Rough Water (Matthew 14:28-31)

Photo by Wai Siew on Unsplash

Peter sees Jesus walking on the lake during a windstorm in the late of the  night. Perhaps  out of his frustration at having been sent away hours ago – separated from Jesus and excluded from whatever He was doing – Peter immediately asks to rejoin Jesus in what he sees Him doing now, “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  

One imagines that Peter must have said that without thinking it through. Certainly Peter has reason to be not thinking clearly – they had rowed all night and would’ve been exhausted. Nevertheless, what happens next would stretch the faith of any disciple. Jesus responds with a command to join Him out on the lake, “Come.” 

Many are those who ask Jesus to speak to them. Many are those who hear the Lord clearly respond to them. But much fewer are those who have the courage to obey. For when the Lord does engage us with a direct command, it is to obey Him by acting in faith. Faith does not abide by the rules of common sense. Common sense says that if you see and hear someone telling you to get out of the boat to walk on the water, you are hallucinating. Common sense says that by getting out of the boat will immediately cause one to sink. Common sense says that getting out of the boat on a windy night is foolish in the extreme. 

But Peter had not just seen anyone on the water. It was Jesus. Peter knew He could trust in Jesus on these matters, because much earlier Jesus had commanded the wind and waves and they had obeyed Him. Peter knew that Jesus was master over the waves, and that common sense did not always apply to what Jesus could do. So what Peter was seeing and hearing was the master of the winds and waves calling on him to walk on them. So he obeys, “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” 

Surely Peter did not have far to walk. For him to have a conversation with Jesus while the rest of the disciples were rowing and the wind was howling, Jesus must have been reasonably close to the boat – perhaps 10 or 20 meters away. Peter would only have to take a few steps to get there and be with Him on the water. But stepping forward in faith when your friends are still in the boat requires that you loose the illusion of courage that the presence of friends affords. Standing on the water a few steps from the boat, Peter makes the critical mistake of taking his eyes off Jesus, “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!””

Fortunately, whenever we step forward in faith, the Lord is both near and keeping His eye on us. Matthew records, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” 

Let us step forward then not in fear at what we see around us, but with our eyes fully on Christ, and our hearts fully set on obedience to what He has already told us to do! 

The boat is safe, and the boat is secure, and the boat is comfortable. The water is high, the waves are rough, the wind is strong, and the night is dark. A storm is out there, and if you get out of your boat, you may sink. […] But if you don’t get out of your boat, you will never walk because if you want to walk on the water, you have to get out of the boat.

John Ortberg

APPLICATION: Intentionality

If your eyes are on Jesus, don’t be afraid to get out of the boat!