The History of Simon Peter: 2. Walking on Water

Matthew 14:22‑33  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 7
22And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. 23And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. 24But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. 25And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. 26And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. 27But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. 28And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. 29And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? 32And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. 33Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. (Matthew 14:22‑33)Jesus had just satisfied the poor in Israel with bread, according to the prophecy in Psa. 132:1515I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. (Psalm 132:15), fulfilling His character of Messiah in the midst of a people who did not receive Him. After having done them good, He had sent away the multitudes, separating Himself in figure from Israel, whom He was about to abandon for a time. Evening being come, the Lord had gone up alone into a mountain apart to pray. Then the night had come for the twelve whom Jesus had constrained to get into a ship. His connection with the people was over, but He had a remnant for Himself who were sailing to the other shore. The disciples were sore troubled, alone during those hours of darkness on the tempestuous sea, when in the fourth watch of the night, towards three o'clock in the morning, the Lord set out to go to them. His coming was the signal for the renewal of His relations with those whom He will again call His people. He came to them on the angry sea amidst difficulties which were nothing to His blessed feet, but which were their pathway for learning to know Him. It is thus that He will make use of " Jacob's trouble." It is a touching scene, and one from which we Christians can draw a moral lesson, though what concerns us more personally is the scene which takes place between Jesus and Peter.
Peter's first act had been to cast himself at Jesus' knees, acknowledging his sinful condition; the second, to set out to meet Him. One cannot insist too strongly on this point.* To go forth to meet the Savior follows conversion, and precedes service. Peter having as yet only the promise of being made a fisher of men, was already, impelled to go to meet Him. He turned to look at the One who descended from the mountain-top, and this was but the beginning of the glorious revelations he was to receive as to the person of Christ. Dear reader, have you gone out to meet Him? If you have not done so since your conversion, you are not yet beyond the knowledge of salvation, and you cannot pretend to the deeper acquaintance with Christ which was Peter's later on, if first of all the Savior from heaven has not become your object, and filled you with the desire to go to Him.
(* We only give here the individual application of this passage, which, properly speaking, completes the general picture in chapter 14, by marking the position of the Church leaving Judaism to go forth to meet Christ, by faith in His word, and the eyes fixed on Him when apparently there was no way.)
Peter's knowledge at first is very superficial. "Lord, if it be Thou," he says. But it suffices for the start. Everything depends for him on the identity of the person, and if it be He, His word is sufficient to make Peter quit the ship: " Bid me come unto Thee on the water." It was a serious thing to leave the place of apparent security to walk where there was no way, but, as I said, the word of Christ sufficed him. He knew its power. At His word he had let go the net; at His word he sets forth. It enables him to walk on the water even as it had brought him to know the Savior. " Bid me come unto Thee." In asking this favor Peter had no thought of making an experiment, or showing off his cleverness in overcoming obstacles; what he wanted was to go to Him. Christ attracted him, and for the moment he thought not of wind or waves. If the natural heart ignores the path which leads to Christ, faith finds a way amidst difficulties of all kinds, in the night as in the storm, and makes use of them to get nearer to the Lord. Faith quits the boat, the only apparent shelter, not esteeming it to be the true place of safety, and, according to a remarkable saying of one of the ancient philosophers, "embarks on a divine word " to reach Jesus, whose presence is worth more to him than getting to the other shore.
We often begin well; the first faith and the first love, the simplicity of a heart filled by an object, sustains us, and then, alas! we allow the eye to be diverted from its object. Satan had sought to trouble the disciples by making them afraid of Jesus (v. 26), but they soon learned from His lips to be of good cheer. Then the enemy alarms Peter with difficulties. What folly to listen to him; for do not difficulties lead us to Christ? Poor unbelieving creatures that we are! In our trials, as in our needs, the only thing we forget is the very thing we ought not to lose sight of divine power. In the preceding scene (v. 17) the disciples had not forgotten to count their loaves and fishes, nor to reckon the resources of the villages, but they had not counted on the Lord's presence. Peter also, after having set forth, began to think of the violence of the wind, and to look back on his own strength, forgetting that he had before him a power of attraction stronger than the polar magnet which would infallibly bring him to Jesus. And he begins to sink.
Who has not, like Peter, been on the point of sinking? Have not the Church and individuals shared the same fate? But a cry bursts from the lips of the disciple, " Lord, save me;" not "Depart from me," for the believer knows the Savior, and that His character is to save. Peter calls for help just as he is on the point of attaining his object, and Jesus has only to stretch forth His hand to draw him to Himself. One moment more of faith, and the disciple would not have sunk! Shall we still doubt, dear readers? We may with regard to many things, but never of Christ. Let us trust Him who is able to save us to the end; for the storm will not cease until the Lord and His own are definitively united. H. R.
(To be continued, D.V)