Peter on the water — Matthew 14:28–33

The withdrawal of the King — part 7

40 blogs of Lent — day 9

The focus of the story now shifts to Peter.We should not be too hard on Peter for doubting, after all he has the faith to get out of of the boat and stand on the water. Peter himself suggested it.

There is artistic license in the picture below. The earlier part of the reading says there was a wind so string that they could make no headway against the wind by rowing, the picture shows the sail up.

Walking on water
from Wikimedia Commons

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,[d] he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:28–33 ESV UK

Jesus says, “Come”

Peter had faith. It took a lot of faith to step out onto the water, contemplating this if I was one of the disciples, I know where I’d be, in the boat with the other eleven disciples. Then Peter sees the wind stirring the waves up. It is no longer an option to return to the boat, and it’s possible that he has lost sight of Jesus in the waves. Peter again gets it right, instead of trying to swim for it of waiting until he’s about to drown he calls on Jesus as soon as he is in trouble, the passage said he was beginning to sink. Peter’s faith in Jesus was still keeping him up to a degree and his faith knew what to do, call on Jesus when he got into trouble.

Peter doubted, but he disbelieve. Doubt and disbelief are two different things. Peter believes in Jesus, he has seen the miracles and heard the teaching first hand. Peter is one of the twelve who were sent out to preach the Gospel and heal the sick. Peter is a performer of miracles himself. Peter knows and trusts in the power of God, Peter trusts Jesus.

Peter is also a fisherman, called by Jesus when he was at his nets. He is not only a sailor, but this lake is the water he sails, he knows the power of Galilean storms. Once before the disciples had been in a storm with Jesus. On that occasion Jesus was in the boat asleep. The disciples, some of them seasoned sailors tried everything they could to sail the storm and defeated and about to sink call on Jesus. Peter has learned his lesson. He does not wait until he has tried everything, he calls for Jesus straight away.

Jesus put the disciples in the boat and Jesus calls Peter out onto the water. Whatever happens, they are in the will of Jesus, Jesus will not let them down. Yet once again Peter gets a telling off. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” says Jesus — Peter has done well, he has learned his lessons so far, but Jesus shows he still has a lot to learn. Instead of looking at Jesus and at the waves, he has got to learn to look at Jesus alone.

I have a beef with some preachers. They will concentrate on the doubt of Peter and how it made him sink and apply it to their congregation. My problem is that the congregation will be at different points in their walk with Jesus.

Some may be new in the faith, needing to hear Jesus say, “Follow me.” Some may not even be as far on as Peter was when called, Peter’s brother and partner in the fishing business, Andrew, had been a disciple of John the Baptist, Peter already had background so he was ale to leave his nets and follow Jesus. Remember those who are reluctant to leave things to follow when Jesus says come.

Some may have made a commitment to follow Jesus, but like the disciples in the first boat be trying to everything in their own power they can before they call on Jesus as a last resort. These people are not wrong, they are just at an early stage of faith. It took a crisis in the lives of the disciples, fearing for their lives in a sinking boat before they could be used, Matthew tells that it is after this that the disciples are sent out. They need to know that Jesus can see them through the crisis, they need the next level of trust.

In the second storm, when Jesus is not in the boat, they have to learn what to do without him, because Jesus will not be with them forever. This is an interlude in the story of Jesus, the last chapter, preaching in Galilee, is over, soon he will start the journey to Jerusalem for the last time and the next chapter will begin. Jesus call to step out of the boat was personal, it came to Peter alone. If and when Jesus has a call for you it will come personally when he says, “Come,” will you go to him?

The reaction of Jesus’ followers also progresses. In the first storm on the lake they ask, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Now they worship him saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Jesus actions bring praise.

This is Peter’s third call the first was a personal call to follow, the second in the first boat, to go deeper, was to his followers, to become one as a church, an ekklesia, a people. Later the call will be corporate again, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus words of rebuke are not there to condemn us but to urge us on gently to the next step in our walk with Jesus. Whether you have been with Jesus a long time or are just starting out, are you willing to take that next step.

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