Today I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and observations out of Matthew 14:22-33, the story of Jesus (and Peter) walking on the water. This isn’t a doctrinal exposition of the passage, but rather simply observations, questions, things that impacted me as I read this passage again this morning.
These notes are told to you as I wrote them down in my journal; they aren’t in polished article form. I do this intentionally. I don’t know what your “quiet time” is like. I don’t know how you read the Bible or what helps you learn. For me, I learn with a pen in hand. I read the Bible and I take notes. Sometimes I diagram a sentence (yeah, I’m that nerd); sometimes I write a prayer afterwards; sometimes I wrestle with something in the passage and how it connects with my own life… and often I write lists of observations. Generally those lists start because I think I have one or two things I want to note, but then I find that the minute I begin, I see more and more in the passage and my lists grow longer and longer. I know that I wouldn’t have seen so much noteworthy today if I hadn’t paused long enough to write a few observations down. Maybe that’s why it works for me, the slowing down long enough to really chew on it. I’m not really sure, but I share this with you in its raw form with a few hopes: 1. You will be encouraged to really study the Word; 2. You might be encouraged to try jotting down observations on paper and find for yourself that it enriches your time in the Word; 3. You might find something in my observations of this passage which help, encourage or inspire you in some way.
- Sometimes what Jesus does can seem scary. The disciples didn’t know it was Jesus on the water and they were scared.
- Jesus immediately calmed their fears. “It is I.”
- The reason they shouldn’t be afraid was that it was “I”, not that it was “normal”. “Don’t be afraid, because it is I.”
- “Immediately” is a key word in this passage. Three times.
- Immediately after feeding the 5,000 Jesus sent disciples across the lake and dismissed the crowds so He could be alone with the Father.
- Immediately Jesus spoke and calmed their fears.
- Immediately He lifted Peter out of the water.
- I think this is significant, though I’m not yet sure why (especially since the first “immediately” doesn’t fit the same pattern as the following two).
- Peter was willing and anxious, but a) he was unsure if it was Christ, and b) he wasn’t going to move without being sure. The first gives me comfort, the second shows me wisdom.
- Peter didn’t just want to watch what Jesus was doing, he wanted to be a part of it.
- Jesus invited Peter and enabled him to be a part. Come. I love that. Come. One word, but it means so much here. Come experience something you never dreamed of. Come to me. Come be with me. Come be part of a miracle. Come be an example to others. Come follow me. Come—It is I.
- When Peter “saw the wind” he was afraid. Huh??? He didn’t see the water, the waves, a large fish, the depths… He saw the wind. You can’t even see the wind!! There was plenty to see and be afraid of, but I’m struck by the fact that what he “saw” was something unseeable. How true it is. Our fears are largely in our head. Largely imagined dangers. They could be real and certainly, there are real things to fear …but so often the ones that sink us are less the waves and the water and more the wind. That’s where Satan gets us – the unseeable. It’s what he plants in our mind, what he tell us s to “see”.
- Of course, Peter lost focus on Jesus. His focus on the wind caused him to sink. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. We must remember, “greater is He…”
- Jesus asks Peter, “Why did he doubt?” and calls Peter “ye of little faith”. Peter, the one who got out of the boat and on to the water. He didn’t say it to the other disciples who stayed in the boat. Maybe they had faith, maybe they didn’t. But it seems to me Peter had a lot of faith, which is why he left he boat in the first place. But here’s the thing—starting and finishing aren’t the same. Impetuousness, ignorance, naivety—all these things can get you out of the boat. You can be walking on water before you realize it and it wasn’t faith or bravery at all that got you there.
- You might think that Peter should have enough evidence now that he has walked on water and gotten close enough to Christ that He could reach out a helping hand… You might think that that far out onto the water he would “know by now” that He could trust Jesus to sustain him, but he sank in fear.
No mater how far out on the water a person may be, how much they seem to have trusted Christ with their life, they are still liable to fear. They are but a wind’s blow away from sinking in doubt. If it’s you out on the water, be aware. Keep your eyes on Jesus. If it’s someone else, if you’re in the boat watching, pray for them. Encourage them. Be compassionate if, for a moment, they sink.
- Know that the doubting and the sinking can happen at any time to any one.
- Along those lines, I can’t help but wonder if part of why Peter “saw” the wind at all was that half way into their crazy miracle he got confident, comfortable enough to stop focusing solely on Jesus and learning to use his “sea legs” in a more literal sense and then, as his confidence grew, he took a moment to “take it all in”. I would. I mean the first few steps I’d be so intensely concentrated on the task at hand, but then know I would be excited and amazed and want to see it all. I’d look around and look back at the guys in the boat—“Hey ya’ll! OMG! This is AMAZING!” And then, because I was looking around and taking it all in, suddenly I’d see the all the dangers too. This is why, if you’re the one stepping out of the boat, you need to keep your eyes set, your focused locked in on Christ. Because looking around not only are you more aware of the dangers, but you’re tempted to be prideful and then, when you think your strength got you there in some way, you suddenly feel your vulnerability and those dangers you see are all the more menacing and fear sets in.
- Peter fell, for a moment, but because he’d walked out to Jesus, Jesus was just an arm’s length away, ready to pull him up in an instant. He fell, but was “immediately” lifted and restored.
Have you a hero who walked on water? Likely they have or will sink a little at some point. Be patient and gracious and know Jesus is there to restore.
- Peter fell, but then he walked on water. Again. This time with Christ. This time without falling. They walked together, back to the boat. I love that.
- When they got to the boat, the wind ceased. Storms usually surround us when we step out in faith. Peter stepped out during the storm and it continued to storm until they were back in the boat, miracle over. Maybe the storm tempted him to stay in the boat; maybe it pushed him out… but for sure opposition and storms will be present when we dare to follow Christ and walk on water. The enemy doesn’t want us to.
- There are seasons. The storms don’t last forever. Peter lived an extraordinary moment, but then there was relief in the boat after. Seasons. The storm passed as did the miracle. Seasons.
- In the season of rest and quiet, (after the storm), Peter and the others in the boat worshipped.
- The others in the boat aren’t judged for not leaving the boat. (Not that I see, anyway.) That fascinates me. It seems to me that God’s call to Peter is wholly separate from His call to the others—and those are not to be compared.
- What is important is that in all things GOD was acknowledged and worshipped. What He did in and with and through Peter caused ALL to worship. Their willingness to worship God was every bit as important as Peter’s stepping out of the boat. So no matter what God calls you to, or me to, or someone else to, the important thing is that as we watch what God does in, for and through each other, we rejoice. We don’t compare or compete but worship the one who says, “Come. I am. It is I.”