Mark and John also record the story of Jesus walking on water.
But Matthew’s account is unique in that it’s the only
Gospel to record Peter walking on water.
For this post we will focus on Matthew 14:22-33 because it gives us the most details.
When we read God’s Word it’s important to always read it in context. We should read the verses before and after to make sure we are fully understanding what is happening.
Immediately before Peter walks on water is the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21). The disciples’ faith has to be at an all time high. They just witnessed a few loaves of bread and fish feed a large crowd.
Matthew 14:22-23 says after this Jesus immediately made the disciples get in the boat to go ahead of him to the other side of the sea of Galilee. After this Jesus dismisses the crowd and goes up a mountain side to pray by himself.
So far, all pretty normal… But it’s about to get good.
Later that night a storm picks up. Matthew records that there were violent waves and a strong wind. They were experienced fisherman and storms in this area were common. But still the sea had claimed many lives and it wasn’t something to be messed with. (Matthew 14:24)
Things are about to get interesting.
Jesus Walks On Water
As dawn approaches and the faintest light starts appearing, Jesus decides to go to the disciples. How? He walks. On the still stormy water. Jesus walks on water toward the disciples in the boat who are still a long way off. (Matthew 14:25)
The disciples can’t quite tell what or who is walking toward them.
They assume it must be a ghost.
A common superstition among seafarers of the day was those who drown would haunt the waters. They didn’t know what they saw, but they certainly didn’t think it could be Jesus. (Matthew 14:26)
And honestly who could blame them.
Up to this point
no one had walked on water.
Knowing their fear Jesus calls out to them.
“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Jesus’ response to their fear centers on “It is I.” These words were a term that Jesus often used to claim deity. In other words, Jesus is saying the disciples can take courage and fear not because Jesus was there with them.
“Fear is unwarranted where Jesus is present.”
If you were to stop this story after Jesus walks on water there would be plenty to glean from this passage. But it’s not over yet.
It’s about to get even more interesting.
Peter Walks On Water
Peter is known for being a little headstrong. He’s quick to speak before he thinks things through. And while that got him in trouble from time to time, it also lead him to experience things no one else did.
Simon Peter responds to Jesus’ claim with a bold claim.
"Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”
Jesus responds with a single word,
With remarkable trust and courage
over the side of the boat.
I know we like to criticize Peter for
what happens next.
But stay in this moment for a minute.
In the middle
of strong winds and waves Peter trusts Jesus
to step out of the boat.
That’s an incredible display of
faith in Jesus.
None of the other disciples dared
out of the boat.
Matthew 14:29 simply states that Peter walks on water toward Jesus. Those first steps must have been surreal.
But… Matthew 14:30 interrupts this incredible moment with a conjunction:
As Peter walks on water he starts to notice
powerful the wind and waves
are, and he takes his
eyes off Jesus
He gets distracted by his harrowing circumstances
and he sinks.
Peter’s doubt was about to
take him out.
Matthew records that he was afraid as he began to sink.
He must have been terrified. I imagine as he gasped for
one last breath before he went under he cried out,
"LORD SAVE ME!”
Jesus doesn’t wait. Matthew 14:31 says that
Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
After Peter was safe Jesus rebuked him for his
“Jesus rebuked him
for his weak faith even though it was stronger
than that of the other disciples
who remained in the boat.
Jesus used this rebuke to help Peter and the other disciples
that consistent confidence
in Himself was absolutely necessary.
Peter became both a good example and a bad one. Jesus rescued him as God had rescued many others from watery graves.”
Still that’s not the last miracle.
As soon as Jesus and Peter climb
back into the boat
the wind and waves miraculously calm.
This passage contains three miracles:
1. Jesus walks on water.
2. Peter walks on water.
3. The calming of the storm.
And yet none of those incredible events are the climax of the story.
Matthew 14:33 is the climax of this story.
It’s not the miracles, it’s the disciples worship of Jesus.
This is the first time they
have addressed Jesus as the Son of God.
Is Not Found In The Absence
Of The Storm,
But In The Presence Of Jesus
When Jesus bid Peter to come to him he
didn’t calm the storm.
Rather, he invited Peter out into the storm,
into the rough seas.
The rebuke of Peter’s lack of faith was because
he took his eyes off Jesus
and instead focused on the storm.
We think peace is found when the waves of life are calm.
But Jesus never promised us smooth sailing.
Instead he promised to always be with us.
Peace is found in the presence of Jesus, even in the
middle of a storm.
Peter’s walk on the water teaches us that in the middle of storms
we can have peace IF we keep our eyes on Jesus.
The storms of life give us good reason to be afraid.
But Jesus is bigger
than even the scariest of storms.
Stepping Out Of The Boat
We like comfort. We like safety. And that’s not all a bad thing. But we often over inflate our desire for these things. Sometimes Jesus is going to ask you to take a risk and trust him. Sometimes, you have to step out of the boat.
Just like the apostle Peter, sometimes we will step out of the boat and then be overcome by fear. We will sink. But Jesus is right there to catch you. You might stumble, but you won’t drown.
My guess, the next time Peter “stepped out of the boat” he did so more confidently. His faith and trust in Jesus was greater. The same will be true for you. The more steps of faith you take the easier it gets. Once you see God’s faithfulness it’s easy to trust him more and more.
So, step out of the boat.
Without Jesus You Will Sink
Peter’s walk on the water was short lived. It was short lived because he took his eyes off Jesus. Peter learned an important lesson that day that we shouldn’t ignore. When we take our eyes off Jesus the storms of life will quickly overcome us.
When Christians stop looking to Jesus they quickly sink. They get sucked into temptations. They get overwhelmed by life.
They forget who’s in control.
Life is full of storms. Big storms. Storms that will destroy.
Unless you keep your eyes on Jesus.
With Jesus you cannot only endure, you can walk on water
above the storm. Keep your eyes on Jesus.