One of the wonderful stories of Jesus is the one about when He walked on the water, and it is told in Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52, and John 6:15-21. The account in Matthew includes Peter’s request for the Lord to command him to come out on the water to Jesus and his subsequent sinking. The Mark account includes the fact that Jesus “would have passed them by” (6:48) if they had not all cried out to Him in fear. It also includes the fact that the disciples “had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened” (6:52).
I love this story for many reasons, but I especially appreciate what it teaches us about Jesus and what it teaches us about our faith in affliction.
First, Jesus meant to pass the boat by, though the Scripture doesn’t tell us why. One Bible teacher suggested that perhaps He would have shown them His glory in some way as He walked past them. Others suggest that He was giving them an opportunity to call to Him for help, and that He would not have intended to pass them by. If the first is the case, then we might learn from this that if our sin didn’t blind us, we might see more of God’s glory. If the latter is the case, then we can be comforted in knowing that God always uses affliction to manifest Himself to us, by getting right into the boat with us. Both are true, what ever the reason was that Jesus planned to pass them.
“No difficulties can obstruct Christ’s gracious appearances for his people, when the set time is come. He will either find, or force, a way through the most tempestuous sea, for their deliverance” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).
The disciples’ fear caused Him to to speak to them: “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (Luke 14:27; Mark 6:50). Jesus is quick to respond to our cry for help. He is merciful to us, even when we do not recognize Him. The disciples should have recognized the Lord, as should we, walking on the water in the midst of the waves and wind. But like the disciples, we are afraid, distracted by our circumstances. The disciples thought He was a ghost! Like the disciples, “We often perplex and frighten ourselves with phantasms, the creatures of our own fancy and imagination”(Matthew Henry again).
Then there is Peter. He sometimes over-estimated his faith, as do we. “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water” (Matthew 14:28). But once Peter got out on the water, he doubted: “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid” (vs. 30). Even then, Jesus reached out to him. He didn’t let him sink so as to teach him a lesson. He taught a much more powerful lesson by catching him and not letting him sink.
We sometimes have big plans to display our faith. We think we can homeschool or start a Christian school or go to the mission field or have a dozen kids or start a church or stand up boldly for Jesus among the unbelievers. And Jesus may bid us to go ahead when we ask. But then we may start to doubt, and the doubt causes us to start to sink. Our great faith isn’t quite as big as we thought it was.
But we ought not to give up at that point. We should do as Peter did and cry out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” He will grab our hand and get into the boat with us, calming the waves and getting us to shore. That’s the kind of Savior He is.