Summary: What motivated Peter to want to walk on water? What motivated Jesus to Command Peter to step out of the boat?
Talk About a Walk of Faith!
Let’s dissect today’s gospel reading Matthew 14:22-33 just a bit.
1 – Jesus has just bid the masses to return to their homes after the feeding of the five thousand.
2 – Jesus still has that desire and need to be alone with The Father.
3 – He sends the disciples on ahead by boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is about eight miles wide and thirteen miles long. Though called the sea, it is a large freshwater lake. The journey wouldn’t be considered a difficult distance to sail.
4 – Bear in mind that there appeared to be a storm brewing on the horizon but nothing to indicate any threat to this journey,
5 – As best I can determine it was during the fourth watch which would make the time somewhere between 3:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. It was dark and foggy yet enough light from the moon and stars to see the horizon once eyes were adjusted to the night.
6 – The disciples looked out and saw an image approaching them through the fog and they were concerned that it was a ghost. The concern was this image and not anything to do with the weather at this point in time.
Let’s stop here and look at what we have so far. From where I sit, I see a lesson in this reading that has as much to do with motivation as it does with practice or faith.
1 – Jesus (The Omniscient) certainly knew that there were experienced fishermen and seamen on this boat. Wouldn’t He know that they would be scared or at least have an aroused curiosity of this image approaching them. It wasn’t until Jesus heard them crying out in fear, “It is a ghost” v26 that He spoke to them saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” V27
In our daily lot in life, we are often confronted with circumstances and sudden unexpected appearances. Do we withdraw? Cower? Face it head on? Do we respond with a word with Jesus? In times of peril – real or imagined – Jesus should be our number one contact. Ask Him in prayer to protect us with His Holy Spirit and guide our response.
2 – When we realize that Jesus is right there with us, we can muster up faith and have great comfort and even some element of bravery.
As I said, Jesus had to know what was happening, Was His motivation a test for the disciples? Are we likely to be tested in a like manner?
3 – Now that everyone is calmed down and truly amazed to see the Lord Jesus walking on the water to join them, up pops Peter with the idea that he too wants to walk on the water.
There is of course NOTHING in the reading to indicate what was going on in Peter’s mind to make him want to walk on the water. Some preach that Peter was so excited to see Jesus that he wanted to get closer to Him, he couldn’t wait. Well, that’s possible I suppose but personally, I doubt that.
We can suppose all we want to but we’ll have to wait and ask him in person to truly know the answer here. I think it is way more likely that Peter jumped at a chance to show off, to be the first one out of the boat so to speak. After all, weren’t these guys always bickering about who was the best among them. We don’t know if any of the others were thinking of joining in or not. It does not say one way or the other.
I just think we need to understand that reading between the lines and making assumptions for a lesson may not always be the best way to go.
In any event, it did take guts. So, Peter bid Jesus to “Command” him to walk on the water.
Why a command: a- it gave Peter a reason, b- he would be beckoned by the Master’s voice c- there is the assurance that it would be in the will of God.
4 – So, at Peter’s pleading, Jesus did indeed beckon him to step out of the boat. Peter took a couple of steps and immediately began to sink and flounder. So, Peter called out to Jesus to save him. Of course, that is exactly what Jesus did. Giving Peter credit, he did in fact place his faith in Jesus and did obey the command to step out of the boat.
How will we ever know the extent of our own faith; how will we perceive the will of God in a sink or swim situation? Our faith will surface when we call out to Him and He will save us – even from ourselves sometimes. Peter began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the sea wanting to swallow him up. There’s the lessen beloved, keep our eyes on Jesus in those times of peril, NOT on the crisis (sea) that wants to swallow us up.