Two men walked on water. One stayed up, one sank. What made the difference?
When we think about walking on water, most of us immediately think of Jesus; however, we often forget someone else walked on water too.
In chapter 14 of his Gospel, Matthew provides a beautiful and dramatic scene on the Sea of Galilee.
But, before we dive into this amazing story, I have a nerd nugget for you.
In verse 22, Matthew points our attention to something special. The first word of the verse in nearly every translation is “Immediately.” This word is Matthew’s literary signal for his readers to look back at the story he just told and connect it to the story he is about to tell. What had Jesus just done that Matthew wants us to remember as we continue reading? Verses 13-21 are the account of Jesus miraculously feeding the 5000. Keep this in mind.
So, following the most spectacular dinner party of all time, Jesus instructed his disciples to get into a boat and sail across the Sea of Galilee to the other side while he went up the mountainside to pray.
The next morning Jesus met back up with them in a way none of them could have ever expected. What they thought was a ghost on the water was actually the living Jesus walking on top of it!
They were equally terrified and amazed.
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!”
Matt 14:27-30 NIV
There’s a lot in this passage, so let’s unpack.
First of all, two people are literally walking on water. Are you kidding me!?
While this kind of behavior might be “par for the course” if you’re the Son of God himself, Peter was a normal guy just like me and you. Incredible!
Second, verse 30 serves as an example and warning to us.
We see Peter successfully walk on water up until he did one thing… doubt.
He started sinking as soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus.
While his focus remained fixed on his savior, Peter stood confidently above the waves. But, as soon as Peter’s doubt caused him to lose focus, he began to succumb to the danger of the waters below. This is a big clue for us as believers.
We, are also called to fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:2 NIV) If we do, we too can stand with confidence on the waves of life.
Third, and arguably most important, is what happens when Peter doubts. Jesus’s response is perfect.
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matt 14:31 NIV
Jesus doesn’t quiz Peter before saving him. And Peter’s answer didn’t determine whether or not Jesus would offer him grace.
Jesus offered the grace freely, all Peter had to do was accept it.
But after accepting it, Jesus questions peter. He doesn’t do this prove a point or to belittle his disciple, rather Jesus wants to reinforce the truth Peter should have already known to be true.
Peter had more reason not to doubt than practically anyone else in history.
Remember Matthew’s usage of the word “Immediately” back in verse 22? Because of that word, we know Peter would have just seen Jesus perform the largest-scale miracle of his entire ministry barring the resurrection.
Peter’s doubt comes on the heels of one of the most apparent and obvious acts of divine power in human history, and he STILL doubted!
This story should give us great hope because, like Peter, we are human, and we doubt.
And like Peter, we lose focus and take our eyes off Jesus.
But even when we doubt and lose focus, we can be confident that Jesus is very much still in the saving business and is always and forever worthy of our trust.
I don’t know what waves you might be facing today, but here’s your encouragement to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of your faith.
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