I have always been fascinated with the story of Peter walking on water. We here as children and listen in amazement. It seems more astounding than anything in a fairytale.
24But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. (Matthew 14:24-32)
As an adult, I have a more figurative appreciation of the story. Though I imagine that Peter as a fisherman took storms in stride, a bit of him was still probably very afraid. Storms are so powerful, sometimes tapping an innate fear, and he would be so vulnerable on a boat in the middle of the sea. I imagine that it doesn’t matter how many storms you’ve weathered; if it’s a bad storm, you still say that prayer of desperation.
Just as things are getting bad, the disciples see Jesus. They freak out because they don’t recognize Him, and Peter calls for confirmation that it really is Jesus.What is Peter’s confirmation?
He walks on water with Jesus.
Do you feel that childhood amazement? It’s incredible. It’s beyond what we can think or imagine. Peter walks on the water with Jesus. He knows he’s with his Rabbi. And then it happens.
Because it always happens when we’re walking on the water with Christ.
Peter sees the wind and becomes frightened. He takes his eyes off of Jesus. He thinks about something that is beyond his control even as he’s with the One who commands the wind and waves to be calm. Peter begins to sink. He feels the power of the storm closing in on his fragile existence.
Jesus, the good Savior, reaches out and holds onto Peter. And then He asks him the question that haunts me as a reader:
You of little faith, why did you doubt?
It’s not as if Jesus hasn’t demonstrated that He’s the Son of God by this point. He has. Repeatedly. But, in that moment, Peter doubts.
And it would be easy for us to shake our heads at Peter. But now that I’ve read this story with some perspective from the storms I’ve faced, I find Christ’s words all to familiar for myself.
You of little faith, why do you doubt?
I know that God controls the wind and the waves. I’ve seen Him do literal miracles in my life. Yet, when the wind calls up, I find myself looking at the wind in fear rather than looking to my Savior in faith. I’m worried about the things I cannot control, the things I cannot stop, the things I fear the most at that moment. I miss that Jesus is right before me, proving Himself to me yet again.
And I doubt.
I doubt His existence, His sovereignty, His goodness. I doubt everything that I know in my heart to be true about my God.
When I see Peter flailing into the water, I see his hand reaching out to Christ’s, which was there all along. He knew that Peter would look away. He sees our frailty. He was ready for Peter’s calling for salvation.
I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.