The Expository Files

Walking on the Water

And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." And He said, "Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind stopped.

God comes to us, or rather, He's there when trouble arises, and it is hard for us to recognize Him. The men on the boat said, "It is a ghost!" We say things like, "Perhaps it's all in my head." God may say, "Don't worry, it is I" and yet we still won't be sure. Like Peter, we often say, "Lord, if it is you...." Perhaps not in those exact words, but in words of our own. The point is that we are naturally creatures of doubt and question even God. Here, Peter requests of Jesus, "If it is you, command me to..." Can we ask the same formula and get results? Yes. God is for us (Rom. 8:31) and wants us to know Him (Jn 17:3) and grow (Eph. 4:15; 1 Pt. 2:2). Jesus said, "Yes" to Peter's request. Jesus will say yes to our request when the request is to come to Him. Jesus says, "Come" even over seemingly impossible circumstances.

Notice that Jesus never moves, and Peter comes to Him. We can be like Peter, taking great steps forward to trust in God, but for most its not long before doubt takes over and we look away. No wonder we sink when we look away. Peter walked on water to come to Jesus. What do we have to walk over to come to Jesus? Selfishness, pride, and other sins. We are all like Peter, starting off with the greatest of intentions. Jesus says "Come," and we step off the familiar, the firm, the supportive, the comfortable, and walk to Him. However, like another aspect of Peter, we get side tracked and look at external things that don't matter much. When we see the wind and the waves it is because we have taken our eyes off Jesus.

When we are walking to Jesus, what do we have to fear? We walk toward Him, because we trust in His providential care. He said elsewhere not to care about things of this world (Matt. 6:31). Peter looked at the things of this world and started to sink. Have you ever started to sink because you were looking at the things of the world? I have.

We can be like Peter in another way when we look up to Jesus and say, "Lord save me!" However, we often are the ones who turn our backs on Jesus and swim back to the boat, ready to give it another try. How many times do we have to do that before we discover that Jesus us standing right there and all we have to do is reach out and up to Him and He will lift us up? How often do we want to swim away instead because of shame! It is those who are ashamed that Jesus wants. It is those who have tried their own way and failed that He wants. It is the broken hearted, those who admit their weaknesses, and are honest with themselves, about themselves that He wants. Why do we not see that Jesus has His hand outstretched to lift us up? When we figure out that He is standing there to help us and not sink us, we can look to Him for help. Jesus lifts us up and gives us encouraging words... "You don't have to doubt." We don't have to doubt God. It's our own choice. We can choose to rely on God, or we can choose to swim away. But whatever we choose, God is standing there, arms outstretched, ready to receive us, and ready to stop the wind and the waves.

By Steve Quillian
From Expository Files 7.11; November 2000