A theme of faith emerges from two of today’s scripture readings, Romans 10:5-15 and Matthew 14:22-33. The scene in Matthew has Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee to join his disciples, who were in their fishing boat waiting for him. Not knowing who Jesus was, the disciples cried out in terror because they at first thought that Jesus was a ghost. Jesus reassuringly announced himself, but Peter seemed unconvinced and asked to walk on the water to join his Lord. Peter walked on the water but the power of the wind and waves scared him and he began to sink. Jesus reached out and rescued Peter, saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”(Matthew 14:31b).
The vivid situation seems utterly fantastic, so much so that it is ingrained into our cultural consciousness. How so? Have you ever heard of the phrase “walking on water?” Yes, this is the part of the Bible where that originates. When we say that someone walks on water it usually means that a person is especially holy. Let’s backup a bit to Peter, whose lack of faith led to his sinking. Here we are, learning from this a lesson about not letting the wind and the waves—or supposedly anything—distract us from our walk with God. Yet, even if a lack of faith causes us to sink We can count on our Lord to save us.
Now consider Romans, where Paul wrote, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). This is an obvious tie-in to what Peter experienced. We can find life so overwhelming that we succumb to weighty burdens. Yet, we can draw close to God’s saving grace, which restores us from certain destruction. Enter the issue of our verbal faith confession, which can be a natural extension of what we feel in our heart. When we sense Jesus’ presence we can proclaim that Jesus is the key to saving us from peril. In this way, Jesus unlocks the potential that God has for us. Paul encourages his readers not to be ashamed to proclaim the joy of our faith to the world. We can cry out knowing that God will hear us and rescue us from sin’s penalty. When what we say is combined with sincerity in our heart then we have completed a circuit of faith, one that restores an awesome connection to God.
Romans suggests the idea of immanence, meaning something manifest or within. In this case, what is within us is God/Jesus, the divine presence inside that spiritually fulfills us. Neither the Old Testament law nor religious externals guarantee spiritual fulfillment. Instead, we must ask for and receive God’s presence, which is the core and substance of what rescue’s us from our sins.
Paul then turns to a liberating statement about our access to salvation. The claim here is that God does not distinguish between Jew and Gentile. This may not sound radical to us, but in Paul’s day it was revolutionary given the view among many Jews that only they were God’s chosen people. This narrow view gave way to the faith freedom inaugurated by Jesus’ teaching, which transcended the Old Testament law and opened the gate for non-Jews to receive salvation.
Lastly, Paul extols the virtues of those messengers who proclaim God’s truth. This is another invitation for us as individual believers. We can respond to God’s call by announcing to the world—through our actions and attitudes—that we are people of faith. As brothers and sisters in fellowship we can shout the joys of our salvation by being ready, willing and able to inform the world of our vibrant spirituality.