Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33 ESV)
I have found it very helpful to study passages and ask the question, “Why?” It comes in very handy for God to be all-knowing and all-powerful—it means that He always has a good reason behind everything that happens. When you look at an event in Biblical history with the question “Why?” in mind, you can learn about the nature of God and the nature of His dealings with men. I have written about the “Why?” behind God’s actions with Joseph in a previous post Why Did God Let Joseph Go To Prison?
Today let’s look at a very famous passage through the same lens of “Why did God do that?” The disciples are at sea and Jesus and Peter end up walking on the water. Why? The short answer is that Jesus had some lessons for Peter and the rest of the disciples to learn. The long answer is as follows:
Lesson 1: The path can be hard where Jesus sends us. Jesus had instructed the disciples to go on ahead in the boat while He prayed. He could have arranged their voyage to be smooth, but it wasn’t. This is a lesson most of us hopefully have already learned, but it bears repeating: just because the way gets hard doesn’t mean that we’re out of God’s will.
Lesson 2: Jesus is Lord. Funny how difficulty makes us look to God’s power in a way that ease does not. This is the first time in Matthew that Peter addresses Jesus as “Lord,” and the only previous time the disciples addressed him as “Lord” was the other time they were in the boat and wanted something from Jesus (to calm the storm.) It’s actually a great word study to study the situations where people address Jesus as “Lord”— the overwhelming majority of the time it is when they want something out of Him. Jesus wanted the disciples to learn that He was indeed Lord, but He also wanted them (and us!) to progress to the point where we see and worship and cherish Him as Lord not for what He can do for us, but for who He is, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
Lesson 3: We Don’t Have to Fear When Jesus is With Us. You would think that after all the miracles the disciples saw, fear would not be in their vocabulary. But Jesus knew that they were human; and so he reassures them with his encouraging words to not be afraid. When we are dealing with the unknown, fear always wants to be at our side, but we too need Christ’s encouraging words to our hearts.
Lesson 4: Jesus Wants Us to Ask. Jesus could have simply commanded, “Peter, come out here to me.” But instead He waited for Peter’s desire and faith to move him to ask the impossible of Jesus. This is a recurring theme in Christ’s ministry; many times He waits for someone to ask before He moves supernaturally in their life. So it is with us as well; Jesus is waiting for us to ask.
Lesson 5: Nothing is Impossible for God. You would think that the disciples would have already learned this by now, but apparently no one had but Peter. After all, there was no chorus of “Me, too, Lord!” after Peter’s bold request— the other disciples did not have the faith to do the impossible to get closer to Jesus. Do we?
Lesson 6: It is Jesus, and Jesus alone, who sustains us in the storm. Why did Jesus allow Peter to sink? Jesus could have allowed Peter to reach Him walking backwards and blindfolded— there was no magic in the mere direction Peter’s eyes were pointing. But Peter had to learn where the gaze of his soul needed to rest; that his trust needed to rest continually and only in Christ, regardless of the situation.
Lesson 7: Jesus will never let go of our hand. Jesus could have let Peter drown, or at least go under a few times. But the grip on Peter’s hand was the reassurance that his doubt did not undo Christ’s care. I am so thankful for that. If Christ’s care for me was in any way tied to my doubts I would be at the bottom of the sea. But God is eternally and unconditionally committed to His children, His elect, and nothing will stop His purposes from being fulfilled.