“But when it counts, Peter knows his Savior.”
I stared into the water which was gently lapping up against the boat. No one spoke, and all we could hear was the rhythm of the ripples – hardly even waves. The sunlight sparkled as the water lightly danced, and I continued to stare into the water, trying to imagine this little sea being anything but peaceful.
There is nothing like sitting in silence on the Sea of Galilee.
While I’ve never experienced a storm there, I’ve heard they can get quite violent on the sea, due to its shallowness, size, and surroundings. That morning, it was quiet. And I felt like I could stare at the water for hours.
In that tranquility, one of my first thoughts was, “I would never have the faith to walk out there.” What kind of person would step outside this boat and put their feet on that water? Even the still water?!
Perhaps I focus on Jesus’ words to Peter after he started sinking: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” and forget that Peter stepped out in the first place.
Peter was a fisherman; this wasn’t his first windy night on the Sea of Galilee. It wasn’t even his first windy night with Jesus. A few chapters earlier, Matthew recounts the storm when Jesus is asleep in the boat. And just like this time, Jesus reprimands the lack of faith He encounters in the disciples, who are terrified of perishing in the waves:
“They came and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ He said to them, ‘Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?’” (Matthew 8:25-26)
Perhaps this first encounter with Jesus’ ability to calm a storm is what gives Peter enough faith to step outside the boat now. We can picture the disciples, alone in the wind this time, frantically trying to steer and stay afloat. They probably voiced out loud to each other that they wished Jesus was with them. Perhaps it was in answer to these prayers that Jesus appears on the water.
Peter’s response to Jesus is classic Peter. He’s not a man of halfways. He’s not one to hedge his bets. He goes all in with passion: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28).
He steps out in love. Peter leaves the boat to walk toward the One he already had left everything to follow. Zealous Peter doesn’t stop to think about the repercussions of his request. Perhaps there’s a bit of a testing of this Man-God he’s soon to profess to be the Christ.
I stared in the water, unable to comprehend what would make me leave this nice little boat and attempt to walk on the waves. Would I have the faith, love, passion that Peter did? Was I willing to be a little rash for Christ? I think I would have been James or Bartholomew or Andrew – watching Peter, wondering what the heck he was thinking.
St. Jerome points out, “On every occasion Peter is found to be the one of the most ardent faith. And with the same zeal as ever, so now, while the others are silent, he believes that by the will of his Master he will be able to do that which by nature he cannot do.”
It seems that once Peter realizes what is happening, he begins to sink. He has doubts when he feels the wind, and he probably takes his eyes off Jesus. The Lord allows Peter to sink. Peter needs to realize that this isn’t a magic trick. Nor is it the result of his own courage or his own rash request. It is the Lord’s work, but now Peter is doubting His ability.
The Lord allows Peter to sink – not because He doesn’t love Peter, but so that Peter’s faith will increase even more. Jerome points out, “[Peter] is left to temptation for a short season, that his faith may be increased, and that he may understand that he is saved not by his ability to ask, but by the power of the Lord. For faith burned at his heart, but human frailty drew him into the deep.”
The Lord will allow you to sink, too. We may have times of great faith when we’re willing to walk out on that water. But we will also have times when that faith will waver. We will have times when the wind of temptation gets strong and we fall into sin. Taking our eyes off Jesus, we will be drawn into the deep. The Lord will allow that.
Not because He doesn’t love us. But so that we regain the faith, love, trust, and passion that first caused us to leave the boat.
“Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30)
Peter knows how to pray. He may be a little rash and zealous. He doubts and questions and denies. But when it counts, Peter knows his Savior.
Even people with great faith will sink at times. The question lies with what you do when you start to sink. Will you recognize you need saving? Will you cry out to the One who can save?
May we have the faith of Peter, who was willing to get out of the boat. And when we sink, may we call out to the Lord again.
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