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. 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.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
Jesus fed over five thousand people. And immediately he sent His disciples ahead in a boat. The fact they left is testimony to the great admiration they had for Him. They would not have left Him of their own accord. They left because He told them to leave. In fact, He “made” them leave. The Greek word is strong. He compelled. He constrained. They did not want to leave. But they obeyed His command.
The crowd had not yet left. Jesus sent his disciples away and then dismissed the crowd.
After everyone left Jesus went up the mountain to pray. He was alone in prayer. Here He sets an example for prayer. He was not in danger. He had no physical need. He was not going through a temptation. He went to pray to be alone with the Father.
Solitude is powerful. We are so easy to distract. Being alone with God is sometimes what we need. Yet Christ did not lay down being alone to pray as a rule. Christ also prayed in public. Often we pick a verse or two as the supreme example of how we are to pray. Are we to kneel? Are we to lay prostrate? Are we to lift our face and hands to the sky. We look for a secret formula. In doing so we sin. We show where we place our faith. We place our faith in ourselves. We place our faith in our ritual in our actions rather than in Christ. We seek the “proper” posture or look for the magic words, we rely on ourselves. We rely on what we say or do not what Christ has done.
But Christ does not prohibit certain words. He does not prohibit kneeling. Christ knelt in prayer. (Luke 22:41) Christ raised face to heaven. (John 11:41; 17:1) He prayed so others would hear His prayer. (John 11:42) Paul told us to pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands. (1Timothy 2:8) Christ told His disciples to assemble together and pray. But permission to pray in all places is not a command to pray only in those places or situations. Nor does it prohibit engaging in secret prayer. There is no magic formula for prayer. To use the old Nike slogan, “Just Do It.”
Jesus finished His time of prayer and went to join His disciples. The disciples were in the boat facing a storm. They were making no progress getting to shore. So Jesus went to join them by walking out to them. It seems like the natural thing to do. (LOL)
Christ appeared to His disciples about the fourth watch. That is, about three hours before sunrise or between 3:00 and 6:00. Place yourself in their position. You had been out since before dark. It is not between 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning. You were in a storm. Your arms are weak from rowing. Lighting is poor because there is only the moon and stars for light. You look up and see this figure coming towards you. It is the shape of a man. He is walking towards you. He is not struggling. He is not fighting the storm. He is coming closer and closer.
You search all your memory for any experience to explain what you are seeing. It does not fall into any category you have experienced. This is unique. This is strange. This is unknown. It must be supernatural. What in the supernatural world would explain it? A ghost! You now give yourself permission to be afraid. (Do you think?)
As soon as they cry out in fear, ” It’s a ghost!” Jesus tells them not you worry it is Him. Then something happens I cannot explain. It makes no sense to me. Peter says if it really is you command me to come to you.
I cannot wrap my brain around why Peter would say that. He’s afraid. He hears this voice, which sounds like Jesus, claiming it is Jesus. Waking on the water is a physical impossibility. But he did not say let me walk on water. He may have thought he was going swim. But swimming in this storm was a death wish. I cannot imagine a rational reason why Peter would say, “Command me to come to you.”
The only answer I can think of is he went brain dead for a little while. It may have been like a situation where you are startled and react. Later someone will ask why you did that. And you cannot think of a reason why. That may have been the situation with Peter.
But Christ complies with Peter’s request. Why? When the Pharisees asked for a sign Jesus rebuked them. (Matthew 12:29;16:4, Mark 8:12, Luke 11:29-30) The answer is easy. God will sometimes promote our interests by refusing our request. And at other times He yields to our requests. In this case, it was to Peter’s advantage, the other disciples, and to us that God granted Peter’s request.
But why not grant the Pharisees’ request for a sign? Miracles would not satisfy them. No sign would be enough for them. There was always another explanation. For example, they claimed Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Satan. (Matthew 12:24, Mark 3:22, Luke 11:15)
Jesus says come. Peter climbs out of the boat and starts walking on the water. His brain suddenly comes back to life. He realizes what is going on. He is in the middle of the sea without a boat and a storm is raging. Panic sets in.
When panic arose he no longer had trust in Jesus. He trusted his experience. And his experience was, he did not walk on water. It was not his faith that allowed him to walk on water. It was Christ.
Once out of the boat and after taking a few steps Peter realized the absurdity of what he was doing. His faith waned. And he sank. But Christ did not let him drown. It is not faith that saves. It is Christ. Peter was not saved by his faith. It was Christ and Christ alone.
Once in the boat, the other disciples recognizes Jesus’ messiahship and worshiped Him.