Jan Johnson
Jan Johnson

WisBits Archive

January 2006

Did Jesus Wink?

Winking at someone can be an act of grace. Consider these situations: I feel like I’ve failed and made yet another dumb remark but the person in charge winks at me (grace). I am included on a team that asks for far more than I can deliver and as I finish my inadequate report to them, a team member winks at me (grace). I’m sure that I’ve blown it in a situation and confess this to my friend but she says, “I have an idea” and winks at me (grace). An encouragement-drenched wink can empower us to go ahead and try, to put on that virtue of hope.

In meditating on Gospel scenes, I’ve come across several situations in which I wonder if Jesus winked or gave an equivalent encouraging grin. Most of them, including the one below, are scenes in which we normally consider Jesus to be scolding someone.

Picture the disciples breathless and terrified in a boat, not just from the deadly, all-night storm, but now from seeing a phantom figure walking on water. When Jesus calls out to them not to fear and announces it is he, Peter says an odd thing. He calls back that if it really is Jesus, Jesus should tell him to come to him on the water. Not commenting on Peter’s mixture of faith and presumption or Peter’s courage and doubt, Jesus says one word: “Come.” Peter comes.

At this point, most readers discount Peter for sinking. They seem to forget he like Jesus walked on water. When I heard Dallas Willard comment that if he had walked on water for even two seconds, he would have put it on the top of his résumé, I agreed. In fact, I see myself as one of the disciples in the boat who thinks Peter is crazy for doing this, but afterward, I would have wished I’d had the courage to try it-sinking or not.

Even when Peter began sinking (as if I could have done better?), he cried out in faith to Jesus, just as we’re supposed to do many times a day for the rest of our lives. And Jesus caught him, saying, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" At this point, people assume Jesus was scolding him or at least annoyed. What if he wasn’t? (After all, none of the others tried it and Jesus didn’t comment on their faith.) What if Jesus winked when he said it? In fact, “you of little faith” appears to be a term he invented, oligopistoi, “little faiths,” a nickname he used when he urged them to put their confidence in him. What if as he said this nickname, he winked as if to say, “You did it, kid! Thumbs up! You could have done even more!” or “There’s hope for you! You actually tried it!” (Matthew 14:25-34).

Do you believe Jesus was the kind of person who would have winked, given a “thumbs up” or at least had that rich tendency to encourage people? If you don’t, you might want to meditate on the passage above. (For more about meditating on gospel scenes, see chapter 7 of Savoring God’s Word.) Also, where do you need Jesus’ wink, or thumbs up, or words of encouragement (Atta' boy! Atta’ girl!) today? Who in your life needs your words (or wink) of encouragement today?

Grace and peace,
Jan Johnson




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