“I wonder how tightly Peter held on to Jesus when he was sinking.”
Those words stopped me in my tracks when my friend said them during cell group.
I’ve read Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on water numerous times, but I’ve never been struck about it quite like that. I knew Jesus walked on the water with Peter. I also knew Peter cried out when he stopped focusing on Jesus and began sinking – but the imagery of Peter grasping tightly onto His saviour was something I had never seen before.
Stepping out of the boat probably wasn’t as difficult as remaining stable on the water for Peter. Perhaps it was his recklessness or adrenaline that carried him out of the boat, but Christ nevertheless used that moment to show how much He loved Peter.
“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him” (Matthew 14:30-31)
This is important: Peter could only hold on to Jesus after He extended His hand to rescue him. It wasn’t the other way around where Peter grabbed hold of Jesus first. So there are precious lessons we can draw from this episode.
LESSONS FROM SINKING
1. Human striving cannot reach God
Perhaps what God was trying to teach Peter (and us) is that human effort cannot save us from sin and death – we can never earn salvation.
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Especially when life gets painful, that’s when we should be reminded that we are only human. We need a Saviour.
2. But God responds to our cries
Admitting our human frailty and inherent sinfulness doesn’t come naturally. What is natural is pride; a heart that says, “This is all me.”
No one likes to be seen as weak. Instead, like Peter, we all want to be heroes. But the Christian way is different. Somehow, to be the greatest means to be the least (Luke 9:48), and to be weak is to be strong (2 Corinthians 12:10)!
When we’re humble and desperate for Him – He responds. Think about how Jesus reached out when Peter called to Him, without a moment wasted.
Peter stepping out onto the water was undoubtedly a moment of great faith. Yet it quickly devolved into helplessness when he allowed the rushing wind and waves to overwhelm him.
And there throughout all of this was Jesus standing firmly on the water, right in front of Peter. How can such great faith be cancelled off so easily by fear even when Jesus is within sight?
Upon deeper thought, I began to understand why. Great moments of faith are not enough by themselves – we must constantly depend on Jesus. Stepping out of the boat isn’t the end of faith: The moment we lose sight of Him is the moment we sink.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down on the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Peter’s faith as he stepped out of the boat was indeed commendable. But it wasn’t a perfected and enduring one, at least not on this side of heaven. Until we see Jesus again, we mustn’t lose sight of the One who started and promises to perfect our faith.
Great moments of faith are not enough by themselves – we must constantly depend on Jesus.
Jesus did not call Peter out of the boat – it was Peter who asked.
For us in life, there will be moments where Jesus will call us out of the boat and into the great unknown. But it won’t be without assurance. He is already on the water, ready to lend us a hand as we step out in faith and obedience.
When He calls you to lead a group of difficult people in the Church, He will help you to lead them. When He calls you out into the mission field, He will make sure you are safe in Him.
Christ graciously used that moment to stretch Peter’s capacities and dependency on Him. Likewise, He will do the same for us. He holds us amidst troubled waters as we step out in faith for His glory.
Let’s hold on to Him tightly, just as Peter did that day.