Portrait of a Water-Walker
By this time the boat was already a long way from shore. Since the wind was blowing against it, the boat was having trouble because of the waves. Between three and six o’clock in the morning, Jesus’ followers were still in the boat. Jesus came to them. He was walking on the water. When they saw him walking on the water, it scared them. “It’s a ghost!” they said, screaming in fear. But Jesus quickly spoke to them. He said, “Don’t worry! It’s me! Don’t be afraid.” Peter said, “Lord, if that is really you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come, Peter.” Then Peter left the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. But while Peter was walking on the water, he saw the wind and the waves. He was afraid and began sinking into the water. He shouted, “Lord, save me!” Then Jesus caught Peter with his hand. He said, “Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:24-31 (Easy-to-Read Version, ERV)
This is one of those memorable accounts from the ministry of Jesus that is widely known. Most Christians, even many unbelievers, have used the phrase “walk on water.” And while we focus on the fact that Jesus walked on water with ease, we tend to overlook the feat that Peter accomplished in joining Him.
Let’s look at Peter and his brief, but amazing, walk on the water. We can learn much from this boisterous and overly zealous fisherman. Picture the following in your mind. A small fishing boat full of about a dozen men, is tossing on the waves in the middle of the sea in the pitch black night. In the midst of the darkness, a form appears, walking on the waves. They begin to panic, thinking it is some sort of spirit. Jesus calls out and let’s them know it is Him. And this is where things get REALLY interesting.
Peter sees Jesus on the water and thinks, “Wow, that’s really cool.” He calls to Jesus, and asks Him to call him out to walk on the water with Him. First of all, let’s ask ourselves this question- what inspired Peter to do this? I believe the answer lies in what happened before this momentous boat ride. Prior to the ride, Jesus used five loaves of bread and two fish to miraculously feed 5,000 men, plus women and children. Peter witnessed this first hand. Then, when Jesus comes to them on the waves, defying the natural laws of physics, both supernatual feats bolster Peter’s faith enough for him to ask to get in on the fun.
The next thing to note is that once Jesus told Peter to come, He obeyed. He stepped out on the Word of Jesus, and for a few steps he did something that we all dream of doing- he actually walked on the water. Sure, he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink, but for a few moments, he accomplished a supernatural, amazing feat that is immortalized in scripture forever. I don’t know about you, but other than Jesus and Peter, I have never heard of anyone else walking on water. Perhaps there have been one or two, but I have not personally heard of them.
And when Peter did begin to sink, he called out to Jesus to pull him up. Jesus said to him, “Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?” Peter was young in his faith, so it stands to reason that it was small because it had not yet been developed and grown by use. But, in this moment, he used what faith he had to be a water-walker. And out of all the men that followed Jesus, Peter was the only one who did.
If we look at Peter’s example, we can see that in order to walk in the supernatural, we need to know that we can do what Jesus did (John 14:12). Secondly, we need to obey the Word of the Lord when He speaks to us and trust that He will uphold us in what He tells us to do. And finally, when things get overwhelming and we feel like we are about to go under, we must call out to Jesus to pull us up again.
I like Peter. I can identify with his personality… and his flaws. I’d like to think that some day when I need to, I will have the boldness and the bravery to step out on just the Word of God to do something utterly amazing and spectacular. I want to be a water-walker. I want to be like Jesus.