The Spiritual Importance of Risk

Matthew 14 is a pretty wild chapter of the New Testament. Jesus is grieving the death of John the Baptist, but even in his grief he manages to feed 5000 new friends dinner on a hill side from a couple fish and a few loaves of bread. The disciples helped, and picked up baskets of leftovers afterward. That’s the last thing I’d want to do – basketfuls of leftover fish bits. Those poor guys. 

After dinner, which undoubtedly lasted a while, it was already getting dark. Jesus then did something quite strange – He put his disciples in a boat and sent them off into the darkness, alone. 

Many of us can probably relate. Coming off a mountaintop (or hillside) experience with God, it often seems we’re sent off into the darkness alone. 

I can almost hear the discussion in the boat. “He told us to go, but he didn’t tell us where to go? We’re supposed to be following him, but He didn’t even come with us! This all smells fishy to me.” 

“…Nah bro, that’s just the fish bits on your hands…” 

A few hours into an already confusing mission, the disciples hit the winds and the whitewater, and their forward progression stalls out. 

Do you ever feel like that? Many of us have for the last 3 months. Sent by the Savior, trying to bring light to the darkness, it’s become easy to get stalled out by the whitewater of global pandemics, economic recessions, virtual church, etc. 

In the face of challenges, we cling to safety, security, and self-preservation. After all, the logical thing to do is hunker down in the safety of the boat and wait for the storm to blow over. Isn’t it? 

In between the whipping of the waves, the disciples see a figure approaching – walking on the water. They’re panicked, and probably thinking they’re hallucinating from all the tiredness. 

Peter realizes it’s Jesus, and everything changes. Jesus calls out “Take courage, it is I”. Interestingly enough, the original Greek translation is “Take courage, I AM”. 

The words “I AM” announce presence. Jesus is quite literally announcing “I AM here, in the darkness, in the whitewater”. 

Here’s why this detail matters – many of us see our spiritual vocations as embracing risk for God, braving the darkness and the storms of life armed with only our beliefs. We envision doing this for God, as if He needs us. We do this for God, thinking we somehow need to pay him back for all he’s done for us. 

Everything changes when we consider a seemingly obvious truth from this story: Jesus was in the darkness. Jesus was active in the chaos of the whitewater, not hiding in the safety of the boat. 

Makes me wonder – if Jesus is already at work in the darkness and the whitewater, can I really step out to do anything “for” him? 

Absolutely not. 

When we launch into the darkness, we are doing so with Him. 

When he invites Peter to step out in faith, he’s not inviting peter to do something for him, he’s inviting peter to do something with him. 

Are you stalled out by the whitewater? Tempted to hunker down in safety? 

Jesus is already in the whitewater, in the darkness, actively at work revealing himself to the darkest areas of the planet. 

…And in the midst of the chaos, he beckons me, he beckons you, he beckons us – to come, and join him.