MATTHEW 14:30-33: “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Jesus walked on water. Peter sank.
Why did Peter sink?
The usual answer that is given is that Peter took his eyes off Jesus and began to look at the wind and the waves. However, what does it mean to take your eyes off Jesus? The traditional answer to this question never seemed sufficient to me.
As we consider the question of why Peter sank, we need to deal with another misunderstanding from this passage. Was Peter simply impetuous when he stepped out of the boat? Many believe that when Peter saw Jesus, he jumped out of the boat and started walking on the water, while the other 11 disciples simply stayed in the boat. This is not what happened.
- “Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:25-27 NKJV
After Jesus fed the 5000, He told his disciples to get in the boat and set out for the other side. Jesus dismissed the multitude and then went to a solitary place to pray. As the disciples began to struggle in the boat, at the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came to them walking on the water. This was a startling experience to all the disciples – even Peter. They thought they had seen a ghost! At that moment no one was thinking about walking on the water!
When Jesus assured them it was He, Peter then responded,
- “…Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Matthew 14:28 NKJV
Notice, Peter did not jump out of the boat and begin walking on the water toward Jesus. Peter was a seasoned fisherman. He was a little smarter than that. Peter asked Jesus to command him to join Him on the water. Peter asked Jesus for His word before he stepped out of the boat. This is the pivotal point of the entire story!
- “So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.” Matthew 14:29 NKJV
Peter waited for Jesus’ word. He knew that when Jesus spoke His word things happened. When Jesus commissioned the 12 to cast out demons and heal the sick, this is exactly what happened. As they proclaimed the Gospel, and prayed for the sick, they saw the miraculous happen. And, Peter knew, that if Jesus commanded Him to come to Him on the water – he would be able to walk on the water!
So Peter stepped out of the boat, with faith in the word of Jesus. As Peter stepped out in faith upon the word, he began walking on the water towards Jesus. Everything was going great, until the word that He had stepped out on, began to be tested. Peter was faced with the reality of Jesus’ word and the competing reality of the wind and waves of the storm. It was Jesus’ word or the storm, Peter’s faith or his fear. And, Peter chose fear and succumbed to the storm.
I love what Jesus did then. He reached out His hand, rescued Peter, and corrected him for his lack of faith in Jesus word.
- “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
It was not that Peter took his physical eyes off Jesus. Rather, Peter took his spiritual eyes off the command and promise of Jesus. When God’s word was tested, like the parable of the sower and the seed that was sown on the rocky ground, Jesus’ promise did not take root in Peter’s heart. Peter succumbed to his fears.
How many times have I been just like Peter? God has spoken to me through His word, has called me to a pathway of obedience, and when faced with persecution (wind and waves) on account of the word, I folded. Yet, each and every time, there was the hand of Jesus to pull me out of the storm, set my feet on a solid rock, call me to a restored faith, and remind me of His promise and calling. God is so loving and faithful.
He never lets us sink!
I have so much respect for Peter. He was willing to take a risk of faith in Jesus’ name. None of the other disciples echoed – “Can we come too?” They all stood on the sidelines, probably thinking, “There goes that show-off again. I know he is going to sink!” And, when Peter did sink, I bet there were some muttering under their breath – “I told you so!”
When someone takes a leap of faith into the wind and waves of obedience we should never be like the other 11 disciples. We should be there to encourage, support, and pray for them! If they stumble or sink, we should be there to help restore them. We all have chosen fear over faith at times in our life. What would happen if we all became faith enablers and fear disablers? What could we accomplish for the Kingdom of God?
Lord, give me the grace and courage to step out of the boat! May I always wait for Your word before I do. And, may I cling to Your word in faith and stand against the storms of fear that will try to steal away Your promise.
Let me be a faith enabler and a fear disabler!
In Jesus Name!