Out of the Boat: Peter’s Leap of Faith

By Nathaniel Moise

Read Matthew 14:22-32: How many of us look at this story and consider the “Lack of Faith” expressed by Peter’s falling into the water? Let us look at the other disciples. Let’s look at the story again…

Picture yourself on an old wooden boat floating across a lake when the wind starts to pick up and the spray from the water is getting you damp and cold. The lake is also becoming darker with the dying day, which will make you even colder. Suddenly out of the corner of your heavy eye you see something, and, when you turn to see what it is, you see a man, walking on the water as though he were on dry land.
You and your companions believe that you see a ghost, after all humans cannot walk on water. You and your fellow disciples cry out in awe because you have never seen anything like this before. Then you hear a voice, a voice with which you are very familiar. You know that the voice that you hear calling to you not to be afraid is that of the man to whom you have dedicated yourself, the voice of your teacher, your rabbi. The voice of the man who just a short while ago fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish.

Understanding that this must be Jesus –  it starts to make sense and you hope that He gets to the boat soon so that you may know for sure. But there is a rash voice that demands proof from this man who is already walking on water. It is Peter, your most hot headed companion. Peter protests saying “If it is you Lord tell me to come to you”.

You almost have time to be appalled at the brazen nature of this question. Who would dare to question Jesus? Then you hear it, the voice of Jesus, Gentle and calm, not angry saying “come”. This word tugs at your soul, as it did the first time He said it to you, when you dropped your whole life into his service because of one word that sounded like thunder.

As we all so often do, we ignore that tugging word, saying things like “Jesus can’t be talking to me.” However, Jesus spoke the word as an open call to everyone on that boat to go to Him. Jesus did not say “only you Peter come”, or “only one at a time”, he said COME. Peter had started the series of events that can teach us what faith truly is and how powerful it can be.

3 points:

1: Peter did not just jump out of the boat after Jesus as soon as he heard the voice. He needed to know that he was following Jesus, not his own hope or a whim, but Jesus. He told Jesus to bid him come. He knew that the only way he could be sure was to go, and he knew he could not go without the real Jesus.

2: As soon as he was sure it was Jesus he had seen he had to get there, he needed to step out of his boat, his comfort zone, into dangerous waters and actually encounter Jesus. Peter, as should all Christians, had an urge to move toward Jesus. For many Christians it is easier to make Jesus come to us and cater to our desires. But Peter understood the importance of the journey. Peter knew that he could not walk on water, but he knew that Jesus could make it possible. Jesus will always facilitate a way for those willing to hear his call to get closer to Him. Peter just needed the strength that came with a single word from Jesus’ mouth. So Peter stepped out of the boat, and rather than sinking to the bottom of the lake, he walked toward Jesus. Though the odds were against him and the water raged and waves threatened, he walked toward Jesus. The tempest around him and the water under him, he walked. For a moment Peter was with Jesus, on top of rather than in the water.

3: Despite his faith, Peter did fall. His humanity caught up with him and he was overwhelmed by his circumstances. He may have realized the precarious nature of his situation, or he may have disbelieved the miraculous occurrences, whatever happened, Peter began to sink. But he DID NOT LOSE FAITH. As soon as he felt himself sinking, he cried to his salvation and his strength: LORD, SAVE ME! Even in his desperation, Jesus was his focus. The other disciples on the boat were not even on his mind. Jesus heard his cry and reached out a hand to grab him and save him. It is the nature of men to fall and it is the nature of Jesus to save. It is no mystery that Peter, later in life, wrote these words “Anyone who trusts in Him (Jesus) will never be put to shame” (Rom 10:11). Like Peter, we should never be ashamed of faltering faith. Peters’ faith faltered on several occasions, but no matter what happened he always kept faith. Peter used the pain of failure to improve himself. How many times have we seen an opportunity to get closer to our lord and let fear keep us in the boat? When you fall your obligation is to stand back up, otherwise, when you fall you will lie there until your muscles atrophy and you eventually die, all because you did not stand up and answer Jesus’ call.

Listen closely, is Jesus calling you to be on the water rather than to sink into the influences of the world? Peter, for all of his rash behavior was the only one who went at the command of Jesus. Peter had the passion that was necessary to do something miraculous. Had any of us been there been there, would we have stepped out, or would we have calculated the risks and decided that the wise thing to do was to stay on the boat? So often we choose to stay silent in a crowd rather than to step out and speak to the grace of our savior. We go to church on Sunday, and then return to our secular social lives as though we had been at work or in school. Sunday, for many of us, doesn’t even start until we get out of church and go shopping or go to the movies. We as Christians tend to become more “realistic” or “logical” as the world defines these terms. We forget the sermon and go about our business, passionless and cold, all the way to the bottom of or souls.

What happened to the passion of Peter? Where is the “on fire for Christ” discipleship inside all of us? Have we turned on the proverbial sprinklers because we are afraid to get burned? Has the fire for Christ been choked out, starved of oxygen as we hold our breath and our tongues. Peters’ fire was not extinguished even while he sank; on the contrary his fire was burning brighter and hotter than it had ever burned before. He worshiped The Son of God for his miracles and his salvation. How much more should we give thanks and praise to God, knowing the extent of Jesus’ salvation for us? How many times are we defeated by our own nature? How many times do we retreat, afraid to do anything because we are afraid of failure? Even Peter, one of the greatest Christians to have ever lived, often did the wrong thing. He denied Christ out of fear, he spoke when silence was needed and he slept when he should’ve been awake. but he kept pursuing Jesus.

Peter, because of his passion, did what the other disciples did not; he walked on water. He was successful for a time, as we all are, and then he fell, as we all do. The key is that he cried out and was caught by Jesus, who reached out and saved him. Jesus has reached out and saved us all for all time.

All we need to do is cry out “Lord Save Me” and he will put you back on your feet so that you can continue forward. Peter’s focus on Jesus even in the hard times epitomizes how we as Christians should live.