(28) Peter answered him, “Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to you on the water!” (29) He said, “Come!” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and went toward Jesus. (30) But when he saw the strong wind, he became fearful, and he began to sink, so he shouted, “Lord! Save me!” (31) Jesus immediately reached out his hand, grabbed him, and said to him, “Little faith! Why did you doubt?” — Matthew 14:28-31
We’ve all heard this story numerous times. I’ve certainly sat in many Sunday School and small group discussions of just what was going on here. The dominant view seems to be that Peter was pretty slow and just didn’t get the power of Jesus. â€œHow could he have seen Jesus feed the 5,000, or calm a storm and still not believe Jesus could handle a little thing like walking on water?â€ We usually note about that time that Peter had seen Jesus walking on the water, and was even walking there himself.
But then he looked at the waves and he began to sink. Think about that. Now there’s another answer here that I need to mention. Was it because he wasn’t looking at Jesus? This is often used as an admonition to continually look at Jesus, lest doubt overwhelm you. It can become its own form of legalism. â€œUnless I keep my eyes 100% on Jesus, all the time, I might fail,â€ we say.
But I think there was a different problem here. What was Peter doubting? I don’t think he was doubting that Jesus could walk on the waterâ€”he had just seen that. I don’t think he was doubting that Jesus could make it possible for someone else, Peter in this case, to walk on the waterâ€”he was experiencing that. I think he began to doubt himself and his relationship to Jesus. Now let me be clear that I don’t mean he was doubting his own ability to walk on the water. I’m quite certain that Peter was aware that on his own he could not do that at all. What he was doubting was that Jesus could care enough about him to stick with him whatever happened. With all these waves will Jesus keep caring about me?
I have encountered many, many people who believe in the power of God. It’s easy to believe in long ago miracles, or even far away miracles today. What seems to be really hard to do is to believe in a constant, reliable relationship with Jesus in which you know that you can trust him to care for you, to expect of you things that you can accomplish (with his help), and to stick with you to the end.
We struggle to become faithful, to keep on running the race, and to finally reach the goal. But in the midst of all this we doubt the key thing: The faithfulness of Jesus and his love for us.
Throw all your anxieties on him, because he cares about you! — 1 Peter 5:7