Studies in First Peter
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)
Jesus walked on the lake during the storm, in the early morning, acting as if He would pass them by. His disciples thought He was a ghost and were afraid of what they saw. “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid’” (Matthew 14:27 ESV). When Jesus spoke to them, they did not recognize Him, even as He walked toward them in the early morning light because they were not expecting Him to walk on water. He told them to take heart, that is, to cheer up and be courageous. Then He commanded they not fear Him or be alarmed at what they saw.
At first, Peter did not believe he was hearing Jesus speak. He uses the word if, the same word used by Satan during Jesus’ temptation. If is part of an “if-then” statement. Logically, if and action is true then its consequence is also true. If you put your hand in a fire then you will be burned. If you jump into the lake then you will get wet. So, Satan demanded Jesus prove His divinity. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3 ESV). If you really are the Son of God, feed yourself because you are hungry. Do a miracle. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down” (Matthew 4:6 ESV), then your angels, whom you command, will come rescue you. Satan then suggests that it owns the world and can give it to whomever it pleases. “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9 ESV). If you worship me then I will reward you. In each instance Satan challenges Jesus’ divine power. It knows who Jesus is and, in typical rebellious fashion, sought to undermine and destroy Jesus’ authority.
Peter was not sure it was Jesus. He could see Him and hear Him. Peter had seen Jesus perform miracles. But, his natural self was unsure. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28 ESV). There was no intent to undermine Jesus’ position or authority. Peter needed proof Jesus was there. If it is you, then I, too, can walk on water. Peter didn’t want to be afraid. In normal Peter fashion, he went to the extreme. He was learning that Jesus never asked people to do His will. He commanded they obey. When Jesus called Peter and the others, He did not ask them to follow Him. He commanded they follow Him. When He healed people and cast demons out of people, it was by His command. Peter, knowing this, asked Jesus to direct him to walk on water. He knew he could do the impossible only at the direction of God.
Jesus called Peter to come to Him and, like the call to follow Jesus after the miraculous catch of fish, Peter immediately complied. “He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus” (Matthew 14:29 ESV). None of the others asked to get out of the boat and follow Peter. Only Peter exited the boat and stepped out onto the water, walking toward the Man he served. Peter walked on water.
But then Peter became distracted by his surroundings. He, the fisherman who intimately knew the lake, saw the danger of the lake and became afraid. He was not afraid of Jesus. He was afraid of the world. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me’” (Matthew 14:30 ESV). Peter doubted that he could actually do that which he was doing. He did not doubt Jesus. He doubted himself. He took his gaze off the One he followed and focused his attention on the impossibility of the action in which he was engaged.
Peter began to sink. He’s knows how to swim. The seas are rough and wind is strong. He had been doing the impossible. His fear stopped his faith. Faith is believing the evidence of the work of God, trusting the object and obeying the command. Peter saw Jesus walk on water, trusted that he, too, could walk on water and obeyed the command to walk on water. Then, he stopped believing and trusting Jesus and was unable to obey. Jesus didn’t change. His trustworthiness was not compromised. He commanded Peter do the impossible so His direction was not unreasonable. Peter’s faith ceased, he became afraid, and sank. If he had drowned it would have been because of his unnecessary fear and panic.
Jesus reached out and saved Peter from a situation that was neither dangerous or unreasonable. “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31 ESV). Jesus recognized Peter’s faith became distracted and useless because of his doubt. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus recognized Peter’s leadership and constantly challenged him. He groomed Peter, holding him to a high standard. He holds all those who follow Him to the same high standard.