Read: Matthew 14:25-31 and Luke 5:1-11
Matthew 14:25-31 The Message (MSG)
24-26 Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.
27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”
31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”
What Does It Mean? (Part One)
Most Christians will consider themselves familiar with the story of Jesus walking on water, but I want you to set aside what you think you know about this story and take a look at it from a different perspective.
Out of all the disciples, he was the only one who got out of the boat. He didn’t doubt Jesus then, so why did he suddenly start to sink? The common answer to that question is that it was because he took his eyes off Jesus, but was that all that there was to it? Was it more that Peter doubted himself.
To fully understand this, we need to backtrack a bit, right back to when Peter first met Jesus in Luke 5:1-11. Here, Peter acknowledges that he is unfit to be in Jesus’ presence – and I don’t think Peter ever quite gets over that mind-set, no matter what Jesus tells him to the contrary.
Luke 5:1-11 The Message (MSG)
1-3 Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd.
4 When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.”
5-7 Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.
8-10 Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee’s sons, co-workers with Simon.
10-11 Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.
What Does It Mean? (Part Two)
It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Jesus – if he didn’t trust Jesus he would never have got out of the boat in the first place. The problem was that he didn’t trust himself, and he didn’t believe that he was who Jesus said he was. To Peter – and to his peers, no doubt – he was “just a fisherman” – a nobody. He hadn’t made the cut to become a disciple of any other rabbi – he would have been told that he wasn’t good enough. Jesus was the Son of God – of course HE could walk on water. But Peter, Peter was just a fisherman from a long line of fishermen who had all needed boats to go out on the water. Why would Peter be able to walk on water?
But Peter DID walk on water. Why? Because Jesus believed in him.
And then he sank, because he didn’t believe in himself enough to see it through. His fear and insecurity was bigger than his faith. He wasn’t looking at himself through Jesus’ eyes. He was limited by his short-sighted view of himself, or even by what he thought that the others in the boat thought. Perhaps Peter worried that people looked at him as “just a fisherman” and unworthy of doing the things that Jesus did. Peter let the voice of fear and doubt obscure the voice of his master, who told him to “Come”.
It’s a problem we all face. Jesus invites us to “come”, and we take that step, and then our fears crowd out our faith and we start to sink. But Jesus still invites. He still says, “I don’t care who you think you are, I don’t care what others think of you. I choose you. I believe in you. I have faith in you. I died for YOU. If you look upon every challenge with my eyes – if you look through the eyes of a lion – then you will see that nothing is impossible.”
It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Heck, it doesn’t matter what you think of yourself. What matters – THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS, FULL STOP, END OF STORY – is what Jesus thinks, and if Jesus thinks you can be like him, if Jesus believes in you, has faith in you, then you CAN do anything that He invites you to do.
Here’s the thing – the enemy wants us to do things he’s sure we will fail at, so that he can make us feel bad, but Jesus invites us to do the impossible things to show us how much He believes in us.
When Jesus told the man at the pool to pick up his mat, it’s not just about the healing that happens. What if the man gets up not because Jesus’ words have healed him but because Jesus’ faith in him has healed him? What if believing we are who Jesus says we are – fully, completely and truly – is what gives us access to healing – if Jesus believes we can, then we have to believe that we can, too.
Jesus’ faith in us is what changes everything. But it only works for as long as we can come into agreement with what He believes about us. As soon as our fears and insecurities creep in, we’re going to sink.
Peter sank because he was just a fisherman, but he walked on water because Jesus believed that this nobody was actually a somebody, just like you, just like me.
Quit worrying what other people think about you and start wondering what amazing things you could do, in partnership with Jesus, if you truly believed in yourself the way Jesus believes in you!!
Value is connected to how much someone is prepared to pay for something. Jesus paid the ultimate price for you, so what does that tell you about your value to Him? What does that say about how much faith He has in YOU?
The Bottom Line
Peter messed up a lot, but Jesus still had faith in him, enough to tell Peter that he was to be the rock on which Jesus’ church was to be built. See, Jesus doesn’t care how many times we screw up. He believes in us. He just keeps throwing out the invitations, until we get it, until we understand WHO WE ARE. Until we realise that our Heavenly Daddy flung the stars into the sky, so you better believe it we can walk on water!
Have you found yourself in the same position Peter did, wanting to step into something Jesus is calling you to but too full of self-doubt to see it through?
What does it mean to you that Jesus has faith in you? How does that change what you think about yourself?