As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night. Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clockin the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared to death. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror. But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
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?”
The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”
I drive by a several groups of sunflowers by the side of the road every morning. I have often marveled at the way the sunflower follows the sun. If the sun is shining in the east the face of the sunflower faces the sun. If the sun is in the west the sunflower faces the sun. If the sun is directly above the face of the sunflower is turned upward toward the sun. If it is a cloudy dreary day the sunflower faces are drooped towards the ground.
Although some sunflower species are perennials, it’s the common (annual) sunflower that exhibits what they call heliotropism. Instead of sunflowers facing each other or oriented in random directions, there’s directional uniformity among plants of similar age. Before their flowers form and are pollinated, young sunflower plants face the sun at dawn and follow the sun’s movement as it moves across the sky.
Sunflowers not only pivot to face the sun as it moves across the sky during the day, but they also rotate 180 degrees during the night to greet the morning sun. At night, the western side grows faster, turning the flower head back east in time to capture the rays of the rising sun. What’s more, once the plant has grown to maturity, the clock genes turn off this differential growth, leaving the flower facing east to gather the heat of the morning sun and provide a warm platform for pollinating bees.
Watching the sunflowers every morning as they proudly face the sun on sunny days or on gloomy days as they look sad and downcast, makes me often think of the story of Jesus walking on the water and how the winds came and the disciples were afraid. Then they saw Jesus coming towards them walking on the water. Peter immediately jumps out of the boat and starts to walk towards Jesus on the water.
How often we are like the sunflower. As long as things are going great in our lives and there is lots of sun shining we can keep our focus on the Son. But when things are bleak or problems occur and we can’t see the sunlight for the storms of life we begin to doubt the Son’s presence. As long as Peter’s face was towards the Son he could walk on the water. As soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus he immediately began to sink.
The sunflower can’t grow and develop without the sun. We can’t grow and develop into what Christ wants us to be without the Son.
When sunflower plants become wilted in the absence of the sun or enough rainfall or irrigation, their turgor pressure drops, and they wilt. Because heliotropism is dependent on sufficient turgor pressure to allow bending of plant stems, wilted sunflower plants will not track the sun’s movement.
Too many times we take our eyes off of Jesus and become fainthearted like Peter. We begin to “wilt” because of lack of worship, prayer, or reading the Word and we lose our spiritual power to track the Son’s direction and therefore we find ourselves stressed out, or in situations that are not of God and yell out to Jesus to save us from sinking. Jesus never hesitates but reaches out His hand to save us and says, “Fainthearted, what got into you?” just like he did with Peter.
The waters of life can and will get rough and we can become battered and torn, but as long as we can be like the sunflower and keep our faces towards the Son we won’t sink but instead become victorious. And as we become mature “Sonflowers” we become a warm platform to help develop others.
Blessings Pastor Fran