Walking on Water
“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” (vv. 28–29).- Matthew 14:22–36
After miraculously increasing a few loaves and fish into a quantity that can feed thousands, Jesus sends the crowd away and withdraws to a mountain to pray. Shortly before dismissing the crowd, our Savior orders His disciples to return to the boat in order to give Him time alone with His Father (Matt. 13:22–23). Many scholars believe Jesus separates His disciples from the crowd so that they might not get caught up in the crowd’s messianic expectations, which were probably not in line with the fact that the Messiah had to suffer.
In any case, we know that Christ spends many hours in prayer. He begins as soon as the evening comes (six o’clock or so, v. 23) and we do not see Him in action again until the fourth watch of the night (anywhere between three and six in the morning, v. 25). Such perseverance in prayer must not be overlooked. If Jesus, who always does His Father’s will, needed to pray for such a lengthy period, how much more should extended communion with our Creator be a part of our lives? It is a fact that those believers who have made a great impact on history were men and women who spent a lot of time on their knees.
Jesus is walking upon the water, approaching their ship tossed far from the shore by a powerful storm, the first time the disciples see Him after this prayer vigil (vv. 25–27). This act is a powerful proof of His deity. In Scripture, Yahweh, the one, true Lord of all, is described as walking upon the water (Ps. 77:16–20; Hab. 3:15). Whether or not Peter has a full-orbed understanding of Christ’s divinity at this point in his life is doubtful, but he does understand the extraordinary authority that Jesus must possess if He can make His path on top of the waves. Such faith prompts Peter to ask for permission from Jesus to step off the boat and join Him upon the sea (Matt. 14:28–29).
Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus and sinks, but we would miss a vital lesson of this story if we focus only on Christ’s criticism of His disciple’s “little faith” (vv. 30–31). Though mixed with doubt and fear, Peter’s faith is nonetheless true — he does walk on the water. More importantly, the fisherman is not abandoned when he falters; rather, the Savior extends His hand to save him (vv. 32–33).
As many commentators have said regarding this passage, Peter’s faith is much like ours, small and incomplete, a mixture of trust and doubt. Nevertheless, God does not wait for us to have perfect faith before He saves us. The mere presence of authentic trust is required, and periods of doubt say nothing about the legitimacy of our faith. No matter the fervor of your trust this day, know that Jesus is a Savior who rescues those who struggle with doubt.
Passages for Further Study