Peter started it. Peter is bold. Is Peter showing off for the others? Perhaps.
Peter plows ahead though. Then … Peter becomes afraid. Peter is doubting that Jesus will see him through to the end.
Jesus has great questions. He always does. Jesus wants to know why we doubt Him. Jesus is Master and in control. We see and know it at a certain level. We will be tested. We will cry out for mercy and salvation. Jesus saves us and the wind calms down. All is well.
But … the question lingers. Why did we doubt? What did we learn?
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, “Master, 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.
English Standard Version. (2016). (Matthew 14:28–33). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Why did the storm come? The storm came because they were in the will of God and not (like Jonah) out of the will of God.
- Did Jesus know that the storm was coming? Certainly!
- Did He deliberately direct them into the storm? Yes!
- They were safer in the storm in God’s will than on land with the crowds out of God’s will.
- We must never judge our security on the basis of circumstances alone.
As we learn from Jesus, we discover that there are two kinds of storms: storms of correction, when God disciplines us; and storms of perfection, when God helps us to grow. Jonah was in a storm because he disobeyed God and had to be corrected. The disciples were in a storm because they obeyed the Messiah Jesus and had to be perfected. Jesus had tested them in a storm before, when He was in the boat with them. But now He tested them by being out of the boat.
Many disciples have the mistaken idea that obedience to God’s will produces “smooth sailing.” But this is not true. “In the world you shall have tribulation,” Jesus promised (John 16:33). When we find ourselves in the storm because we have obeyed the Master, we must remember that He brought us here and He can care for us.
The whole purpose of the storm is to help the disciples grow in their faith. After all, Jesus would one day leave them, and they would face many storms in their ministries. They had to learn to trust Him even though He was not present with them, and even though it looked as though He did not care.
Now our center of interest shifts to Peter. Before we criticize Peter for sinking, let’s honor him for his magnificent demonstration of faith. He dared to be different. Anybody can sit in the boat and watch. But it takes a person of real faith to leave the boat and walk on the water.
What caused Peter to sink? His faith began to waver because he took his eyes off the Master and began to look at the circumstances around him. “Why did you doubt?” Jesus asked him (Matt. 14:31). This word translated doubt carries the meaning of “standing uncertainly at two ways.” Peter started out with great faith but ended up with little faith because he saw two ways instead of one.
We must give Peter credit for knowing that he was sinking and for crying out to the Master Jesus for help. He cried out when he was “beginning to sink” and not when he was drowning. Perhaps this incident came to Peter’s mind years later when he wrote in his first epistle: “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers” (1 Peter 3:12).
This experience was difficult for Peter, but it helped him to grow in his knowledge of himself and of the Master. The storms of life are not easy, but they are necessary. They teach us to trust Jesus the Messiah alone and to obey His Word no matter what the circumstances may be. It has well been said, “Faith is not believing in spite of evidence, but obeying in spite of consequence.”