Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.Matthew 14:22-32 (NIV)
As followers of Christ, we are generally very familiar with Jesus’ miracles–from turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana to His resurrection, we almost expect the unexpected when reading about His adventures.
The same may not be true for Peter. Maybe best known as the impetuous disciple who acted or spoke first and thought later, or perhaps for denying his beloved Savior, but he also performed some miracles of his own. I’ve included the story of his most famous one in the passage above. A few things are noteworthy about this.
First off, Peter walked on water! It was his idea, which is remarkable in itself. I mean, that’s not exactly a normal response to Jesus saying (basically), Hey, it’s me, don’t worry. But whatever inspired him to react the way he did to Jesus’ arrival, I can only imagine that at some point later, when he was retelling the story (this is Peter, so he probably didn’t think about it in the moment), he probably thought to himself, Why in the world did I offer to walk out onto the water to meet him?? But in the moment, as soon as Jesus told him to come, he probably sat right down on the edge of the boat, swung his legs around, placed his feet on (not in) the water and decided it was a good idea to stand up and take a few steps.
So he did!
Matthew’s description of the event doesn’t say how many steps Peter took, but it must have been enough so there was no doubt in Matthew’s mind that Peter actually had walked on the water.
But then reality set in for Peter. He noticed the waves, and suddenly they became bigger and more powerful than Jesus in Peter’s mind.
So he sank.
But before we allow ourselves to feel disappointed for Peter, we have to realize we do the same thing. I do it all the time. In one moment, I can feel so strong in my faith, like nothing can stop me since I have God in my corner. How great, but how fleeting, are those moments! A moment later, I remember that the world doesn’t work that way, or another of the million lies we allow ourselves to believe in more than the power of God. So I sink too, just like Peter did.
And then something else odd happened. When Jesus reached down to pull Peter out of the water, He rebuked Peter for not having enough faith. If I were Jesus, I probably would have been tempted to point out how cool it was that he took 7 or 8 steps on the water, and then maybe encouraged him to practice so he could get as good at it as I am. What this means to me is that Jesus expected Peter–and by association, expects us–to have enough faith to continue the journey on the water. Nobody ever said Jesus didn’t set the bar very high for us! But thankfully, He offers to help us meet the bar, and offers grace and forgiveness when we don’t.
OK, here’s the last thing. Peter walked on water again! He had to get back to the boat, didn’t he? The text doesn’t say that when Jesus rescued Peter, suddenly they were back in the boat, so they must have walked back to the boat in order to climb back into it. It’s possible that Jesus was holding Peter’s hand during this time, but I would still consider that very remarkable–even miraculous. So it seems he had no trouble believing he could do it as long as Jesus was there to help him.
And here’s the thing: Jesus is always there to help us. Growing our faith is about remembering that, and believing it. The idea make me think of this quote (which I have seen attributed to Karan Goel and Faraz, among others):
In faith, day after day and all throughout each day, we need to remind ourselves that God’s power is greater than the waves, or any other force that stands against us.