Jesus Encounters: Jesus, Peter and walking on water through the storms of life

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Jesus Encounters: Jesus, Peter and walking on water through the storms of life

by I Gordon

When the wind and waves start to blow in your life, what is your view of Jesus like? Are you looking up, from beneath the waves as you slowly (or not so slowly) start to sink? Or have you learned that the One who calls you is the One who holds and enables you through all things? Unfortunately, many Christians have the view that is shown above. That was Peter's view at the end of his brief introductory class on walking on water. But lets not get ahead of ourselves just yet! In this study of a very famous passage in the book of Matthew, chapter 14, I want to explore what the Lord desired to teach His disciples through this event. We are talking of course about the encounter that Peter had with Jesus in the midst of the storm. It is the famous 'Peter walks on water' passage. It is a very interesting in more ways than one for it contains truth for our personal lives as well as some prophetic implications. Seeing that we have already briefly discussed the end, lets rewind the tape and see how it all begins... .

Another Jesus 'setup' by the looks...

Matthew 14:22-25 NIV Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. (23) After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, (24) but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. (25) During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.

Our short little story starts with some specific instruction and commands by the Lord. Jesus had been feeding a large crowd of followers (with both physical and spiritual food) and it was now getting late. So He purposely sends the disciples away in the boat while He  goes up a large mountain to pray. Out on the sea, the disciples start to struggle. Now, it is important to put yourself in their shoes, argh sandals, for a moment. Having been left alone and being battered by the waves, what would you be thinking? 'Where is Jesus?' is probably the first thought. 'Does He know that we are struggling?' would have followed that closely. 'What is going to happen to us? Can He save us if He isn't here?' would have been thoughts three and four. It is important to note that our passage says the 'wind was contrary'. In another Gospel it says that the disciples were 'straining at the oars'. In other words, everything was against them and Jesus wasn't coming quickly. Now remember... Jesus specifically set this up! He sent them away knowing what the conditions would be like. In fact it isn't until the fourth watch that He finally comes to them, which is between 3am-6am in the morning, so He purposely left them along a long time. Of course, Jesus may very well be allowing this in your life also. What are the waves and wind in your life? Does it seem that you are struggling while Jesus seems absent? It is important to remember that even though the disciples had no idea where Jesus was, or what He was doing, the fact is that He was actually praying... and probably for them! The Believers Bible commentary does a good job of summing this part of the story up for how it relates to our lives:
 'We are often storm-tossed, perplexed, in despair. The Savior seems far away. But all the time He is praying for us. When the night seems darkest, He is near at hand. We often mistake Him even then and push the panic button. Then we hear His comforting voice and remember that the waves that caused us to fear are under His feet.'

Matthew 14:26-27 NIV When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. (27) But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

When they first saw Jesus they thought it was a ghost! Crying out in fear, Jesus told them what He speaks to all of our hearts - 'Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid'. The Amplified Bible has the following for this verse 'Take courage! I AM! Stop being afraid!' I like that! Here is Jesus, the great I AM, the One who created all things and holds all things in His hand, reminding them that NOTHING can harm them! They, and we, are to take courage from this. Fear immobilizes but there is freedom in faith. 'Do not fear' was a common command given by Jesus for He know human nature inside out and He knows we are prone to fear!  

How to walk on water

Matthew 14:28-29 NIV Lord, if it's you, Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." (29) Come, he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

What an amazing statement Peter makes here! Who would have even thought of walking to Jesus on the water? Probably most of us would have said 'Lord, if is you, calm the storm' or maybe just "Lord if it is you, hop into the boat'. But 'Lord if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water'??? That is an utterance from the Spirit of God. Peter must have known that if Jesus asks something of His believers, He also gives then the ability to undertake that which He asks. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 NIV (24) 'The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.'  So why is this story in the Bible? What does it mean to walk on water? How do we walk on water? The reason the story is in the Bible is to teach us what it takes to do the impossible. And each person's 'impossible' will be unique to them. We all have different fears and insecurities that restrict us in our walk through life and with God. But God is far greater than any fear that we have! We also have trials and difficulties that we, through God's enabling, are called to walk above without sinking! So this story is also our story. Each step Peter made would have been looking into the face of Jesus while reminding himself that Jesus will uphold me! Thanks be to God! This is how to walk on water or through any storm in life. It is step by step, trusting in Him as you take each new step.

What the eyes behold, the mind dwells on and faith, or doubt, responds

Matthew 14:30-31 NIV But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" (31) Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

Peter was doing so well... until he started to look at that which was against him. Everything came down to where he looked! With his eyes on Jesus, Peter is able to walk above the surrounding problems. With his eyes on the waves and wind, Peter starts sinking down into the problems. If we become frightened then it clouds our vision of the Lord and His power and leaves us only seeing the problem. As Peter sinks, Jesus of course stretches out His hand and catches Peter, saving him. But then He says to Peter, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?' Why would Jesus say this was 'little faith'? Wasn't it great faith that Peter expressed by walking, for a little way at least, on the water? Well, here is the important point...When Peter started to sink, was there anything that Peter encountered that he hadn'tt take into account already when he stepped out of the boat? Did something new arise? No. He was already walking on water. He was doing it! He just needed to continue what he was doing. When he stepped out of the boat there was already waves, there was already wind... the storm was already upon them. Peter took all this into account when he hoped out of the boat. So all he need to do was keep doing what he did at first! He just had to keep looking at Jesus and placing one foot in front of the next, reminding himself that Jesus called him so He would enable him. He was walking on water! He just had to continue. Why is it that some people can't make progress and keep coming back to the same old doubts? Why is it that we can be walking in faith one moment and filled with doubts the next? It all comes down to what we are looking at. The circumstances cause doubts. The Lord provides hope, courage and faith. Where are you looking?

Matthew 14:32-33 NIV And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. (33) Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

How would Peter have felt when he hoped back in the boat and everything became calm? I think, in his own heart, he would have been disappointed for he would have realised that it was all a test. He would have realised that Jesus was in control throughout the whole episode and that He could calm the seas at any time He so desired. It is always an important point to remember that Jesus has control over all the elements that cause fear for His disciples. Having seen this the disciples went from fear to faith and from panic to praise. They recognised Him as truly God's Son.

What about the prophetic implications of this passage?

Now, this story is primarily setup to teach us all some of the lessons mentioned above. But it is also worth mentioning that there are some prophetic types and pictures here as well. Lets explore some of this... At the beginning, Jesus leaves the disciples and goes up the mountain to pray and fellowship with His Father. This reminds us of the fact that Jesus, at His ascension, had to leave the disciples and return to His Father in Heaven. During this time the disciples are challenged through various trials and difficulties that come with the tossing of the waves. This represents the various difficulties that Jesus' disciples encounter during this age in which Jesus has returned to His Father. All the while Jesus has ascended on high to pray and intercede which is His current role as our great High Priest. The disciples long for the return of the Lord which, after a long wait through the darkness seemingly alone, He finally comes in the 4th watch of the night - the last phase of the night before the breaking of dawn. This is the time of the morning star which signals the coming dawn of the new day. Jesus is the morning star that will arise both within the hearts of believers and over the earth itself.

2 Peter 1:19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

Revelation 22:16 "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."

They didn't immediately recognize Jesus, thinking He was a ghost. When Jesus returns He will not be as He was but will be the glorified risen Lord. As He did with Peter, so He will do with all His believers - He will bid them to 'Come'. And we will do the impossible. We won't walk on water as Peter did but we do something that is equally impossible for man - we will rise to meet Him in the air. And then, like the disciples, we will declare His praise - that He is the Son of God!

And that, my friends, is one incredible day to wait and hope for!