Matthew 14:29-31 speaks of an incident that is well-known to most of us, whether we are Christians or not. It begins with a description of a terrible storm on a wind-tossed lake in the middle of the night. Could the setting be any scarier?
Twelve men are huddled in a fishing boat, waiting out the tempest, when they look across the lake and see something heading toward them. As it gets closer, they see it’s a man, and one of the fishermen thinks it might be Jesus. But Jesus is walking toward them, across the raging waves, undeterred by the winds blowing around him. What an incredible picture! But then it gets even more amazing...
One man in the boat, Peter, calls out to Jesus, asking permission to join him on the water. Next thing you know, Peter is out of the boat, doing just that. Was Peter's unusual act brave or just insane? I believe Peter's brief stroll on the water was a testament to the power of faith. Even better, I believe that same power is still available to us who believe in Jesus today.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t say we can all go out to the nearest large body of water and step to the top of the waves for a little afternoon constitutional. But the same power which upheld Peter as he walked on the waves that day is the power that saves and empowers believers today, and is at work in us right now.
Who Is That Guy on the Water?
Peter’s step of faith began with recognizing who Jesus really was. Just before Peter’s walk, we read that the other men in the boat thought Jesus might be a ghost. In verse 27 Jesus relieves their fears with the words, “It is I.” However, these words are better understood when translated literally: Jesus said, “I am.” This is the very statement for which the Pharisees wanted to stone him because it is one of the Old Testament terms for God – the one God himself gave Moses. Christ tells his closest disciples he is "I AM," creator of the very wind and waves they fear, who is coming to them.
Apparently, Peter fully believed Jesus. He had no doubt when he stepped out onto that wind-whipped water that Jesus could hold him up. Peter walked on the water in order to join his master and friend Jesus, the Messiah. But then something went terribly wrong. Peter started looking around at the reality of his situation and began to doubt the power of Jesus to do the impossible. He also began to sink.
Why Didn’t it Work?
Right in the middle of this miracle, Peter questioned his earlier faith, took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the problems surrounding him. Apparently, the roaring winds and crashing waves were too much for his shaky faith. The idea which seemed so good when he stood on the deck of the boat didn’t seem so great when he was in the water. Of course, the story ends with Peter crying out to Jesus for help, and Jesus reaching down to pull him to safety. So how does this translate to us walking on water today?
At first Peter demonstrates the faith we must have to leave the safety of what we have been relying on to get by (the boat), and trust Jesus to show us what we are really capable of. Walking on water – doing what seems impossible to us – depends solely on our faith in Him. Jesus told Peter to come to him not so Peter could experience the thrill of walking on water. It was really a demonstration of both the Master’s power, and the strength of Peter’s faith.
The experience forced Peter to come face-to-face with his own weakness. As Peter sank, Jesus did challenge his lack of faith, but at the same time Jesus reached out to save him. Peter’s cry of distress moved Jesus into taking action. And note that Peter’s faith took him so close to Jesus that a mere outstretched hand could reach him. Jesus is never far from those he loves!
5 Principles for Walking on Water
So, these are some of the principles for walking on water we can take away from this passage:
- Peter was able to walk on water successfully through the power of Jesus.
- When we cry out to Jesus he hears and helps us.
- When we take our eyes off Jesus and focus on our problems, we begin to fail.
- If you base your faith on what you can see and explain, you will sink under the
weight of that “truth.”
- If Peter could walk on water in the middle of a huge storm, he certainly could have
done so on calm water. The storm shouldn’t make a difference to your faith.
So how do you walk on water? Only by faith. Peter is proof that you don’t even need a lot of that... just enough to step out of the boat!