Matthew 14. Let’s set the scene…
There’s much happening. John the Baptist is beheaded, Jesus feeds thousands with some fishes and loaves, then we find Peter walking on water towards Jesus.
I point out this context because, if you read it in its entirety, it speaks to the heart of Christ that after He loses someone like John the Baptist and then performs one of the largest miracles in the Gospels up to this point, He still sets time aside to rest so He can pour into His disciples. Praise God for this heart of His.
Now the scene of verses 22-36… It’s stormy. The boat they’re in is being battered by the wind and waves. They’re likely far out from the shore since it’s the fourth watch of the night (about 3am). They see a dark figure approaching, they don’t know it’s Jesus yet, and they’re afraid. Personally, I would prefer not to be in this boat with them! This doesn’t sound ideal.
But this is right where Jesus meets them. He walks on the water towards the boat in the wind, waves and darkness. Once He tells them not to fear because it’s Him, but Peter responds, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus responds, “Come.”
So there goes Peter. No hesitation. He steps out of the boat and literally starts walking on the water towards Jesus. The vast majority of us have probably always associated these two verses with faith, and the importance of keeping our eyes on Jesus. While I think those points are in there, God showed me something different in this passage…
I think it’s impulse that ultimately leads Peter to step out of the boat. I think this is Peter being Peter. You know…Peter who woke up in the garden swinging His sword as Jesus got arrested when he was supposed to watch and pray (John 18). Peter who left three and a half years of following Jesus behind because of a couple moments of confusion and frustration (John 21). Peter who dove off the boat and swam 100 yards to shore because He had a feeling it was Jesus standing on it (John 21). And I’ve not even mentioned all the times he boldly spoke impulsively / out of emotion.
Peter was a man driven by impulse and emotion. In fact, Peter doesn’t even confess Christ as Lord and Savior until Matthew 16. What foundation of faith would he be stepping out on in Matthew 14 considering that?
Still, he does step out. A few steps later he notices the wind and waves, and becomes afraid. Starts sinking. Cries out, “Lord, save me!” Of course, Jesus immediately pulls him out of the water, but says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Here’s the thing. Jesus knows the end from the beginning. He knew that Peter would ask Him to call him out on the water. He knew that Peter would step out and walk. He knew that Peter would let his fear of the wind send him under. He knew that Peter would cry out for help. Jesus knew He had the power to stop the wind and waves the entire time.
So, why would Jesus send them into a storm, and tell Peter to “Come” in the first place if He knew what was going to unfold?
Well, I believe it’s because God is not afraid to let us start sinking if that’s what it takes to bring heart issues to the surface.
Jesus knew He had the power to stop the storm at any time, but He chose to allow it. Jesus knew Peter’s lack of faith would send him under, but He needed Peter to know that. Peter’s admiration of Jesus is empty without him having true faith in who Jesus is, and Jesus needed him to see that. He needed Peter to come face-to-face with his own lack of faith because, if not, how would his lack of faith be challenged to change?
Is this stormy night the reason Peter came to confess faith in Christ in Matthew 16? We certainly can’t say that. Was it something that opened his eyes and lead his heart closer to it? I think we have reason to believe so in studying Peter’s walk with Jesus.
It’s so easy to get caught up being a fan of Jesus rather than having genuine faith in Him. It’s so easy to lose sight of the things within us that need to be dealt with, and challenged, in the busyness of “doing” for the Lord. If Peter, who literally walked with Jesus, struggled with that, I think it’s fair to say that it’s even easier for us to do the same.
But Jesus wants to see you get to the other side; the other side of your struggle with fear, depression, lack of faith, anxiety, anger… you name it. Whatever causes you to start sinking. It’s just that in order to do that, the issue within us needs to surface so it can be surrendered.
And so, if He needs to send you out into stormy seas and call you into waters He knows you’ll start sinking in… He will. He’ll be there to pull you out when you call, but He will.
He will do that, just like He did it with Peter, because it tends to be in those waters that we realize what’s been hindering us all along, and who was sovereign over it all from the beginning.
“When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshipped Him saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Matthew 15:32-33