Matthew had a different perception of this episode.
Within the larger story, he included a personal story about one of
the disciples who wanted to walk on water just like Jesus.


 

In the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them. When
the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled,
saying, "It is a ghost!"  And they cried out for fear.

But Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I;
do not be afraid." Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it
is You,
command me to come to You on the water."

So Jesus said, "Come."  When Peter had come down out of the
boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw
that
the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning
to sink
he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!"

Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said, "O you
of little faith, why did you doubt?"  When they got into the boat,
the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and
worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God."

                                                   Matthew 14:25-33 NKJV, condensed


                                       Fix Your Eyes on Jesus

Forget the jokes about water walking. Most of the disciples were
fishermen by trade; the Sea of Galilee was their second home. And they
knew there were no stepping stones. When Jesus came to them walking
on the water that night, they were as surprised and frightened as anyone
else would have been.

This was the night Jesus had sent the disciples on ahead of him so
he could remain on the mountainside to pray. While he was praying
all night, the Twelve were rowing strenuously against a headwind which
created very boisterous navigational conditions. Near daybreak, Jesus
approached them on the water, calmed their nerves and assured them
it was really him. That's when Peter contributed an unexpected
dimension to the story.

Peter was the kind of disciple who naturally stood out from the crowd
and often stole the spotlight. He fit the image of the big, strong, loud
fisherman; whenever Peter was around, everybody knew it. In the
Gospel accounts he was always first in line, always had something
to say, and usually spoke before he thought much about what he
was saying.

On this stormy night when those present had not slept in the past 24
hours and everyone was operating off adrenalin, impulsive Peter blurted
out, "Lord, if it's you, bid me come." Nobody planned the upcoming
scene, it just happened. With a force similar to spontaneous combustion--
one of the Twelve shot out over the side of the boat.

Peter wanted to be like Jesus. That desire was planted deep in his heart.
Like a child who wants to go everywhere with his parent, Peter wanted
to get out there on the water with Jesus. He could see himself doing it
as he hastily asked permission to do so. Of course, as a parent who
treasures their child and loves when that child wants to be with them,
Jesus said, "Come!"

The hard part for Peter was not what we think it would be, namely,
getting out of the boat. No, Peter was way ahead of us. He was the
child rushing out the door with 10 yards to go to reach his father's arms.
Immediately, he was over the side and down onto the water. And that's
where the trouble began. Faith propelled Peter; fear sank him. When
he thought about what he was doing and realized where he was,
he quivered with fright.

Peter lacked a coach to impress upon him the importance of keeping
his eyes fixed on Jesus. He lost his focus; took his eyes off his goal.
The wind and boisterous waves distracted him and started to swallow
him up. If only he had started out on gentler waters he might have made
it. But true to life, conditions were not ideal. The sea he had to deal with
was not a nice, neat, tidy little package of a peace and calm.

Bold, muscular, compelling Peter had to cry out for help. Jesus was
there to catch him. There's disappointment in Jesus' voice when he
chided Peter about his doubts. Peter, you could have made it if you
would have just kept your eyes on Me!

I wonder--did anyone think Peter did good that night? Peter obviously
knew he had failed and probably hung his head in sorrow and shame
for awhile. How would the other eleven react? Did they envy and admire
Peter for trying,or think him ridiculous? But the important question is
what Jesus thought.

The wind ceased when Jesus got into their boat. Then comes the
awe-inspiring moment when the disciples spontaneously conclude
that Jesus is more than a great Teacher and a compassionate Healer,
more even than the hoped for Messiah of the earthly kingdom. Jesus is
the Son of God! It was the first time they used those actual words. And
they bowed their knees and claimed he was, above all else, worthy.
From the top of their heads to the soles of their feet and in the depth of
their gut, it was all becoming clear to them that Jesus, though human,
was part God and deserved their worship.

Jesus was the one who had been on the mountain with God that night,
but here on the calmed sea in a storm proven boat by the dawn's early
light, the disciples were having their own mountaintop experience.
The rough night was over. All the questions, like why am I doing this,
were silenced. Everything in the past was behind them. Morning was
breaking out all over and it was good.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: What has been your greatest act of faith?

 

Had you been present with Jesus and his disciples in those early morning
            hours, what would you have been thinking and feeling?
We all react to the stories in the Bible based on our own journey of faith.
            How does your background help you to believe, or not believe, it was 
            possible for Jesus to walk on water?

 

When Peter wanted to walk on the water, was it faith or foolishness?
            Was it an expression of devotion or impulsiveness?
            How do we know the difference in our own life experience?

 

Within a brief period of time, Peter knew both fear and faith.
            Is that common or uncommon?
            Chart the ups and downs of Peter's fear and faith in this story.

 

When Jesus said to Peter, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?",
do you hear a harsh tone or a tender tone in his voice?
            Explore the different messages you get based on the way it is said.
            Which voice do you think Jesus used for Peter?   Explain why?
            What tone does God use for you?

 

If Peter kept a diary, what would he have entered that night?

 

When have you known the feeling of starting something and then losing
steam and failing to finish it?
            Have you ever started to read through the Bible, or resolved to set time
                        aside for daily devotions and then not completed those goals?
            What lesson do we learn from Peter's experience which could help us
                        be faithful to our religious disciplines?

 

Peter was the only one of the Twelve who got into the water that night and
tried to walk toward Jesus. Which probably means most of us would have
no desire to leave the safety of the boat.
            What is one faith action you would like to take, but have been afraid
                         or reluctant to try?
            What would it take to get you out of the boat?

 

Describe the circumstances leading up to one of your hallelujah moments,
or a time when you knew you truly worshiped God.

                          Prev                                                               Next