 8:37)
You are powerful (2 Timothy 1:7, Luke 10:19)
You are loved (Romans 8:35-38)
You are strong (Philippians 4:13)
You are forgiven (Colossians 2:13,14)
You are never alone (Hebrew 13:5)
You have an affinity (likeness) to Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1,Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:22-24)
Awesome isn’t it?
But it’s not enough to just know these things either. You have to believe them so deeply that no matter what storm rages around you, you don’t lose sight of them.
In losing sight of who he was in affinity to Christ, Peter began to sink. And a lot of times we do that too. But can we decide today that, no matter what storm we’re dealing with, who people say we are, and what society says we should be, we won’t lose sight of who we really are? Of who God says we are? Of our identity in and affinity to Christ? That we will constantly remind ourselves? Because I’m learning that the more I remind myself of who God says I am, the more I believe it, and the less I falter when things around me try to prove me wrong.
And oh, will they try lol.
I pray that no matter what storms you’re facing in your life at this moment, you don’t lose sight of your identity- your reflection in God’s eyes- and the power He’s given you to walk through it.