25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, [a]“Be of good cheer! [b]It is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:25-27 NKJV).
The disciples were in a dire situation. They were caught in a storm that had been raging for some time (according to the passage, it would have been after three o’clock in the morning and, based on verses 22-23, they set sail prior to the evening’s start). In the distance, they saw something that looked unfamiliar coming towards them. They were troubled by what they saw and began to cry out in fear. What are you inviting into your life during difficult situations? The disciples were inviting fear to take hold of them. Jesus, knowing where fear would lead, was swift in His encouragement of their faith, attempting to assure them of who He was. Since they already knew Jesus and witnessed His track record, one would think that this would be enough to quell their fears. However, that did not appear to be the outcome.
“And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” (v. 28)
Questioning God is not a sin, contrary to popular believe. However, when God speaks to you, do you believe Him? Are your questions rooted in a desire to learn more about Him? Or, to question His existence in your life or ability to take care of you? If you are in the second category, now is a great time to pause and take some time to reflect on your own life. Many times we can question God’s ability and the purity of His motives, which causes us to harbor false judgments of His character. Often, these internalized judgments stem from a lack of understanding of His word and/or a lack of awareness of how He communicates with us (which is unique to each person).
Do you take the Lord at His word? Or do you question His character? Where do you place your trust?
Sometimes, we can be so bold in our requests to God without wisdom of how they will affect our lives or expose our frail faith. It is during these times that God, with all wisdom, allows us to have some of what we ask for because He knows that it will help to prune us and give us the clear perspective we need. Peter’s request, though boldly stated, did not come from a place of great faith, but rather from curiosity about Jesus’s identity. He wanted to verify if the person standing out on the water ahead of Him was really the same person whom he had been following all along. Jesus, knowing Peter’s heart, obliged his request with a simple response, “Come” (v.29).
“And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. ” (v. 29)
It wasn’t until Peter put his faith into action, through obedience to Jesus’s command, that he was able to experience the miracle of walking on water. The word says that “faith without works is dead,” (James 2:14-26) and, in this case, Peter’s work was to walk by faith, believing that Jesus would keep him afloat. Have you ever believed God for something and then questioned whether it could really happen? Even after a strong start? What caused you to doubt? In Peter’s case, he began to doubt when he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to assess the intensity of his situation.
“But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!‘ ” (v. 30)
Peter allowed fear to enter his heart and distract him from his goal of getting to Jesus. This moment provides a crucial lesson for us to glean from in seasons of uncertainty: what we focus on while moving in faith matters. Jesus never moved, so if Peter had turned back and fixed his gaze on Him, then he could have remained at peace through the storm. Instead, he became afraid and, at the first sign of trouble, he cried out for help.
I want to point out something that I never noticed before while reading through this passage. Even though Peter allowed distraction to take his eyes off of Jesus and enable fear to enter his heart, he made a decision that I believe can encourage us to do the same regarding whatever we face. He cried out to Jesus, the one person who was able to help him in his time of distress. He could have attempted to reach out for the side of the boat, the hand of one of the other disciples, or even tried to tread water in his own strength. Based on the severity of the storm, I think it is safe to say that his fate would not have been as favorable as the passage eventually states. The beautiful moment in this story is that Peter called out to Jesus, who was the closet one to him and the only one able to save him. But, it gets even better!
“And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him” (v. 31)
Jesus wasted no time in coming to Peter’s rescue. He caught him and then said two things to him that, once again, I never saw this way until now. He made a statement of observation followed by a question which encouraged reflection.
“[Jesus] said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” (v. 31-32)
Jesus expressing that Peter had weak faith can be seen as a harsh criticism, but, if you understand the lovingkindness that exists within Jesus, then this critique is better understood as the beginning of an open-ended dialogue. Jesus’s next expression was delivered in the form a question, one that would cause Peter to assess his thoughts, motive, and behavior. It is also worth noting that Jesus asks this question before the two of them step into the boat and prior to the storm calming down. What do you do when God asks you to reflect on how you have been approaching difficulty in your life before the situation is resolved?
After they get back into the boat, the winds finally settle down. Please don’t miss that. As simple as that sounds, it’s incredibly important. Peter chose to trust Jesus and go with Him. Without exploring the other options Peter could have committed himself to, it is clear that he made the best available choice. He stayed with Jesus and moved in-step with Him. How do you move after God shows up to meet you where you are?
After all that occurred, the rest of the people in the boat made their way over to Jesus and began to worship Him saying, “Truly You are the Son of God” (v. 33). They doubted who Jesus was, just like Peter did. Yet, because Peter chose to step out on the little faith he did have, the spectators were able to witness the miraculous experience he had. When others look at your response to the difficulties you face, are they able to see God’s hand moving in your life?
Hebrews 12:1-2 highlights this and echoes the sentiment of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. It instructs us to “lay aside every weight,” (removing distractions) “and the sin, which so easily ensnares us,” (unbelief which comes from the seed of doubt planted in our hearts) and to “run with endurance…looking unto Jesus” (v. 1-2a, NKJV).
“For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”Matthew 17:20 CSB
Champion – Live by Bethel Music, Dante Bowe