When the talmidim (disciples)saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said and screamed with fear. 27 But at once Yeshua (Jesus) spoke to them. “Courage,” he said, “it is I. Stop being afraid.” 28 Then Kefa (Peter)called to him, “Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come!” he said. So Kefa got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Yeshua. 30 But when he saw the wind, he became afraid; and as he began to sink, he yelled, “Lord! Save me!” 31 Yeshua immediately stretched out his hand, took hold of him, and said to him, “Such little trust! Why did you doubt?” 32 As they went up into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 The men in the boat fell down before him and exclaimed, “You really are God’s son!” (The Complete Jewish Bible)
This passage is full of interesting insight into the disciples and their relationship with Yeshua. I have always been fascinated with the relationship Yeshua and His disciples had while Yeshua wore the clothes of humanity. Hundreds of years after the fact, we who believe, clearly see Yeshua as the Messiah, the Promised One. However, there are several passages that hint the disciples weren’t altogether convinced, or at the very least, unclear as to the extent of His power over the laws of the universe.
Of course, we don’t know the exact words that were spoken by any of the Biblical characters, including Yeshua, but the essence and intent is there. For instance, did Yeshua really say, “Stop being afraid”? Maybe, maybe not, but I am certain it was something close to that. In any case the point is the disciples first instinct was to fear, That, in itself, is a whole subject for another blog!
The scripture that caught my eye most recently was, “Why did you doubt?” Being the self-described nerd that I am, I immediately started researching the word “doubt” in Hebrew. Turns out, there is no such word in Biblical Hebrew for “doubt”, so clearly Yeshua didn’t say that exact word. (The original Biblical text was written in Greek) Again, the intent is there, and perhaps what those transcribing what we know now to be the scriptures chose the word that most closely described the intent. So let’s look at the word “doubt”.
In our language and understanding, to doubt means to be uncertain, or to fear. Given that definition it makes more sense. The reason the word “doubt” is used is because the passage is about the disciples’ fear and uncertainty having just witnessed Yeshua walking on water and asking Peter to join Him. How many times has that happened in your life? Probably none, which is exactly the number of times it likely had happened to Peter! So here we have Yeshua answering Peter’s question, “ Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Yeshua said to join Him on the water. What else was He going to say? It was Him, and Peter said if it’s you tell me to come out there. Peter had put Yeshua in a box! So Peter gets out of the boat and as soon as the wind came up he doubted what he was already doing; he was walking on water! Now Peter is sinking and he cries out for Yeshua to save him, and Yeshua responds with, “Such little trust! Why did you doubt?” Why did Peter doubt; he was walking on water for goodness sake! The answer lies in the reason the word “doubt” was likely used in this scripture.
Since Biblical Hebrew has no word for “doubt” we have to assume another word was used originally that captured the intent of Yeshua’s question. Abraham Hershel, a Polish-born American rabbi and a leading Jewish theologian of the 20th century said, “Doubt is an act in which the mind inspects its own ideals; wonder is an act in which the mind confronts the universe”. What does that mean, exactly? Doubt originated in the Garden of Eden and was the original “sin”; Eve doubted God; she had inspected her own ideals.
Prior to that, Adam and Eve lived in wonder, focused on the Creation and the Creator. Along came the serpent and Eve questioned what God had said; that she and Adam needed to avoid the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve’s “sin” is that she looked inward for advice, so to speak, instead of recognizing the wonder of the universe and accepting at face value what God had told them. God had never lied to them before, at least not to her knowledge, but perhaps He had about this; and doubt was born. Up to this point Adam and Eve had been totally dependent on God for everything in life, and life was good. The serpent had suggested that God may not have been totally forthcoming about the tree, and so Eve chose to decide for herself what her truth would be for this situation.
Simply put, doubt is deciding that we know better than God, and that is self-idolization. We look at the circumstances instead of the Creator and make decisions about situations when we don’t have all of the facts. Peter was looking into the face of the Creator, God incarnate, bidding Peter to join Him on the water, and Peter chose to let the wind distract him from the truth; he was walking on water. Peter freaked, cried out to Yeshua to save him, and Yeshua “immediately” per the scripture, reached out His hand to rescue Peter, and then asked Peter why he had doubted what He knew to be truth. Did this really happen? I don’t know, but it is clearly another beautiful word picture of a spiritual principle; we need not doubt when we have our eyes focused on God.
A lot of times and in a lot of situations it doesn’t feel like God is involved at all, and I believe this is one of the reasons many choose to move away from God, doubt Him, abandon relationship with Him altogether, or at the very least trust Him less. I have been there. After 30 years of marriage with a very abusive man, and having prayed and believed that God would change the situation, the man, fix everything, make him stop, whatever, it didn’t happen; and in many ways it only got worse, and I did move away from my relationship with God for a time. What was the lesson? Well, for one I hadn’t listened to those in my life who saw that he wasn’t the best choice for me, but it was my choice, and clearly I made a bad one. God lets us do that, and at this point I wouldn’t change any of it because I was blessed with 3 wonderful children, I learned more from that one experience that God has used to help other women, and God blessed me on this side of the experience with a wonderful man who has accepted my kids and me, with all of our wounds and scars, and at times it certainly hasn’t been easy for him. Were there losses? Of course. Days, months and years I will never get back.
I doubted God, doubted that He had a plan for my life; self-idolization. And God allowed me to suffer the consequences of looking inwardly for my own “wisdom” and not to Him. Yeshua rescued Peter when he cried out to Yeshua to save him, and Yeshua will rescue us, too. Will it be right away like it was with Peter? Most often not, but the scriptural truth is still there from which we can draw hope. Eve’s self-idolization moment in the Garden had far reaching consequences for all of humanity, and yet God reached out His hand to rescue His creation in the person of Yeshua. Have you looked inward and leaned on your own wisdom instead of God’s? Yeshua’s hand of rescue is reaching out for you to grab hold…..