• P. Frank

Walking on Water

”Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” (Matthew 14:22–33).

On December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first powered and controlled airplane flight. Before this, people thought it to be impossible for humans to fly; now we know differently and flying is a regular occurrence. When someone accomplishes something extraordinary, like the Wright brothers, sometimes they feel like they are able to “walk on water” (or at least are described as such). When you read the passage above, do you think we could ever have the faith required to walk on water?

This Bible story is often depicted incorrectly. Many focus on Peter’s ability to temporarily walk on the surface of the sea as some sort of great achievement. But what if Peter should have just stayed in the boat? The passage above is right after Jesus fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish. His disciples just bore witness to an amazing miracle, but “they did not understand about the loaves [and fish, and] their hearts were hardened.” (Mark 6:52).

We know their hearts were hard because instead of recognizing Jesus, they thought He was a ghost. Then after finally realizing it was Jesus, we know that their hearts were still hard. How so? Well, Peter is arguably one of the most faithful disciples of Christ, and even Peter didn’t fully recognize Jesus for who He was: the Son of God. Peter did not show faith in Jesus, he tested Him. Read again what Peter requested: “Lord, IF it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28). Peter is looking at Jesus, standing on the water’s surface, and faithlessly says to Him, “IF.” So, before Peter even got out of the boat, he was doubting Jesus.

Jesus looked past Peter’s doubt and told him to come to Him on the water. Peter obeyed. This is the point of the story when people claim that Peter had great faith, because why else would he climb out of the boat to attempt the impossible? Peter may have demonstrated a small amount of faith, “but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’” (Matthew 14:30). Where did Peter mess up? HE TOOK HIS EYES OFF JESUS! He instead looked at the wind and waves and doubted Jesus once more. As soon as he took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink under the surface.

Even though Peter still wasn’t trusting in Jesus, Our Savior IMMEDIATELY reached out His hand to save him. I’ve seen artist renditions of Jesus reaching out to pull Peter out of the water. These renditions, while meant to be hopeful, usually portray Jesus with a smile on His face. No offense to the artists or those who enjoy the artwork, but that gives the wrong impression. Why would Jesus be smiling at Peter, who just moments earlier tested His power and then showed a lack of trust and doubted Him? Jesus pulled Peter out of the water because He HAD to save him. Jesus shamed Peter after saving him by saying, ”O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). Jesus didn’t congratulate Peter for stepping out of the boat, He chastised him. Peter could’ve just stayed in the boat and admired Jesus’ ability to defy the laws of physics. God doesn’t reward doubt and lack of faith in Him. On the contrary, it frustrates and angers Him. Especially after Jesus had just demonstrated miracle after miracle in front of His disciples.

We need to make sure we aren’t putting ourselves under the waters of our own sin, just to expect Jesus to pull us out. Yes, we have been forgiven for our sins with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. However, we are supposed to do everything we can to STOP SINNING rather than knowingly continue in our sins because He will save us. “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning.” (1 John 3:6a). We know the truth and the truth should set us free, not trap us in the vicious cycles of doubt and lack of faith. Next time you are confronted with a temptation to sin, stay in the boat (the Word). Just marvel at all the miracles God works in and around your life and trust in Him. Don’t test Him. We don’t need to walk on water, that’s reserved for Jesus.

But when you do fall into temptation or doubt, and you find yourself outside of the boat (the Word or the Church) with the waves of sin crashing over you, look up to Jesus. Jesus will always be there, walking above it all. He may be disappointed in us at times, as He should be, but He is always ready to lift us up again because of His great love for us. For “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).