Matthew 14:25-33 (NIV) During the fourth watch of the night 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. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The sight of someone walking on top of the water toward them in the midst of the storm, clothes being swept around Him by the powerful wind, but His progress uninterrupted by the wind or the waves, set the disciples’ hair on end. Their minds went instantly to the idea that this was a ghost – maybe the spirit of one of the many sailors and fishermen who had drowned in these waters in just such a storm as this. And they began screaming in terror.
When the words of Jesus came to them over the noise of the wind, “Don’t be afraid! It’s only me!” it did little to ease their hearts.
The disciples had seen many marvelous things as they had lived with Jesus. But those things had fit into categories that they could understand: healings, casting out demons, signs from God that He was really someone special, and Jesus’ ability to know things that were happening below the surface.
But they had freaked out when He had calmed the sea and wind with a word (Matthew 8:23-27). And now here He was, walking on top of the water of the Sea of Galilee!
Peter was the first to accept the possibility that this really might be Jesus. “If it’s really You, call me to come to You on the water.”
Jesus’ answer was a single word: “Come!”
Now Peter was on the spot. All eyes in the boat were looking at him, wondering what he was going to do. He had issued a challenge, and that challenge had been answered with a command.
But Peter was nothing if not impulsive. He put a foot over the edge of the boat and onto the surface of the water, and found it to be firm, despite the motion of the swells. The other foot followed, and he was standing on the surface of the sea! He looked up, and there was Jesus, waving him forward. He took a step, then another, then another. This was amazing! He was actually walking on the water!
A strong swell surging under his feet drew his attention away from Jesus to the wind still whipping around him, and the high waves on all sides. The brief thought ran through his mind, “What am I doing? This is impossible!” And with that thought, the surface of the water suddenly went soft under his feet, and he began to sink.
He cried out, “Lord, save me!” And just before the water closed over his head, he felt a strong hand grab the collar of his robe and pull him back up to the top of the water. Jesus continued walking toward the boat with a strong arm supporting Peter. And as they took those last few steps, Peter heard Him say quietly in his ear with a slight tone of frustration, “You of little faith; why did you doubt?”
Then they were both climbing into the boat. The disciples, far from being comforted by Peter’s few steps on the surface of the sea, were awestruck by the man now in the boat with them, who had enabled those steps. Not only could He walk on water, He could enable other people to walk on water, too! They all looked at Him with wonder in their eyes, barely whispering the words, “You really are the Son of God!”
Father, we believe that Jesus could and can do great things. And sometimes we believe that He can do great things through us. But we seldom believe that He can enable us to do great things as we keep our focus on Him. We focus too much on the situation, the wind and the waves that surge around us. And we begin to doubt our ability to do what You have called us to do. And, in the end, we feel lost and hopeless, and cry out to You, not for the power that we need to keep going, but for You to save us so that we can get back to safety.
Peter deserves some credit for being willing to get out of the boat. But, in the end, his faith in Jesus was too small for him to succeed. I see the same fault in myself: a small faith that moves me to start, but not enough to get me to the finish line. Help me, Lord, to live in abundant faith that what You call me to do, You can help me to complete. Amen.