Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Peter sat in the front of the boat, looking out at the Sea of Galilee. The rain had finally let up, but the wind was still blowing hard, and the waves were beating against the boat. It had been more than nine hours since Jesus sent the disciples across the lake, and now they were still trying to make their way to the other side. At least now they had a faint bit of moonlight to guide them. Up to now, they’d been caught in a nasty storm that left them to simply stay afloat. Thankfully, Peter, Andrew, James and John were skilled fishermen who not only knew the sea but also how to navigate a boat in stormy seas.
So now he found himself exhausted and sleepless at 3 in the morning. Maybe it was his exhaustion that was making him imagine a man walking through the waves. There was simply no way it could be a person. After all, people didn’t walk on water, did they? Beside him, Andrew saw the same thing. Then Matthew and Judas noticed it. And panic spread through the boat.
“What is that?” cried Phillip.
“It has to be a ghost!” shouted Thomas. “What else could it be?”
But then they heard a familiar voice. “Take heart, friends. It’s only me. Don’t be afraid.”
“Jesus?” Thaddeus asked. “That’s not possible.”
“But it looks like him,” Peter said, standing up. And then he said something none of the others could believe. “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to meet you out on the water.”
Without hesitation, Jesus answered, “Peter, come to me.”
The disciples couldn’t believe it when Peter stepped out of the boat. Neither could Peter, but there he was, planting his first foot squarely on the water, and then the other. Before he knew it, he had taken three steps. And then he remembered something.
The wind. It was blowing the waves. What if one of them hit him? What would he do? They didn’t bring any life vests on this voyage. (Come to think of it, no one had invented those yet.) He had only spent a few seconds thinking this way, and he heard Andrew shout, “Peter, you’re sinking!”
Sure enough. Peter was now waist deep, and he really started to panic. He had walked about 10 feet away from the boat, so it was too far away to grasp. “Lord, save me!” he yelled. And at that moment, Jesus had Peter by the arm and was raising him up. “Peter, you were doing so well. Why didn’t you have more faith? Why did you doubt?” After a few more moments, Jesus had walked Peter to the boat, and they both got in.
And now all of the disciples knew. Jesus was the real deal – He had to be the Son of God.
And that should have settled it. They knew then and there that their master was no mere prophet. He was God’s Son. But they doubted some more. A lot more. And they ran away when Jesus was challenged. And they abandoned Him in the courts and at the cross. And they hid away, thinking for sure that Jesus was dead.
After all of the miracles, and after this clear display of God’s power on the waves, don’t you think they would have acted differently? Consider this – has God done great things for you, or for someone you know? Do you still doubt sometimes?
Doubt is a natural human reaction. It’s tied to fear, which is tied to a mistrust of things we don’t understand. We don’t know how or why God does some of the things He does, and we can’t see where He’s leading us. And so we act out of our human nature, and our faith runs thin, and we doubt. Just like Peter and the rest of the disciples.
But Jesus tells us the same things He told Peter 2,000 years ago. “Take heart. Don’t be afraid. Have faith. Don’t doubt.” The God who conquered the wind and the waves can conquer the issues and concerns of your life. But you have to give them to Him and trust Him to do the heavy lifting.
This week, pray that the Lord will strengthen your faith and that He will help you not to doubt when you’re faced with what looks like impossible odds. Focus on your next step on the water and not the waves that surround you. By trusting Christ and taking Him by the hand, you’ll find you can accomplish any task He sets before you.
Reflection copyright © 2017 Doug DeBolt
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.