33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” 34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.
We could wonder what exactly caused the disciples to finally see who Jesus was. Was it His walking on water in the night? Was it His interaction with Peter? Was it Peter’s walking on water? Was it Jesus’ saving of Peter? Was it the calming of the storm? I say it was everything combined. My relationship with God has grown as a result of repeated evidence in my life of His presence and power. It’s not just the miracles. It’s not just the conversations. It’s not just the revelation of truth in the bible. It’s not just the weird things that happen around me. It’s all of it put together and the constant reminder that something bigger and better is going on than I would have imagined. Peter took what little he knew about Jesus and applied it in faith to see what would happen. We saw Peter walking on water towards Jesus but it was short lived. Peter cried out for help and not only did Jesus rescue him from his plight, but also calmed the storm around him that caused Peter to doubt and begin to sink. This is what Jesus does for us when we cry out to Him. But, we never get to experience any of it if we don’t first step out of the boat.
Notice how after Jesus and His boys reach land, there are more people that want to experience His miraculous presence. Their faith led them to the point of wanting to touch His coat so they might be healed. Just believing that it would heal them was not enough; they had to actually touch it. This is what I call “activating our faith.” James says that our faith without deeds is worthless and we can talk about how much we believe in and love Jesus all day long but if we do not live as if it is what we believe, then our words are empty. The story of Peter and Jesus walking on water is a complete representation of how our relationship with God unfolds. Let us recap the whole story from Matthew 14:
22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.
We find ourselves alone amidst difficult times. Maybe we already have a relationship with Him, maybe we don’t. However, we find ourselves alone and struggling. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the worst time in our life, although it could be.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Jesus comes to us. It might not be in bodily or visual form, but we recognize if only for a second that God is here for us and we need not be afraid. His peace overcomes our fear and we have a moment of clarity where we recognize that we can probably trust Him. I say “probably” because our humanness causes us to doubt even God.
28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
In order to test God’s authenticity, we create some sort of challenge to God’s faithfulness. We say things like, “God if you are real…” or “If you really want me to believe in you…” and put God to the test so that we can truly know He is who He says He is. We then get a little glimpse of who He is as a result.
30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Our little mustard seed of faith that we had which caused us to test God and act upon our challenge has become overcome by the storm around us and we begin to fail. We lose our focus and begin to struggle more than we were previously. This opens our mind and heart to doubt, anger, frustration, fear, and a plethora of other emotions that could even cause us to regret trusting in God. We give up on what we thought was faith and now have a decision to make: do we continue trusting God or rely solely on ourselves?
31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”
If we choose to continue relying on God in our time of need, He will be faithful to rescue us and we will see Him for who He truly is. We had some doubts and were willing to test out the waters (pun intended) but now we can see that Jesus is for real. We might still doubt in the future and struggle with relying on our own power, but we will always have this moment to go back to that proved to us in a very special and individual way that He is who He says He is. Notice that Jesus’ exhortation of Peter about his lack of faith does not refer to Peter’s faith that Jesus would save him? He might have doubted the walking on water part, but not the salvation part.
From here our faith grows. We discover many more opportunities to walk on water and begin taking a few more steps each time before sinking until we are running across the water with Jesus next to us. Some call this our walk of life, our faith journey, our spiritual growth, or even discovering our way. Whatever you call it, you must recognize that Jesus has created us all to walk on water with Him. This is our purpose in life. He created us to focus on Him and live in communion with Him and not worry about the struggle and strife around us. When we see Jesus, we must get out of the boat. When we sink, we must get back up. Once we are up, we must keep walking. If not, then you will just spend your life floating around in a boat amongst a stormy sea wondering if there really is anything else out there.