Immediately following the public miracle of Jesus’ miraculous provision of an abundant meal from a mere five loaves of bread and two small fish for five thousand men – plus women and children, Jesus also amazes his disciples with the private miracle of walking on water on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples show their superstition and unbelief by surmising the figure they see is actually a ghost, and these grown, rugged men “cried out in fear”! But Jesus immediately reassures them that it is he. By walking on the water, Jesus invokes the image of God striding on the surface of the water in Old Testament times. This powerfully associates him with God and even identifies him as God, and provides a stark contrast to his superstitious followers who are terrified of (supposed) ghosts.
At this, Peter is emboldened to ask Jesus to tell him to walk on water as well! Jesus simply tells him to come. Peter steps out of the boat and into the water and starts walking toward Jesus. Yet when he takes his eyes off Jesus and looks at the wind, he begins to sink and pleads with Jesus to rescue him. Jesus immediately takes his hand, chiding him for his lack of faith. The whole incident leads the shaken disciples to worship Jesus and declare, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
It seems that, at this point of the narrative, the truth finally begins to sink in (pun intended) for the disciples that Jesus really is the Messiah, the Son of God. On a deeper level, the story also instructs us about the life of faith. As the author of Hebrews tells his readers, we need to “fix our eyes on Jesus” and run the race of faith with endurance.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV
The moment we get distracted and look at our circumstances, we’ll get shaky. Give Peter a lot of credit, though, for asking Jesus to tell him to walk on water in the first place, and for immediately crying out for Jesus to save him when he began to sink!
- brings together the best elements of a survey of the Gospels and a commentary on the Gospels to help readers know Jesus and understand the good news.
This article was adapted from The Jesus of the Gospels by Andreas Kostenberger. The book: